In the midst of its leadership crisis and allegations of ‘inappropriate behaviour’ perpetrated by its former chairman Justin Milne, the ABC has revealed its television content plans for the coming year.
Advertising, branding and spin panel show Gruen will return in 2019, along with Anh’s Brush with Fame, Working Dog’s satirical production Utopia, Shaun Micallef’s Mad as Hell, Hard Quiz and The Weekly with Charlie Pickering.
In addition, the broadcaster will screen a new drama by Blackfella Films starring Deborah Mailman and Rachel Griffiths, Black B*tch, which tracks an indigenous woman (Mailman) who is thrust into the national spotlight after a horrific event, and then catapulted into the Senate by the Prime Minister (Griffiths).
Just in time for the upcoming federal election, the ABC will also broadcast a documentary titled Will Australia Ever Have a Black Prime Minister? which will start with the arrival of a hypothetical indigenous baby and track the social and economic barriers standing in the way of them getting the top job.
A half-hour narrative drama Diary of an Uber Driver also forms part of ABC TV’s content plans, along with documentary How Australia Found its Mojo with Russel Howcroft.
David Anderson, currently acting in the role of managing director, noted the ABC’s Australian focus.
“The ABC tells the story of Australia, and in 2019 we have many great stories to tell,” he said.
“We are Australia’s leading broadcaster in backing home-grown creative talent and content.
“In the year to come, as in years past, Australian audiences will come home to the ABC, to share in the stories, conversations and events that shape our nation.”
The ABC also thanked its state and federal funding partners Screen Australia, Create NSW, Screen West, Screen ACT, Screen Tas, Film Vic, SAFC and Screen Territory.
The full outline of the ABC’s content plans for 2019 is below.
New program announcements for 2019
Aftermath: Beyond Black Saturday
In February 2009, the worst bushfires in Australian history killed 173 people, ripping through country Victoria in a series of devastating firestorms so powerful and uncontrollable they would re-write history. This was Black Saturday. In a matter of hours, millions of hectares of bush went up in flames, 7,000 people lost their homes and countless wildlife and stock were lost. A decade on, Aftermath: Beyond Black Saturday revisits the survivors of the tragedy to discover how they have coped with the trauma and loss and to find out what gave them the strength to go on when everything they loved was destroyed. Looking to the future, Aftermath: Beyond Black Saturday is a story of resilience and recovery in the wake of one of Australia’s worst natural disasters.
Aftermath: Beyond Black Saturday is a Renegade Films production for the ABC. Principal production investment from Screen Australia in association with ABC. Financed with support from Film Victoria.
Backburning: Midnight Oil
From their inception in the midst of the punk movement in 1975 until today, the story of a band who, with their uncompromising attitudes, brought political awareness to their music and thereby broadened the perception of a whole generation. Midnight Oil’s music narrates the times we have lived through over the past 40 years, an era of great tumult and conflict, particularly around the subject of what Australia is, what we stand for and what we may become as a nation.
Backburning: Midnight Oil is a Beyond Entertainment & Blink TV production for the ABC. Principal production investment from Screen Australia in association with the ABC. Financed with support from Create NSW.
Black B*tch (working title)
The captivating drama series Black B*tch (working title) is a story of high stakes ambition, betrayal and treachery, playing out in the nation’s capital. When Alex Irving (Deborah Mailman), a charismatic and contradictory Indigenous woman, is thrust into the national limelight after a horrific event, Australia’s embattled Prime Minister Rachel Anderson (Rachel Griffiths), sees a publicity goldmine for her party. In a bold power play, she appoints Alex to the Senate. But Alex wants to be more than just a political stunt: she wants to make a difference. So when the Prime Minister’s cynical calculations betray her, Alex sets out for revenge that will send the political establishment into meltdown.
Blackfella Films production for the ABC. Major production investment from Screen Australia in association with the ABC. Financed with support from Create NSW with Screen Queensland and Screen Canberra. International Distributor is Keshet International, working alongside Endeavor Content in the US.
Blue Water Empire
Blue Water Empire is a three-part dramatised documentary series giving a unique insight into the amazing culture and history of the Torres Strait Islands.
The series starts pre-colonisation and covers the all-pervasive impact of the arrival of the Europeans into the islands. Following the missionaries came the pearling era, with a rush of men and women from around the world to the Torres Straits. World War 2 brought devastating change to the Straits and was followed by mass migration to mainland Australia. More recent times has seen an explosion of social activism, particularly the fight for recognition and sea rights that continues to this day.
Blue Water Empire is a Bunya Productions production for the ABC. Principal production investment from Screen Australia in association with Screen Queensland and the ABC.
A fascinating exploration of contemporary China through the pre-wedding photography industry – a billion-dollar fantasy world.
Just over 40 years ago, marriage in China was arranged by the state – romantic love was seen as a capitalist concept and was not allowed. Wedding photography (if there was any) consisted of one black and white passport photo of the couple (dressed in Mao-style outfits) as proof of the marriage. Now, China has fallen in love with love and its exploding wedding industry is worth 80 billion dollars. Pre-wedding photography is one of the most significant and curious parts, and something every couple marrying in China is eager to partake of. From underwater shoots to traditional costume, imagination and budgets can run wild, for soon-to-be or long-wed couples.
China Love is a Media Stockade production for the ABC. Principal production investment from Screen Australia in association with ABC Arts. Financed with support from Create NSW.
Australia’s first ever vertical video comedy series from multi-Emmy Award Winning Ludo Studio is made to watch in the privacy of your own phone. The show’s set on the home-screen of Lucy, a Millennial and wannabe influencer who promises her online fans everything they’ve ever wanted—a partner, a career, love and contentedness—while struggling to create any of that for herself.
Lucy will do anything to achieve influence —whether vegan mukbanging, live-tweeting a celebrity’s private dinner, or destroying her life with a late-night Ambien-fuelled joke comment on a political discussion. But it’s not just on Lucy’s social apps where we see the story play out. We see inside Lucy’s mind: her google searches, private messages, photos, phone calls and everything you wouldn’t want anyone to see – ever. Nothing is sacred – nothing is hidden – every private message, incognito search, deleted text and secret selfie exposed.
A Ludo Studio production for the ABC. Principal production investment from Screen Australia, in association with Screen Queensland.
Diary of an Uber Driver
The half-hour narrative drama follows Uber driver Ben as he tries to figure out what he should be doing while helping others get where they’re going. Against the ticking clock of impending fatherhood Ben must decipher what being ‘relevant’ looks like in a relationship that seems to think he’s surplus to requirements. Lucky for him, Ben has a revolving car door of human behaviour to trawl through for clues.
Diary of an Uber Driver is a RevLover Films production for the ABC. Produced in association with all3media international Limited and Create NSW.
Escape From The City
This series is a timely ‘how to’ guide, packed full of expert advice and industry insights for those seeking a different way of life. Each episode sees one of the hosts guiding a family, couple or individual through their life-changing decision to escape the city and move to coastal, country or regional Australia.
From beach-side shacks perched on coastal cliffs in Victoria, to terraced houses in need of renovation in quiet country towns and bushland retreats on the edges of the Northern Queensland rainforest, each episode sees one of our property mad hosts take a contributor on the house hunt of their dreams. Taking into account their needs, desires and budget, our hosts scour the country and present each with four homes, hopefully one becoming their dream home.
A FremantleMedia Australia production for ABC. The series is based on the UK format Escape to the Country, created by Boundless Productions.
Simone Burbeck’s life appears perfect. She lives in a mansion in London with her perfect husband and children, and her life is a merry-go-round of expensive renovations, dinner parties and school fundraisers.
There’s just one problem: it’s all lies. When her husband has a fatal heart attack in a disastrous session with a prostitute, the true state of their finances is revealed. Simone is broke, homeless and a social outcast. With no other options, and two children to care for, she is forced to return to her family home in Newcastle, Australia. It turns out Simone’s past isn’t quite the story that she told everyone in London. NOTHING about Simone is what it appears to be. Oh, and her real name is Sammy.
Sammy plans to cool her heels in Newcastle while she figures out a strategy to get back to London. However, the life and the people she ran away from over 20 years ago slowly pull her back in. Sammy thought she could simply shut the door on her past. But her past is about to bash that door down. Currently filming in NSW, Frayed stars Sarah Kendall, Kerry Armstrong, Ben Mingay, Diane Morgan and Robert Webb.
Frayed is a Merman Television production in association with Guesswork Television for the ABC and Sky (UK). Financed in association with Create NSW.
When Mikey’s Daddy scores a rugby league contract in Sydney, he upends their lives in NZ and plonks them in Western Sydney to live with Mikey’s Auntie (who has the people skills of a toaster). It’s not until lunchtime at his new school that Mikey discovers a game that will change his life forever – handball. Jerry, Mikey’s classmate and handball tragic, is convinced Mikey’s a handball dynamo and the school’s only hope in the inaugural Western Sydney handball tournament. With Jerry’s help, along with classmate and epic handball player Salwa, Mikey must go from zero to hero in the quest to be the best in the west!
Hardball is a Northern Pictures production for the ABC. Major production investment from Screen Australia in association with the ABC. Financed with support from the Australian Children’s Television Foundation and Create NSW.
How Australia Found Its Mojo with Russel Howcroft
In this one-hour documentary, Russel Howcroft, the man whose passion for clever communication has been a cornerstone of Gruen’s success explores one of the most influential chapters in Australian advertising history.
At the centre of this story are Alan (Mo) Morris and Allan (Jo) Johnston who in the 70’s and 80’s co- founded the Mojo agency. Their toe tapping, catchy ads made Australians feel good about themselves. Who wasn’t singing along to “How do you feel?”, “Going, going Amoco-ing”, “You oughta be Congratulated”, “A week without The Weekly’s not the Same” and the iconic clarion call to cricket fans, “C’mon Aussie c’mon c’mon”?
Their commercials transcended the business of product pushing and became entertainment within themselves. After years of cultural cringe, they celebrated and elevated what it was to be Aussie. Mo and Jo sold Australia to Australians and then Australia to the USA with Paul Hogan’s ‘America you need a Holiday’ campaign. As well as the incredibly nostalgic and sumptuous archive Russel talks with Allan (Jo) Johnson, Ian Chappell, Delvene Delaney, Hugh Mackay, John Singleton, Paul Hogan and other key people from the time to explore the influence Mojo’s body of work had on our pop culture and beyond.
How Australia Found Its Mojo with Russel Howcroft is a CJZ production in association with ABC.
Love on the Spectrum
Relationships and the dating game are exciting but sometimes overwhelming for everyone – particularly for those on the autism spectrum.
Just like neurotypical people, those on the spectrum have the same desire for intimacy and companionship as the rest of the population, but difficulties in social interaction are a key feature of Autism Spectrum Disorder, which makes finding a partner an often daunting and difficult experience.
This affectionate and revealing series draws on relationship coaching to help young neuro-diverse people have a better chance of finding true love. In the fast paced and often confusing world of modern dating, this series sets out to teach us all new lessons on love, intimacy and acceptance.
Love on the Spectrum is a Northern Pictures production for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Principal production investment from Screen Australia and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
Magical Land of Oz
Across Australia, as the dawn rises the marsupials go to bed – except for the ones that don’t – because there are exceptions to every rule in this land of ancient wonders, big skies and jewelled seas.
Narrated by Barry Humphries, Magical Land of Oz is a blue chip, continent wide natural history series ranging from the land’s highest snow peaks to the depths of the frigid and wild southern seas; from its last populations of wild numbats to its largest diorama of giant cuttlefish. It’s a land of diverse beauty, that delights and surprises. The series both entertains and deepens our understanding of how the natural world is made up of not just unique species, but distinct individuals, whose lives are far from predictable.
Using the latest camera technology, Magical Land of Oz reveals animal populations only recently discovered, and behaviours not associated with species we thought we knew well. We meet animal characters so enigmatic, most Australians are unaware they share not just their island continent – but their own suburban backyards.
The series explores the challenges these animals must navigate in a land of extremes and extreme human-induced change. To do this, we fill the screen with colour, dance, acrobatics, music, mating and murder – all performed by the animals which make Australia a truly magical land.
The stage is set for the story to begin.
Magical Land of Oz is a Northern Pictures production for ABC, BBC2, PBS and ITV Global. Principal production investment from Screen Australia in association with ABC.
INXS frontman, Michael Hutchence, was a complex and shy man who spent the bulk of his life in the public eye. Unique archival footage and recollections of friends, lovers, band-members, family, collaborators and Hutchence himself, paint a trajectory from troubled family background, up to the peaks of rock ‘n roll stardom, and down to the depths of the depressed, addicted person he became after an accident caused him to lose his sense of smell and taste, effecting his mental health and his ability to deal with his unravelling personal and professional life.
Mystify is a Ghost Pictures for the ABC and BBC. Principal production investment from Screen Australia in association with Film Victoria. Financed with support from the ABC.
Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds
Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds is a heart-warming documentary series, based around a unique social experiment where a group of older retirement home residents are brought together with a group of pre-schoolers, to see if this inter-generational contact can improve the health and wellbeing of the older people, thus helping them to lead happier, and healthier lives.
Over a period of seven weeks, our two groups of ten elderly people and ten pre-schoolers’, will be brought together for planned, mixed activities each day in a specially designed nursery built within a care/retirement home. Here they will share a structured timetable that encourages physical activity, social interaction, learning and happiness.
This social experiment will be run by a team of scientists, early childhood experts, and gerontologists, who will scientifically analyse and monitor the progress of both groups throughout, tracking quantifiable and measurable changes (both physical and mental) that results from the experiment to the health and wellbeing of the older group, and correspondingly, the developmental growth of the children (to chart the changes in language, cognition, movement, and emotional and social development).
Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds is a Endemol Shine Australia Production for the ABC. Made in association with ABC.
Spongo, Fuzz and Jalapeña
Welcome to Champignon, a town of whacky world championships every day. From the Shopping Trolley with One Wonky Wheel races to the Flat Pack Furniture Assembly World Championships, our three heroes and best friends Spongo, Fuzz & Jalapeña are always up to something completely bonkers.
Spongo is an adrenaline-junkie who would rather lose in a spectacular way than take an easy win. Fuzz counteracts him – he’d prefer to sit and meticulously plan out exactly how they’ll take home gold. Jalapeña is an aspiring chef and a junk-tech genius with a mad-inventor spark. Trying to thwart their every move is the villainous spoilt rich kid Taylor la Strange, and her sidekick, Dangles. Every episode brings a mad new adventure, with Spongo, Fuzz & Jalapeña taking on a new world championship and embarking on anarchic and surreal adventures.
Spongo, Fuzz & Jalapeña is a Cheeky Little Production for the ABC. Principal production investment from Screen Australia in association with the ABC. Financed with support from the Create NSW Regional Filming Fund.
Storm in a Teacup
Leon Pericles is one of Australia’s most successful printmakers and painters. Throughout Leon’s career his wife Moira has played a huge part in his success, as his creative counsel and support system. However, as Leon embarks upon his biggest retrospective exhibition to date, he is forced to do it without Moira’s support as she declines into dementia.
Storm in a Teacup is a Artemis Media production for the ABC. Principal production investment from Screen Australia in association with the ABC. Financed with support from Screenwest.
The Crown and Us: The Story of the Royals in Australia
Using a rich array of archive footage, this documentary series explores Australia’s nation-shaping yet ever-shifting relationship with the British Royal Family. By examining the many tours down under and royal weddings, this series explores how the monarchy manages to withstand political, religious and cultural undertows to remain deeply infused in the psyche of Australians. But with the intermittent and sometimes raucous debates over an Australian republic, will it always be that way?
The Crown and Us: The Story of the Royals in Australia is a Fredbird Entertainment production for the ABC. Principal production investment from ABC in association with Screen Australia.
Multi-award-winning actors Asher Keddie and Alex Dimitriades, star alongside Jenna Coleman (Victoria, Doctor Who) and Ewen Leslie (Top of the Lake, Safe Harbour) in BBC One’s thrilling drama series The Cry. Based on the novel by Helen FitzGerald and written by Jacquelin Perske (Seven Types of Ambiguity), the four-part psychological thriller follows the lives of a young couple, Joanna (Jenna Coleman) and her husband Alistair (Ewen Leslie). Joanna and Alistair travel with their baby from Scotland to Australia to see Alistair’s mother, Elizabeth (Stella Gonet) and to fight for custody of Alistair’s daughter Chloe (Markella Kavenagh) against his Australian ex-wife Alexandra (Asher Keddie). However, when their baby disappears, it triggers Joanna’s psychological breakdown and in the glare of global media speculation and judgement, the experience changes her marriage forever.
A Synchronicity Films production for BBC One made in association with the ABC, Film Victoria and Creative Scotland.
The Cult of the Family
This series delves into Australia’s most notorious cult known as “The Family” and its charismatic but dangerous leader, Anne Hamilton-Byrne, a one-time yoga teacher whose followers worship her as Jesus Christ reincarnated in the female form. At the heart of the cult is a dark and terrible secret – a bizarre experiment to raise a ‘master race’ of children who will save the world after Armageddon.
Home schooled in isolation, dressed identically and with dyed blonde hair, these regimented children evoke The Sound of Music and Village of the Damned. Amid allegations of abuse, starvation and dosing with LSD and tranquilisers, there are also revelations that the tentacles of the cult reached to the very top of Victorian society. But despite a five-year police investigation over three continents, Hamilton-Byrne walks away without a jail sentence and just a paltry $5000 fine. Why did she get off so lightly? What was the source of her power? How did she control her followers? And what was happening in society that allowed the cult to flourish? The series excavates the evidence gathered by police and takes testimony from cult survivors, their relatives and those who are only now prepared to speak on the record. It probes the psychology of love and loyalty, identity and betrayal, justice and truth to address the question – how did Anne Hamilton-Byrne get away with it?
The Cult of the Family is A Big Stories Company production for the ABC. Principal production investment from ABC in association with Screen Australia.
The Heights is a slice of life serial drama that centres on the inner-city neighbourhood of Arcadia Heights, exploring the relationships between the residents of the Arcadia social housing tower and the people who live in the rapidly gentrifying community that surrounds it. Arcadia mines the frictions and commonalities between the upper and working classes in the melting pot of urban Australia, broaching the complex social issues faced in the reality of our lives today.
The Heights is a Matchbox Pictures production in association with For Pete’s Sake Productions for the ABC. Developed and produced with the assistance of ABC in association with Screenwest, Lotterywest and NBCUniversal.
Little Lunch meets Sherlock Holmes in this delightfully funny whodunnit from the creators of Little Lunch and Upper Middle Bogan. Ezra, Maudie, Ava and Kyle are The InBESTigators. Operating out of the granny flat in Ezra’s backyard, these disparate kids from Grade Five are led by Maudie, a freakishly gifted observer of human behaviour, who manages to solve one thorny school or neighbourhood mystery after another. While every episode offers a compelling puzzle to crack, the show prevails as a character comedy with heart.
The InBESTigators is a Gristmill production in association with ABC and Netflix. Major production investment from Screen Australia in association with Film Victoria. Financing with support from the Australian Children’s Television Foundation (ACTF).
An exploration of Australian culture and identity told through the prism of the pool, a focal point throughout history that evokes deep nostalgia and childhood memories, as well as national triumphs and iconic moments of conflict, leisure, design and reconciliation.
Directed by Emmy-nominated Sally Aitken, and written by Christos Tsiolkas, these key moments will be unpacked on locations across the nation by Australian luminaries as well as everyday people – each providing their unique commentary on the role of the pool in our collective imagination.
The Pool is a Mint Pictures production for the ABC. Principal production investment from Screen Australia and the ABC in association with Create NSW.
The Recording Studio
The Recording Studio is an emotionally uplifting series that gives members of the public a chance to step inside ABC’s state-of-the-art music studios. Once through the studio door they set to work with Australia’s top music producers, musicians and engineers who have collaborated with some of the world’s leading musical artists.
Over two days they work together to record a very personal song that the singer then presents as a gift, a thank-you or a tribute to a loved one or their community.
The Aussies who come to The Recording Studio don’t want to cut a demo or record a number one single; their motives are more personal.
The Recording Studio has drama, surprises and great singing. The people that walk into the studio are tested and pushed along the way, but this show is so much more than just about the singing. The life affirming reasons for giving someone the gift of a professionally recorded song create a loving and joyous celebration of the relationships we build across time.
One song can change your life. It’s time to hit record.
The Recording Studio is a Fremantle Media production for the ABC.
The Strange Chores
From the makers of Bluey comes The Strange Chores; a hilarious new spooky adventure in which Charlie and Pierce, two teenage wannabe warrior heroes and Que, a high-spirited ghost girl, master the skills they need to replace the world’s greatest (and oldest) monster hunter, Old Man Helsing. Helsing owns the weird house at the end of their street (which also happens to be a secret portal to supernatural worlds!). By taking the three on as apprentices, Charlie, Que and Pierce are assigned freaky, bizarre and sometimes downright terrifying chores. Together these bumbling, bickering, kind-hearted heroes-in-training do the best they can to deal with each surreal chore the only way they know how… strangely!
The Strange Chores is a Ludo Studio and Media World Pictures production for the ABC. Major production investment from Screen Australia in association with the ABC. Financed with support from Film Victoria and Screen Queensland.
Twelve-year-old identical twins Dru and Kal discover that the world’s wealthiest individuals have created a secret society, named INFINITY GROUP, which plans to impose global dominance over the world’s youth. Using high-tech electronic implants, they aspire to manipulate the world’s adolescents and have them under their ultimate control. With the help of a group of underground vigilante kids – The Unlisted – the twins realise they need to stop INFINITY GROUP before it’s too late.
The Unlisted is an Aquarius Films production in association with Buster Productions, ABC, Screen Australia and Create NSW. The series will be distributed internationally by Sinking Ship Entertainment.
Will Australia Ever Have a Black Prime Minister?
The path to becoming a Prime Minister in Australia is a difficult one, forged through a series of educational, political, and social sliding doors – many much easier to open than others. But what are the odds of an Indigenous Australian realising the top job in Canberra, and how does Australia’s institutions help or hinder that journey? Starting with the arrival of a hypothetical newborn Indigenous child, this presenter led documentary examines the statistics of each crucial life stage for this child as they grow, the social and economic barriers standing in the way of this country ever having an Indigenous Prime Minister, and the challenges that we must overcome as a nation to ensure the dream of being Prime Minister is one that all can aspire to reach.
Australia Ever Have a Black Prime Minister? Is a Joined Up Films production for the ABC. Principal production investment from Screen Australia in association with ABC. Financed with support from Screenwest.
Full list of returning content and acquisitions for 2019
Full production credit available in the ABC 2019 press kit for all returning and acquisition programs.
Anh’s Brush with Fame, S4
Back Roads, S5
Black Comedy, S4
Dream Gardens, S2
Employable Me, S2. Employable Me is a Northern Pictures Production for the ABC. Principal production investment from Screen Australia, Create NSW, the NSW Department of Industry and the ABC.
Gardening Australia (30th anniversary)
Get Krack!n, S2
Giggle and Hoot (10 years)
Good Game Spawn Point (10 years)
Hard Quiz, S4
Julia Zemiro’s Home Delivery, S7
The Letdown, S2 A giant Dwarf production for the ABC and Netflix. Production investment from Screen Australia in association with Create NSW.
Mustangs FC, S2 a Matchbox Productions production for the ABC. Principal production investment from ABC in association with Screen Australia. Financed with support from Film Victoria.
Mystery Road, S2. Credit: Mystery Road Series Two was developed with assistance of Screen Australia.
Restoration Australia, S2
Shaun Micallef’s Mad as Hell, S10
Squinters, S2. Production credit: Squinters season two is a Jungle Entertainment production for the ABC. Production investment from Screen Australia, in association with Create NSW.
The Weekly with Charlie Pickering, S4
The Twist: True Crime Stories
triple j’s Hottest 100
triple j’s One Night Stand
You Can’t Ask That, S4
The Deep S3
Little J and Big Cuz, S2 Little J and Big Cuz is a Ned Lander Media, Media World and Blue Rocket production for NITV and ABC Children’s Content. Principal production investment from NITV in association with the ABC. Financed with support from Screen Australia, the Tasmanian Government through Screen Tas, Film Victoria, the Australian Council for Educational Research and the Australian Children’s Television Foundation.
News and Current Affairs
7.30 With Leigh Sales
Budget & Election Special Programming
News Breakfast (Weekend Breakfast)
Agatha Christie’s The ABC Murders
Death in Paradise
Call the Midwife
Wow! That’s Amazing
Secret Life of Boys S3
So Awkward S5
Emma! S2 TBC
New Year’s Eve