Critics’ Choice 2009

magda (2)With the official TV year at an end TV Tonight has turned to those who know it best, Australian TV critics & journalists, to ask them what worked, what failed, what surprised and what annoyed?

Participating in this survey were:

Melinda Houston (Sunday Age), Richard Clune (Sunday Telegraph), James Manning (Mediaweek), Nicole Brady (The Age), Erin McWhirter (Daily Telegraph), Colin Vickery (Herald Sun) and Andrew Mercado (TV Week).

Tangle was a popular choice: “It was new, nasty and unpredictable.”
“It was another standout from the John Edwards stable and showcased the subtle skills of Justine Clarke.”
Other picks were Underbelly, “A lot more fun than the first Underbelly – shameless sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll – and all the better for it. Anna Hutchison’s performance as Allison Dine was outstanding.”
Plus Packed to the Rafters and even a solitary hurrah for Home and Away: “They just keep delivering (although their numbers could be a bit stronger).”

The Chaser was the winner here. “They may have been controversial, at times a little weak in delivery, but you still cannot pass The Chaser boys.”
But for some ‘Aussie’ and ‘comedy’ are two words never seen in the same sentence unless the word ‘unintentional’ is there as well.
“The shows that gave me the biggest laughs this year were Spicks and Specks, Rockwiz, Talkin’ ‘Bout Your Generation and Before the Game.”
The Jesters on Movie Extra rated a mention as did Karl Stefanovic on air the morning after the Logie Awards.

The Hey Hey It’s Saturday Reunions won here: “Alright the Jackson Jive skit was offensive but that was a five minute brain fade in what was around six hours of nostalgic fun.”
Other nods went to Talkin’ ‘Bout Your Generation: “One of the most consistently entertaining shows this year. And one of those formats that looks simple, but actually takes a lot of skill – and a bit of magic – to pull off.”
RocKwiz. Zemiro is a star… and what’s not to like about an involved pub trivia quiz that’s actually filmed in a pub – complete with fake smoke and roadies. Sorry Hills, but this is the one for me.”

A runaway win by MasterChef Australia: “I admit, I was a sceptic when Channel 10 first pitched the reality cooking series but was pleasantly surprised to find the production values were not only the sleekiest on TV at the moment, but the contestants handpicked from around the country were perfectly relatable and not your typical reality star seeking their fifteen minutes of fame. Like most of the nation, I got addicted to this program and cared about the show’s aspiring chefs. Plus, Matt Preston, George Calombaris and Gary Mehigan were perfect hosts. Critical, but mostly positive they didn’t slam contestants for putting in a bad effort. The only downside was Sarah Wilson, but that wasn’t her fault, the floor was just a little overcrowded with three judges and a host.”
Others noted it “Not so much rewrote the rules, as employed them to perfection.”
One mention went to The Biggest Loser. “Embarrassed to admit it but Loser is my fave, strong stories very well packaged.”

Who Do You Think You Are? on SBS. “Watching Aussies including Ron Barassi, Sigrid Thornton and John Butler uncover their ancestral past was compelling.”
Border Security still gets a nod and Recruits was commended for being “neatly tied together and largely entertaining.”

The Spearman Experiment won here. It was joined by other dismal company.
“The whole Hey Hey It’s Saturday Reunions on Wednesdays for Five Hours.”
“That home makeover reno show on Nine, so bad I have literally been trying to recall the name of it for 3 days.”
Aussie Ladette to Lady: “At what point do viewers start to realise that the old prunes running Eggleston Hall are hardly the sort of role models any girl should aspire to?”
Double Take and Gretel Killeen hosting the Logies also rated a mention.

The Spearman Experiment again, just ahead of Nine’s homeMADE.
“TEN was adamant that the Magda Szubanski clip show wasn’t a 20 to 1 knockoff. Yeah, right guys.”
“Why did they even think it would work?”
homeMADE rated mentions, “because the spelling of the title was a wank, the promos were ridiculous, the programming was bizarre with two different timeslots on two different nights and the set was shit given it was a show supposedly about interior design.”
Celebrity MasterChef came in for a barb with comments that Sarah Wilson’s hosting was missed, the judges were tiring, the celebrities lacked passion and the Matt, George and Julie advertisements were annoying.

TV Burp: “Bring back Ed Kavalee in a cheaper version for 7TWO.”
East West 101: “Don Hany is surely the most underrated man in Australian acting circles. Knapman/Wylde to be congratulated on an explosive second series that actually gained in strength despite the departure of William McInnes.”
Luke Nguyen’s Vietnam: “I’d never heard of this bloke, but he is seriously good TV talent and this travel /cooking show was an absolute delight.”
Before the Game: “This was my one ‘must see’ show this year. Terrific panel-based Saturday night fun which TEN and Rove McManus are still trying to replicate, with little success, with The 7PM Project.”
Junkyard Wars and Four Corners also got nods.

Deborah Kennedy
Nick Tate
Alison Whyte
Don Hany
Susie Porter
Justine Clarke
Kat Stewart
Rebecca Gibney
Jessica Marais
Julia Zemiro
Sarah Wilson
Rachael Finch
Tracy Grimshaw
Shaun Micallef
The cast of Tangle

Nurse Jackie won here.
Flash Forward
: “Sure, people are dropping off it in droves, but it was still the best big-budget US offering in some time….”
Top Gear
: “Again. Given the opportunity, I’ll stay up all night watching one ep after another.”
And a vote for international documentary series: “I can’t split them – Yellowstone, Around the World in 80 Gardens, India Reborn, World’s Greenest Homes, The Story of India, Feast Greece and Francesco’s Mediterranean Voyage.”

“Variety – who’d have thought Daryl’s daggy jokes would again prove amusing?”
There was a broad acknowledgment of “Safe, safe, safe TV. For better or worse.”
“Positive television was the big trend in 2009. Nasty talent like Kyle Sandilands, Gordon Ramsay and the Chaser’s sick kids sketch were well and truly on the nose and upbeat shows like MasterChef Australia and Talkin’ ‘Bout Your Generation grabbed big ratings. Another trend was that people just wanted a laugh – hence the continued success of Two and a Half Men and the big figures for the Hey Hey It’s Saturday reunion specials. Finally, there was tissue TV. The success of Find My Family last year led to a rash of shows designed to turn us all into blubbering messes.”
“Cooking shows work if they’re well cast and well produced.”

“NZ shows.”
“It felt like a year in which schedules were packed with new product.”
“Tracking fave shows could get tricky with networks switching shows between main and digital channels.”
“Despite new multichannel environment commercial networks still seem to think they can build bigger audiences by running shows late. They also continue to keep the audience in the dark just in case their commercial competitors find out what they are doing.”
“The effects of new digital channels GO! and 7TWO are just starting to be felt. They have found some quick success and it is already impacting on the ratings for traditional stations Seven, Nine and TEN. It will be fascinating to see how audiences shift across these new channels throughout 2010.”

Jesters-group3BEST OF PAY TV
Tangle won hands down: “A dose of middle class angst in a year that was dominated by light entertainment. First-rate actors (including Ben Mendelsohn, Kat Stewart and Justine Clarke) + intriguing scripts = fine Aussie drama.”
30 Seconds.
“Really exciting slate of local production in 09 – Brendan Moar’s Dry Spell Gardening was great, Stefano’s new food series was delightful, Project Runway was strong, The Jesters and 30 Seconds were both excellent – and of course we had Tangle. I am also really enjoying The Contender. First class reality telly.”

Update: …late entry from Amanda Meade, The Australian.

BEST AUSSIE COMEDY John Safran’s Race Relations
BEST AUSSIE REALITY MasterChef Australia
DOG OF THE YEAR Hey Hey It’s Saturday
STARS OF THE YEAR Matt Preston, John Safran
2009 TRENDS Cooking
PROGRAMMING TRENDS The multi-channels have given TV execs even more license with interpreting the ratings. The success of Hey Hey will lead to a raft of nostalgic programming, much of which will fail. Australian Idol will be completely made over.

And from Dianne Butler, The Courier Mail


  1. Who cares what critics think.

    Most are usually frustrated film makers/musicians/producers/writers that could not actually make it within the industry so now all they can do is “comment” on the industry. Critics = Losers.

  2. Where was Good News Week.That is one great show particularly for those of us fed up of the crap SBS shoves at us in the same timeslot on Mondays and during ratings seasons the people who don’t give a crap for Crime Shows or those Desperate Housewives/Brothers and Sisters largely aimed at female audiences nonsense kind of programmes.

  3. Jesters and 30 Seconds both excellent? Couldn’t disagree more. They were mildly interesting at first but neither was funny let alone excellent. I don’t rate any of these critics’ opinions.

  4. in an interview on ebroadcast ch7 said that TVburp was coming back in a new timeslot. and with a few other hints at the same fact earlier i think it is pretty much confirmed for a 2nd season. looks like it might be a pet project for 7.

    i hope it does well, not just for TVburp but for comedy in general. people complain that there is not enough australian comedy on tv but there is not much motive for the networks to do anything about it when Australians do not watch good comedy when it is handed to them.

  5. I thought Rush might have rated more of a mention here as well. I don’t quite understand the huge praise over Underbelly 2, I thought it was lukewarm at best. Not helped by Newton Junior.

    And nobody mentioned The Gruen Transfer?

    And I’m going to put it out there:
    Hidden Gem of the Year The 7PM Project. I know it’s had plenty of critics but particularly in more recent weeks the show has improved from the confusion it tended to suffer in the beginning. Maybe now H&A and 2.5 Men are out of the picture for a few weeks, 7PM might start to pick up.

  6. tasmanian devil

    Do these people know their genres? Home and Away gets a mention in drama, Border Security and Recruits are considered the same genre as docos, and they can’t think of anything better than John Safran for comedy. In fact I don’t remember being amused once in an episode of John Safran’s Race Relations. I would have picked Good News Week for comedy, despite the fact it runs for too long. And TV Burp, while I would have thought making it cheaper would result in the show not existing, is not too bad actually, though I would have put it in Comedy rather than Gem of The Year.

  7. What? Double Take was one of the dogs of the year?

    But it was the best sketch show on Aussie TV since the Micallef P(r)ogram(m)e.

    I’m joking of course,Double Take blew

  8. @ Rowie… Good call re Andrew Mercado. He is totally the one who threw H&A into the best drama category. I’m sure the other real journalists are annoyed that their names are not distanced from this woeful ‘solitary hurrah’.
    I think he got his credentials from a vending machine in the TV Week foyer though, so that explains at bit.

  9. I personally didn’t care for Hey Hey, but I suppose it wasn’t aimed at me since I didn’t see the original. But Good News Week didn’t rate a mention?

  10. Agreed with most of the list actually. homeMADE was the most over-hyped show of the decade. TV Burp, clever, but costs were way too high for the material being produced, so I agree that a cheaper version would sit nicely on 7TWO.

    I still think if networks appreciated the intelligence of some of it’s audience, we could see some better programming. I still find a lot of programming below the average IQ level.

  11. I don’t understand how anybody could pick Hey Hey over Talking Bout Your Generation or Spicks and Specks – regardless of the blackface skit, they are consistently entertaining and managed a hell of a lot more than 6 hours of viewing!!

  12. Good to see yet more critical praise for Underbelly 2 which was just brilliant television. And they said it was more fun then the original not better. Bring on 3 and 4.

    I agree with most of the picks here – TV Burp,Hey Hey,MC all highlights for sure.

  13. Home and Away as best drama? Um ok. That wasn’t Andrew Mercado’s pick was it? He is always talking up H&A (even when it is cr*p) and bagging the life out of Neighbours. A completely biased soaps reporter.

  14. surprised that ch9 afternoon show with Andrew Daddo (THISafternoon?) did get a mention in Dog of the Year…
    also in 2009 trends how quick the axe fell on shows (THISafternoon, Three Rivers, HomeMADE (sunday), pretty much anything on 9 in the first 6 months of the year.)

    also quite surprised to hear someone say that the second season of Underbelly was better than the first-i personally couldn’t stand the over-acted forced dialogue, and stories that were so stretched out, whereas the the first season flowed perfectly and there was perfect amount of related drama to cover the entire season-things didn’t need to be stretched out or random side stories added…

  15. Underbelly and the Chaser? C’mon – stop being kind – both these shows were average this year. If the Chaser was funny this year, that controversial skit would have been swept away, and the Chaser would still be on.

  16. Oh, ‘Tangle’ is a PayTV show! No wonder I hadn’t heard of it.

    I’m glad I am not a TV Critic. I’d be at odds with everyone else in my choices, and they’d throw me out of their circle for lack of credibility.

    • “Despite new multichannel environment commercial networks still seem to think they can build bigger audiences by running shows late. They also continue to keep the audience in the dark just in case their commercial competitors find out what they are doing.”

  17. “Hidden Gem of the year, TV Burp” …. um, I dont think so. After watching the first couple of episodes I wanted to tear my eyes out. Please dont bring that trash back.

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