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.
BEST LIGHT ENTERTAINMENT
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.”
BEST DOCO / FACTUAL
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.”
DOG OF THE YEAR
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.
HIDDEN GEM OF THE YEAR
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.
STARS OF THE YEAR
The cast of Tangle
BEST INTERNATIONAL SHOW
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….”
Dexter: “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.”
“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.”
BEST 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.”
“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 DRAMA Tangle
BEST AUSSIE COMEDY John Safran’s Race Relations
BEST AUSSIE LIGHT ENTERTAINMENT Spicks and Specks
BEST AUSSIE REALITY MasterChef Australia
BEST AUSSIE DOCO / FACTUAL Border Security
DOG OF THE YEAR Hey Hey It’s Saturday
MOST OVER-HYPED homeMADE
HIDDEN GEM OF THE YEAR My Place ABC3
STARS OF THE YEAR Matt Preston, John Safran
BEST INTERNATIONAL SHOW The Simpsons
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.
BEST OF PAY TV Tangle
And from Dianne Butler, The Courier Mail
BEST AUSSIE DRAMA Tangle
BEST INTERNATIONAL SHOW Glee