Today SBS Network Programmer Jane Roscoe talks to TV Tonight about some of the broadcaster’s highlights for 2011.
While Australian commissionings are the focus for SBS, Roscoe can’t hide her enthusiasm for international acquisitions. Unlike other broadcasters tied to distributors, SBS can handpick titles from across the globe.
“I just get so excited by all the stuff I’ve bought I could talk for hours,” she admits.
These include drama, documentary, animation, factual and more.
DOCUMENTARY / FACTUAL
“Sunday nights will be kicking off with Jane Root’s series America: The Story of the U.S.,” she says.
“She gave some conversations at SPAA last year and people were very excited about the series. It’s done some amazing numbers on the History Channel in the US. It’s a big, bold look at key events in the history of America, with lots of CGI and special effects.”
The series includes many well-known faces including Michael Douglas, Donald Trump, Buzz Aldrin, Martha Stewart, Bill Maher, Sheryl Crow, Meryl Streep, Margaret Cho, Tim Gunn, Melissa Etheridge, John Legend, Tom Brokaw, Colin Powell and more. It originally aired in the US as a 10 part series.
“We’ve got the international version which is 5 episodes rather than the 10. They’ve made the international version so I suspect the 10 hours is a little bit too much ‘ra-ra-USA.'”
It begins on Sunday February 6th.
Cutting Edge will feature a new documentary on the BP Oil Spill and a recently completed doco on Wikileaks, from Sweden no less.
“It’s a pretty hard-hitting view of what’s been going on. It’s fairly well-balanced. What we liked about it was it gives you good facts and a really good background,” she says.
There is the 5 part series The Wonders of the Solar System, a feature length doco The Shadow of the Moon, The History of Science from Michael Mosley, new Engineering Connections with Richard Hammond and Season Two of One Born Every Minute.
Inside Nature’s Giants is back with more autopsies of animals.
“It’s a really interesting take on evolution and wildlife, but not for the squeamish. This series has a couple of Australian episodes, including an autopsy on a Giant Kangaroo in the field.”
The Force goes behind the scenes of a British police station, following crimes from the moment they are called in.
“It’s observational not a reality style at all, but very much about the operational side of things and how the police deal with crimes,” says Roscoe.
But will the title conflict with Seven’s Australian made series The Force: Behind the Line?
“It’s a bit of a problem for us, but there’s not much we can do. Nearer the time we might look at calling it Inside the Force or something. We don’t want people getting confused, although I doubt whether they will.”
One of the most anticipated series is the The Family, in which cameras are placed in the home of an Australian family. To be produced by Shine Australia, it is based on a popular UK series, which SBS will screen first.
Roscoe won’t yet say which Aussie family has been cast, but if it strikes the right chord it could become a breakout hit. The next Sylvania Waters?
“I’ve seen a little bit of footage and they are fantastic, but it will be later in the year. I can’t wait to see more,” she enthuses.
“It took a long time to cast. It wasn’t the easiest thing to do but we’ve got a really good family with lots of layers and storylines. Already you can see some of the family members are going to be stars.
“There’s a bit of family conflict but there’s a lot of laughter in there. It feels like a family you want to spend time with. They’re not just spending all their time shouting and arguing.
“It is about identifying with the issues, but you have to like them too. We’re going to ask you to spend 8 hours with these people so that’s why it’s taken a long time to cast it.”
Julia Zemiro will host The Unnatural History of Sex.
“Basically it’s a history of Sex in Australia and it covers every issue you can imagine –the weird, wonderful, strange and bizarre.”
And yes there is still more first-run content on Hitler and World War II. But is there really anything new to tell?
“We get so many complaints about too much Hitler, but if I take Hitler off I get complaints to put it back on,” Roscoe explains.
“It’s fascinating that people need to tell those stories over and over again. It’s like we have to keep finding new angles on it to make sense of something that was so horrific. Every year there is more and more new content around that issue that we feel we already know. But it just seems to get reworked over and over. People are still watching. But I am trying to have a little bit of variation in that slot.”
FremantleMedia is producing the thirteen part ob-doc Behind the Front Door.
“It’s a Dutch format where basically you get to know your neighbours. You literally go into their homes and have a bit of a nose around and meet the people who live there. It’s a way of talking about community and who you live with and who is in your neighbourhood. It’s a gentle, small piece, but quite nice.”
It will profile neighbourhoods in and around Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.
For food fans SBS has Zumbo, more Gourmet Farmer, Heston’s Fishy Feast and Food Safari in France.
At the end of February there will be new Mythbusters and Season 4 of Bear Grylls’ Man vs Wild -the latter is now one of SBS’ most popular brands.
“It has been on Pay TV before but it’s new for us. It’s been a while since we’ve had new content so we’re pretty excited.”
DRAMA / COMEDY
It’s also been a while since we saw polygamy drama Big Love. Season 4 begins on February 2nd.
“It’s part of the deal when they get delivered to us and there has been a little bit of a wait for this one,” she says.
“We’re hoping to get the next one a little bit quicker, so fingers crossed.”
There will be more Skins and a 4 part drama of This is England ’86 based on the 2006 British film about young skinheads.
“It jumps forwards a few years so you see where they are all at,” says Roscoe. “It’s a really hard-hitting, gritty series. There are lots of laughs but also lots of brutal moments.”
The next series from the makers of The Eagle and Unit One is The Protectors, about a group of high-level bodyguards.
SBS is fond of its Danish dramas, but dropping policewoman Anna Pihl has left some viewers angry.
“We bought Anna Pihl thinking it’s a nice show, easy to dip in and out of, a good character, well-made, well-written and it’s a nice complement to Rex on a Thursday night,” she explains.
“The viewing figures were really bad, it just felt like nobody was interested. But the feedback since it’s finished has been amazing.
“The Danes make fantastic crime dramas and the show seemed to find a loyal, core audience but my feeling is that maybe it wasn’t in quite the right place. I’m certainly looking at playing it again somewhere else and seeing if we can build it a bit better. I’d love to bring it back.”
Fans of cult television should look out for MTV animation Ugly Americans series 1 and 2, which starts in February.
“It’s outrating South Park and it’s all about zombies in New York. It’s so wrong that it’s right. It’s really out there, I love it.”
In comedy, knockabout comedian Paul Fenech has a new series, Houso’s.
“It’s on a housing estate and has all the dodgy business that goes on. I can’t say too much but it’s Paul Fenech so it will be mad, crazy, and probably offend many people.”
But SBS is yet to screen Season Two of Shift & Swift Couriers, which has been withheld now for 12 months, said to be due to sensitivities with its Indian storyline at odds with recent racial headlines.
Roscoe would not be drawn on the network reluctance nor its future.
“At the moment I can’t really say too much about that, but I hope to be able to get back to you on that one shortly,” she said.
More optimistically, SBS will soon screen a new series of its award-winning drama East West 101 with Don Hany, Susie Porter, Aaron Fa’aoso and guests Aden Young, Aaron Jeffery, Robert Mammone, Rena Owen and Victoria Haralabidou.
“East West 101 Series Three is coming back and we’re just discussing how we plan that one.”
Renewed interest in Don Hany could bring in new viewers and SBS hopes to slate the series in a timeslot that finds a bigger audience.
“It’s so tough, but it’s a great series and we’re really working to make sure it stands a good chance.”
Top end detective series Dusty looks set for 2012.
“It’s a big show and a complex set of manoeuvres to get it funded, so it’s a little way off yet. It definitely won’t be in this year’s schedule.”
“We’re really in the consolidation stage. The food slots have really helped, we’re getting some good results there and we’d like to keep building that. The documentaries and movies are starting to find their core audience and people are starting to come to SBS TWO as a habit now,” says Roscoe.
“This year is all about making sure the schedule stays strong and having enough new content in there to keep it refreshed.”
NEXT WEEK: Commercial Programmers talk up their new product.