Reef Doctors an object lesson in mis-scheduling

2013-06-11_1828Reef Doctors has been pulled from TEN’s Sunday nights after just one episode.

From Friday June 21 it will now screen in the low-rent 9:30pm slot. Double repeats of Modern Family will now screen in its place on Sundays from this weekend.

However you look at it, this is has been an object exercise in mis-scheduling.

The show pulled just 357,000 viewers on Sunday, widely reported as the lowest debut for a local drama on a commercial primary channel in prime time. Nobody has bothered to actually verify the claims with any hard facts, but there’s no escaping those numbers regardless.

It follows the network twice delaying the series starring Lisa McCune, no doubt impacting on the audience’s confidence in the show.

But bumping it to a 9:30 Friday night slot further diminishes the network’s faith in the show. It’s a shame it couldn’t make room for it in an early Saturday night slot.

TEN refused to directly answer whether it still expected a family audience for the show in its new timeslot.

Reef Doctors clearly did not resonate with viewers in its Sunday timeslot and has been moved,” said Neil Shoebridge, TEN’s Director of Corporate and Public Communications.

“TEN remains committed to Australian drama, eg, Offspring, Neighbours and – to come – Wonderland, Secrets & Lies, Batavia and others we have not yet announced.”

It’s fair to say that TEN’s drama slate under Rick Maier, also including Puberty Blues, has been it’s shining light during a difficult period.

Originally due to air last October, then twice-rescheduled, Reef Doctors is in many ways a victim of internal network changes. Since being commissioned the network has had three CEOs, two Programming Chiefs and two Heads of Publicity. At one point we were told the show would be perfect for summer, then perfect for winter.

Eventually it premiered on a long weekend, doing nobody any favours.

Bumping it after one episode is also pretty reactionary, but let’s hope such haphazard treatment isn’t indicative of future TEN dramas, especially given CEO Hamish McLennan recently signalled the network had “over-indexed” on Australian drama of late.

But the network is not entirely responsible for the show’s dud reception. Others have endured in the same climate.

It didn’t help that the first episode was weakly executed (and let’s not start on that terrible opening theme song). Reviews have not been kind.

Trying to score a family audience in 2013 is also a big ask, even if it is the timeslot where Merlin worked. That was when TEN was firing on all cylinders.

Two weeks ago I suggested to producer Jonathan M. Shiff that Reef Doctors may be challenged by its weak timeslot. But Shiff was optimistic, already looking beyond TEN and Australia with his content, as he has done for many years.

“I think the world is turning more and more into content viewing so I’m not really hung up on timeslots. To be honest I think the timeslot days are finishing. Timeshifting is the norm,” he said.

“The audience will find the content. Australia may not be in step with the rest of the world just yet, but come back in a year and we will more and more line-up with the rest of the world that’s show-driven.

“If an audience embraces it and finds it, then I think the analytics of timeslot are an ending game. They’re not the future.

“The content will find the audience, notwithstanding the broadcaster’s timeslot.”

Be careful what you wish for…


  1. The correct word is “Abject”.
    Adjective-(of a situation or condition) Extremely bad, unpleasant, and degrading.(of an unhappy state of mind) Experienced to the maximum degree.
    Synonyms – miserable – mean – vile – wretched – despicable – poor
    They live in abject poverty…etc.
    The word was used to describe “a lesson in mis-scheduling”. (“extremely bad”)
    A material thing that can be seen and touched.
    Say something to express one’s disapproval of or disagreement with something: “residents object to the volume of traffic”.

  2. It’s always the same with 10! This is why I don’t watch many of their shows, all the chopping & changing. You get 1 or 2 new episodes then it’s shifted to another time then 2 or 3 weeks worth of repeats then back to where it should be. People have lost faith in their programming

  3. If it wasn’t for this blog I wouldn’t have even known Reef Doctors existed. To many it might have sounded like some reality/doco show. By all the delays in screening this show it is obvious that Ten wasn’t too excited about it.

  4. Secret Squirrel

    @TasTVcameraman – Ten are unlikely to move this to Eleven because they’ll want the drama points for showing it on their main channel. Hence the ridiculous new timeslot.

  5. oztvheritage

    Toooo many questions regarding Ten and its support of this series. Launch date gets postponed twice, finally gets placed between huge competition, premieres on a long weekend when many people are away, gets dumped after one week and moved to a 9.30pm slot when kids are asleep. All this after it was given plenty of promotion(as opposed to many comments here) All this after ten made a commitment at the start of 2013 to not over react and move programs around. Surely it was worth another week given the shire stayed in its slot for most of its series with similar figures. Just do not understand ten’s decision making with this one!!!!

  6. Maev....Sydney

    I totally agree David…really sad…I enjoyed the show…albeit late…on catchup….I thought it would never get to air…and now it is being shunted already…although given the figures…but really…they do not have much else anyway….I mean …really….more Modern Family…

  7. Lisa McCune is scheduled to appear on The Project tomorrow night to talk about the show.

    That could make for some awkward television…

  8. TasTVcameraman

    I enjoyed it for what it was, nothing to heavy for me, no Sunday Night or 60 minutes, no renovation shows no reality show so that was it. I am a bit confused with Ten dumping it onto Friday Night. Why not move it to ELEVEN at the same time.
    But really TEN why launch it on a long weekend and against the Block .

  9. Very underwhelmed. It won’t matter what timeslot they put it in, it just wasn’t very good, bad acting, poor script. Agree it looks like a kids show.

  10. ten, so far this year, it appears as though biggest loser lost ratings, master chef is losing ratings, the americans looks like it will be dropped, and now reef doctors will likely be ended this year …. added to this, last years turkeys of YTT, Bingle, the shire, everybody dance now, and I will survive …… How do you intend to pay your shareholders a dividend this year? Could you please let the people of this website know? ….. By the way …. Looks like the bachelor is likely to be a turkey too …….

  11. Matthew See

    I had thought about watching Reef Doctors but decided against it as it partially clashed with Degrassi on ABC3 plus an unwillingness to watch something again at the Sunday 6:30 slot after Merlin.

  12. It wasn’t that bad actually. My family and I stumbled onto RD by accident on Sunday. After the sea snake opening I went to switch it off but found my 5 and 8 year old engrossed in it. They’ve been reared on a diet of 1 hour screen time a day so aren’t massive TV heads and still enjoy ABC For Kids (which is starting to get a bit young for them). So despite the cliche’s, wooden performances, dull as dishwater plot…my family and I had a good hour together watching. We talked about the story, the settings and had a good time doing so which is what family viewing is all about isn’t it?
    I liken it to Skippy…and yes, Skippy was pretty woeful in the acting and script departments too but they at least had a kick arse theme song.

  13. Why 9.30 fri and not 8.30 fri? Even as David says a sat slot would have been good too. I could not believe the choice of music for the promo ahahah what a pile of crap.

  14. I didn”t see the show but I agree canning it after one week is very reactionary. However, it got massively thumped so Ten probably had no choice. It will get no ratings on Friday at 9.30pm as it is a family show and most kids are in bed at that time, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see it pulled completely sooner rather than later. Ten is in a world of pain at the moment, everything they touch turns to muck.

  15. This is a great example of the tail wagging the dog, in this case the German broadcaster ZDF who invested heavily in it and who have supported the producer for years with first rate children’s drama. Ten only want the compulsory children’s drama quota so are quite happy to coexist with these co-broadcasters. But adult drama is completely different, driven in prime time by a local audience and very rarely do these co-productions ever work in both territories for ratings driven commercial broadcasters. Ten thought they were getting a bargain but got a turkey instead. ZDF will be happy with it. You can’t beat properly developed domestic drama but Ten remain reluctant to really commit the money required to get it happening consistently. Can anybody remember when Ten had a series drama which consistently rated over a million? This has to be what it aims for to get out of the doldrums.

  16. Secret Squirrel

    I avoided this like a sea-snake swimming faster than a speedboat. I knew this was going to be chock-full of tropical island tropes and clear water clichés, coupled with corny dialogue and ham acting, This was confirmed when I forced myself to watch the opening scene to see if the title song was really as bad as people had said – it was (very amateur, both the song and the performance).

    The supposedly background music in the opening scene, which was clumsily designed to let us know that what we were watching was meant to be dramatic – exciting and then triumphant – was both hokey and intrusive.

    Don’t get me started on the cardboard cut-out characters – the feisty (yes, I said it) single-mum super-doctor, the ex-husband that she has regular professional contact with, the fish-out-of-water new male doctor, the bearded old sea-dog, and all the rest.

    The timeslot, long weekend, short promo run, and apparent lack of confidence shown by Ten didn’t help, but this was never going to float.

    Were there any sharks in that opening scene? – I think this may have already jumped one.

  17. daveinprogress

    Maybe it will achieve some international sales. I got about 10 minutes in and gave up, but i didn’t expect it to be my cuppa tea. Was Lisa the problem? Ten alienates another 400,000 who did watch it and presumably enjoyed it, esp young kids who expect to tune in and see it next week.

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