SBS unlikely to revisit Go Back to Where You Came From

2013-11-11_2333It’s been their most successful new show of the last three years but SBS is unlikely to produce a third season of Go Back to Where You Came From because it wants to go out on a high.

The factual series produced by Cordell Jigsaw Zapruder was absent at the recent 2014 Upfronts for SBS, despite two acclaimed seasons in 2011 and 2012. But the challenge has been to find a suitable third season premise that maintains the quality.

SBS Director of Television and Online Tony Iffland told TV Tonight, “I think it’s unlikely we will see a return of Go Back in that form that we’ve seen. We spent a lot of time with (producers) Michael (Cordell) and Nick (Murray). We’ve shot the breeze, chewed the fat but what do you find that tops where we were?

“One of the things I loved about my time with BBC was that you always leave the audience wanting more and you always leave something at the pinnacle.

“I don’t want to reinvent Go Back so that it diminishes it. It was a point in time that was absolutely in the zeitgeist and led and shaped the debate in Australia.

“I haven’t been able to find another premise that allows us to stay in that space.

“I never say never, but at this stage I can’t see how we do it better, so we’ve agreed to park it.

“I think it’s the right decision. We’ve sat and talked and asked ‘What would the creative execution be?’ and I don’t think of us have come to the point where we say ‘Yes!’ and I think we have to.”

Go Back‘s first season ignited national debate on asylum seekers, even attracting comment as far as The New York Times. The second season with well-known Australians, including former Immigration Minister Peter Reith, similarly triggered discussion and headlines.

The SBS show has won a Rose D’Or Award, a Logie and AACTA Award, a Banff World Media Award and an International Emmy nomination while the format has been adapted into versions by the USA, Denmark, Germany, France, Norway, Netherlands, Sweden, South Africa and Canada.

Iffland says there were even discussions about whether the Go Back philosophy could be transferred to other topics other than asylum seekers.

“We have had a bit of a discussion around that and working it through to make sure it holds through the series, but we haven’t felt able to get there,” he admits.

“(Cordell Jigsaw) are fantastic programme makers and we continue to work with them so you hope that between the extraordinary creative brains at CJZ and in our commissioning team that we will crack something, but to be truthful we haven’t cracked it yet and we’re 18 months to 2 years down the track.”

But SBS has high hopes for a new factual, Living with the Enemy which puts polar opposites together in social situations.

“Let’s all remember it like people remember those seminal pieces.”


  1. Although I understand the going out on top idea, the change of government and approach to this issue should have easily lent itself to a new series. It’s not often you get a show subject that is so topical and lets be honest SBS needs some tentpole shows like this.

    Disappointing decision.

    Having said this I do know a network who are in need of a great format – how about ‘Wake Up From Where You Came From’.

  2. This show was never about changing public perception. It was purely created to entertain. SBS should be embarrassed to retire its most successful format ever.
    If the FTA operated like this we would see them announce the end of The Voice or X Factor, just so they could go out on top. Please!. Didn’t McClennan at Ten recently suggest they gave up on Big Brother and Idol too early. In fact, maybe thats where this show should be headed.
    How many seasons of Survivor have there been David? 20 odd? And still going strong in the US.
    If SBS can’t see a way to get another season out of GO Back, then then its time to send some of their creative team back to where they came from.

  3. It would get repetitive if it was on every year, they’d struggle for new ideas, and the audience would just get de sensitised to what they are seeing. But perhaps it should be revisited every 3-4 years, maybe in the leadup the next election. I would definitely watch another season.

  4. Yeah, the series has had no impact on public perception. In fact Australia has become even more hard lined and conservative. Also I would not want to anger the Coalition Govt with something that would directly challenge their primary policy. If SBS did that I am sure a retaliatory budget cut is in order – or privatisation.

  5. I think its fair to say the two series made no change to prevailing attitudes or policy (in fact, one might say attitudes and policy have deteriorated).

    So, I fail to see what the incentive is to a third series.

    Better off making “Muslim Shore”.

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