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.”