Coast Australia

Neil Oliver is staggered by the colours and scale of our vast landscape -and who can blame him?

2013-11-30_1730He may have a Scottish accent as thick as black pudding, but Neil Oliver is nothing if not an engaging storyteller.

Having hosted Coast on BBC2 since 2005, the archaeologist turned TV presenter now sets foot on Australian shores for an Antipodean look at our rugged coastline. And let’s face it, it’s infinitely more diverse than Britain’s. From tropical Queensland to the Great Ocean Road, from Broome to craggy Tasmania, we have it all.

Oliver has had to lean on 5 others for this picture postcard series, just to touch the surface. They are arts specialist Miriam Corowa, environmentalist Professor Tim Flannery, marine scientist Dr Emma Johnston, anthropologist Dr Xanthe Mallet and landscape architect Brendan Moar.

Oliver goes to great lengths to tell us just how big the country is, with frequent comparisons to British isles, in size, geography and climate. It’s hard ignore the fact this has probably been made for his UK audience, so there are all sorts of references, including converting metrics to imperial.

The episode begins near Broome, distinguished by dry and wet seasons and rising waters. Oliver takes a boatride along the Horizontal Falls of the Kimberley, where “an ocean is trying to squeeze through a letterbox.” Looks like exhilarating stuff. He tries his hand at pearl farming with introductory success.

Tim Flannery takes us to remote beaches where evidence of dinosaurs can be found. Australia bears footprints, literally, from some of the earliest life forms. We learn about the indigenous connection to the land, although an Aboriginal elder is sub-titled despite him speaking in English.

Anthropologist Xanthe Mallett, better known for her work on TEN’s Wanted, takes us to some of the many wreckages found on our shores. We’re a long way from crims and missing kids here.

Host notwithstanding, Brendan Moar is arguably the pick of the bunch. I’d forgotten what an easy, natural presenter he is, and here he takes aboard a makeshift raft in waters at the Top End. He’s a tad nervous about crocs and so am I.

Each of the stories that unravels gives a sense of our vast space and contrast. Coast has always managed to deliver factual information steeped in nature and history and Australia clearly fills the brief in this regard. Oliver himself is staggered by the sheer statistics as well as the colours of our landscape. No wonder he is trying to package it all up for a British audience.

But of course it is the backdrop itself that is the real star. With its wonderful cinematography, Coast Australia brings it all into your living room, turning the viewer into an armchair traveller. So who made the decision to screen this on the History Channel -which does not broadcast in HD?

That’s my only real beef with this otherwise excellent adaptation of a popular documentary series.

Coast Australia airs 7:30pm Monday on History.

8 Responses

  1. @Panda
    It is a Great Southern Television production.

    The History Channel put money in (they are required to spend 10% of their programming budget on Australian (or NZ) productions. And got the first run broadcast rights in Australia.

    The BBC owns the format, trademark and Neil Oliver and would have put money in and BBC Worldwide have the global broadcast and DVD rights. They will show it as S9 of Coast in UK soon.

    The question is which one of them owns the subsequent Australian broadcast rights. It won’t generate much revenue on The History Channel, certainly only fraction of what it cost to make.

    It would make more much more money on FTA and that would also boost the DVD sales a lot so who ever owns the rights will likely sell it to FTA eventually.

  2. Thank you Pertinax and panda for your replies. I hope one day SBS could get it even if it takes a year or more. I won’t count on it. But if SBS did get it then presumably more people would know about it and also possibly end up buying the DVDs. Not to mention SBS would have to pay money to play it. So from a financial POV it theoretically makes more sense for FTA to get it.

    Because if they think people would get Pay TV just for this. It makes no sense. Unless people suffer from must-see-it-now syndrome. Although for Coast?!? I don’t get it. I could understand for fictional stuff theoretically.

  3. Hey A,

    It’s a History Channel/Foxtel production, they’ve invested in producing the show…and seeing as it did so well, they’ll likely be making another series of it…so wouldn’t make sense for them to sell it to free to air.

  4. You’d need to know the fine print of the deals for distribution.

    If the The History Channel or Great Southern Television has all Australian rights they would likely sell it to FTA eventually. It only rated 147k on Monday given the way the networks are fighting over anything by Attenborough SBS would likely be out bid.

    BBC Worldwide has the global distribution rights for the show as S9 of Coast UK. If that includes subsequent rights for Australia then SBS could get it under their deal for Coast UK.

  5. Thank you David for this review. Sounds well worth watching. Also thank you for the info that SBS won’t be getting it. Really stupid. But I can wait for the DVDs and see if the Library gets them. Then decide if they are worth getting from a store. The only problem there is a long list of things I want to watch. Not that I mind that problem.

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