Best ‘Worst Year’ for Kid’s TV

Amid a Live Action downturn for Kid's TV, ABC3 is flying the flag with Worst Year of My Life, Again.

2014-05-19_2213In Children’s Television there has been a shift from Live Action to Animation, according to Bernadette O’Mahony from the Australian Children’s Television Foundation.

But the ACTF partnered with producer Ross Allsop from Worst Year Productions and the ABC for the comedy series Worst Year of My Life, Again, currently screening on ABC3.

“In C (Classified) Drama there’s a lot of Animation but less Live Action. For the kids it’s hard to tell where it comes from because it might have a mixture of voices, depending on who the partners are. But in Live Action they can recognise their own environment,” says O’Mahony.

“Certainly on ABC3 they’re getting a lot of Factual, which we hadn’t seen a lot of until the advent of ABC3. There are docos and wildlife shows. In commercial TV probably the balance is tipped to Animation at the moment. There are fewer Live Action because of the financing of them.”

In the series Alex (Ned Napier) finds himself reliving each year, Groundhog Day-style, in order to improve on his mistakes. While there’s plenty of comedy and visual gags, there’s also a lot of lesson learning.

“Alex is an eternal optimist. Life doesn’t go the way he wants but he’s going to try and change it and he never gives up,” O’Mahony explains.

“It’s all those life lessons that kids aged 8-13 are learning. It’s an important message that life won’t always go your way, but it’s not the end of the world. So you can change it you can bounce back, and most good Kid’s TV incorporates those themes.”

Producer Ross Allsop has worked in television for 30 years, including producing for Rush, Tangle, Offspring, Beaconsfield, and The Doctor Blake Mysteries. But Worst Year is the first project under his recently-established company.

“The support from Bernadette and the ACTF has been fantastic, because they approached me to form a company to do it. Hopefully we’ll go on and make a few more,” he says.

Much of the cast starring in Worst Year are young, and several are first timers, following an extensive audition process.

“Ned Napier plays Alex and Laurence Boxhall plays his best friend Simon, the English boy who’s been here for 3 years,” says Allsop.

“He flew himself over for the auditions from Adelaide and came to the audition process himself. Pretty much from Day One we knew he was our Simon.

“Tiarnie Coupland is Maddie and she’s a bit younger than the boys. She’s done a couple of things in Sydney. I think a low budget feature with Peter Phelps.”

Actress Alison Whyte also steps behind the camera as Drama Coach for the cast, just one of a handful of adult actors on set with the kids.

“There’s not that many to be honest, Annie Jones plays his mum and Jeremy Stanford plays his dad and Syd Brisbane is the teacher, Mr. Norris,” Allsop adds.

O’Mahony, who has produced for ACTF on such titles as Mortified, Round the Twist, Dance Academy, My Place, Flea-Bitten, and Bushwhacked values the important of Live Action for young viewers.

“This has a lot of slapstick, comedy, physical gags, stunts, people on wires,” she says.

“Live Action is really important because kids get to see their world reflected back at them, and Comedy is the best way to deal with difficult subjects.

“It’s an easier pill to swallow when it’s told with humour.”

Worst Year of My Life, Again airs 6pm Saturdays on ABC3.

One Response

  1. Given the downturn in live-action commissioning for kids it’s a pity the ACTF used its considerable market advantage to support a project originated in the UK, written by UK writers. The title says it all – yes we have seen this before – it’s lame, tame, derivative with nothing authentically Australian about the voice or the vision. And what about colour blind casting? Three white anglo-saxons in the lead again. CBBC joined forces with the ACTF to access subsidy that is designed to support Australian originated material. Thank goodness the ABC has a new Head of Kids who wont allow this outrage to happen again.

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