This year Programmer Peter Andrews says SBS has much to celebrate: 40 years of radio, an On-Demand platform with 500 free movies, a return to local drama and more of Go Back to Where You Came From.
“I think it’s three years since we put Go Back To Where You Came From, series 2 to air, and a lot’s changed since then when you think about it: change of government, policies and public opinion and all the issues have changed,” he tells TV Tonight.
“The points that we want to make and the timing couldn’t be better for series three, in terms of the way it will reflect, I suppose, all these new issues and policies. And we’re going to new areas, new territories, it travels to Syria and Baghdad. We’re in really early stages of the edit but we’ve just started.”
But he declined to confirm whether the show would include famous or non-famous participants, pending major announcements.
Alex Dimitriades and Aden Young will star in The Principal involving a murder at a boys’ high school in South West Sydney, its first drama in 2 years. It will likely screen in the second half of the year.
“It’s exciting. It’s distinctive. It’s moody in its look. I think it’s reminiscent of those sort of dramas like The Killing, with some brilliant performances, and it’s captivating. The setting is a world that I think is really going to be diverse. It’s a range of different cultures and races,” he says.
“Mood-wise, we’re really thrilled about how it’s coming together. So, when I say that, I’m talking about series that have just resonated or [are] hitting the zeitgeist internationally like Broadchurch or The Missing. The series will have those elements in terms of giving the audience a sense of potential suspects − whodunnit? − a bit of a thrill ride over the 4 parts.
“We really want to be the Free to Air home of the world’s best drama. It’s a big ambition but that’s what we want to be. We want to have that really brand defining drama, whether it’s Australian made, international or foreign language. I think we’ve made some great in-roads with series like Vikings and Fargo.
“So, Fargo series 2, you’ll see that first on SBS later this year. Our plan will be to fast track it.
There is more Vikings, Rectify, Masters of Sex, The Bridge this year.
“I think we’re building up a really strong stable of world class international drama. I’m trying to suggest that The Principal will pave that way as well.”
Norwegian thriller, Mammon screens in February while The Legacy, from the makers of The Killing and Borgen, is due in May.
“The other thing about February is we’re launching a nice international drama which is called Sons of Liberty, a six-part miniseries, also on Thursday nights.”
SBS will also have the Free to Air premiere for The Missing starring James Nesbitt and season 2 of The Fall.
“I think our stable of international drama is growing and I’m not even touching on a lot of the foreign language ones. It’s exciting and there’ll be more to announce so there’ll be more coming through. We’re tracking some exciting ones,” says Andrews.
In February Paul McDermott arrives with chat show Room 101 on Monday nights.
“It’s funny, with laugh out loud moments. It’s a really entertaining watch with really witty exchanges with Paul’s schtick. There’s a really great rapport between the guests and Paul with some really surprising reveals. It’s going to be great comedy, great entertainment for SBS. And it shows a bit of a reveal, a bit of a different side, to a lot of well known Australian faces, and all centred around their pet hates.”
Confirmed names for Who Do You Think You Are? include Geoffrey Rush, Luke Nguyen and David Wenham, with more to come -it remains a flagship series for SBS.
“There’s a bit of a “watch this space” in terms of being able to announce any new names but we’re thrilled with the line up and it will deliver on what we’ve been able to achieve in previous series,” he teases.
“It’s a really strong brand for us and we use it, from a programming strategy point of view, to feed audience into our really important news and current affairs, our Tuesday line up. So, again, that will be the strategy behind Who Do You Think You Are? Australia.”
On the doco front there is Miracle Landing on the Hudson, James Cameron’s Deep Sea Challenge, a behind the scenes look at the 2014 Monty Python stage show, The Kebab Shop (formerly known as Angry Mile) and Struggle Street, a three-part observational documentary set in Mount Druitt.
“It’s a really defining piece for SBS and something you won’t see on any other channel. Really gritty in terms of the issues that it embraces but it will be a three-part piece that will shine a whole new light on this world that is right in Australia’s front door. We’ve seen some rough cuts of it and, tonally, it’s coming together really well in terms of the themes of this three-part piece,” he continues.
“There’s a bit of a catchphrase in one of the episodes where − it’s in a rough cut episode − where people say, “That’s how we do it in the Druitt.” I think that will really resonate.”
Eurovision will celebrate its 60th Anniversary and Andrews hints at big plans for the audience favourite.
“We’ve got some exciting plans for Eurovision this year. Clearly, the theme around it is building bridges and we are very much looking forward to honing in on that theme and bringing that to life for the Australian audience so, really, all I can say is, watch this space,” he hints.
So Eurovision lights up Sydney Harbour Bridge then?
With the Julia Zemiro link, RocKwiz returns thereafter looking at the 60s, 70s, 80s across 6 episodes.
“We want to evolve RocKwiz and it performs well for us. It’s a stable for SBS ONE. It’s actually a nice little segue with Eurovision, a big celebration for us and then it’s the perfect way for us to hand the audience over into RocKwiz.”
Hosting the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade for SBS in March are Magda Szubanski, Tom Ballard and The Feed’s Patrick Abboud.
While he is a fan of Nazeem Hussain, there are no plans for more Legally Brown or Housos from Paul Fenech.
Joining the SBS food family this year is Poh Ling Yeow for the 6 part series Poh and Co, due in the first half of the year.
“You really get an insight into Poh’s life and not just her love of food but her lifestyle, what she’s doing in terms of building a business, her friends, her family. It’s a really immersive series and it’s not that traditional food chop and chat,” Andrews explains.
It’s just one of many food titles for 2015. Another is the six part Gourmet Farmer Afloat with Matt Evans, Nick Haddow and Ross O’Meara as they circumnavigate Tasmania.
“We’ve got a new series of Luke Nguyen. He does the UK. Ten parts, just beautifully shot, and all the money’s on screen. And it’s really great to see Luke in the UK. Destination Flavour Scandinavia, which is Adam again. We love Adam. We love what he does. I think he’s really warm on camera. I think the way he presents, he’s so passionate about his food… just how he articulates his love of food to the audience. I think the audience really pick up on his warmth.
“Shane Delia comes back with another ten-part series, and then we’ve also got Rachel Khoo in Melbourne. So, that’s a fantastic… I’m not going to say the pun,” he laughs.
“It closely follows the format of her UK series and Little Paris Kitchen and Cosmopolitan Cook and those series, but it’s set in Melbourne.
“SBS has a real loyal following in Melbourne in terms of our audience. It’s probably our biggest market so, to do some content that’s parochial, certainly in terms of talking to the Melbourne audience, it’s also important for us.”
While there is no FIFA World Cup this year, sport remains important to SBS and Andrews pinpoints La Vuelta from Spain, the Giro from Italy and the Tour de France. The broadcaster is proud to bring events Live and in HD to fans.
“It’s very important to sport lovers to get their sport content live and in great quality. Some of the networks are challenged by that and I clearly can’t comment on their strategy in thinking behind not providing some key events in HD but it’s very important to us,” he insists.
Touching briefly on SBS 2 titles, Andrews highlights The Feed, returning next Monday.
“It’s that sort of edgy look at the news of the day but with their unique spin on the day’s events. And they also provide some great produced pieces and we try to make it very topical. So, The Feed has a big part to play for SBS 2,” he notes.
On cult dating show If You Are The One he hints, “We’re having discussions about what we can do to really bring If You Are The One to the next level.”
Unplanned America series 2 returns, Orphan Black series 3 will be fast tracked, there’s an international zombie month in March and The Walking Dead remains “slow-tracked.”
“2015 is a bit about consistency,” Andrews concludes. “We really want to drive that home, especially with our commissioned Australian content. It’s so imperative for us in the climate to ensure that our Australian commissioned series: a) punch above their weight and b) the audience know when they’re on.
“We don’t have the budget that all the other Free to Airs have so we have to be very tactical about how we stagger our key Australian commission content across the year. So that’s a big thing for us.
“We want to ensure we’ve got 52 weeks of first-run commission content appearing through the schedule and, whether that’s entertainment or that’s factual, or whether that’s food, whether that’s news and current affairs, sport, all those commissioned pieces we do, we want ensure that we are consistent.”