EXCLUSIVE: Interview with Seven Director of Programming Angus Ross.
- New channel for February
- Molly & Wanted continue Seven’s momentum in Drama
- New relationship show announced: Seven Year Switch
- Olympics to serve as launch-pad for new shows
- Final episodes for Winners and Losers confirmed
- Dancing with the Stars return subject to casting
- More shows set to be revealed shortly for Q2
Angus Ross is arguably sitting pretty as the 2016 TV war heats up. Seven is coming off the back of the Australian Open and in August it has the Rio Olympics -two heavyweight opportunities as he maps out the year ahead.
“We’ve got our Australian Open launch-pad and then we’ve got our Olympics launch-pad. So we have 2 big chances to launch a bunch new programmes,” he tells TV Tonight.
“A lot of our development has gone into what we will launch out of the Olympics. In the past we’ve launched Border Security, Packed to the Rafters, Dancing with the Stars and they were all long-running shows.”
In February Seven will launch a new channel, but Ross is staying mum on the content.
“We are launching a new channel in February and things will be announced soon,” he teases.
“Real people, real food”
But viewers already know TV’s biggest reality show, My Kitchen Rules, is back for more cooking triumphs and disasters from tonight.
“The promos speak for themselves. We think we have a very entertaining mix of contestants and a mystery new judge. We think the show stacks up to all the other seasons. It’s just great fun as people would expect. Real people, real food,” he says.
Ross tips two Victorian teams Zana and Gianni, Jessica and Marcos plus NSW Italians Luciano & Martino amongst those most likely to ‘pop.’
“They’re all great contestants. There’s some of the best cooking we’ve seen but also a couple of major flame-outs in the instant restaurants as well.
“The pressure of cooking in your own home does get to some people, even those who are supremely confident going in.
“There is a new mystery judge on the show and that will be revealed soon.”
The show airs 3×90 minute episodes this week but Ross isn’t saying what his plans are beyond this week.
“We hold all of that info very close to our chest. They are revealed as they need to be (regarding) what nights of the week it is going. Sometimes things change depending on performance and that sort of thing.”
“I hadn’t laughed so much in a long time”
Also debuting this week is new dating series First Dates in which couples embark on blind dates in a Sydney restaurant.
“When I saw the rough cut of ep 1 I hadn’t laughed so much in a long time. I really enjoyed it,” he recalls.
“It’s different enough from the other relationship / dating shows that are on and occupies a different space. We think it will be a good fit with our MKR audience on Wednesdays.”
On Sunday it has high hopes for the 2 part miniseries Molly, a slot which proved very successful for INXS: Never Tear Us Apart two years ago. It will depict backstage drama at Countdown during the 1970s and touches upon the private life of the man under the hat, performed by Sam Johnson.
“He’s absolutely amazing, ” says Ross.” It definitely goes into his personal life. It’s kind of epic. I’ve had people say ‘You’re using the real Molly in your promos?’ But it’s not the real Molly, it’s Sam.”
Also next week is “event series,” Wanted featuring Rebecca Gibney, which could be renewed if it is successful.
“Rebecca came in and pitched the show in May last year, so she’s had her skates on getting it ready at the start of the year. But we’re really happy with what she and Matchbox Pictures have delivered to us. Tonally it’s a bit of a wild ride.”
The series also stars Stephen Peacocke, Ryan Corr, Nicholas Bell and in her first TV lead, WAAPA graduate Geraldine Hakewill.
“The chemistry between her and Rebecca is fantastic. It has a nice lighter tone running through and they have some great comedic moments together,” says Ross.
“We like to think we’re on a bit of a roll with our dramas. Last year 800 Words was the #1 drama on TV. It did well for us, Peter Allen did well, this year we’re kicking off with Molly, Wanted and we’re very happy with our drama development.”
What does a new Gibney vehicle on Seven mean to the future of Winter?
“Winter is still there if we want to revisit it and it still averaged over a million viewers for us last year. But there was no way a series of Winter would be ready at the start of the year.”
Following the Olympics is Screentime-produced drama, The Secret Daughter, featuring Jessica Mauboy -a pitch Ross says was easy to say yes to.
“If somebody comes to you with a drama idea starring Jess Mauboy it’s a pretty easy decision,” he explains.
“When you look at the auspices around it, we’re in very safe hands with Rory Callaghan (producer). He’s worked on a bunch of stuff for us in the past.”
800 Words and Home and Away continue, while Ross confirms the final episodes for Winners and Losers.
“Yes, this year,” he acknowledges.
“We don’t show all of our hand.”
He also confirms “a couple of other mini-series coming down the pipeline.”
Could projects on Olivia Newton-John and Paul Hogan be airing this year?
“Yes they could be… they will be ready to be on air this year. But that’s not all of it,” he teases.
“We don’t come out with pages of information of what we’re up to. We don’t show all of our hand. We have a lot of stuff coming that wasn’t even mentioned in the (Upfronts).
“There are a bunch of shows coming in Q2 that we haven’t announced –but the announcement is imminent. So I can’t talk about them at the moment.”
But he did exclusively reveal new relationship series, Seven Year Switch in which struggling couples will swap partners. The show has been airing in the US on the FYI Network.
“It’s a relationship show about couples who undergo ‘Switch Therapy,'” Ross announces.
“It’s a US format from AETN coming in Q2 and we think it will be pretty noisy.”
Romance is big in 2016 with Kiss Bang Love, in which blindfolded singles will smooch their way to romance on the way. How does the show differ from First Dates?
“Basically it’s ‘Can a first kiss lead to love?’” he suggests.
“You have one person initially kissing 10 people blindfolded, but there could be a few more awkward and icky moments in Kiss Bang Love versus First Dates where you’re sitting down at a restaurant.
“In a lot of those moments there is no kiss at all in the date.”
Seven is currently shooting the series, based on a Danish format, and promises local tweaks.
“You get format variations in every market depending on the approach required, so what they’ve done overseas we may well be fiddling with in this market.”
Sunday Night, The X Factor and House Rules are back, despite the latter being held over from plans for a second 2015 season.
“It’s a great series, but at the back end House Rules v The Block didn’t feel like a win for anybody.
“This year will be one season in its regular timeslot.
But Ross appears to leave his options open for Dancing with the Stars.
“I would suggest, as it is every year, the return of Dancing with the Stars is dependent on the cast you can get together as to whether it would return this year or not.”
More promisingly, new game show The Chase Australia has improved Seven’s lead-in to the all-important 6pm news.
“The Chase has launched really well for us. It now beats everything in the timeslot including TEN News, so it doesn’t just beat that other quiz show. We’ve got The Beast joining the group of chasers from Feb 1.
“We’re very happy with how it’s helped our news, particularly in Sydney and Melbourne. That’s where The Chase has resonated the most. Since The Chase started Seven News is back to being number #1.
“It has the best ‘endgame’ on TV”
“We feel there is more growth in The Chase and obviously more growth in our News. Launching game shows is one of the riskiest things you can do. 90% of them don’t tend to work. So we’re very happy with The Chase and we think it has the best ‘endgame’ on TV.”
And what of those rumours of a return to Today Tonight on the East Coast?
“We’re very happy with the performance of our one hour news and very happy with the performance of Home and Away. And we’re very happy to have Craig (McPherson) on board running News as well.”
Sunrise has a major revamp from today, while The Morning Show, Better Homes and Gardens, The Daily Edition and AFL all return.
Also coming post-Olympics are Sunday Night Takeaway and The Day the Cash Came.
International titles include the final season of Downton Abbey plus The Blacklist, Castle, Bones, Agents of Shield and later, Blindspot and Quantico.
And if all of that is not enough, Ross has the last laugh, vowing even more cat videos. You have been warned!
“We have another brand new season of Cats Make You Laugh Out Loud and I expect the same level of support from you, that you gave me last year to get things rolling!” he laughs.
“Brand new clips, fresh off the internet for you!”