Which shows keep TV programmers awake at night?

Network execs nominate the one show that prevented a good night of slumber.


TV Tonight recently asked TV programmers to nominate the one show that kept them awake at night.

Five nominated concerning shows that are pretty self-explanatory, and one nominated a favourite show that was like a good book he couldn’t put down.

Brendan Dahill, ABC Head of Programming

How Not to Behave

“It looked great on paper. And it looked like an ABC Entertainment show on paper. But it’s that magic alchemy of TV that just didn’t work.

“Everyone worked really hard to make the show, but what we all had in our mind’s eye just didn’t work quite the way we thought it would.

“That and my scheduling decision of Please Like Me are probably the two I wish I’d had a chance to do again.”

Gretel Killeen & Matt Okine. HNTB for ABC TV.Photo by Simon Cardwell

Angus Ross, Director of Programming, Seven

Cats Make You Laugh Out Loud

“With what was going on at the time it was multiple nights sleep! There was a need to quickly stabilise the schedule and we needed a number of shows to over-perform.

“And that did!”


Andrew Backwell, Managing Director of Programming & Production, Nine


“We had such high hopes for Gallipoli and it was a brilliantly made piece of television. But it just didn’t resonate. I was sitting in front of my computer at 8:30 back then when the ratings came in and I was very surprised by the performance of the show.

“Only later did I realise that all the networks had done programming around ANZAC Day (Anniversary) but none of it resonated. There wasn’t interest in the market.

“I was particularly disappointed because I do think it was brilliantly made and a very important piece of TV. It just shows you that in this industry, no-one knows it all and anybody who does is an idiot.”

2014_03_19 Gallipoli_0690

Beverley McGarvey, Chief Programming Officer, TEN

I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here!

“Because it’s Live and in the jungle. There’s wildlife out there so that probably is the scariest for many reasons.

“It’s only year 2. It’s in Africa. There are lions out there.

“Being Live is also an opportunity because if something isn’t right you can tweak it as you go.

“But in recent memory Celebrity is probably the show that has kept me awake if I haven’t been lucky enough to be asleep in the first place.”

I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here!-Season 2-Episode14-3

Peter Andrews, Head of Network Programming, SBS

Struggle Street

“It certainly created a media frenzy, and although didn’t specifically keep me ‘awake at night’, we stood by the program and were confident of the production despite the media frenzy at hand.


Brian Walsh, Director of Television, Foxtel

A Place to Call Home

“I was encouraged by a family member to watch it. And when I did it was like a good book, I couldn’t put it down. I binged Season 1 and 2 in 4 days, so it literally did keep me up at night -in a great way.

“It was a wonderful discovery. Then I was so determined to get the show on air.

“So that kept me awake at night until I got the deal done with Angus Ross at Seven.”


12 Responses

  1. Maybe they should have invited Peter Jackson’s Weta Workshop to produce Gallipoli as he is WW1 enthusiast having done short clips testing new cameras with trench warfare themes. Any period production needs producers and directors who know something about early 20th Centuy culture and history.

  2. Andrew Backwell from Nine is right about why Gallipoli flopped. It wasn’t the show per se which was a turnoff, it was the whole Centenary of Anzac thing that the public didn’t want. I could have told them that the public was fed up with the whole nationalism hype about Anzac and didn’t want a celebration of it. The name of the show was also confusing, being the same as the 1981 classic movie. I see DVDs of Gallipoli in JB HiFi and I don’t know whether it is the movie or TV show.

  3. Gallipoli was a master-class in how not to do prestige TV. There was basically no second act in the story. A bunch of passive, one dimensional characters just sat around moping, hoping the whole thing would soon be over (which, incidentally, was what the audience felt too). There was no sense of connectedness between the characters and the story. Look at great TV shows like The Wire, The Sopranos, OITNB and Breaking Bad – they all created cohesive story-worlds full of fascinating, incandescent characters on fascinating journeys, all within a tight, highly dramatic structure, with a big dose of humour and suspense thrown in for good measure. Gallipoli had none of those things. It was tonally flat and just plodded on and on and on and on.

    1. I didn’t watch it, the reason being that it was ‘Australian Drama’. Sad to say that while we have talented actors and crew, we seem to be very short of talent in the writing department. “Humour and suspense”? If only! If Aussie writers do attempt these things, it is often so contrived it is embarrassing.

  4. So Nine still can’t ever admit a mistake and blame the audience for all their failings.

    Gallipoli was not brilliantly made. It was poorly conceived, badly written and directed and never had the budget to carry it off 8 hours of TV. They made the entire 9 months campaign about a handful of soldiers who were in everything, and it was shot on one hill with a few tents a the bottom used to represent the entire campaign. Nine got a very large audience for the double screening of episodes 1&2, then they left in droves simply because it was underwhelming drama.

    Deadline Gallipoli rated well for a cable drama, Tony Robinson’s WWI series rated well, as did the official commemorations.

    Gallipoli was just a flop. Wanted isn’t a whole lot better but it has MKR as a lead-in and little competition.

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