TEN heads into 2018 with a spring in its step.
Bolstered by the success of the Big Bash League, it has put its ownership problems to one side.
I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here has enjoyed plenty of press (You can read more on that here) and Lisa Wilkinson is co-hosting The Sunday Project, joining Waleed Aly, Carrie Bickmore and Pete Helliar on Thursdays & Fridays.
As TEN’s Head of Programming Daniel Monaghan explains, her hiring is a coup for a show marking an important anniversary.
“You will remember many stories written about The Project in its early days”
“It is 10 years which is an excellent achievement. You will remember many stories written about The Project in its early days, but we have realistic expectations for Lisa joining the show on Sundays, just we did for the first incarnation, The 7pm Project.
“Some Sundays are dependent on studio space (in Sydney), so there may be the odd occasion we may film the Sunday one out of Melbourne. But it doesn’t make any difference to the viewer.
“Balancing the strong journalism and the comedic elements will be interesting for her. I think she will play along well.”
Wilkinson will also be Executive Editor of online portal ten daily, which will focus on entertainment, lifestyle, opinion news and sport content. There have been rumours she could also front long-form interviews in another primetime vehicle.
“At the moment she needs to get her teeth stuck into her two roles of The Project and ten daily. (As to) the long form interviews, there is nothing in primetime we’ve committed to but as far as longform on The Project, absolutely. If she or Carrie or any co-hosts have longform interviews they want to do, we are open to it and will listen.”
The Project is expected to mark its 10th anniversary mid year.
“It works more in a ‘Tonight Show’ vibe”
New Screentime panel show Hughesy, We Have a Problem debuted last week, playing to a loose format of comedy and irreverence.
“It works more in a ‘Tonight Show’ vibe where he raises a topic, and allows a lot of breathing room to tell stories, make jokes, whilst resolving a problem that has arisen,” he explains.
“We’ve filmed them all now and they are very funny. Everyone who came on had a good time.”
Hit series Gogglebox also returns this week for the first of 2 seasons, each boosted from 8 to 10 episodes.
“20 weeks of Gogglebox is excellent, one at the start and one at the end of the year. It gives them a chance to talk about shows we haven’t seen in a while,” Monaghan continues. “More and more people are engaging with it.”
Any truth to the suggestion the families watch content in advance of their broadcast? Monaghan says it is a rarity.
“We wouldn’t be able to give them shows in advance from the other networks, but depending on what we’ve got we can give them (TEN) shows in advance. The show works when everything is viewed in that week.”
Bachelor in Paradise will follow I’m a Celebrity Get Me out of Here with former participants in Fiji.
“We are extremely happy with how the shoot went and it will fit the gap between Celebrity & MasterChef. There is a lot of love in the series,” he teases.
“One thing about The Bachelor franchise is, it’s about the romance and the fun… it will continue in Bachelor in Paradise. People go in genuinely wanting to find love and a lot of them do.
“Sophie (Monk) leaves big shoes to fill but the anticipation for Paradise from the fans is extremely high and I believe we will deliver on what they want.”
TEN is still yet to make decisions on The Wrong Girl, Offspring, Sisters, but Neighbours notwithstanding, the first locally-produced scripted content for 2018 is Russell Coight’s All Aussie Adventures, expected around mid-year.
“We’re investing heavily in half-hour comedies. We announced Russell Coight last year but this year we will see it on air. Working Dog always do such an exceptional job and this is no different.
It will be joined by new comedy Street Smart from comedians Tahir Bilgic (Pizza) and Rob Shehadie (Here Come the Habibs) and later in the year How to Stay Married with Peter Helliar & Lisa McCune.
“Street Smart is about inept criminals who think they are brilliant but are in fact, not.”
How to Stay Married is based on) the episode of It’s a Date that resonated with the audience so it’s exciting to have those 2 together.
“Once you’re married and you have the children, how do you keep the spark alive?”
Also coming later in the year is new sports-based drama Playing for Keeps from Screentime -no word yet on which football code it will follow.
“We follow the wives and partners of the men on the football field, but we want to cover both angles with the men as well,” Monaghan explains.
“AFL is where it was pitched at, but where it ends up may be a different story. Even though there is a ‘divide’ AFL reaches further (interstate). If it’s AFL it will be a Melbourne shoot, let’s face it.
“And we will have more Drama announcements probably mid – late this year.”
MasterChef also marks its 10th anniversary this year. At TEN’s Upfronts there was a noticeable reaction to the announcement of guests Nigella Lawson, and especially Gordon Ramsay.
“Nigella will be the first thing to ground the series and Gordon will show a different side to himself rather than Hell’s Kitchen. He does host MasterChef in the US, so we will see a warmer side.”
Another overseas trip is also expected in the show this year. And on that note, where will Australian Survivor film this season? Monaghan indicates plans are still afoot, but is encouraged by two aspects of the 2018 series.
“We have the backing of CBS behind the show”
“This is the first year we are theming the show but also the first where we have the backing of CBS behind the show,” he notes.
“Combined with Endemol Shine it will give it what it needs to push it to the next level.
“We needed to bring the theming forward because viewers watch the American version and they enjoy the theming.”
Australian Survivor is teasing Champions v Contenders, with champions from fields such as sport, entertainment and all walks of public life take on everyday Australians.
“The champions are elite in their field, which could be strength & physical, but Survivor is also social and strategic. So we will have elite fields that aren’t necessarily sport such as a chess champion or a Young Australian of the Year,” Monaghan insists.
“We’re not casting Celebrity Sports but people with a broad range of appeal that play to strategy, social or physical. The contenders are just everyday Aussies wanting to make their mark.”
Later in the year Julia Morris hosts Blind Date, based on the UK format of the same name whilst The Secret Life of 4 Year Olds is a fly on the wall look at 4 year olds in kindergarten or daycare.
“If you’ve seen the British version it’s looking at how children make friends with each other and fit into social situations. But it’s a reflection on us as adults,” he notes.
“It has a few laughs and a few tears and a bit of Children Say the Darndest Things.”
Also returning are Have You Been Paying Attention?, The Living Room, Shark Tank, Bondi Rescue, Family Feud, All Star Family Feud, Studio 10 and Todd Sampson’s Body Hack. But despite Upfronts announcements TEN could not confirm Cram‘s return.
“Cram started strong but didn’t continue to maintain the audience we had hoped for it. We were excited to invest in a paper format like Cram, so we are still reviewing where we are at with it,” Monaghan explains.
“Here are 4 or 5 shows we believe in. Do you believe in them as well?”
One of the exciting events to come is Pilot week, which will showcase new projects in a single yet-to-be-announced week.
“It’s a way of investing in 4 or 5 new ideas that are strong and that make economic sense to put them all on in one week.
“We can put to the audience ‘Here are 4 or 5 shows we believe in. Do you believe in them as well and do you want to see more of them?’ All things going well you would bring back 4-5 over the next 12 months.
“There will definitely be comedy in there, but there is scope for scripted if it works, and light entertainment. We probably have about 8 pitches in with a broad scope, so I don’t want to say it will all be one genre.”
International titles from CBS include SEAL Team, the full NCIS franchise, Instinct, 9JKL, Madam Secretary, plus Law & Order: SVU, The Graham Norton Show and a new deal for This Is Us.
Monaghan says discussions with CBS are on-going but optimistic.
“It’s early days. The only conversations we’ve had at the moment is to strengthen the notion that they are invested in commercial television, they believe in what we’re doing, they are happy with the direction of programming for 2018.
“We already get all the CBS content so there are no additional Dramas to get that we don’t already get. We also have a News relationship with them, and a lot of their daytime content already.
“It’s early days in terms of what they want to do in addition to what we have announced for 2018. But we’re very comfortable with we’re we are at.”