When Nine staged its Upfronts in October last year many observers remarked at how many shows were returning in 2019. Nearly all the key titles are back this year, an envious starting point for Director of Programming Hamish Turner.
Leading the charge is the 6th season of Married at First Sight, already dominating the competitive Reality TV wars. Despite the show’s TV success only one couple remain together (Season 2) but Turner is confident of this year’s storylines.
“True love is found! We definitely head more with the love, but we lean into the drama as well. So it’s a delicate balance between the two that we aim for and I think we’ve found the right mix this year,” he says.
“There are fantastic characters and at the end of it we may have found some of our strongest couples yet.
“It was the #1 regular entertainment show of the year and particularly strong demographically.”
10 more couples will be matched and merged in no-holds-barred weddings & dinner parties. With passion comes emotion and fraying tempers, all in the quest for love, right?
“There’s no denying it’s an evocative environment they are put in, and that’s where we see the drama coming to the front. When you are shooting something sometimes it is shown on screen. But we don’t shy away from the drama.
“It’s part of the process of finding your soulmate. If you can’t stick it out under the heat of that then maybe it’s not to be.”
“It was a surprise, but in some ways not surprising”
Nine has also benefited from having the Australian Open (“which we’ve always been very envious of”) whilst Seven has made the bold decision to move My Kitchen Rules to 7pm, which Turner concedes caught Nine by surprise. A Current Affair will not be moving.
” They are saying it’s because of the Cricket but strategically I think they want to get in before Married. It was a surprise, but in some ways not surprising,” says Turner.
60 Minutes returns with new reporter Sarah Abo poached from SBS while 2 part doco Murder, Lies & Alibis from producer Mark Llewellyn is the first of four true crime tales to screen across the year.
“I think a lot of jaws will hit the ground”
“Stylistically it is really heightened with fantastic storytelling. There is new evidence brought to the table that has never been seen before. I think a lot of jaws will hit the ground,” he suggests.
“True crime really captivates an audience. If there is the right story there we will go after it.”
Nine has also commissioned a new season of Australian Crime Stories from journalist Adam Shand.
Next week Travel Guides returns for its third season in Hawaii with a new cast addition, newlyweds Deepesh & Sage.
“People love the characters. The Fren family are one of the best reality families on TV and they continue to deliver. There are new destinations on the back of Married at First Sight.”
The first drama for 2019 is 8 part murder mystery Bad Mothers from Jungle Entertainment featuring Tess Haubrich, Mandy McElhinney, Shalom Brune-Franklin, Jessica Tovey, Melissa George, Daniel MacPherson & Don Hany.
“It’s a formidable cast, and while it has self-contained elements it is the serialised narrative that pulls you across. There’s a murder at the top and this group of mothers come together and share the love, the loss, trials and tribulations,” Turner explains.
“It starts in a serious place but there are light-hearted, quirky moments, and it’s really about the characters. It sits between House Husbands and Love Child which had serious storylines but a great bond between the girls.”
“Rodger Corser is a star.”
Doctor Doctor will return for its 4th season later in the year.
“It’s a much-loved drama and has done really well for us over 3 seasons. It is really consistent in terms of the audience it delivers. It navigates the melodrama really well. Rodger Corser is a star.”
Nostalgic drama Seachange will screen towards the end of the year with Sigrid Thornton & John Howard returning. It is currently at scripting & casting stages, and Nine is keeping its options open on where it will film, including whether that involves a return to Barwon Heads.
“We are still scouting locations but for all intents and purposes it is ‘Pearl Bay,'” he confirms.
Also announced is a revival for Halifax: Retribution with Rebecca Gibney, although not committed to screen in 2019.
Young Sheldon returns next week in a year that will signal the end of The Big Bang Theory, whilst new US medical drama New Amsterdam debuted last night.
“It’s a fantastic ensemble and done really well in the US so we expect it to do well with the MAFS audience. It’s consistent in its storytelling with well-made self-contained storylines,” he continues.
“I don’t think it will reach Good Doctor numbers, they were ridiculous before it settled, but it will be a consistent performer for us.”
Acclaimed documentary veteran Sir David Attenborough’s latest series is bound to be a crowd-pleaser.
“Dynasties with David Attenborough is another blue chip series that will go on Saturday nights, which we did with Blue Planet II,” he recalls.
“Dynasties looks at 5 different animal families and their fight for survival, shot over multiple years. It’s extraordinary.”
“If you can dream it you can create it”
Lego Masters will see teams of 2 challenged on their design and storytelling skills with 2.5 million Lego bricks for a $100,000 prize.
“If you can dream it you can create it,” Turner insists.
“Lego Masters plays with the reality format in a very different way. It’s not entirely what you’d expect, which is partly due to Hamish Blake and his performance. The characters are very different to what we’ve seen for this style of show.
“Everyone will be pleasantly surprised, it flips the genre on its head.”
The Voice is due to begin filming soon with Guy Sebastian joining coaches Delta Goodrem, Kelly Rowland & Boy George.
“It’s Australia vs the internationals this year. There are a few twists to the format that I can’t release just yet. So some pleasant surprises where we are taking the show this year.”
Talkin’ ‘Bout Your Generation will return mid year with Shaun Micallef, along with Australian Ninja Warrior season 3.
“Ninja has some format twists, shot in Melbourne with a guaranteed winner. There’s a double warped-wall and we have completely changed the course.
“The Block will also start shooting soon. We were really pleased with the result last year and this year we are back to houses at the Oslo Hotel in St. Kilda.
“It’s 4 or 5 separate houses once you rip off the front. What people really liked about Elsternwick was family homes.”
“We believe we can broaden out the linear audience”
Love Island will shift from 9GO to the primary channel, expected to screen in a similar timeslot to 2018.
“Love Island had a huge appetite from the younger audience on 9Now and we believe we can broaden out the linear audience. It also has a long tail on 9Now and the audience for that season continues to grow, even now. The first episode has been watched by 380,000 viewers on 9Now.”
But whether it returns to Mallorca Spain is undecided.
“From a casting perspective if you want to make quick decisions about getting new people in you are somewhat restricted by Mallorca. It’s not just Spain, it’s a boat, a flight and more.”
Hamish & Andy will film travel specials Perfect Holiday (“They don’t tell us anything!”) and Turner also puts an end to press speculation over Karl Stefanovic.
“He hasn’t been dumped as the Daily Mail says.”
“This Time Next Year in the back half of the year with Karl. He hasn’t been dumped as the Daily Mail says. He will be shooting it soon. It did fantastic numbers in 2017, launching at 1.3 -1.4m at 8:30 for us.”
Also coming are the Academy Awards, ARIA Awards, Logie Awards, NRL, State of Origin, mid year Ashes from the UK and a soon-to-be-revealed AFL show produced by Eddie McGuire’s JamTV -but without McGuire or Sam Newman hosting.
If you hadn’t noticed, the Today show is also building its 2019 identity with Georgie Gardner, Deb Knight and Tom Steinfort.
“The analysis has been ridiculous,” Turner offers. “I read the cast had ‘died’ after one morning. This show runs 3 hours 7 days a week if you include Weekend Today, 365 days a year. So it’s a marathon not a sprint, and I think even over the past week they have found their groove. They’re developing good chemistry and doing an OB is very different to the studio. I’m happy with where the show is sitting in terms of its life cycle.”
Buying Blind and Date Night will not be returning.
Family Food Fight‘s future is yet to be decided.
“It’s doing well internationally, we’re keen to look at those iterations and see what that looks like domestically.”
There is more 20 to One, Hot Seat, A Current Affair, RBT, Getaway and new observational Paramedics.
“Paramedics was a break out hit. It delivered 700,000+ at 8:30 on a Thursday. It an Ambulance did a great job for us and 10. It’s Factual told in a different way,” he explains.
“Everything old is new again.”