Pick of the 2020 Upfronts

Now that Upfronts are over, which new shows hold the most promise?

Now that the Upfronts season is over, I thought I would post on what I reckon are the new shows that will be ones to watch (and I’m excluding returning seasons of current shows).

NITV’s The Beach was the best trailer I saw (until it was yanked from YouTube). ABC’s Revelation looks to be the most compelling… and never discount the pen of Bevan Lee with Between Two Worlds.

These new shows are in no particular order….


Fallout (working title)
There is no more lethal cocktail than a combination of blind faith and paranoia. And it seems in 1956, everyone was drinking it. It’s the height of the Cold War. The Menzies Government has welcomed British atomic bomb testing at remote, ‘uninhabited’ Maralinga, in outback South Australia. Charged with keeping the base functioning smoothly is Major Leo Carmichael (Ewen Leslie), an Australian Army Engineer and WWII hero. But testing the most dangerous weapon in the world is no easy task for Leo with a Commanding Officer (James Cromwell) who is not fit for purpose; a new meteorologist, Dr Eva Lloyd-George (Jessica De Gouw) who starts asking questions; and the Government and press watching his every move. And as it turns out, the land of Maralinga may not be so uninhabited after all, when Leo’s faced with the arrival of a family of Indigenous Australians seeking their own answers about the giant clouds that explode occasionally… A riveting blend of historical fiction and espionage thriller, this is filmmaker Peter Duncan at his satirical best. Fallout is a story of our infinite capacity for betrayal, and no one is immune, not even the betrayers themselves.
Production Credits
A Porchlight Films Production for the ABC. Major production investment from Screen Australia in association with the ABC and Screen NSW. Financed with support from the South Australian Film Corporation and Head Gear Films.
Writer and Director: Peter Duncan
Producers: Vincent Sheehan, Tanya Pheegan Executive Producers: Liz Watts, Anita Sheehan Sally Riley (ABC), Andrew Gregory (ABC).

An airline hostess on the run from a dangerous cult, an Afghan refugee and his family fleeing persecution, a young father escaping a dead-end job and a bureaucrat running out of time to contain a national scandal: Stateless is a powerful and timely series about four strangers whose lives collide at an immigration detention centre in the middle of the Australian desert.
Production Credits
A Matchbox Pictures and Dirty Films production for the ABC. Major production investment from Screen Australia and the ABC. Financed with support from the South Australian Film Corporation.
Writers: Elise McCredie and Belinda Chayko
Directors: Emma Freeman and Jocelyn Moorhouse Producers: Sheila Jayadev and Paul Ranford
Executive Producers: Cate Blanchett, Tony Ayres, Elise McCredie, Liz Watts and Andrew Upton, Sally Riley (ABC), Andrew Gregory (ABC).

Australia’s Ocean Highway
We live on an oceanic planet whose waters have sustained life for almost four billion years. The ocean is the birthplace of life on our planet, from the most basic organic compounds that become bacteria, bacterial to plants, plants to animals. 500 million years ago life left this blue womb and colonised the land, but we are still intricately linked to the ocean. Our climates, coastlines, ecosystems and economies are tied to the perpetual movement of water between continents. The great ocean currents are the arteries and veins of planet Earth. This is the story of one fascinating flow – the East Australian Current, a massive oceanic river that stretches the length of Australia’s East Coast. 3000 kilometres long, 100 kilometres wide and hundreds of metres deep.
Production Credits
An ABC and Wild Pacific Media Production. Funding from ARTE and Wild Pacific Media.
Executive Producers: Nick Robinson (Wild Pacific Media Production).
ABC Executive Producer: Stephen Oliver.

Dark Emu
Multi award-winning book Dark Emu comes to the screen, with celebrated author Bruce Pascoe presenting his fresh perspective on Indigenous history. In this series, author Bruce Pascoe will take audiences on a revelatory and inspiring journey across Australia to present a very different history of our nation and the First Australians. It will tell the story of Indigenous achievement pre-colonisation in the form of agriculture and farming, infrastructure and design, astronomy, trade and governance.
Production Credits
Dark Emu is a Blackfella Films production for the ABC. Principal production investment from Screen Australia’s Indigenous Department in association with the ABC. Financed with support from Screen NSW and Film Victoria.
Director: Erica Glynn Producers: Darren Dale and Belinda Mravicic
Writers: Bruce Pascoe and Jacob Hickey Presenter and Narrator: Bruce Pascoe
ABC Executive Producer: Kelrick Martin.

Revelation brings you a series of worldwide television firsts. For the first time cameras are inside the courtroom as two of the Catholic Church’s most notorious child abusers go on trial for sexually assaulting children in their care. In another first, Revelation brings you interviews with paedophile priests, one from behind bars in a maximum security prison. These uniquely gripping interviews give us an unprecedented look into the minds of men of God who committed unimaginable crimes against children. Over three riveting episodes, crimes and cover up are shown on a new scale – with a powerful conclusion that will reverberate around the world.
Production Credits
Revelation is an In Films production for the ABC. Major production investment from Screen Australia, in association with Screen NSW.
Executive Producer: Nial Fulton (In Films)
ABC Executive Producer: Stephen Oliver.

Shaun Micallef’s On the Sauce
Shaun Micallef brings his own distinctive style to this factual series about our relationship with alcohol. This series is a very personal journey for Shaun, he doesn’t drink and he doesn’t get it. Alcohol has touched Shaun’s family. A sharp observational eye, an astute inquisitor, balanced with a quick comic wit and a penchant for the absurd. As an audience, we will lurch from shocked to surprise as Shaun looks at how alcohol has shaped who we are. Shaun doesn’t judge he watches, he experiences, he questions, he processes and gives us his idiosyncratic take on what he’s gone through. Shaun will encounter situations that will give him serious pause to reflect and possibly change his position on aspects of Australia’s alcohol experience. During the series Shaun will ‘get drunk’ for the first time since his university days. In turn, the audience will also be forced to contemplate their own opinions and behaviour.
Production Credits
A CJZ production for the ABC. Principal production investment from the ABC in association with Screen Australia.
Executive Producers: Andrew Farrell (CJZ) and Paula Bycroft (CJZ)
ABC Executive Producer: Julie Hanna.

The Australian Dream
Written by award-winning journalist Stan Grant, The Australian Dream is the story of champion AFL player and Indigenous rights activist Adam Goodes; more broadly, it is a story about race, identity and belonging. A searing document of the nation’s uneasy relationship with First Nation people, it is also a powerful celebration of a true Australian champion. For years Adam Goodes was a beloved AFL hero. Then the two-time Brownlow Medallist and former Australian of the Year began to call out racism, and his Australian dream turned into a nightmare. Australia loves its Australian Rules Football, and for an elite player it should have been unimaginable: his career ending in a controversy that cost him his love of the game. But Australia has an uneasy relationship with its Indigenous peoples and Adam Goodes is a proud Adnyamathanha and Narungga man. Featuring incredible archival footage alongside illuminating interviews, The Australian Dream questions what sort of country we want to be.
Production Credits
The Australian Dream is an Australian-UK co-production between GoodThing Productions and Passion Pictures. Production investment from Screen Australia, Lorton Entertainment, ABC and Film Victoria.
Director: Daniel Gordon Writer: Stan Grant Featuring: Adam Goodes, Stan Grant
Producers: Sarah Thomson, Nick Batzias, Virginia Whitwell, John Battsek
Executive Producers: Ben Simmons, Paul Wiegard, Andrew Ruhemann, Julian Bird, Joel Kennedy, Tommy Gordon, Jo Chichester (ABC Commissioning Editor). Kath Earle (ABC Head of Regional Sports & Events).


Between Two Worlds
From master creator Bevan Lee (A Place to Call Home, Packed to the Rafters, All Saints, Winners & Losers) comes this bold, seductive, glamorous new thriller featuring a world class ensemble cast led by British actress Hermione Norris (Cold Feet, Spooks, Luther). Norris stars as Cate Walford, whose harsh, vicious, business tycoon husband, Phillip (Philip Quast, Picnic at Hanging Rock, Hacksaw Ridge) fights to dominate his family as he faces his mortality. Through a shocking twist of fate, their dark and murky world collides with the seemingly disparate and disconnected, warm and loving world of widow Sophia Grey (Sara Wiseman, A Place to Call Home) and her footy star son and musical daughter. Destructive secrets are soon unearthed proving nothing is quite as it first might appear. Aaron Jeffery (Wentworth), Dominic Allburn (A Place to Call Home), Blazey Best (A Place to Call Home), Marny Kennedy (Janet King) and up-and-coming actors Tom Dalzell, Melanie Jarnson, Megan Smart, Alex Cubis and Elijah Williams also star. Between Two Worlds is a Seven Studios production.

RFDS (working title)
Acclaimed actress and award-winning singer Justine Clarke (Tangle, Rake, The Time Of Our Lives), Logie Award-winning star of stage and screen, Rob Collins (The Wrong Girl, Glitch, Cleverman) and Logie Award-winning actor Stephen Peacocke (Home and Away, Wanted) lead the cast of RFDS (working title), a gripping new action-drama on a grand scale, based in Australia’s red heart, where the modern-day heroes of the Royal Flying Doctor Service navigate private lives as turbulent and profound as the heart stopping emergencies they attend. Based on remarkable real-life stories and filmed on location in and around Broken Hill, this series will capture the beauty and brutality of Australia’s vast centre where the doctors, nurses, pilots and support staff of the RFDS negotiate the unique challenges of emergency retrievals across some of the most inhospitable places in the country. It’s also a story about community and people coming together to laugh, to cry and to triumph, in spite of the huge obstacles they face. RFDS is an Endemol Shine Australia production for the Seven Network. Major production investment from Seven Network in association with Screen Australia. Financed with support from Screen NSW through the Made In NSW Fun and the Regional Filming Fund.

Big Brother
Twenty years ago, nine people entered a purpose-built house to be watched 24/7 by Big Brother and it changed TV forever! Life inside the house was fascinating, unpredictable, uplifting, confronting, shocking, surprising, hilarious and above all else, entertaining. In 2020, the world’s greatest reality show returns to shake things up. But if you think you know Big Brother, then think again. This time, everything has changed. The thrilling new era of Big Brother begins with a dynamic new house full of incredible surprises, new rules designed to create show stopping twists and a new generation of unique and ambitious housemates determined to outstay each other no matter what Big Brother throws at them. The only question is, when Big Brother returns… are you ready to play? Big Brother is an Endemol Shine Australia production for Channel Seven.

Mega Mini Golf (working title)
Based on the hole-in-one hit format on America’s ABC Network, Mega Mini Golf is an extreme miniature golf competition set on a larger-than-life obstacle golf course. Aussie mini-golf lovers of all ages and backgrounds will have the chance to tee off on the most epic course ever devised in this country, competing head-to-head on supersized holes. They’ll face out-of-this-world challenges as their putting and physical skills are put to the test while they attempt to complete the course and reach the daunting final hole. Mega Mini Golf is a Eureka Production for Channel Seven based on a Eureka/Disney/Unanimous format.


Informer 3838
Nine has announced a star-studded cast for Informer 3838, the new drama mini-series based on the events involving gangland lawyer turned police informer, Nicola Gobbo. Ella Scott Lynch (Love Child, Doctor Doctor, Upright) will play the gangland lawyer known as Lawyer X, Nicola Gobbo. The series will mark the return of some members of the Underbelly crew. Gyton Grantley (House Husbands, The Dressmaker, Balibo) will reprise his role as Carl Williams and Robert Mammone (Fat Tony & Co., Mystery Road, Water Diviner) will again play Tony Mokbel. Rhys Muldoon (Les Norton, Rake, House Husbands) is police informant Terrence Hodson. Also starring in the mini-series are Stephen Peacocke (Five Bedrooms, Squinters 2, Home and Away), Richard Davies (Offspring, Tidelands, Oddball), Olympia Valance (Neighbours, Playing For Keeps), Jane Harber (Offspring, A Moody Christmas, INXS) and Hollie Andrew (Fat Tony & Co., Somersault, Supernova). Informer 3838 will tell the story of how Nicola Gobbo had the ultimate trust of Melbourne’s underworld and was gangland’s go-to defence lawyer, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Carl Williams, Tony Mokbel, the Morans, the Carlton Crew and Roberta Williams. While Nicola knew the underworld’s dirty secrets, they had no idea of hers. This explosive drama is the untold story of how one woman’s secret double life helped to fight the Melbourne gangland wars and trigger a Royal Commission. Throughout the gangland wars Nicola Gobbo was the ultimate double agent. Against all the rules, she was betraying her clients to the police while defending them in court. Informer 3838 is being produced by Screentime, makers of the hit Underbelly series, with assistance from Screen NSW. Filming commenced in Melbourne last week.

Halifax: Retribution
In 2020, Australian television legend Rebecca Gibney returns to Nine to reprise her role as forensic psychiatrist Jane Halifax in Halifax: Retribution. Hollywood-based Anthony LaPaglia joins the cast to play the head of Task Force Stingray, Inspector Tom Saracen, in the gripping crime thriller mini-series. Jane Halifax (Rebecca Gibney) is a rock star in the field of forensic psychiatry, and after years on the police frontline she has carved out a new career as a university professor. But when a serial sniper starts terrorising Melbourne, Jane is lured back into the field to help the police task force find the killer and save a city paralysed with fear. As she profiles a killer hidden in plain sight, Jane finds herself firmly in his view. This one is personal. Also joining the stellar cast are Claudia Karvan (Newton’s Law, Jack Irish, Time Of Our Lives), Jacqueline McKenzie (Safe Harbour, Romper Stomper, Pine Gap), Rick Donald (800 Words, A Place to Call Home, Wentworth), Craig Hall (A Place to Call Home, The Doctor Blake Mysteries, Catching Milat), Michala Banas (Upper Middle Bogan, Bad Mothers, McLeod’s Daughters), Mavournee Hazel (Neighbours, My Life Is Murder), Louisa Mignone (Secret City: Under the Eagle, Ms Fisher’s Modern Murder Mysteries, Rake), Stephen Curry (The Castle, The King, Hounds of Love) and John Waters (Mystery Road, Rake, Offspring). “I am beyond excited to be breathing new life into Jane Halifax as she was and still is one of my favourite characters, and I always believed there was so much more we could explore with her,” Rebecca Gibney said. “Having grown as a woman and hopefully as an actor over the last 20 years I’m really looking forward to exploring Jane’s world from a new perspective.” Original creator and writer Roger Simpson (Stingers, Satisfaction, Good Guys, Bad Guys) returns as writer and producer, alongside executive producer Mikael Borglund. Halifax: Retribution is a Beyond Lonehand Production for Nine with major production investment from Screen Australia, in association with Film Victoria.


The Secrets She Keeps
Set in Sydney and the Blue Mountains, the screen adaptation of Michael Robotham’s bestselling novel stars Laura Carmichael (Downton Abbey, The Spanish Princess) as Agatha and Jessica De Gouw (Riot, Underground) as Meghan – two women from vastly different backgrounds both with explosive secrets that could destroy everything they hold dear. These leading ladies are in fine company with Michael Dorman (Patriot, Wonderland) starring as Meghan’s husband Jack, Ryan Corr (Bloom, Holding The Man) as Jack’s best friend Simon and Michael Sheasby (The Nightingale, The Luminaries) cast as Agatha’s partner Hayden.

The Gilded Age
This US project by Julian Fellowes (Downton Abbey) begins in 1882 and centres on young Marian Brook, the orphaned daughter of a Southern general, who moves into the home of her rigidly conventional aunts in New York City. Accompanied by the mysterious Peggy Scott, an African-American woman masquerading as her maid, Marian gets caught up in the dazzling lives of her stupendously rich neighbours, led by a ruthless railroad tycoon and his ambitious wife struggling for acceptance by the Astor and Vanderbilt set.


Hungry Ghosts
TX: Mid 2020 on SBS
Number Of Episodes: 4 x 1hr
The past isn’t done with us yet. When a tomb in Vietnam is accidentally opened on the eve of the Hungry Ghost Festival, a vengeful spirit is unleashed, bringing the dead with him. As these spirits wreak havoc across the Vietnamese Australian community in Melbourne, reclaiming lost loves and exacting revenge, May Le, a young woman who has never taken responsibility for who she is, must finally accept her destiny and help bring balance to a community still traumatised by war. Starring Catherine Văn-Davies, Bryan Brown, Clare Bowen, Ferdinand Hoang, Gareth Yuen, Justine Clarke, Ryan Corr, Jillian Nguyen, and Suzy Wrong. Hungry Ghosts is a Matchbox Pictures production for SBS. Major production investment from Screen Australia in association with SBS. Produced with the Assistance of Film Victoria.

New Gold Mountain
TX: 2020 on SBS
Number Of Episodes: 4 x 1hr
1855, the height of the Australian gold fever, coming just a few years after the peak of the California gold rush. For the Chinese, this new opportunity is known as the ‘New Gold Mountain’. Wei Shing, the intriguingly charismatic – and occasionally ruthless – ‘headman’ leader of the White Hills Chinese mining camp, struggles to maintain the fragile harmony between the Chinese and European diggers. But, when Shing discovers the murdered body of a European woman, he uncovers a series of connections to the Chinese camp with implications disastrous both for himself and his people. New Gold Mountain is a Goalpost Television production for SBS. Major production investment from Screen Australia, in association with SBS.

War Of The Worlds
TX: 2020 on SBS
Number Of Episodes: 8 x 1hr
When astronomers detect a transmission from another galaxy, it is definitive proof of intelligent extra-terrestrial life. The world’s population waits for further contact with bated breath. They do not have to wait long. Within days, mankind is all but wiped out by a devastating attack; pockets of humanity are left in an eerily deserted world. As aliens hunt and kill those left alive, the survivors ask a burning question – who are these attackers and why are they hell-bent on our destruction? Starring Gabriel Byrne and Elizabeth McGovern, and based on the book by H.G Wells.

Dublin Murders
TX: Mid 2020 on SBS
Number Of Episodes: 8 x 1hr
This much-anticipated, thrilling, and sophisticated hit series from the BBC and Starz comes to SBS in 2020. Detectives Rob Reilly and Cassie Maddox find themselves dispatched to investigate the murder of a young girl on the outskirts of Dublin, Ireland. Based on the books In the Woods and The Likeness by American-Irish writer Tana French, this psychological thriller features Killian Scott and Sarah Greene as the leads. Twists and turns await as the detectives are pulled deeper into the intrigue and darkness that surrounds the case.

First Wars
TX: Late 2020 on SBS
Number Of Episodes: 3 x 1hr
Presented by Rachel Perkins, this polemic documentary series reveals the extraordinary story of Australia’s First Wars. It will unearth the 100 year history of the frontier conflict that has often been buried, whitewashed, or ignored. By challenging our past, it asks Australians who we are, and who we want to become as a nation. A Blackfella Films production for SBS. Major production funding from SBS in association with Screen Australia. Financed with support from Screen NSW.

Great Australian Railway Journeys
TX: February 2020 on SBS
Number Of Episodes: 6 x 1hr
Michael Portillo ventures down under to ride some of the world’s greatest railways, steered by his 1913 Bradshaw handbook. Aboard the legendary Ghan and Indian Pacific Railways, Michael uncovers the great feats of engineering, which enabled travellers to cross this vast, inhospitable continent. On his journeys, Michael climbs in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales, explores the remote Australian Red Centre at Alice Springs, and the tropical rainforests of Queensland. He hears dreamtime stories from the Indigenous Arrende people, and enjoys bush tucker over a camp fire. In Victoria, he helps with sheep shearing, strikes gold in Kalgoorlie, and swims over coral at the Great Barrier Reef.

The Beach
TX: Late 2020 on NITV
Number Of Episodes: 6 x 26min
Filmmaker Warwick Thornton’s incredible international success has come at a personal cost. He has reached a crossroad. Change or die. Warwick has chosen to change. In typical Warwick style, he has chosen to give up the limelight, the drugs and the entourage, to go it alone, on an isolated beach in one of the most beautiful yet brutal environments in the world, to see if he can transform and heal his life. A World Wide Mind production for NITV. Principal production investment from NITV, in association with Screen Australia.

11 Responses

  1. Thank you David Knox….I am constantly amazed how much content goes into your blog, when you do it all on your own…and check every comment…of which there are many….All this on top of travel to events…interviews etc..the very informative extras in the weekly email newsletter..and I guess you still have to fit in eating…household chores and general personal necessities….You rock…?

      1. Very diplomatic reply to a very snippey comment David. There is a really interesting long form story about Sarah Fergusons career on ABC online atm, thought you migjt be interested in it.

  2. Thank you for this list David & all your hard work.
    Can you tell me why we still have to import actors from Britain to star in our TV shows? Stan, Seven & 10 are all debuting shows with imports in the lead roles. Surely there are Australian actors/actresses who could fill these roles.

  3. I will save your list of recommendations David. Thank you for your compiled list. I have really enjoyed many of your recommendations this year via reviews or Daily Picks that have filled my PVR for later viewing. Enjoy your impending hiatus ?

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