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Upfronts 2021: ABC

ABC TV Plus channel, 3 new local drama series, more Total Control, Spicks & Specks -and Q&A to Thursdays.

  • ABC Comedy to rebrand as ABC TV Plus
  • Q&A, Back Roads, Foreign Correspondent move to Thursdays.
  • Total Control, Harrow, Jack Irish return.
  • New local dramas: The Newsreader, Wakefield, Fires
  • Spicks & Specks new season, Frayed, Superwog return.
  • New comedies: Fisk, Preppers, Aftertaste
  • Old People’s Home For 4-Year-Olds, Love On The Spectrum
  • New Factuals / Docos: Women in Parliament, Back to Nature, Strong Women.
  • Arts: Finding the Archibald, Going Country, new book show with Claudia Karvan.
  • New kids series The Wonder Gang and Kangaroo Beach.
  • Four Corners turns 60. Landline turns 30.

ABC Comedy will relaunch as ABC TV Plus with Australian comedy, religion, science, natural history documentaries, and the arts from January 1st. The channel will screen from 7:30pm following ABC KIDS.

There are three new drama series, 1980s drama The Newsreader with Anna Torv & Sam Reid, psychological mystery Wakefield with Rudi Dharmalingam, Mandy McElhinney, Geraldine Hakewill, Ryan Corr, and anthology drama Fires. They join returning seasons of Total Control, Jack Irish & Harrow.

In Comedy get ready for Kitty Flanagan as a solicitor in Fisk, Erik Thomson as a bad chef in Aftertaste and Nakkiah Lui getting ready for doomsday in Preppers. They join returning seasons of Frayed and Superwog.

Also back is Spicks & Specks for 10 new episodes, and new seasons of Old People’s Home For 4-Year-Olds, Love On The Spectrum alongside returning favourites Gruen, Mad as Hell, Anh’s Brush with Fame, Hard Quiz, The Weekly and Bluey. Both The Set and Tomorrow Tonight return after a year off.

ABC is also refreshing Thursdays with Foreign Correspondent and Back Roads sharing 8pm with Q&A at 8:30pm. New arts & docos galore will feature Claudia Karvan, Rachel Griffiths, Justine Clarke, Aaron Pedersen, Christiaan van Vuuren, Annabel Crabb and profiles on David Gulpilil, Jenny Kee and even Franco Cozzo.

ABC Managing Director David Anderson said, “Support for Australian creativity has been at the heart of the ABC for the past 88 years and will continue into 2021. After a challenging year of disconnection, the ABC will bring more Australians together from more places across this wonderfully diverse country. The ABC is the creative voice of Australia and in 2021 we will bring more homegrown content to audiences than ever, across TV, online and ABC iview.”

ABC Director of Entertainment & Specialist Michael Carrington said: “The ABC in 2021 is rich, diverse and inclusive, showcasing Australia’s best and emerging talent on and off screen. ABC iview will be home to more original Australian content than ever before. Our rebranded secondary channel ABC TV Plus will celebrate Australian culture every night of the week, including live performances, premiere documentaries, stand-up comedy and a new weekly arts show. In 2021, the ABC will deliver more Australian voices, faces and stories than any other network – that’s our point of difference. Amid so much content from overseas, Australians are right at home on ABC.”

Sally Riley ABC Head of Drama, Entertainment & Indigenous content also chats to TV Tonight on scripted titles below….

ABC TV Plus

(Formerly ABC Comedy)

Launching January 1st and airing from 7.30pm to 2am daily on channel 22 on your digital TV, channel 134 on Foxtel or channel 126 on Optus, our newly-rebranded secondary channel ABC TV Plus will celebrate Australian culture and content every night of the week. Complemented by an exciting suite of international shows, ABC TV Plus will cater for all Australians with diverse new programs, from Saturday stand-up comedians to primetime premieres of religion, science and natural history documentaries, along with the best of the arts – three nights a week.  ABC TV Plus will warm the heart, challenge the mind and tickle the funny bone, with the premiere of new comedy series Why are You Like This?, which follows three 20-something friends as they hilariously navigate life’s complexities.

Why Are You Like This?
6×30
Why Are You Like This follows best friends Mia and Penny as they navigate their 20s in Melbourne, along with Penny’s dramatic and aloof housemate, Austin. Guided by their own modern-day moral code, they confront complex social issues in an outrage driven world, leaving a path of destruction in their wake. Why Are You Like This explores the grey areas a lot of us are afraid to traverse, in a world determined to see things as black and white.
A CKOL production for the ABC. Principal production investment from Screen Australia in association with Film Victoria. Producer: Sarah Freeman. Executive Producers: Jessie Oldfield, Adam Murfet, Amanda Higgs. ABC Executive Producers: Nick Hayden, Rick Kalowski.

New

Drama:

The Newsreader
6×60
In the maelstrom of a commercial television newsroom in 1986, Dale Jennings (Sam Reid) is a diligent young reporter, desperate to become a newsreader. Helen Norville (Anna Torv) is a notoriously ‘difficult’ star newsreader determined to build credibility. Paired together over three months, Dale and Helen will cover an extraordinary chain of news events— from the shock of the Challenger explosion, to the hype of Halley’s Comet, to the complexities of the AIDS crisis. From messy beginnings, a deep bond is formed that will upend their lives and transform the very fabric of the nightly news bulletin. This is a story of a grand, unconventional relationship in a world on the cusp of change.
A Werner Films Production for the ABC. Major production investment from Screen Australia and the ABC, in association with Film Victoria. Distributed by eOne. Created by Michael Lucas. Directed by Emma Freeman. Produced by Lucas and Joanna Werner. Executive Producers Werner and Stuart Menzies. ABC Executive Producers Sally Riley and Brett Sleigh.

Sally Riley: “(Writer) Michael Lucas has brought in some of the key moments that happened in 1986, like the Challenger disaster and different things which kind of underscore the theme of the episodes. It’s very character driven, quite emotional, but it also has a quite a humorous tone. Anna Torv’s character is the anchor, with an older male newsreader who is very ‘old school.’ So she gets all the fluffy white cat stories, but she wants to do more serious things, do reports and be a bit more active. It’s set in the time when female news anchors really just started to get a gig.  Dale’s (Sam Reid) a budding journalist but he wants to be on the desk. So he’s just trying to prove himself in this series and  they form an unlikely alliance. It is a fictional TV network, but it’s a commercial network.”

Wakefield
8×60
The compelling eight-part drama series Wakefield explores the fine line between sanity and madness. Set in a hospital in the spectacular Blue Mountains outside Sydney, the show tackles the taboo subject of mental illness head on. It does so through an engaging ensemble of unique characters, each with their own compelling story. At its centre is a psychological mystery: Nik Katira (Rudi Dharmalingam), a gifted psychiatric nurse, is the most stable person in what tends to be a pretty crazy place. But right now his grip on his own sanity is slipping. The question is … why? With both humour and heart, Wakefield is a powerful and highly original series that will be compulsory television viewing.
Also stars Mandy McElhinney, Geraldine Hakewill, Ryan Corr, Harriet Dyer, Wayne Blair.
Wakefield is a Jungle Entertainment production in partnership with BBC Studios for the ABC. Major production investment from Screen Australia in association with the ABC. Financed with support from Screen NSW. Executive Producers Kristen Dunphy, Chloe Rickard and Jason Burrows. Co-Executive Producer Sam Meikle. Series Producers Shay Spencer and Ally Henville. ABC Executive Producers Que Minh Luu and Sally Riley. Writers Kristen Dunphy, Sam Meikle, Joan Sauers and Cathy Strickland. Directors Jocelyn Moorhouse and Kim Mordaunt.

Sally Riley: “There’s fantasy, flashbacks, memories, a bit of song and dance in there which just gorgeous. It’s a really special show and an unusual structure. I wasn’t convinced by some of the things Kristin Dunphy & Chloe Rickard wanted to do but I’ve been proven so wrong.  I’m so thrilled that we took a risk. You really get an insight into what it’s like to have a mental illness. The show is really funny as well. Maddie McElhinney is just brilliant… all the actors are just incredible.  The final 10 minutes is just unbelievable.”

Fires
6×60
A six-part anthology series about the megafires which devastated Australia and captured the world’s attention, Fires is inspired by the extraordinary stories of the people who survived last summer’s catastrophic fire season and continue to endure the aftermath even today. Each episode is based around character studies of ordinary people caught in the unimaginable and the impossible choices they were forced to make. From volunteer firefighters and families who lost homes, livelihoods and loved ones; to people who had to make agonising decisions about whether to stay or flee, and those who found themselves responsible for the lives of friends and strangers.
A Tony Ayres Productions (TAP) series for the ABC. Major production investment from Screen Australia in association with the ABC. Financed with support from Film Victoria. Created by Tony Ayres and Belinda Chayko. Written by Belinda Chayko, Jacquelin Perske, Mirrah Foulkes, Steven McGregor and Anya Beyersdorf. Executive Producers Tony Ayres, Andrea Denholm, Liz Watts and Belinda Chayko. ABC Executive Producer Sally Riley. Distributed by NBCUniversal International Distribution.

Sally Riley: “The scripts on this are really incredible. This series is about the fires, but it’s about the effect on community and individuals. It is an anthology series, with different stories each episode. There’s one episode which follows a real firefighting team; there are people who have lost or who might lose their house ….but when Tony pitched it to us, he was watching the fires, as we all were last Christmas, and going, ‘We’ve got to do something.’ But at its heart, it’s really about community resilience, hope and rebuilding. So we really want the series to have hope at the end of it.”

Here Out West
1×90
A baby is kidnapped from a western Sydney hospital by a desperate grandmother. Her flight sets off a chain of events that brings together complete strangers over the course of one dramatic day. Here Out West is set in the buzzing and ever-changing melting pot of western Sydney. It is an anthology feature film consisting of eight distinct yet interconnected stories, written by eight of Australia’s brightest new writers – Nisrine Amine, Bina Bhattacharya, Matias Bolla, Claire Cao, Arka Das, Dee Dogan, Vonne Patiag, Tien Tran. Here Out West is directed By Fadia Abboud, Lucy Gaffy, Julie Kalceff Ana Kokkinos and Leah Purcell and stars Geneviéve Lemon, De Lovan Zandy, Arka Das, Rahel Romahn, Leah Vandenberg, Christine Milo, Khoi Trinh, Christian Ravello and Jing-Xuan Chan.
A Co-Curious & Emerald Productions Film. Major production investment from Screen Australia in association with Screen NSW and financed with support from the ABC and Spectrum Films. Theatrical distribution by Mind Blowing World. Produced by Annabel Davis, Sheila Jayadev, Bree-Anne Sykes. Executive Producers: Blake Ayshford, Lyn Norfor, S. Shakthidharan.

Comedy

Aftertaste
6×30
Having burned all his bridges, volatile chef Easton West (Erik Thomson) finds himself with one more chance in a high-end Shanghai restaurant. But when opening night turns into a pig slinging disaster, the subsequent social media tsunami washes Easton ashore in the Adelaide Hills. Arriving like a pariah to a dysfunctional family he abandoned 30 years previously, it’s only his outspoken 19-year-old pastry cook niece, Diana (Natalie Abbott), who shows any interest. Easton realises that Diana represents everything he’s not – young, female and fresh – and takes her under his wing in an effort to crawl his way back to relevance. But what price is Diana willing to pay to work with her notoriously difficult and belligerent uncle?
A Closer production for the ABC, with major production investment from Screen Australia in association with the South Australian Film Corporation and financed with support from the ABC. Producers: Rebecca Summerton, Matthew Bate and Erik Thomson. Executive Producers: Julie De Fina and Rachel Griffiths. ABC Executive Producer: Rebecca Anderson. International Distributor ABC Commercial.

Sally Riley: “It’s an amalgam of all of those naughty chefs. We’re drawing from real life, but it’s totally made up.”

Fisk
6×30
Writer, co-director and star Kitty Flanagan brings her singular and hilarious voice to this highly relatable, fast-paced comedy about high-end contracts solicitor Helen Tudor-Fisk, who is forced to take a job at a shabby, suburban law firm following a humiliating marriage breakdown and a professional fall from grace. Overnight Fisk finds herself in the low rent world of wills and probate, where she deals with highly emotional and irrational clients. Bereaved relatives, long standing family feuds and petty squabbles over money and inheritance make this job as much about being a therapist as a lawyer.
A Porchlight Films production for the ABC. With major production investment from Screen Australia in association with Film Victoria. Written by Kitty Flanagan and Penny Flanagan. Co-directed by Kitty Flanagan and Tom Peterson. Produced by Vincent Sheehan. Executive Producers Greg Sitch, Liz Watts, Anita Sheehan. ABC Executive Producers Todd Abbott and Brett Sleigh.

Sally Riley: “I’ve seen some rushes and it’s very dry and very funny. It’s also Kitty’s first foray into directing narrative comedy, which is really great. By what I’ve seen she’s doing a fantastic job.”

Preppers
6×30
Preppers follows Charlie (Nakkiah Lui), a young Aboriginal woman, who experiences her own personal, cataclysmic event when her life crumbles around her. Escaping the fallout, Charlie finds herself at the centre of a hilariously mismatched community of doomsday preppers. With climate change, Donald Trump, economic catastrophe, terrorism, pandemics, meteor strikes, hostile AI, nuclear proliferation, alien invasion it looks almost certain that the end is nigh. In Australia colonisation was an apocalypse that happened only 200 years ago. So, when the end comes—no matter how it happens— maybe the craziest thing is to NOT be prepared?
Preppers is a Porchlight Films production for the ABC. Major production investment from the ABC in association with Screen Australia’s Indigenous Department. Financed with support from Screen NSW and international sales through About Premium Content. Written by Nakkiah Lui and Gabe Dowrick. Executive Producer Liz Watts and Producer Sylvia Warmer. ABC Executive Producer Margaret Ross. ABC Head of Indigenous Kelrick Martin.

Sally Riley: “Preppers is this group of people on the outskirts of Sydney, prepping for the apocalypse. It’s a mostly Aboriginal cast, and it’s really fun, ridiculous. But it also has something to say.”

Factual & Arts

Back to Nature
8×30
Inspiring storytellers Aaron Pedersen (Mystery Road) and bestselling author Holly Ringland (The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart) will guide viewers through the Australian landscape, in the new ABC factual lifestyle series Back To Nature, exploring the unexpected stories that reconnect the audience with the land. At a time when humans are becoming increasingly disconnected from nature, Back To Nature’s gorgeous flowing cinematography, immersive soundscapes, and compelling emotional stories will help the audience connect and reconnect with nature in a way they never have before. The series was filmed in a variety of stunning locations throughout Australia, from the ancient rainforests of Gondwana in the South East of Queensland, the high Country of the Kosciuszko National Park in New South Wales, to the mysterious volcanic landscape of the Macedon Ranges, Victoria and Larapuna, the magical Bay of Fires, on Tasmania’s North East Coast.

Australian Book Series with Claudia Karvan (working title)
3×60
Beloved actress, Claudia Karvan, shares her passion for the written word and her love of Australian books in this inspiring new series. Over three episodes, Claudia sets out to meet our award-winning writers, discover our great stories and celebrate our literature; from the ‘classics’ to the page turning best sellers. Thought provoking, entertaining and surprising, this series sheds light on Australia’s unique identity and uncovers the truth about this extraordinary place we call home. After all, Australia is forged by its story telling.

Finding the Archibald
3×60
As Natalie Wilson from the Art Gallery of NSW attempts to curate an ambitious exhibition that celebrates 100 years of the Archibald portraiture prize, art lover and acclaimed actor Rachel Griffiths also embarks on a personal mission – a cultural and reflective romp through our most coveted and controversial arts prize to find ONE portrait that encapsulates the changing face of Australia over the last century. As Rachel travels across Australia on her elaborate treasure hunt she immerses herself in a face-fest and cultural reflection of our nation throughout the past century. How have we, as a society changed over the years? Who were our ‘heroes’ then and who are they now? Who is worthy of being painted and why? What changes has our art made and what changes does it reflect? Can Rachel find ONE portrait that not only encapsulates this changing face of our nation but that will stand the test of time for another 100 years?

Brazen Hussies
1×60
Narrated by Sigrid Thornton, Brazen Hussies explores the moment the fuse was lit on the Women’s Liberation Movement in Australia. Brazen Hussies reveals a revolutionary chapter in Australian history, the Women’s Liberation Movement (1965 -1975). Interweaving freshly uncovered archival footage, gems from the ABC archives, personal photographs, memorabilia, and lively personal accounts from activists. Made by an all-female team of key creatives, Brazen Hussies shows us how a daring and diverse group of women joined forces to defy the status quo, demand equality and create profound social change – contributing to one of the greatest social movements of the 20th Century.

Going Country
2×60
Self-confessed “city-girl” Justine Clarke takes a road trip into the heart of Australian country music, in the two-part series Going Country. Justine’s about to learn that country was the punk of its time, how it cut through with its striking clothes, wild singing style and its own unique culture. She connects with some of our greatest musicians performing some of Australia’s iconic songs. She will discover how important country music was to Australians – and still is, and how these songs capture who we are as a people and a nation. This joyous and heartfelt series is helmed by award-winning director Kriv Stenders (Slim and I, The Go-Betweens: Right Here) with writer-producer Paul Clarke (Bombora, Brilliant Creatures). Going Country will view the rich and surprising contribution that country music has made to the fabric of Australian life and our national identity.

Cracking COVID
1×60
Cracking COVID goes behind the headlines to meet Australian scientists racing to discover what it takes to survive and to become immune. Featuring Australia’s beloved Nobel Laureate, Professor Peter Doherty, and three remarkable patient stories, we illuminate the complexity of the disease and individual, often mysterious, immune responses. We are up close as researchers attempt to solve these mystery cases and we journey with a team of vaccine creators as they strive to fast-track immunity. Created by the Emmy-award winning science specialists at Genepool Productions, this illuminating documentary will deliver surprising insights into what it really takes to gain immunity.

Designing a Legacy
1×60
Comedian and architecture enthusiast Tim Ross takes us across Australia to meet the families whose lives have been shaped by the exceptional designs of their homes. In this onehour documentary, Tim will explore how the architecture of our homes has the ability to affect more than those that grow up in those four walls – when we build with consideration and conviction. Travelling from Queensland to Tasmania and stopping at inventive homes both unusual and surprising, he’ll reveal their hidden stories and discover how what we design plays an important part in forging our national identity. With stories of love, scandal, hope and care – this isn’t your typical show about buildings and architecture. It’s a love letter to the people who devote themselves to making amazing homes, and what happens when they have to move on.

Laura’s Choice
2×60
Laura Henkel is eccentric, outspoken, and feisty. She is also 90 years old and has decided she wants to end her life on her own terms. She does not have a terminal illness; she just wants to be in control of the process, and be allowed to go with dignity. She asks her daughter Cathy and granddaughter Sam, both filmmakers, to make a film about it. Laura’s Choice explores complex questions as three generations of women travel into uncharted territory and navigate a radical, dignified and highly controversial approach to dying.

Quoll Farm
1×52
In a distant corner of Tasmania lives a remarkable animal, the Eastern Quoll, a rare and wonderful marsupial. Already extinct on the Australian mainland, their numbers are declining in Tasmania, their last refuge. Invasive predators, a changing climate and human encroachment threaten their numbers. Soon these animals could be lost for ever. But could humans also help them survive? Simon Plowright, a naturalist, and filmmaker spends a year on an abandoned farm in a hidden valley looking into their world and uncovering their secrets. This is a story about endangered animals and one man’s extraordinary devotion to save them….and sometimes, against all the odds, magic happens.

The As Yet Unnamed Democracy Project (working title)
Christiaan van Vuuren is an everyday Aussie – a comedian with provocative instincts, but also a father with a keen sense of fairness and justice. Christiaan is proud of his country, its peaceful society, and its sound political system. So proud, in fact, that he might be a little complacent about the state of Aussie democracy. Smug, even. Democracy Project begins as a light-hearted quest for Christiaan to fact check a viral YouTube video but ultimately pulls back the curtain on more serious issues: from guns to money in politics, to a real threat to the integrity of representative democracy itself. A wakeup call about the frightening extent to which money has infiltrated politics, Christiaan’s unlikely journey shows us why we should care, and how we might work together to ensure our democracy is safeguarded from being sold to the highest bidder.

Firestarter: The Story of Bangarra
1×90
Firestarter marks Bangarra Dance Theatre’s 30th anniversary. Taking us through Bangarra’s birth and spectacular growth, the film recognises Bangarra’s founders and tells the story of how three young Aboriginal brothers — Stephen, David and Russell Page — turned the newly born dance group into a First Nations cultural powerhouse. Through the eyes of the brothers and company alumni, Firestarter explores the loss and reclaiming of culture, the burden of intergenerational trauma, and – crucially – the power of art as a messenger for social change and healing.

I’m Wanita
1×90
I’m Wanita is the story of a renegade country music singer from Tamworth, hell-bent on realising her childhood dreams of stardom. Self-crowned as ‘Australia’s Queen Of Honky Tonk’, Wanita is still waiting for the recognition she knows she deserves. Wanita embarks on a quest to record an album in the country music Mecca of Nashville, but her inability to toe the line threatens to derail her plans – can she keep her date with destiny?

Palazzo di Cozzo: The Australian Dream. Italian Style
1×60
Aging patriarch, Franco Cozzo, holds court over an iconic furniture empire. A pioneer of Australian TV advertising, Franco’s tri-lingual catchphrase sparked a cult-of-personality as kitsch as his baroque bedheads. But his character is more than caricature. Franco’s journey from rural Sicily to the high streets of Melbourne is a story of one migrant’s tenacity and aspiration to become a household name. Discreetly, his furniture tells its own story, gracing the homes of an evolving migrant class. Charting Franco’s trajectory alongside the history of modern migration, Palazzo di Cozzo explores the modest and majestic dreams of a man striving to secure his legacy within contemporary Australia.

My Name is Gulpilil
1×90
The great Australian actor David Gulpilil faces his own mortality: he is dying of lung cancer. Holding the camera in his gaze, David performs directly to his final audience, telling us what it is to stare down death. But life interferes with David’s march towards his personal end… when treatment options are exhausted, the cancer suddenly refuses to keep growing. As if that isn’t enough, David’s specialist tells him that if he catches COVID-19, he will die. In what is likely his last major film, the extraordinary Gulpilil shows us why he is the living legend we know him to be.

Step into Paradise
1×75
For the best part of 50 years, Jenny Kee and Linda Jackson have shared a passionate love affair with Australia. An affair that bound them in the most extraordinary and enduring friendship and a creative collaboration that defined a generation. No other creative pairing has had such a lasting impact on Australian fashion, our design identity and our sense of self. Jenny and Linda embraced the vibrancy of a unique landscape and elevated icons of Australiana tourist kitsch, to the height of fashion and art. They observed this vast country with wit, irreverence, and astonishing imagination to create a fashion story like no other. And then they gifted it to the world. This is an evocative ride of fame, triumph, tragedy, riches, losses, determination, racism, rebellion, sexuality and heartbreak. It is a story of remarkable highs and deep lows, of women and love. A story of Australia, who we were and who we are today. A gloriously rich visual collage of emotion, art and kaleidoscopic colour. A walk into the dreams of Jenny and Linda. A step into paradise.

Women in Parliament
4×30
It’s 100 years since the first woman was elected to an Australian parliament. But how much do you know about the story of women MPs? Did you know that women first won the right to run by accident? Or that white women won the vote nationally at the expense of Indigenous Australians? Or that nearly 80 years after giving women the right to become MPs, the Australian parliament still hadn’t installed women’s toilets? In this fourpart series, Annabel Crabb gathers an unprecedented cast of powerful parliamentary women to deliver a frank account of what it’s like to be the only woman in the political room. Julia Gillard, Julie Bishop, Penny Wong, Carmen Lawrence, Bronwyn Bishop, Quentin Bryce, Natasha Stott Despoja, Nova Peris and others tell Crabb the stories they couldn’t while they were in parliament. Featuring rich archive and vivid animation, this is the story of how women changed the country.

Muster Dogs
4×60
Spanning the red earth of the Top End to the green pastures of regional Victoria, Muster Dogs is a 4×1 hour character-driven series featuring five graziers from across Australia, each of whom has been given a Kelpie puppy from the same litter to train up to be a muster dog. Checking in with the puppies at key milestones, our training gurus and mustering experts will set challenges and assess the pup’s progress. Our journey to train these uniquely Australian dogs is an emotional ride into the farmers’ lives and a deeper understanding of the unique bond between human and dog.

Invisible War
3×60
We are in the midst of an invisible war. Our battle with COVID-19 is the crisis of our time and the greatest challenge humanity has faced since World War II. But this war does not end when we beat COVID-19 because viral threats will never stop. This evolutionary arms race between viruses, bacteria and us has been raging for a millennia. Science has helped humanity outsmart the pathogens, but constant mutation and adaptation are the survival mechanisms of the microbial world. These microscopic agents, some of which copy themselves more than a million times a day, will always find a way to exploit any weaknesses in our defences. Now population growth, mass urbanization, deforestation, climate change and international travel have given them new advantages. The Invisible War is a timely series about humanity’s battle with deadly microbes. A real-life science thriller, tracking global epidemics and exploring the rise and fall of infectious diseases past, present and emerging. Case studies uncover the secrets of disease-causing pathogens, the amazing medical breakthroughs to combat them and how science is working to stay one step ahead.

Beyond the Towers
4×60
9/11 changed the world. Never had we witnessed mass murder “live” on television. The US quest for vengeance had a global impact with a “the war on terror” directed in the first instance, against al Qaeda which planned and carried out the attacks on New York and Washington and on Afghanistan’s Taliban government which protected them. While considered a “just” war in the West, many Muslims regarded “the war on terror” as a vehicle for attacking Islam and fought back accordingly. This four-part series assess the manner in which the US-led wars were fought, firstly in Afghanistan and then in Iraq and how air power and high tech weaponry were ineffective in wiping out fanatical jihadists deploying roadside and suicide bombs. The world’s strongest military power and its allies won battles but couldn’t hold territories or capture the “hearts and minds” of the people in whose name it claimed to be fighting.

ABC KIDS & ABC ME

The Wonder Gang
35×11
It’s a brand new pre-school show! Willow, Whyla and Wes are The Wonder Gang. With the help of their quokka pals Quidget, Quinton and Quest, they absolutely love answering questions for kids everywhere about Australian animals and nature. The Wonder Gang introduces preschoolers to the powerful art of finding facts through inquiry, observation and experimentation. Their flexibility, persistence and teamwork always helps them find an answer to every question.

Kangaroo Beach
26×11
Every dazzling day on Kangaroo Beach is an action-packed adventure for wannabe-hero joey Pounce, creative koala frizzy, sports-phobic wombat Neville and mini-marine biologist and platypus Gemma. Whether training as young lifeguards, learning new water skills or exploring the wonders of the beach, the four furry friends are having the time of their lives. With enthralling environments to discover, fascinating sea creatures to meet and epic waves to surf, they’re never far from fun – or danger! But under the guidance of grown-up lifeguards Bondi, Sandy and Big Trev, our young cadets are on their way to becoming pint-sized heroes of sun, sea and sand.

Mikki vs The World
15×24
Mikki is a newly qualified psychologist that has recently set up her own practice – there is only one problem… where are all the clients? With her trusty PA sidekick, and in her own unique way, Mikki also known as Dr M explores a variety of mental health issues experienced by ABC ME’s teenage audience. Ever the optimist, she is keen to investigate, observe, and get to the bottom of lots of tricky situations, all with her sense of humour and a ‘no shame’ mantra. As she’s new to the business, with not much experience, Mikki throws herself into every situation to help her become the best psychologist ever. Mikki explores the fluctuating mental health and emotional wellbeing of young people within the context of their developing identities, agency over their own choices and the respectful relationship they form with themselves, their families and their peer groups.

Space Nova
26×24
It’s the year 2162, and life is a blast for space adventuring siblings, Jet and Adelaide Nova and their parents, Josie and Hugo. During a routine research mission, these intrepid Aussie astronauts stumble across an abandoned alien space craft. They also discover that the craft is powered by a rainbow substance that’s so powerful, it sends the ship zipping away at speeds humanity never dreamed possible. But although the Novas were unable to capture the craft, or the ‘Star Dust’ that powered it, they now know that there is an advanced, intelligent species out there, able to travel the universe in the blink of an eye. If only they can find them…

Returning:

Drama:

Total Control
Season 2, 6×60 In the first season of Total Control, Alex Irving (Deborah Mailman) engineered a remarkable coup, unseating the Prime Minister and the woman who betrayed her, Rachel Anderson (Rachel Griffiths). But now she faces the ultimate test in a democratic system: the nation is going to the polls and Alex will have to face the judgement of the people. Alex’s passionate determination to make things better for her people appears doomed to failure. She turns her back on the entrenched ways of doing politics and declares she’ll stand for her home electorate as an Independent. As the pressure on Alex intensifies, she will have to make a choice, between her own integrity and her increasingly desperate and dangerous ambition.

Sally Riley: “At the end of series one, Rachel’s character lost the Prime Ministership, Deb’s character Alex is kind of lost in no-man’s land. So it is really about them both ‘What the hell do I do now? We will still see them in the political world, but possibly not attached to any particular party.”

Harrow
Season 3, 10×60
Our lovable renegade pathologist Doctor Daniel Harrow (Ioan Gruffudd) returns! When a young man who claimed to be Harrow’s son turns up dead, Harrow stuns those closest to him by revealing he knew he had an estranged son – but is the dead young man really Harrow’s boy? While tirelessly pursuing the truth in a host of episodic cases, Harrow is driven to understand the mystery of his son, and finds himself entangled in an underworld of cybercrime, crypto-piracy, and murder. It’s a fresh, contemporary narrative with a familiar dilemma at heart: how far will Harrow go to save the people he loves?

Jack Irish
Season 3, 4×55
Emmy Award-winner Guy Pearce reprises his iconic role as Jack Irish, a former criminal lawyer, part-time debt collector and private investigator with a penchant for getting wrapped up in things he shouldn’t, for an unmissable finale. The explosive final series of Jack Irish delves deep into Jack’s past, questioning everything he thought he knew about his life and bringing him face to face with an antagonist more personal and destructive than he has ever encountered. Joining Pearce once again are Jack’s trusty cohorts Marta Dusseldorp as journalist Linda Hillier, Roy Billing as horse racing identity Harry Strang, Aaron Pedersen as Harry’s trusted offsider Cam Delray, Shane Jacobson as old-school detective Barry Tregear, Kate Atkinson as IT-guru Simone, Damien Richardson as Jack’s former legal partner Drew, Damien Garvey as Stan, the Prince of Prussia publican, and the inimitable Fitzroy Youth Club, Terry Norris and John Flaus.

Sally Riley: “It’s great to have it back. Guy’s back in the country, the stars have aligned for the cast and everyone to come together. It’s a much loved series by our audiences. The last series, I think, was our top drama for that year, in terms of audiences. At the moment it looks like it’s last season, but never say never.”

Comedy:

Frayed
Season 2, 6×45
Sammy Cooper (Sarah Kendall) is finally back in London but lives and secrets unravel further as she and her family deal with the ramifications of season one’s explosive finale – and their Australian past insists on catching up with them.

Sally Riley: “I love that show. Newcastle in the ’80s. What could be better?”

Superwog
Season 2, 6×26
Superwog and Johnny are not your average teenagers. They are co-dependent best friends, struggling to make the leap from adolescence to young adulthood. Their distorted views of the world, risky judgements and dubious decision- making skills often lead them to trouble, with mayhem inevitably following as the pair strive to fit in and gain social status in a predominately ‘Aussie’ society. Off the back of their smash hit #1 trending first season, they will dive further into Superwog’s volatile family unit, exploring themes like father and son rivalry, the pursuit of love, friendship and loyalty, family relationships, and cultural comparisons.

Sally Riley: “Those boys are incredible. I think they’re hilarious They have such a clear vision about what they want to do, and they know their audience so well. They’re shooting at the moment.”

Anh’s Brush with Fame, S6
Gruen, S13
Hard Quiz, S6
Sammy J
Shaun Micallef’s Mad As Hell, S13

Entertainment

Spicks & Specks
10×60
Get ready Australia, Spicks and Specks is rocking and rolling into 2021 on your ABC. Host Adam Hills is once again joined by team captains Myf Warhurst and Alan Brough for 10 fresh new episodes of Australia’s favourite, and only music quiz show. That’s right, in 2021 Spicks and Specks is fresh,(fresh), exciting, oh so exciting to ABC. Along for the ride is a talented line-up of musicians and comedians, including Kate Miller Heidke, Eddie Perfect, Linda Bull, Missy Higgins, Kate Ceberano, Judith Lucy, Dave O’Neil, Denise Scott, and Nazeem Hussain. Also, some new faces join the Spicks and Specks family including: G-flip, Mo’ju, Alice Skye, Mitch Tambo, Yeo and Amy Taylor. Teams will battle it out playing games like; Look What they’ve Done To My Song Ma, Picture This, Malvern Stars on 45, Cover Versions, Sir Mix n’ Match Alot and everyone’s favourite Substitute. With live performances, memorable stories and lots of laughs, do yourself a favour and tune into Spicks and Specks 2021.

Tomorrow Tonight
Season 2, 8×30
In 2021 we will still be living through a pandemic that took the world by surprise. The thing is, it shouldn’t have. Annabel Crabb and Charlie Pickering are here to make sure we’re ready. Each week they dive into tomorrow’s headlines with a panel of experts, leaders and household names to sort through decisions we will eventually have to make. The stakes are high. The scenarios entirely possible. Can we solve the world’s problems before they even happen?

The Set, S3
The Weekly with Charlie Pickering, S7
You Can’t Ask That, S6
Melbourne International Comedy Festival
Rage
Planet America

Factual & Arts

Love on the Spectrum
Season 2, 4×60
Love on the Spectrum will continue to entertain, educate, and inspire audiences, telling the stories of people on the autism spectrum as they navigate the world of dating and relationships. With a few familiar faces, and some unexpected new ones, in Season 2, Love on the Spectrum will expand out to represent an even wider range of people and personalities, helping audiences understand just how diverse the autism spectrum really is. With a warm-hearted and insightful tone, the series will once again feature stories of singles looking for love, and couples who have found their match. While Season 1 saw participants stepping out on dates for the very first time, this season will see relationships form and develop.

Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds
Season 2 5×60
Is it possible to reduce age decline and the necessity of moving into Age Care Accommodation through the early implementation of Intergenerational Play? Can we relieve the stress on Australia’s aged care system by getting in early? In Season 2 of Old People’s Home For 4 Year Olds our goal is to switch the experiment in the name of early intervention by taking aging adults into the kids’ domain. An intergenerational play centre will be established in an area with a high percentage of isolated Older People struggling to stay connected to the communities they live in and maintain their independence. As in Season 1, the experiment will begin with a baseline measurement of the Older Australian’s mental and physical state. They will be reassessed at the end of the experiment to show how the experience has improved their well-being & confidence. Will our experiment find a way to keep the elderly out of a home for longer and more connected to their local communities in the process? Only time will tell.

Anh’s Brush with Fame S6
Back Roads

Gardening Australia
Catalyst
Australia Remastered
Compass
Dream Gardens
Restoration Australia

ABC KIDS & ABC ME

100% Wolf: Legend of the Moonstone
Play School
Bluey S3
BTN
Good Game: Spawn Point
Hardball S2
How To Do Stuff Good S3
ITCH S2

News & Current Affairs:

7.30
Australian Story
Foreign Correspondent
Four Corners
Insiders
Media Watch
News Breakfast
Q+A
The Drum
Landline
One Plus One

Sport

Offsiders
A-League
W-League
WNBL

Events

New Year’s Eve
ANZAC Day
Australian of the Year
Australia Day Live Concert
Australia Day – WugulOra Morning Ceremony
100th Anniversary of the RAAF

iview

In 2021, supporting the ABC Five Year Plan,  ABC iview will offer even more to viewers through improved user features, greater personalisation and a bigger and better catalogue of original Australian content.

That Pacific Sports Show
15×30
Pacific Island athletes dominate the Australian rugby league and rugby union competitions with their skill, speed and physicality. There is rightly great pride in their success across the Pacific region and That Pacific Sports Show will celebrate the achievements of Pacific Island athletes and nations through the lens of sport to ABC Australia’s pan-pacific audience. That Pacific Sports Show will share the stories, examine the big issues and big moments in a fun and entertaining topical weekly sports panel and magazine program. The show will be hosted by Tiana Penitani, the current NSW State of Origin winger, and dual Rugby League and Rugby Union Australian international, and Dene Halatau, former NRL legend, NZ International and Grandstand Rugby League commentator.

All My Friends Are Racist
5×15, ABC iview exclusive
Being cancelled can only mean you’re hot for best-friends Casey and Belle. He’s an emerging narcissist, she’s an overachieving careerist. They are the hottest friendship in town and the party is always at theirs. Life couldn’t get sweeter for these two Indigenous first-generation rich-brats. But when their ‘burn book’ wall, where they’ve documented friends and colleagues as racists, is discovered, they are suddenly ousted from their social groups. The pair need to make a decision on who and what they are willing to lose to finally grow up.
A Maximo Entertainment and Hoodlum Entertainment production for ABC iview. Principal production investment from Screen Australia in association with Screen Queensland. Creator and writer Enoch Mailangi. Writer and Co-Executive Producer Kodie Bedford, Directed by Bjorn Stewart. Executive Producer ABC Indigenous Margaret Ross. ABC Head of Indigenous Kelrick Martin. Executive Producers Liliana Muñoz Maximo Entertainment; Nathan Mayfield and Tracey Robertson Hoodlum Entertainment; Leah Purcell and Bain Stewart Oombarra Productions. Producers Liliana Muñoz and Deborah Glover.

Strong Women
3×22, ABC iview exclusive
This ABC iview-first series follows four resilient women as they support and empower each other while rivalling to become Australia’s strongest woman. From across the country these daughters, mothers and wives share what led them to the sport and how their tenacity is helping them rebuild themselves inside and out. The series tackles women’s health issues combined with the latest healing theories of sports science. Strong Women is about what your body can do, not how it looks. The competitive aspect of the sport drives the momentum of the story while following the women gain strength, sacrifice relationships, struggle with injuries and celebrate their achievements. This uplifting and inspiring series shatters stereotypes, celebrates diversity and offers unique female role-models.
A Strong Women production for the ABC, with principal production investment from Screen Australia in association with Film Victoria. Directors: Corinne Innes & Alexandra Gaulupeau. Producers: Corinne Innes, Alexandra Gaulupeau & Ann Megalla. ABC Executive Producer: Rachel Robinson. ABC Manager, Screen: Jo Chichester. ABC Head of Screen, Sport and Events Kath Earle.

Chopsticks or Fork?
6×15, ABC iview exclusive
Every country town in Australia has a Chinese restaurant. It has formed an intrinsic part of the Australian identity: a place for celebration, relationships, and community. But who are the people who run these restaurants? Where are they from? Why do they choose to do it and most important of all, what’s their favourite dish on the menu? Part-travel, part-human-interest story and part-food show, Chopsticks or Fork? is an ABC iview-first series that delves into an aspect of Australiana that everyone has experienced and has fond memories of. Hosted by comedian Jennifer Wong, each of the six episodes will look at one unique Chinese restaurant in regional Australia. Jen will have a chat to the owners, their family, and members of the community, exploring the inner workings of the restaurant and its role in the town. Each episode will explore a staple dish of Australian-Chinese cuisine like dim sims, sweet and sour pork and the magical thermodynamicdefying…fried ice cream.
An internal ABC production, financed with support from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Director: Lin Jie Kong. Producers: Lin Jie Kong & Jennifer Wong. ABC Executive Producer: Rachel Robinson. ABC Manager, Screen: Jo Chichester. ABC Head of Screen, Sport and Events Kath Earle.

41 Responses

  1. So The Heights is definitely gone, then. Genuinely disappointed. And no more Rosehaven, either, although I’m not sure if another series was on the cards anyway?

    On a slightly positive note, The Newsreader sounds interesting. It might do for TV news what Paper Giants did to ’80s magazine battles! Hopefully there is a budget for shoulder pads and hairspray. They’re going to need it!

  2. Well done ABC – probably the best slate of programmes, with SBS close behind.

    Epic fail on the secondary channel rebrand though; before reading the detail, my first thought was ‘great, ABC are launching a timeshift channel’. I guess when you consider that they refer to the main channel as ‘ABC TV’, maybe ‘ABC TV Plus’ kind of makes sense, but sheesh, what a mouthful.

    1. The ABC is supposed to support all Australians. There’s a good chance they might have statistics, that we don’t have, telling them that a lot of people still only have SD televisions or recorders, especially in regional areas.

    1. Peach and Shake are left field names but at least they are unique and give a good idea of the content of the channel.

      Without context if you told me ABC has announced ABC TV Plus I’d assume it was their updated version/rebrand of iView. Apple TV Plus, Disney Plus, 7Plus etc. are all streaming services. It’s a bit perplexing from a branding point of view.

  3. ABC TV Plus, seriously? Sounds like a catch up service or one of those +2 channels Foxtel has.

    Will be looking forward to the final season of Jack Irish and the surprise 10 episode season of Spicks and Specks plus some of shows for sure. Also always very keen for more Anh’s Brush with Fame.

    A shame it seems like The Heights and The Sound are axed or rested. Both had lots of potential.

  4. Happy to see that shows like Hard Quiz, The Weekly, Mad as Hell, and Gruen are back. I was worried we might lose some of them after the funding cuts this year.

    ABC TV Plus sounds like the name of a streaming service though, not a TV channel! They should have just called it ABC2.

  5. Moving all their declining Current Affairs to Thursday, where they hope over 50s will still watch them is called “refreshing Thursdays”.

    ‘ “We’ve discovered that audiences now look for content elsewhere around 9pm,” said Michael
    Carrington, the director of ABC’s entertainment and specialist division.’ That only took a decade for them to figure out.

    I presume Rosehaven is still waiting for Sundance to make up their mind.

  6. ABC TV Plus is a horrendous name, it does not roll off the tongue. Why not just return to the name ABC2? I’m sure most people will refer to it as ABC+. I still refer to ABC1 and ABC2.
    Glad to see Restoration Australia make a return.

  7. Plenty of programming there to watch. Apart from The Amazing Race and Survivor on 10, it will only be SBS and ABC for me.

    I wonder if Spicks and Specks will run in a row, or be spread across the year. It seems like they have already been filmed, as they have named all the guests.

    My Name is Gulpilil looks confronting and amazing.

    The only disappointment for me is that i would have liked to see another season of The Recording Studio. Loved it.

    Finally, I would like to see The Set take the 6pm Sunday slot that The Sound has now. Unless The Sound might continue.

  8. TV Plus is an awful name, sorry. This is up there with ABC1 dropping the 1 so you have to refer to it as ‘the main channel’ and ABC News 24 dropping the 24 so you have to refer to it as ‘the tv channel’ to separate it from radio / online etc. Or you can be stubborn and keep using the old names or channel numbers like I do.

    New Spicks and Specks beyond a couple of token specials is an unexpected bonus.

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