Programmer’s Wrap 2022: ABC

In ABC's 90th birthday there's everything from new dramas to musicals, controversial docos, penguins and a starring role for Tony Armstrong.

EXCLUSIVE: Michael Carrington reveals Miriam Margolyes is back in Australia, staff enthusiasm for Mardi Gras,  a return for Win the Week and his hopes for more Newsreader.

ABC’s massive 2022 slate is underway with Muster Dogs, Outback Ringer, Catalyst, Back Roads, Hard Quiz, Mad as Hell already on screen.

In its 90th year (ABC was established in 1932) the public broadcaster has more Australian-made content than any other network -far too many titles to encompass in a single story here.

Michael Carrington as Head of Specialist & Entertainment oversees a large chunk of it, but confirms Aunty has not been immune to a production knock-on effect from COVID. Some titles from 2021 have pushed into 2022, while others are ramping up production now.

‘We’ve got a lot to push into this year, a lot of new productions starting up as we speak, around the country,” he explains.

“Costa is back, raring to go in Gardening Australia returning on the 18th of February and we’ve got Monty Don’s American Gardens until then.

Four Corners, Media Watch, Australian Story, Foreign Correspondent, Q+A all return in February.”

Q+A has three rotating hosts in an Election year in Virginia Trioli, David Speers and Stan Grant. Carrington is also mindful of the 9:30 slot post Q+A.

“We are still in debate on that. We want to give Q+A as much support as possible, so we’re just working through whether that might be more of a factual bent, or whether after Q+A, they’re looking for something different.”

Post-Media Watch on Mondays is sticking with factual /doco content. This year in addition to China Tonight, ABC News channel will launch a new program looking at India and neighbouring countries. Planet America returns too.

Central to ABC’s slate is Australian drama with Troppo (pictured) to premiere on Sunday February 27, starring Thomas Jane as a disgraced ex-cop recruited by a private investigator (Nicole Chamoun) to investigate the murder of a brilliant tech pioneer.

“I have seen two episodes. It’s quirky, and surprising but in a calm way, not an exaggerated way,” he assures.

It is expected to be followed by 1970s surf drama Barons starring Sean Keenan, Jillian Nguyen, Ben O’Toole, Hunter Page-Lochard, Sophia Forrest, George Pullar, Lincoln Younes and Vivenne Awosoga.

ABC Sundays this year will also see Mystery Road: Origin starring Mark Coles Smith, Savage River with Katherine Langford, mystery drama Significant Others and movie Here Out West.

UK comedy Starstruck returns with S2 in February while there is more Aussie comedy on the way, Fisk, Aftertaste, beachside holiday house comedy Summer Love from Robyn Butler and Wayne Hope and Princess Pictures’ potentially outrageous Stories from Oz, where six stories are retold as musicals, including Schapelle Corby, Tampa affair, Princess Mary and Barnaby Joyce vs Pistol & Boo.

“It’s so interesting and so quirky, we’re just working on the best place for that one. I think people will be really intrigued by it. But we don’t want to shock the audience, because it’s so different,” he suggests.

“All the usual suspects have put their hand up”

ABC returns to Mardi Gras in 2022 but no details on presenters yet, with plenty of interest from within.

“There are fantastic names in the picture … it’ll be dependent I guess, on people’s availability. All the usual suspects have put their hand up, as well as some surprising people.”

There’s more Gruen, The Weekly, a final season for Julia Zemiro’s Home Delivery, and second seasons for Question Everything and 2018 panel show Tomorrow Tonight now with Annabel Crabb as host. Carrington also confirms ABC will revisit Win the Week.

“I’m going to give it another go. It was affected by COVID. It had a break in the middle of production, they didn’t have a studio audience …there were so many elements to the original idea that didn’t come to fruition, for external reasons. But there was something there. I think Craig Reucassel is determined to learn from where we were last year,” Carrington explains.

“I think it deserves another go.”

Annabel Crabb also returns for Back in Time For the Corner Store along with the casting brilliance of the Ferrone family.

Old People’s Home for Teenagers is the third incarnation of a much-loved format, with casting of new seniors and teens now completed.

“I’ve seen some of the cast and it’s just as strong …wonderful older people and fantastic intelligent, articulate teenagers. I think they’re going to give the older people a run for their money,” he continues.

“Miriam Margolyes has returned to Australia”

“And I can confirm that Miriam Margolyes has returned to Australia which we’re thrilled about. So she’ll be getting on the road soon for Australia Unmasked. Tim Winton is filming in Western Australia for Ningaloo.”

Amongst other factuals ever-popular Tony Armstrong presents A Dog’s World, plus Meet the Penguins, Rebuilding Mallacoota, and an ambitious Live special Southern Ocean Live.

Ithaka: A Fight to Free Julian Assange follows 76-year-old retired builder, John Shipton’s tireless campaign to save his son, Julian Assange.

Ithaka: A Fight to Free Julian Assange is in post production. I’m not expecting that to kick off the year. I think that’s going to be a bit later.”

Of a controversial doco on Israel Folau, Carrington assures, “Obviously it needs a careful approach and trying to ensure that all perspectives are there. It’ll take some time, I think. We’re not rushing into it.

“So I’d probably expect that after mid-year, towards third or fourth quarter. Just because we will approach it with sensitivity.”

“ABC TV Plus has found its feet”

Art Works is returning in mid March on ABC TV Plus. Set to run for 36 weeks, it shifts to an 8pm timeslot.

“ABC TV Plus has found its feet, I think, and it’ll be even stronger this year. It was pretty rushed as a channel launch and we had a lot of commitments that we had to play out last year. The channel did itself proud in maintaining its audience overall. So we’re happy with where it is,” says Carrington.

“We now are working on a more consistent approach to the content, with big commitment to Comedy and Arts.”

Director of Entertainment & Specialist, Michael Carrington.

Not returning this year is Anh’s Brush with Fame due to Anh Do’s commitments, while more Spicks & Specks is also dependent on Adam Hills’ availability. Carrington also says “We would love to do more Love on the Spectrum” although nothing is confirmed.

“I would love to do more of The Newsreader”

ABC dramas Fires was a one-off, while other scripted titles are unconfirmed.

“I would love to do more of The Newsreader. I’m talking to (ABC Head of Scripted) Sally Riley around how we can make that happen. It was such a success it sits so beautifully in our portfolio. A retro but modern take. I just loved it. I thought the characterisations were beautifully crafted. I would love to bring a Season 2 back,” he reveals.

“There’s no news on Harrow at the moment. It’s caught up in the flow of how much we can do this year, as well as the cast being abroad.

“(Blackfellas Producer) Darren Dale has some great ideas for Total Control. I think we should be developing a third season.

“There are ideas around how Wakefield could extend into a Season 2 potentially, but at the moment the focus is elsewhere. It’s on my shortlist but no decision yet.

“I really enjoyed the second season of Frayed. I think there’s more in it. I just haven’t seen the development yet, so no decision.

“I just don’t know if the SuperWog boys will have time to do any more for us. But it’s ever-popular and I know Sally wants to do more.

“We haven’t come to a decision on more Preppers yet. But you never know. Nakkiah Lu’s brain is so big and creative.”

ABC’s mammoth slate also includes Children’s titles MaxeriX, Built to Survive, Crazy Fun Park, First Day, Beep & Mort, factuals The Family Court Murders, Whitely on Trial, Space 22, Carbon: The Unauthorised Biography and The Exhibitionists.

And then there are ABC’s numerous other returning titles, including that pretty popular animated dog…

Tomorrow: Foxtel.

10 Responses

  1. Question Everything & Win the Week were, IMHO, total rubbish and the ABC should save the money no matter how cheap they are to produce. As for Tomorrow Tonight, given that this show premiered 3 years, I think it was OK.

    Am looking forward to Gruen, The Weekly & Julia Zemiro’s Home Delivery (pity it’s the final season), along with the new and returning dramas & comedies.

    Lastly, Q+A … IMHO, leaving it on Thursday night is stupid, stupid and 2022 could be its last season all because the ABC made a decision; due to funding cuts by the LNP (which they promised they wouldn’t do), not to broadcast any new locally produced shows after 9:30pm. Having said that, I will continue to watch Q+A as I have done since it 1st went to air in 2008.

    1. Win The Week was disappointing. I tried to like it. The casting was good and diverse though the concept was lacking and took too much from the likes of HYBPA? but not of the same standard. It was almost like a poor mans HYPBA? It’s not like the ABC can’t produce a good game show. Look at the success of Hard Quiz which is enthralling, appealing and enticing. Maybe they could do the Australian version of Mock The Week or an improv themed game show. They have experience with Good News Week and The Glasshouse. Or something original and creative that could be the next big game show.

  2. I’m glad there is going to be another season of Fisk. That is a really good show. And I hope there is another season of The Newsreader and Total Control. Loved those shows too.

  3. I would love a special or two following up the two previous seasons of Old Peoples Home…. letting us know how the seniors are going (and yes I’m sure some of them may have passed, that would be time for tissues) and how the kids are as at that age they grow so much from year to year…

  4. Thanks again David a great range of dramas, factuals and everything else.
    Interesting to see what is a potential in the future with insight into scripts, current workload pressures and realistic opportunities with budgets and availabilities.

  5. As usual.. ABC enters and wipes the floor with the competition. This is an awesome lineup.. particularly the scripted offerings which were just so fantastic last year. More of that please.

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