TV’s greatest drama lifelines
Getting a second -or third- shot at TV glory is rare for scripted Australian shows. Here are some of the more memorable revivals and reboots.
Neighbours being thrown a lifeline to return from the dead is extremely rare in Australian drama.
But in case you’d forgotten, it’s the second time it’s happened for the much-loved soap -originally axed by Seven in 1985.
Here are some of the more memorable revivals and rebooted shows in scripted Aussie content.
Originally axed by Seven after 4 months in 1985, it was swooped upon by Network 10 which, thankully had its Melbourne base just down the road from the original street location. Mysteriously sets from Seven were burnt with industry speculation to this day it was done to prevent 10 getting their hands on them. It didn’t matter. 10 rebuilt the sets from scratch and enjoyed a 36 year run until August 2022. This week a new deal was secured by producers Fremantle with 10 and Amazon for Freevee / Prime Video. Twice axed, twice rescued, everybody still needs good Neighbours.
A Place to Call Home
Bevan Lee’s grand melodrama rated well for Seven but after two seasons it was suddenly cancelled in 2014 with the network citing costs and the show’s older-skewing audience lacking advertiser appeal. A fervent fan campaign seemed to be in vain until Foxtel threw out a lifeline proudly boasting it didn’t care how old its subscribers were. A further 4 seasons ran on Foxtel, longer than its initial life span, even winning a Logie as Most Outstanding Drama Series.
A Country Practice
Seven’s medical soap ran for a glorious 12 years from 1981 – 1993 making household names of cast including Nurse Shirley Gilroy, Esme Watson, ‘Molly’ Jones, Matron Sloane, Sgt. Frank Gilroy, ‘Cookie’ and more. After its cancellation 10 bizarrely picked it up for another season, relocating the show to Emerald, Victoria with a new cast including Paul Gleason, Jane Hall, Vince Colosimo, Claudia Black and Laura Armstrong. It lasted 7 months, leaving screens in 1994.
Kath & Kim
Famously commissioned by ABC Drama after being rejected by ABC Comedy, the Foxy ladies ran for 3 seasons and one telemovie from 2002 – 2005 before Seven made a shock swoop upon the series for 8 more episodes in 2007. Including reruns on Nine the show has featured across 3 networks and returns tomorrow with the first of two retrospective specials.
Packed to the Rafters
Bevan Lee’s biggest TV hit ran for six seasons from 2008 – 2013 with mostly evergreen tales of the Rafters clan. In 2021 Amazon Prime Video made the shock announcement of a revisit with sequel series Back to the Rafters. Critical to the deal was accessing back catalogue episodes (just as it has with Neighbours). Alas it only survived 6 episodes in its new, modern incarnation.
The Doctor Blake Mysteries
Five seasons of the period mystery with Craig McLachlan and Nadine Garner screened on ABC from 2013 – 2017 triggering such an outpouring from fans after its cancellation that Seven struck a deal for a continuation. Fatally, headlines surrounding McLachlan derailed those plans, save for a one-off Blake Mysteries with Nadine Garner’s ‘Jean’ turning sleuth.
Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries
Another huge period mystery saga led by the irrepressible Essie Davis, this ran for 3 seasons on ABC from 2012 – 2015, who cited the steep budget as the reason it never proceeded. Fans again rallied for its continuation, which culminated in the form of a crowd-funded feature film, but it led indirectly to Ms. Fisher’s Modern Murder Mysteries starring Geraldine Hakewill and Joel Jackson on Seven / Acorn TV in 2019 / 2021.
Prisoner / Wentworth
Global hit drama Prisoner ran on 10 from 1979 – 1986 led by the indefatigable trio of Bea, Lizzie and Doreen, joined by Franky, The Freak, Vinegar Tits and more. Still with a diehard fanbase to this day, the show was envisioned in a contemporary reboot, Wentworth, drawing upon classic characters and spawning a whole new fanbase for episodes on Foxtel for 8 seasons from 2013 – 2021 -technically longer than the original run.
The Flying Doctors
A Crawfords classic, the Nine series ran in various forms from 1985 – 1993. That includes a 3 part miniseries as its origin, and the sole, refreshed modern take as R.F.D.S. moving from Cooper’s Creek to Broken Hill. A new R.F.D.S. on Seven in 2021 is unrelated, aside from the common subject backdrop.
A huge hit for ABC from 1998 – 2000 led by Sigrid Thornton, Nine attempted a sequel series in 2019 with Thornton returning alongside John Howard and Kerry Armstrong -including with a Northern NSW setting- but was unable to capture the same magic.
Another big global hit, this always edgy show has actually had 3 lives. 4 seasons screened on 10 from 1994 – 1996 before it was axed and moved to ABC and ran 1997 – 1999. By 2022 the show returned in a rebooted format winning more critical acclaim in its newsNetflix life. The future looks bright…
16 episodes of the sketch comedy show screened on ABC across 1986 – 87 with a who’s who of the new comedy wave: Rob Sitch, Santo Cilauro, Marg Downey, Michael Veitch, Magda Szubanski, Tom Gleisner, Jane Turner, Mick Molloy, Tony Martin, Judith Lucy. It returned as 4 specials on Seven 1988 / 89. Working Dog would also see unscripted comedy show Thank God You’re Here famously swap networks from 10 to Seven.
Fat Pizza / Housos
Paul Fenech’s anarchic comedy began life as a 1993 low budget film, spawning two seasons on SBS from 2005 and 2007 and later Fat Pizza v Housos. By 2014 Fenech had moved to 7mate for Bogan Hunters, more Housos and Fat Pizza sequels.
This sketch comedy series which ran on the Seven from 1993 to 1997 launched the television careers of Eric Bana, Shaun Micallef, Kitty Flanagan, Julia Morris and Denise Scott. In 1998 a spin-off of the show moved to 10 under the name Totally Full Frontal, losing most of the original cast in the process; it ran to 1999.
Skippy the Bush Kangaroo.
Our first TV export was a global phenomenon, screening for 3 seasons from 1967-1969 and still screens somewhere on Nine which bought the show outright for a song. It was revived in 1992 as the short-lived The Adventures of Skippy. This revival series focused on the now adult Sonny Hammond (Andrew Clarke), lasting 39 episodes. In 1998, an animated spin-off series was produced, known as Skippy: Adventures in Bushtown.
James Laurenson starred as indigenous Detective Inspector Napoleon Bonaparte for two seasons from 1971. When it was rebooted with Cameron Daddo in 1992 for one season, criticism led to his character becoming a non-indigenous policeman who had been brought up by Aboriginals, and who had an elderly black mentor played by Burnum Burnum.
My Life is Murder.
10 episodes screened on 10 in 2019 starring Lucy Lawless as an amateur sleuth. She would relocate to NZ for seasons 2 and 3 prompted by a new deal with Acorn TV and a pandemic hiatus, with 10 getting second window rights.