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.

Heartbreak High
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…

The D-Generation
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.

Full Frontal.
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.


12 Responses

  1. Countdown and Countdown Revolution – Loved Countdown but Countdown Revolution to me tried way too hard to appeal to teenagers, sometimes being over the top. Countdown itself naturally appealed to teenagers without actually trying to.

  2. Two of those shows – Seachange and Packed to the Rafters – failed in their reboots mainly because of the attempt to introduce current politics into the storylines. In their original incarnations, there wasn’t so much division in the views of the audience, but now it seems impossible to recapture the mood of the original because divisive social issues were introduced. Similar reason that the US Survivor is starting to lose its audience.

  3. That’s actually a lot of Aussie shows that got saved or re-booted. The two shows I would have loved to see make a comeback, never did. The Sullivans, which could have been great with a series of telemovies, like they did with The Waltons after it ended. And Sons and Daughters, one of the few soaps (along with Prisoner) that do well in repeats. Too much time now has passed, so just lamenting. Not saying they should re-boot.

    Also this article cleared up major confusion on My Life is Murder. ( I thought it started off as an Aussie show, but recent sightings (never watched a whole episode), indicated that it seemed to be an NZ show).

  4. Great to see some great shows revived.

    Bit of trivia for you guys. The show Boney inspired the name for the 70s West German disco act Boney M; as Frank Farian (the man behind a certain music group that shall remain nameless here because we all know the name of that particular group and their infamy) was watching Boney on West German television and thought that was a good name and then added the M bit.

  5. Great article. Let’s hope neighbours continues to run for years to come.

    Just a note I think the dates for Wentworth should be 2011-2021 and totally full frontal should be 1998 and 1999

  6. There’s a rumour circulating that the Amazon deal for Neighbours was being arranged back prior to the finale being filmed, and that the big names lured back were done so under false pretences to secure the deal with Amazon.

    Everybody loves a good conspiracy theory.

  7. Round the Twist is another one, despite the cast refreshes each time.

    Channel Seven had rights to the first season in 1990, but screened it on Sunday mornings some months after the UK did (where it was highly popular on Friday afternoons)

    A couple of years later RTT was brought back by the ABC for a second season and its legend status was soon born with regular repeats of both seasons after school for the rest of the ’90s. Oddly though, the third and forth seasons were not made until the early 2000s. So enjoyed two rebirths (which sounds like a plot from the show).

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