2023: Pick of the Upfronts
Here are just a few of the new local drama, comedy, reality and docos coming your way this year.
The official ratings year kicks off on February 12, but noisy new shows will be launching when the tennis ends.
Here are just a few of the new locally produced shows to look out for on Free to Air in 2023…
Bay of Fires
Showcasing Tasmania’s rugged west coast, Bay of Fires, tells the story of Stella (Marta Dusseldorp), who is unexpectedly dropped into a small community with her children. But it’s not the kind of place they put on postcards – it is instead rife with simmering feuds, crime and sometimes, murder. An Archipelago Productions and Fremantle Australia production for the ABC. Major production investment from Screen Australia in association with the ABC and Screen Tasmania, with support from VicScreen. Producers Marta Dusseldorp and Yvonne Collins. Executive Producers Greg Sitch, Andrew Knight and Brett Popplewell. ABC Executive Producers Sally Riley, Alex Baldwin and Louise Smith. Fremantle will distribute the series internationally.
Mother & Son
When his widowed mum, Maggie, sets fire to the kitchen, recently single Arthur Gbeme moves back into the family home. As he tells it, he has “put his life on hold” to care for his mum, but the truth is, there isn’t much to put on hold. A former nurse, Maggie used to be a firebrand – a renegade. But since the death of her husband, Maggie has been… a little off. A bold re-imagining of the long running and hugely successful ABC comedy, Mother and Son is a show about ageing, migrant upbringing, changing family roles, and caring for someone you love even when they’re driving you up the wall. Re-created by Matt Okine with collaborators, Sarah Walker, Tristram Baumber and the show’s original creator, Geoffrey Atherden, Mother and Son is an 8 x 30 min comedy series starring one of Australia’s most-loved comedians, Denise Scott as Maggie and Matt Okine as Arthur. With rich, warm characters that could be drawn right from your own family. Mother and Son offers hilarious, poignant, and utterly relatable observations on modern family life. A Wooden Horse production for the ABC. Major production investment from Screen Australia in association with the ABC. Financed with support from Screen NSW. Produced by Jude Troy and Richard Finlayson. Associate Producer Alexandra Cameron. Executive Producer / Creator / Writer Matt Okine. ABC Executive Producers: Todd Abbott and Louise Smith. International Sales: ABC Commercial.
Aunty Donna’s Coffee Cafe
Starring Aunty Donna’s Mark Samual Bonanno, Broden Kelly, and Zachary Ruane, the high octane and unpredictable series follows the story of three best mates running a trendy cafe down one of Melbourne’s less-than-iconic laneways. A Haven’t You Done Well Productions production for ABC. Principal production investment from the ABC and Screen Australia in association with VicScreen. Director/producer Max Miller and writer/executive producers Sam Lingham, Broden Kelly, Mark Samual Bonanno, Thomas Armstrong and Zachary Ruane. Producer Nicole Minchin and executive producer Georgia Mappin. ABC Executive Producers Rachel Millar and Todd Abbott.
The six-part comedy explores the compelling and charmingly funny story of best friends Charlie (Ryan Corr) and Nate (Bob Morley) as they’re faced with how hard it is to let go of those we love – especially when they’re taken too soon. And when they come back to haunt you. Literally. A Bunya Productions and Heiress Films production for the ABC. Major production investment from Screen Australia in association with ABC. Financed with support from Screen Queensland, with Screen NSW. Directed by Trent O’Donnell and David Stubbs. Produced by Jennifer Cummins, David Jowsey, Angela Littlejohn and Greer Simpkin. ABC Executive Producer Rebecca Anderson.
Better Date than Never
Better Date than Never is a character-led, multi-part docuseries following a diverse group of single love seekers as they take a huge step in anyone’s life – into the dating world. Each participant has a unique story, and a different reason for a later start to their dating journey. But they all share a common goal – to step out on their first date. With a little help from the producers, they launch into a world they’ve always wanted to explore, on a journey that takes them on the sometimes rocky road to finding love. Refreshingly real, honest and diverse, Better Date than Never is a warm-hearted series exploring the world of dating and relationships, from the creators of Love on the Spectrum. A Northern Pictures production for the ABC. Principal production funding from Screen Australia in association with the ABC. Associate Producers, Antonia Osili, Rachel O’Rourke, Melanie Sauer. Executive Producers Karina Holden and Cian O’Clery. ABC Manager, Documentaries Stephen Oliver.
WorldPride is a global Pride celebration and Sydney will host the celebrations in 2023, marking the first time a city in the southern hemisphere has been chosen. The ABC is proud to be the broadcast partner for the exciting lineup of once-in-a-lifetime events. We’re set to bring audiences all the loudest, proudest and most important discussions around LGBTQIA+ rights and issues both here in Australia, South East Asia and the rest of the world. Expect a huge two weeks of celebration, important conversations, party and protest. An ABC Production. Manager Events & Content Partnerships Janet Gaeta. Senior Producer, Events & Content Partnerships Rebecca Annetts.
From Cook to convicts to the ANZACS – most of us who’ve sat through primary school think we kinda know Australian history. But there’s another, hidden history – one of gay diggers, lesbian convict gangs, trans entrepreneurs and cross-dressing bushrangers. Heck, Colonial Australia was essentially founded on homophobia. In 1787, Captain Arthur Phillip wrote that in the new colony “there are two crimes that would merit the sentence of death; murder and sodomy.” Criminalised and pathologised, living with the constant threat of persecution and worse, Queers have long known it makes sense to stay out of the spotlight. And consequently, LGBTQI+ histories have stayed hidden. This means that for Queer people, attempting to find our predecessors is a tricky process. Our stories exist in the margins, and we have to read between the lines of the official texts to find evidence of our existence. Queerstralia, a landmark documentary series hosted by award-winning comedian Zoë Coombs Marr, sets out to redress this imbalance. It will wipe away the straightwashing and look into the untold and frankly fascinating Queer history of Australia. So trim your nails and roll up your sleeves, because we’re going far deeper than sequins and Priscilla. A Guesswork Television production presented by Screen Australia and the ABC in association with VicScreen. Principal Production Funding from Screen Australia. Produced with the assistance of VicScreen. Created, written and hosted by Zoë Coombs-Marr. Series Producer Plum Stubbings, Executive Producer Jon Casimir. ABC Manager Factual Julie Hanna.
After a long absence and some COVID-related delays, the original international star-making phenomenon is back, coming to Channel 7 and 7plus in 2023. The all-new Australian Idol will travel the country searching for wannabe stars, with massive live episodes and results shows as the competition heats up. Helping unearth the next idol to take Australia by storm will be celebrated American Idol judge and multiple Grammy award-winner Harry Connick Jr; powerhouse Grammy award-winning singer-songwriter Meghan Trainor; unfiltered and unapologetic top-rating broadcaster Kyle Sandilands; and beloved eight-time ARIA Award-winning singer-songwriter Amy Shark – plus original Australian Idol judge Marcia Hines in a special guest role. The unmissable new series will be hosted by Ricki-Lee and Scott Tweedie, and produced by Eureka Productions for the Seven Network.
The Claremont Murders
The disappearance of three young women in Perth in the late 1990s launched a 25-year investigation by the police and one tenacious journalist, all determined to seek justice. From the creatives behind Seven’s compelling drama Catching Milat, this remarkable mini-series stars Ryan Johnson (How To Please A Woman, Doctor Doctor), Catherine Văn-Davies (The Twelve, Barons), Aaron Glenane (Shantaram, Snowpiercer), Laura Gordon (Undertow, Late Night With The Devil), Andrea Demetriades (Pulse, Janet King), Craig Hall (Boy directed by Taika Waititi, and Peter Jackson’s King Kong), Jeremy Lindsay Taylor (Underbelly Razor, Puberty Blues), Tasma Walton (Mystery Road, How To Please A Woman), Joel Jackson (Peter Allen: Not the Boy Next Door, Ms Fisher’s Modern Murder Mysteries), Tom O’Sullivan (Molly, Alien: Covenant), Dalip Sondhi (Pulse, Frayed), Erik Thomson (How To Please A Woman, Aftertaste), and actor, radio host and author Kate Ritchie (Underbelly: A Tale of Two Cities, Home and Away). The Claremont Murders is produced by Screentime (a Banijay company) for the Seven Network, with major production investment from Screen Australia in association with Seven and See Pictures, with finance from Screenwest and Screen NSW.
We Interrupt This Broadcast
Get ready, Australia. We Interrupt This Broadcast is a long-overdue comedy series that makes fun of Australia’s favourite (and least favourite) shows. As the world grows ever more self-serious, We Interrupt This Broadcast promises to reboot and revitalise a long-standing and near forgotten Australian tradition: taking the piss out of everything, including ourselves! With our televisions, computers and phones creating the white noise we now call content, there’s no shortage of stuff for this irreverent, accessible and occasionally absurd series to lampoon. Showcasing some of Australia’s most versatile comedy talents, including Christie Whelan Browne, Bridie Connell, Michelle Brasier, Adele Vuko, Duncan Fellows, Greg Larsen, Ben Russell and Bjorn Stewart, We Interrupt This Broadcast is produced by Helium for the Seven Network.
Local Council (7mate)
The latest comedy from Pauly Fenech of Housos, Fat Pizza and Bogan Hunters fame is set in Australia’s most corrupt, lazy and inept council. Starring Pauly Fenech, George Kapinaris, Melissa Tkautz, Vince Sorrenti and John Bernard Kairouz (Antichocko Productions).
Inspired by actual events, 9Network’s new drama series, Human Error, follows Detective Holly O’Rourke and her homicide team as a seemingly open-and-shut murder investigation threatens to destroy her career, her family, and her faith in justice. As she scrambles to redeem her personal and professional reputation, Holly and her team uncover a criminal conspiracy that will change their lives forever. From the creative talents behind Underbelly, Bump, Offspring and Love My Way, Human Error is produced by John Edwards, Dan Edwards, Greg Haddrick and Samantha Winston, with The Age’s legendary crime reporter and podcaster John Sylvester (Underbelly) as story consultant. Cast to be announced soon. Human Error is a Roadshow Rough Diamond production for the 9Network with major production investment from Screen Australia in association with Nine. Financed with support from VicScreen. International distribution will be handled by ITV Studios.
In the rugged Alps of New Zealand’s southern island, a group of strangers will embark on an epic quest unlike anything ever seen. With their backpacks containing an equal share of 1 million dollars, the group must reach the peak of a distant mountain in just 14 days to win the cash they’re carrying. Along the journey they’ll need to work as a team as they tackle dangerous terrain, wild conditions and overcome adrenaline-charged challenges that block their path to the mountain. But what happens when members of the group fall behind, will the rest of the trekkers slow down and risk not reaching it up the mountain in time? Or will they cut them loose and press ahead to cash in? In a thrilling tale of endurance, survival and greed; morals will be tested, physical limits pushed, and bonds broken. Will they reach the summit in time and who will walk away with the money? A blockbuster action adventure filled with cliff-hangers; this is The Summit…getting up is just the beginning! The Summit is a 9Network and Endemol Shine Australia (A Banijay company) original series, produced by Endemol Shine Australia.
Tom Gleeson stars as the Taskmaster, with Tom Cashman his devoted assistant. Each week the two Toms set five comedians a range of ridiculous tasks designed to bamboozle brains and put funny bones to the test. Who’ll master the tasks? The cleverest clogs will score the most points from the Taskmaster, while bemusement and bafflement will be rewarded with the fewest points. At series’ end, the comedian with the most points will be crowned Taskmaster champion. And who exactly are these funny folk, ready to risk their reputations on TV’s most ludicrous, laugh-out-loud comedy show? None other than Julia Morris, Luke McGregor, Jimmy Rees, Nina Oyama and Danielle Walker!
Its creator is Mike Bullen of Cold Feet fame. It’s directed by the highly acclaimed Gregor Jordan. And it stars the brilliant Joanne Froggatt. The premise is intriguing: What happens when a British detective and his Australian counterpart team up to solve a murder? The answer is a clash of cultures and personalities.
This fictional series tracks the meteoric rise of a girl band spawned from a reality television show. A cautionary tale about the pitfalls of sudden fame, Paper Dolls will doubtless strike a chord with audiences who have grown up amid the boom in TV talent shows this century.
SBS / NITV
Number of Episodes: 4 x 1hr
Safe Home is a thriller full of twists and turns. It is a story of a young woman – Phoebe – who leaves a successful job to work at a family violence legal centre, but finds her life turned upside down when she gets entwined in a brutal murder. As interconnecting stories unfold, relationships are tested and Phoebe must navigate a path that isn’t always clear, and people and events that aren’t always as they appear. The Bold Type’s Aisha Dee leads an exceptional cast including recent Logie-nominee Mabel Li (New Gold Mountain, The Tailings), Virginia Gay (Judy & Punch, Winners and Losers), Thomas Cocquerel (The Gilded Age, Red Dog) and Antonia Prebble (Westside, Outrageous Fortune). From the award-winning producer behind Offspring, Puberty Blues and RFDS, this is Imogen Banks’ first series under her new production company Kindling Pictures. Directed by 2021 AACTA awardwinning director Stevie Cruz-Martin (The Tailings, Pulse) and created by acclaimed playwright Anna Barnes, Safe Home was inspired by Anna’s time working at a family legal centre in Melbourne. The series is written by Anna alongside Michelle Law, Jean Tong and co-produced by Emelyne Palmer. Safe Home is a Kindling Pictures production for SBS with major production investment from Screen Australia in association with SBS and financed with support from VicScreen. Banijay are managing international sales.
While the Men Are Away
TX: 2023 on SBS and SBS on Demand
Number of Episodes: 8 x 30 mins
While the Men Are Away is a queer, revisionist historical dramedy set in 1940’s rural Australia. It is a fun, sexy story, full of heart and adventure; a story of a group of misfits finding their power while the men are fighting in WW II. The story centres around two Women’s Land Army recruits who arrive from Sydney to the country and undergo a heady course in race relations, rural politics, spirituality, sex, personal growth – oh, and farming. While the Men Are Away is created by Alexandra Burke (Sissy), Kim Wilson (Wentworth) and Monica Zanetti (Ellie and Abbie (& Ellie’s Dead Aunt)), and written by Wilson, Zanetti, Magda Wozniak (Bad Behaviour), Enoch Mailangi (All My Friends Are Racist) and Sam Icklow (The Moth). It is produced by Lisa Shaunessy of Arcadia, whose feature Sissy premiered at SXSW Film Festival this year and it is the companies first television series, following years of successful feature films. While the Men Are Away is an Arcadia production for SBS with major production investment from Screen Australia in association with SBS and financed with support from Screen NSW. Red Arrow Studios International are managing international sales.
TX: 2023 on SBS and SBS on Demand
Number of Episodes: 11 x 1hr
Alone is a smash hit around the world. Now it is coming to SBS, for a new Australian series. In this unique survival series, participants compete against others but more profoundly, they compete against themselves. There is no crew, no producers, just survival. Alone Australia will see 10 Australians with survival skills dropped off, alone, into separate parts of the Tasmanian wilderness, where they’ll be challenged by the merciless forces of nature, hunger, and the perhaps the toughest challenge of all: loneliness. The goal is to survive alone for as long as possible with a limited amount of survival equipment but can leave or ‘tap out’ at any time they wish. The survivalist who lasts the longest wins $250,000. Alone Australia is an ITV Studios Australia production for SBS.
Great Australian Walks with Julia Zemiro
TX: 2023 on SBS and SBS on Demand
Number of Episodes: 10 x 1hr
A visually spectacular 10-part series presented by Julia Zemiro, transporting viewers across our Great Southern Land by foot in an entertaining waltz through history, geography, science, travel, and culture. Julia meets ordinary and extraordinary Australians who reveal surprising and littleknown stories along each stunning journey. Great Australian Walks with Julia Zemiro is a Mint Pictures production for SBS.
TX: 2023 on NITV
Number of Episodes: 1 x 1hr
Mark Coles Smith is at the beginning of a difficult personal journey. He has been haunted by unanswered questions regarding the suicide of his best friend in the Kimberly ten years ago. While the passing of years has numbed the pain, Mark reflects how people who die young are frozen in time. However, with those who take their own lives, it’s difficult to properly celebrate their lives because when talking about them, feelings of guilt and remorse inevitably arise. They become statistics and painful memories. Suicide in Indigenous communities is now at epidemic proportions. It’s something we must talk about. Mark travels across the Kimberley to visit some of the worst affected areas and speaks with professionals, Indigenous community leaders and his own family to find out what’s being done and what is still needed. Keeping Hope is a Joined Up Films production for NITV. Principal production investment from Screen Australia in association with Screenwest and Lotterywest.
Finding Jedda: (short)
Two girls go head-to-head for the role of a lifetime, in a reimagining of the 1954 auditions for the iconic Australian film Jedda. Writer/director Tanith Glynn-Maloney (Robbie Hood) teams up with executive producers Dan Lake and Meg O’Connell (Retrograde). Finding Jedda is a Since 1788 Productions, Unless Pictures, and Orange Entertainment production for NITV. This project is also supported by Screen Territory. Principal production funding from Screen Australia’s First Nations Department and NITV through the No Ordinary Black initiative. Financed with support from Screen Territory.