Pick of the 2024 Upfronts
In a season of revivals and very safe choices, which shows stood out from 2024 Upfront announcements?
Now that Upfront presentations are complete, we have a much clearer view of the 2024 viewing year.
This year there were a lot of revivals and reboots announced, all of 10’s new shows for instance are familiar brands.
Overall it was a season of “safe” announcements, with very few bold and risky ideas. These will land in a year when the US strikes are impacting international titles.
I have a preference for scripted Drama, so they tend to feature in my choices below.
Having scanned the brand new Australian-made titles, here, in no particular order, are some of the titles I am keen to check out…
What about you?
Ladies in Black
Following on from the film of the same name and drawing inspiration from the much-loved 1993 novel, Ladies In Black sees the beloved women from Goodes Department Store fling open their shop doors to the fabulous 60’s. The heartwarming six-part drama series takes place in 1961, six months after the events of the original story, where amidst this backdrop of major societal shifts, the women embracing more freedom and independence are forced to confront personal choices and challenges which cast shadows over their once cherished dreams. A Bunya Entertainment production. Major production investment from the ABC, South Australian Film Corporation and Screen Australia. Financed with support from Screen NSW. Producers: Sophia Zachariou, Angela Littlejohn, Greer Simpkin, David Jowsey. Executive Producers: Greg Waters, Sue Milliken, Allanah Zitserman. ABC Executive Producers: Rachel Okine & Louise Smith. Distributed by ABC Commercial.
Shaun Micallef’s Unnamed Project
Shaun Micallef’s Unnamed Project will deliver everything its title promises – and more. The ABC legend returns in 2024 in a brand new show that’s sure to delight taxpayers. “I can’t tell you too much about what we’ll be doing” teased Micallef at a recent Senate Hearing. ’Suffice to say, it will not feature cooking, home renovations, marriage, singing, sport, RBT units, dogs, wilderness survival, quiz questions, news clips, stock footage, wearing masks, border security, amazing races, Lego, sitting on a panel or being marooned on an island in your underwear.” An ITV Studios Australia & Giant Baby production for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
Maggie Beer’s Big Mission
Spurred by the shocking findings of malnutrition from the Aged Care Royal Commission in 2021, Australian food icon, Maggie Beer, leads an ambitious social experiment to improve the meals and dining room experience at an aged care home. Over 4 months, Maggie and a team of experts will upgrade the menu, dining room, gardens and culture to bring more joy and wellbeing to the residents. Together they will overcome limited food budgets and work flow challenges to deliver a nutritious and tasty new menu in a residential aged care home in Perth, Western Australia. The basis of all the food changes will sit around Maggie’s mantra “Make Every Mouthful Count”. This will be 78-year-old Maggie’s most ambitious project to date and the one she will be the proudest of – if the team can pull it off – as it could provide inspiration and a roadmap for a new model of care in aged care across the country. An Artemis Media production for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Major production investment from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and Screen Australia in association with Screenwest and Lotterywest. Series Director and Producer Laki Baker. Senior Producer Phillipa Hutchison. Executive Producer Celia Tait. ABC Commissioning Editor Julie Hanna. ABC Head of Factual Susie Jones. International Sales: ABC Commercial.
SBS / NITV
8 x 30 mins
Created and directed by Tig Terera, Swift Street features an ensemble cast including acclaimed Hollywood star Cliff Curtis (Avatar: The Way of Water, Traffic, Fast and Furious: Hobbs & Shaw), Tanzyn Crawford (Tiny Beautiful Things, Servant), Keiynan Lonsdale (My Fake Boyfriend, Love, Simon, The Divergent Series), Eliza Matengu (Thor: Love and Thunder, Jack Irish), Bernie Van Tiel (Class of ‘07, SBS drama anthology series Erotic Stories), and introducing Alfred ‘Alfie’ Chuol. When 21-year-old Elsie (Tanzyn Crawford) – a new-school illicit entrepreneur in her ownright – discovers that her old-school hustler father Robert (Cliff Curtis) is being hunted down by a merciless crime boss over a bad debt, she decides to help him, sparking the beginnings of a reconciliation and a dubious reign as partners in crime. Swift Street is a Magpie Pictures production for SBS. Major production investment fromScreen Australia in association with SBS. Financed in association with VicScreen and Screen NSW. Global film and television studio Fifth Season (formerly Endeavour Content) is handling international sales.
8 x 30 mins
Four Years is a story of a married couple trying to find each other again after beingseparated for four years. In the spirit of Normal People, the series explores love, yearning and miscommunication. Achingly powerful, Four Years follows the turbulent marriage oftwo young Indian lovers, Sridevi and Yash, through three timelines, told through dual perspectives. Full of romance and the desire to find someone you once loved again, this ground-breaking Australian series uses the Hindi and English languages interchangeably. Created and written by Indian-Australian writer Mithila Gupta (Bump S1&2, The Unlisted, The Heights, Five Bedrooms and Doctor Doctor). Four Years will be produced by award-winning Easy Tiger Productions (Colin From Accounts, The Twelve) for SBS. Major production investment from Screen Australia and Screen NSW in association with SBS.
Journey Home: David Gulpilil
1 x 90 mins
David Gulpilil, a Yolŋu man of the Mandhalpuyngu clan, was one of Australia’s mostoutstanding Indigenous actors. Since his 1971 debut in Nicholas Roeg’s film ‘Walkabout’ he mesmerised audiences, appearing in over eighteen films. With a career spanning over 50 years, Gulpilil’s contribution to the Australian film industry is part ofthe history of both the Australian cinema and its representation of Indigenous Australians. This is the story of David Gulpilil’s journey home after his passing in 2021, back to his birthplace, the centrepiece of which is his Bäpurru ceremony in Marayuwu near the Arafura Swamp and the remote community of Ramingining, Eastern Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory of Australia. This is a rare insight into a powerful ceremony of renewal and regeneration and is told completely from the Yolŋu perspective, from the perspective of his family. This remarkable event, marking Gulpilil’s return to the earth, the completion of his lifecycle, draws a direct line between the contemporary world of international fame and 60,000 years of Indigenous culture. Journey Home is a Brindle Films production for NITV. Principal production funding from Screen Australia in association with Screen Territory and VicScreen. Local distribution by Madman Entertainment. Developed with assistance of Screen Australia, VicScreen and Screen Territory.
Ego: The Michael Gudinski Story
A rare insight into how hitmaker and trailblazer Michael Gudinski inspired the soundtrack of a nation and revolutionised the Australian music industry, Ego: The Michael Gudinski Story follows his relentless pursuit of success over five decades as he launches Mushroom Records and the careers of countless artists, promotes legendary international acts, and takes Australian music to the world. Featuring exclusive interviews with some of the world’s most influential artists, extraordinary rare footage, and an electrifying soundtrack, this documentary reveals the man behind the music and the unstoppable force that was Michael Gudinski. Ego: The Michael Gudinski Story is a Mushroom Studios production.
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, O’Rourke 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 executive produced by John Edwards and Dan Edwards with producers Greg Haddrick and Samantha Winston, alongside 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.
Blood On The Tracks: The Platform Killer
When a train commuter is found dead during peak hour, police suspect suicide. But when Detective Kate Fletcher finds links to an ‘accidental’ death at a suburban station, she suspects something far more sinister in the 9Network’s new crime thriller, Blood On The Tracks – the Platform Killer. Despite pressure to drop her investigation, Fletcher uncovers a web of connections to other deaths on the rail network. Her investigation takes her from the city underground to outback freight lines, but is she prepared for what she’ll discover? And is Fletcher herself in the killer’s sights? Blood On The Tracks – the Platform Killer is produced by Easy Tiger and Anton for the 9Network.
10 / Paramount
Paper Dolls (Dec 3)
Dust off your velour tracksuits because Paper Dolls is set to premiere on Paramount+ on December 7. This captivating eight-part drama explores the meteoric rise and tumultuous fall of Harlow, a fictional girl-group born of the world of reality television. Featuring a dazzling cast of emerging talent, Paper Dolls promises a nostalgic journey into the world of Y2K pop culture while offering a revealing exploration of the less glamorous aspects of fame.
If you love a thrilling drama, the upcoming premium event series Fake is unmissable. Starring Asher Keddie and David Wenham and inspired by Stephanie Wood’s bestselling book, this eight-part series delivers a gripping meditation on love in a world of lies and deceit. Fake follows Birdie Bell (Keddie), a brilliant magazine features writer who thinks she’s found ‘the one’ when she meets successful grazier Joe Burt (Wenham) on a dating app. Bringing Birdie’s world to life on screen is a stellar Australian cast featuring Heather Mitchell, Nicholas Brown and Spencer McLaren.
Foxtel / Binge
An eight-part mystery thriller starring Leah Purcell, Aaron Pedersen, Sara Wiseman and Ian McElhinney, and tells the story of detective Andrea (Andie) Whitford (Purcell) who is transferred to the Victorian High Country, where she is thrust into a baffling mystery of five missing persons who have vanished into the wilderness.