TV Dramas that never were…

From Batavia to a Return to Eden reboot -what were the dramas announced by networks, which never materialised?

Every network has been known to announce new drama projects but then have a change of heart and abandon the idea.

Here are a few of the more memorable ones…

SBS 2009
A 13 part crime set in Darwin? It sounded too good to be true and alas, it was.  Featuring the character of ‘Detective Dusty Buchanon’ from Phillip Gwynne’s novel “The Build Up” the series was to be produced by TMG Media, headed up by Michael Lawrence (Bra Boys) and Glenys Rowe (Feeling Sexy), with  Chris Noonan to direct. Michael Ebeid, became managing director at the time, later reflected, “When I walked in we had over-committed our budget with more commissions than we could afford. Dusty was a very expensive drama that we had to pull out of. ”

Inside Out
Network 10, 2010
In 2010 TEN announced it was returning to the prison genre with a drama about a woman who, wrongly accused, seeks her revenge. But creative differences were said to get in the way, while Foxtel later reimagined Prisoner as Wentworth. Missed opportunity?

Network 10 2012
In 2011 Screentime acquired the rights to Peter FitzSimons’ bestseller Batavia, to become a six-hour miniseries on 10. Based on the historical events of 1629 when a Dutch merchant ship foundered off the coast of Western Australia, Batavia promised sea-faring adventure, the battle of good versus evil, mutiny, ship-wreck, love, lust, criminality, a reign of terror, sexual slavery, natural nobility, survival, retribution, rescue and the birth of the world’s first corporation. 10 confirmed the series would set sail into production in 2013, to film interiors in Canada and exteriors in Queensland, but Screentime was unable to finance in a desirable timeframe. 10 did not rule out revisiting it further down the track, but so far no land ahoy.

Return to Eden
Nine 2013
A remake of campy 80s miniseries would have been fun, had Nine proceeded with this one. The melodrama, about a businesswoman attacked by a crocodile, was to be rebooted by original producers Hal and Di McElroy as a six hour miniseries. The U-turn appeared to be the casualty of Nine taking a croc-size bite out of network costs at the time.

Mayday Mayday: The Story of Flight QF32
Nine 2014
At their 2014 Upfronts Nine announced a telemovie on a flight from Singapore to Sydney which came within a knife edge of being one of the world’s worst air disasters. It did air a doco on the same story to disappointing figures, which was up against Seven’s INXS miniseries. In the end it said Screentime couldn’t secure the funding.

Seven 2017
Before there was Warnie on Nine, there was Warnie on Seven, or so it was announced. A Warnie bio-drama was announced by Seven at the same time as Paul Hogan and Olivia Newton-John drama projects, which struggled for the network and doubtless turned them off proceeding with the Warne drama. Interestingly it was to be produced by Screentime, which later produced the Nine miniseries of the same name, with the same writer. Shane Warne, who was still with us at the time, was reportedly unimpressed with the announcement.

Fam Time
Seven 2019
This sitcom starring Michala Banas, Benson Jack Anthony, Duncan Fellows and Rhonda Burchmore was created internally by network comedy exec Michael Horrocks and directed by Hayden Guppy. It was also filmed and completed, but network CEO James Warburton reportedly hates the comedy which centres around the selfie-mad, blogging mum of Australia’s “most post-modern modern family.” For around 4 years it has languished on the network shelves despite promises to find a place to screen it. Could it finally get a screening with the change of CEO in 2024, or is it now way too dated? Probably.

ABC 2019
Alison Bell and Sarah Scheller (The Letdown) were developing their first hour-long drama, Goodwood, for ABC and ABC Studios International. on Holly Throsby’s best-selling debut novel the project was in development with producers Alice Bell and Claudia Karvan, with Imogen Banks executive producing. Goodwood is described as part-mystery, part coming-of-age-love-story, set in a small town in 1992, which is torn apart when two of its residents go missing.

Lawyer X
Foxtel 2019
The race was on to put the saga of Nicola Gobbo also known as Lawyer X in Victoria to screen. Foxtel, who rightly felt ownership over the story broken by News Corp & SKY News announced big plans in 2019.  “It’s a story that’s got it all. Cops, crims, corruption. It takes what we saw on Underbelly to a complete new level. Her story in particular will be explosive,” Executive Director of Television Brian Walsh said. But Underbelly producers Screentime, who had form in the genre, tactfully got their version, Informer 3838, to screen in 2020 with Ella Scott Lynch in the lead role. By 2021, even Fremantle announced plans for their take on the story. Why?

Shakespeare Now
ABC 2020
Hot talent Margot Robbie was joining forces with Hoodlum Entertainment for a female-creative-led adapting Romeo and Juliet, The Tempest, MacBeth, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Richard III, The Merchant of Venice and Twelfth Night, into a re-imagined anthology series. It sounds like a great idea, hopefully it won’t be Love’s Labour’s Lost.


11 Responses

  1. The Batavia wreck is an amazing story. It would also have global appeal if done properly. If Ten, Paramount doesn’t ever get around to doing it. Someone will and it could be really successful.

  2. You couldn’t pay me enough to watch anything that has the Peter Fitzsimmons brand associated with it. I’m so happy it didn’t progress beyond the pitch.

  3. According to Michael Bodey’s book Broadcast Wars, in the early 2000s Nine spent quite a lot of money on The Coast, a Home and Away ripoff set on the Gold Coast.

    1. The Coast was a Pilot but not sure it was ever formally announced as a drama series.

      Created by John Hugginson & Ray Harding it was set in a fishing village, filmed in Queenscliff. Produced by Linda Klejus and Peter Beilby of Circa Media, there were hopes it might become Nine’s answer to Neighbours and Home & Away. It included both Chris & Liam Hemsworth, and was set to be their first series role.

      More here with exclusive video.

    1. Or they could put it on 7+ just for curiosity sake.Going by the description,I’d be intrigued to see just how bad it really is.Or maybe it isn’t that bad?

  4. I have always thought the Batavia story would make a great basis for a film or now a miniseries-would be expensive to mount a full scale period recreation though-there’s a large exhibit in the WA Maritime museum in Fremantle of Batavia relics and the tale is pretty well known here. There have been several dramatized docos made over the years but not on any large scale.

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