It doesn’t seem that long since we welcomed 2011!
Australian television reached a number of milestones this year: Ten years of digital TV; 40 years of Sesame Street on the ABC; Mal Walden celebrated 50 years in broadcasting and Tracy Grimshaw reached 30 years at Nine; Play School turned 45; Four Corners turned 50; TV turned 40 in Darwin; David Stratton and Margaret Pomeranz celebrated 25 years together on television; and it was 50 years since the launch of regional stations GLV10, BCV8 and GMV6.
Ratings-wise, it was all about Seven, winning their fifth year in a row. There was little they could do wrong, while at Network Ten there was not much that they could get right – even MasterChef took a battering – with Nine falling somewhere in between.
ABC’s Spicks And Specks made a dignified exit off the stage, while Ten’s Video Hits was pushed off the stage – after 24 years – in a bout of cost cutting. ABC put the axe to Collectors, The New Inventors and Arts Nation.
Showbiz stalwarts Denise Drysdale and Kerri-Anne Kennerley signed off from their respective daytime programs.
Network Ten launched its new digital channel Eleven, and attempted to raise the bar in current affairs reporting with 6PM With George Negus (later 6.30). It was a tumultuous year at a management level for Ten with the dismissal of CEO Grant Blackley and the appointment of interim CEO Lachlan Murdoch before James Warburton, a former Seven Network executive, takes over the role in January. Under Murdoch’s watch, sports channel One HD was re-worked into a general entertainment and special interest channel, Ten News suffered a number of format changes, budget cuts and staff departures (including Deborah Knight and George Donikian), while Late News and 6.30 With George Negus were both axed. Newspaper columnist and blogger Andrew Bolt was given his own show, and the network walked away from AFL after ten years.
Nine’s A Current Affair revisited some TV classics during the year, including Young Talent Time (pictured) and Big Brother (coincidentally both programs are to make a comeback in 2012). ACA also took a trip to Wandin Valley to remember A Country Practice. Meanwhile, Today Tonight took ‘70s sex symbol Abigail to task for no good reason.
After a quiet few years in drama, ABC made a stellar comeback this year with Paper Giants: The Birth Of Cleo and The Slap both receiving critical acclaim and good ratings. The broadcaster also launched a new legal drama, Crownies. SBS scored a hit with its reality-documentary series Go Back To Where You Came From, triggering a wave of social commentary on what has always been a controversial topic.
Regional Victoria and Regional Queensland made the final switch from analogue to digital television – while remote area networks Imparja and Southern Cross have only now switched on to digital transmission and Regional WA is now seeing the roll-out of the digital multi-channels from the commercial networks.
Millions watched the royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton – it was an event that was hard to miss with saturation coverage on free-to-air and multiple pay-TV channels.
So what will 2012 bring?
Network Ten will hope for a better, more stable year with a new CEO and News Director on board. Last year the network took a gamble with George Negus and more News bulletins. This year Ten is taking a gamble with launching a new breakfast show up against Sunrise, Today and ABC News Breakfast – will this risk pay off? And will the re-named and expanded The Project lead to improvement in Ten’s embattled 6.30 timeslot?
Also, will MasterChef be able to knock out the few dents it copped in its armour this year? And how will Young Talent Time fare with its return after 23 years off our screens? As Hey Hey It’s Saturday and more recently It’s A Knockout have shown, the nostalgia factor can bring high ratings but the novelty can wear off pretty quickly.
Nine had something of a late-year resurgence this year with The Block winning ratings in its new 7.00pm timeslot and Celebrity Apprentice also bringing in strong figures. The success of these will see Nine delve further into the reality genre in 2012 with another series of The Block, the return of Big Brother and an Australian version of singing contest The Voice.
In Aussie drama there will be more Neighbours, Home And Away, Packed To The Rafters, Offspring and Winners And Losers. Nine will launch a new series, Tricky Business, and is set to present another instalment of the Underbelly franchise as well as its dramatisation of the Beaconsfield mine disaster of 2006. Nine will also relive former owner Kerry Packer’s 1970s challenge to the cricket establishment with Howzat! – The Kerry Packer Story. Ten will have a mini-series Bikie Wars: Brothers in Arms as well as an updated adaptation of the book Puberty Blues. The network is also to launch a new series, Reef Doctors, starring Lisa McCune.
Andrew Denton and Shaun Micallef are set to return to ABC with new programs – and there will be another series of Adam Hills In Gordon Street Tonight.
In sport, Seven becomes the sole free-to-air broadcaster of AFL for the first time since 2001, while sharing the rights with Foxtel – while Nine and Foxtel are off to London for the Olympic Games. It will be Nine’s first coverage of the Summer Olympics since 1976.
2012 will mark 50 years of television in regional New South Wales, Queensland, Tasmania and in Canberra. Analogue television will be switched off in regional New South Wales and the ACT.
The ground-breaking drama of the 1970s, Number 96 (pictured) will have its 40th anniversary commemorated with another DVD release of episodes – this time revisiting some of the few black-and-white episodes to still be in existence, as well the episodes surrounding the bomb-blast storyline of 1975.
And right here we will be continuing the theme of documenting the TV year of 20 years ago as reported in the pages of TV Week.
Happy New Year to you all and best wishes for the year ahead!