How odd that Screen Australia is funding a “one-off” telemovie, The Blake Mysteries, which will star Nadine Garner (Jean). It got so upset about “the Blake franchise not proceeding, and the resultant job losses”, it is giving money to this “unique situation” and “the chance to see this beloved tale through Jean Beazley’s eyes”.
This “new direction” sounds more like a pilot than a telemovie, and is obviously testing the waters as to how the audience will react without Craig McLachlan (Dr Blake). Good luck to them, and particularly Nadine Garner taking centre stage, and let’s hope being a housekeeper means she knows how to snoop around and uncover the killer just as her husband used to.
It is no surprise that Screen Australia is breaking its own guidelines because times are tough for Aussie dramas. So far this year there has only been Harrow (which has settled comfortably into Dr Blake’s old Friday night timeslot on the ABC), Underbelly: Chopper on Nine (which was a bit same old, same old), Safe Harbour on SBS (which was brilliant but nobody watched it) and Romper Stomper (Stan from New Year’s Day). House Husbands and Love Child will not be returning to Nine and it doesn’t look like The Wrong Girl, Sisters or Offspring are coming back to Ten either.
Have programmers been deliberately holding off new product until after the Winter Olympics and Commonwealth Games? Still waiting in the wings (and all from FremantleMedia) are a sixth season of Wentworth on showcase (now starring Susie Porter), Picnic At Hanging Rock (with the whole series being available to binge on Foxtel On Demand from Sunday May 6) and Olivia (and Seven surely wouldn’t be planning to screen it the same night and time as Picnic At Hanging Rock, would it?).
The ABC is currently working on a second series of Jack Irish (with guest star Tom Gleeson) and season five of Rake (with Senator Cleaver Greene in Parliament), and Nine is about to start filming a third series of Doctor Doctor. But where are the new Australian dramas?
There’s Bite Club from Nine, about a group of shark survivors being targeted by a serial killer, which sounds like it could be interesting… or a complete disaster. And Ten has Playing For Keeps, which sounds suspiciously like Footballers’ Wives, but if so, let’s hope it’s as much trashy fun as that was.
The Brits are currently excelling in contemporary series like Doctor Foster, which have deceptively simple concepts that build into unmissable drama. American cable networks and streaming giants churn out edgy and unexpected fare that would have been unthinkable a decade ago. And even Scandinavia has its own noir genre, with every country in the world wanting to remake The Bridge (with the latest being set on the bridge between Singapore and Malaysia).
But down under, we seem to be playing it safe, remaking familiar titles or going with high concepts that can often crash and burn. It could be that the Australian TV drama industry is as lost as Doctor Blake. Like him, it yearns for a simpler time but until our TV industry figures out where we fit in the new world order…