The drama behind Australian drama

It may look like all the money’s going into reality TV, but Andrew Mercado says Australian drama is doing alright for itself.

It seems like Australian TV is nothing but reality shows. But there has been a lot of local drama this year and most of it has been good. The ABC kicked things off with The Straits, but every character in the show was unlikeable and so audiences stayed away in droves. Aunty had more success with Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, a sumptuous period piece with a feisty lead performance from Essie Davis. It had a sense of fun about it that The Straits lacked and although its Friday timeslot seemed odd for money so well spent, it was perfectly placed given the lack of original fare on other channels.

Seven’s programming department ruined Packed To The Rafters with their stop-start scheduling, but its promo team saved the show with a cheeky campaign about ‘the kiss’. Nine’s promo department spent a lot of money making Tricky Business look like their version of Rafters when really it was its own beast with a top-notch cast. Screentime’s Bikie Wars was just like every Underbelly bar the first one – too long with bad wigs and riverbank orgies instead of strip clubs or numerous topless girls.

Southern Star’s family dramas continued to delight although Offspring was a bit shaky without Kat Stewart, who was absent but around for all of Tangle. Its season finale was the best hour of Aussie drama this year as a perfect storm of storylines exploded into a shattering cliffhanger.

It’s also been a good year for telemovies. Beaconsfield was good, The Great Mint Swindle was great but Mabo towered above them all with flawless art direction and heartbreaking performances. Nobody saw it, though, because it screened on a long weekend one week after its actual 20th anniversary because of the Queen’s Jubilee.

Let’s hope no British traditions affect the programming of highly anticipated dramas Howzat, Puberty Blues and Redfern Now.

Andrew Mercado is a TV historian and host of The Playlist on Foxtel’s Showcase channel.

This feature first appeared in the July edition of Encore magazine. To download it for free from the App Store, click here.


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