Todd Sampson to put his life on the line, but still no word on Gruen return

Former Leo Burnett CEO Todd Sampson, who recently announced his departure from adland altogether, will front a new TV show on the ABC, where he puts his faith in science to the test – but the broadcaster is still yet to confirm its plans for the Gruen franchise this year.


At an ABC TV Slate 2017 announcement today, Richard Finlayson, director of television – who will finish up on March 31, making this his final media launch – and Rebecca Heap, head of programming and digital, announced more programming plans for the broadcaster in 2017.

Finlayson said the ABC creates more than 2,000 hours of original television every year, making it near-impossible to present its plans for the year all at once, noting this announcement complements the broadcaster’s initial revelations in November 2016.

In November, Mumbrella asked questions about the return of Gruen, as the franchise was noticeably absent from the ABC’s program announcements at the time.  

Last year, a spokesperson told Mumbrella there was no announcement on Gruen yet, but said there would be another programming update in February.

Today, however, the future of Gruen remained unclear, with a spokesperson telling Mumbrella to “watch this space” as there were more announcements to come throughout 2017.

The advertising panel show, which stars Sampson as well as comedian Wil Anderson and recently appointed PwC chief creative officer Russel Howcroft, may still return, with Sampson telling Mumbrella he, Howcroft and Anderson are due to sit down and discuss the show’s future soon.

For now, however, Sampson will front a program where he puts his faith in science to “the ultimate test”.

‘Todd Sampson’s Life On The Line’ will premiere at 8:00pm on Tuesday March 21 on ABC, and iView and will show Sampson participating in a series of experiments, trusting his life to the laws of physics.

“These bold experiments are at the mercy of weather conditions, human error, mechanical failure, and Todd’s own willpower. Yet the science they are based on remains absolute. But it’s one thing to believe in the science, and another thing to bet your life on it,” a statement from ABC said.

Sampson said: “Anything in this post-fact world that can give science a push is a good thing… there’s one part of me that hopes we can make science engaging and interesting for a whole other generation of people that have lost faith in it. I hope they enjoy the show.”

In announcing the ABC’s other new programs, Finlayson said the three principles framing the broadcaster’s strategy this year would be: ambitious, accessible and Australian.

“What binds all those together? What’s the strategy? What are the principals behind that? Well of course, yes, it’s about the charter, absolutely no doubt about that. Yes, it’s about diversity. That’s really important to us. And of course it’s about audience and maximising our opportunities,” he said.

Richard Finlayson

Richard Finlayson on more programming announcements from the broadcaster: “They will keep coming. They will keep coming from ABC TV”

“But there’s three really important principles that we are standing behind this year and are driving our approach: ambitious, accessible and Australian.

“I really like those three words and they are really useful guideposts for us. Just quickly, what do they mean?

“Ambitious – we want to use the best talent we can possibly find. We want to continue to be the most awarded network. We want to be recognised for the best TV in Australia, but not just in Australia, in the world.

“And I really do think that that is an opportunity for ABC TV to be one of the best producers in the world, with our partners. We want to take risks and be bold with shows like ‘Bullied with Ian’ [Thorpe], ‘My Year 12 Life’ and communicating science by putting Todd’s life on the line.

“Accessibility is about being for everybody. The ABC, we’re rolling out the welcome mat. The ABC is for everybody – everybody who pays taxes – and we want to make it feel like that… We want to make big, noisy prime time shows, but we’re going to also make sure that we’re giving emerging creatives the opportunity to access audiences as well.

“We’ll be doing a lot of that on iView as well and, as you know… we’re continuing to produce a lot of new iView content. It’s key. We want it to eat our linear network. We’re very happy for that to happen over the next five to 10 years or so. And it has to be easy. The bar is super, super high in the VOD space, as we all know now.

“The final thing is Australian. We are fundamentally Australian. We are the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and we’re here to celebrate Australia.”

Other program highlights include ‘War On Waste’, to be fronted by The Chaser’s Craig Reucassel, which will “turn the spotlight on the staggering amount of waste we produce as a nation, and how together we can do something about it”.

“No stranger to confronting situations, Craig Reucassel will take on the supermarkets, challenge Australians to go waste free, debunk recycling myths, and uncover some shocking truths about fashion waste. Most importantly, he’ll take a critical look at household, retail and farming waste in Australia – and ask what has changed in the Australian psyche, and in our consumer culture, that has led us to become among the most wasteful nations on earth?”, a statement from the ABC said.

On his departure, Finlayson said it had been an “absolute privilege to do this job”.

“I am immensely proud of the work that we’ve done over the last nearly four years. There’s been some tough times, there’s no doubt about that. But the main thing is I think we’ve made great Australian shows and yes, we’ve won tonnes of awards and we’ve been recognised by our peers and that’s important. But we’ve also worked really hard internally on making ever-scarcer resources go further and we will see the results of that coming over time,” he said.


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