One of the ABC’s more overlooked success stories of the last few years has been the Agony series of programs. Kicking off with the six-part Agony Uncles in 2012, writer/director/creator/host Adam Zwar went around to a bunch of his comedian mates – with a few wild cards mixed in, like former businessman John Elliot and his son – and asked them for their relationship advice.
So, is Australian television drama dead or what? The news last week that the premiere of Ten’s big hope for early 2014, Secrets & Lies, had failed to draw anything like a decent audience – 404,000 according to the ratings; which is not enough to keep it on the air – coupled with the long-awaited return of Puberty Blues also getting its lowest ratings ever (538,000) suggests that it might be time to get out the shovels.
Underbelly’s back! Only it’s not called Underbelly anymore. It would be both unfair and inaccurate to suggest the name-change came about because of a slow but steady trashing of the brand thanks to a long line of sub-par series over the years. (Reportedly the real reason why they changed the name was to do with claiming the Federal Government’s 20% Producer Offset tax rebate. The money-back offer cuts out after 65 episodes of a series and they couldn’t persuade the Tax Office that each Underbelly series was its own stand-alone show, so no money back for them unless they made a different series.) But the fact that it seems reasonable to assume they changed the name for promotional reasons underlines just how far the Underbelly brand has fallen.
The big loser in the recent Sunday night clash of the Aussie dramas was the first episode of the new series of Rake (ABC1, Sundays, 8.30 p.m.). Which makes no sense if you think about it, because Rake is an actual good show that’s entertaining on its own merits, while both Seven’s INXS miniseries and Nine’s Schapelle Corby telemovie were firmly in the trash TV bracket.
Spicks and Specks is back! And if last night’s episode was any guide, it’s like it never left. Well, apart from all the hosts now being brand new people, but even then they managed to fill the various slots in the S&S machine without too much going too wrong. As someone who was never that big a fan of the original series, I may have failed to pick up on the no doubt many subtle differences between the old and new versions; I’m also fully aware that the original cast members were so well-loved by the general population.