Go home, 2014. You’re drunk.
Again Seven and Nine were neck and neck in the FTA ratings – again Seven won total people and Nine key demos, but for the first time in years Nine took the national News win (quite the feat when you consider ADL & PER are still early works in progress and still very heavily Seven-centric markets). Ten proved the proverbial turd cannot be polished as further cuts gutted morale, and the network sured up fourth place (if anything sliding further back than last year). Adam Boland launched Wake Up and then suffered such ill-health he not only quit the EP job but Ten and TV altogether (his memoir made for great, pretty well balanced reading). The Sunrise crew proved there’s no love lost with their former boss. The ABC cuts were deep and not as swift as they could have been – and shouldn’t have been required in the first place.
Foxtel looked to sure up their overseas deals and make themselves more palatable to a cost-conscious market ahead of the SVOD announcements toward the end of 2014 and continued to supply not only the best from the US studios but also developed some crackers locally – and their “Express from the US” process ensured same day delivery to sate even the the most demanding of TV appetites. SBS proved live sport in HD is possible week to week while continuing specialist and niche programming that sets it apart from *all* the other networks. They also continued to be the most tech-savvy of the FTA broadcasters with their excellent On-Demand service available on more platforms than any other PLUS a growing library of movies available to watch for free.
Freeview Plus launched – and like all TV technologies it was available to so few sets it barely rated a blip on the market.
All this and we’re still watching more TV than ever.
It’s been a year of televised surprises and disappointments, of reboots and plagiarisms, of drama and reality Reality REALITY… our expectations again raised the bar and with a few exceptions we were let down again and again (those exceptions though were pretty awesome). This is MolksTVTalk’s annual Year In Review…
Best: True Detective [Showcase]
(Notable mentions: House of Cards S02 [Showcase]; Fargo [SBS one]; The Roast [ABC2]; Utopia [ABC]; INXS Never Tear Us Apart [Ch7]; Rectify [SBS one]; Reality Check [ABC1]; Wentworth S02 [SoHo]; The Doctor Blake Mysteries S02 [ABC1]; The Agony series [ABC1]; My Kitchen Rules S05 [Ch7]; Homeland S04 [Ch10]; Game Of Thrones S04 [Showcase]; The Project [Ch10]; Secrets & Lies [Ch10]; Modern Family S04/S05 [Ch10]; Upper Middle Bogan S02 [ABC1]; It’s A Date S02 [ABC1]; The Feed [SBS2]; Shaun Micallef’s Mad As Hell S03/S04 [ABC1]; Party Tricks [Ch10]; Masters Of Sex S02 [SBS]; Offspring S05 [Ch10]; Puberty Blues S02 [Ch10]; The Newsroom S03 [Showcase]; Have You Been Paying Attention S02/S03 [Ch10]; The Block Fans v Faves/S05 [Ch9]; The Walking Dead S05 [FX]; Dirty Laundry Live S02 [ABC2]; Vikings S02 [SBS]; The Moodys [ABC]; The Blacklist S02 [Ch7]; In The Flesh S02 [SBS2]).
Matthew McConaughy & Woody Harrelson deliver two stunning performances, along with a script that was spell-binding. Week to week it was must-watch television and we were drip-fed details to keep us engaged. Two broken men seeking redemption set against a backdrop of southern sweat. A bleak environment devoid of glamour and our anti-heroes seeking to self-destruct at any moment. What a physical transformation of McConaughy’s Cole as the narrative jumps forward and back in time with him recounting the story! This is a must-own, must-watch DVD box set if you missed it (hell, even if you didn’t it’s worth owning & rewatching). Also congratulations to Hungry Beast alumni Patrick Clair for his Emmy for the opening titles.
Worst: The Big Adventure [Ch7]
(Notable mentions: Bringing Sexy Back [Ch7]; Fat Tony & Co [Ch9]; Dexter [Showcase]; Wonderland [Ch10]; The Amazing Race Australia v New Zealand [Ch7]; Two Broke Girls [Ch9]; A Place To Call Home [Ch7]; Schapelle [Ch9]; Mrs Brown’s Boys [Ch7]; Dating Naked [Eleven]; When Love Comes to Town [Ch9]; The Daily Edition [Ch7]; Beauty and the Geek Australia S06 [Ch7]; I Wanna Marry Harry [Ch10/Eleven]; The Biggest Loser Challenge Australia [Ch10]; Jonah from Tonga [ABC]).
Creating a new format is always risky, especially when you so liberally rip off one of the grandaddy’s of the genre. TBA never fired from the get go, because let’s face it – nobody wanted to watch someone dig a hole while cheered on by the other contestants whose hearts weren’t really in it. The tension was confected at best and the challenges far too samey (due largely in part to the same main apparatus used for each one). Even host Jason Dundas didn’t look like his heart was in it (despite giving it his best Probst). Someone won one million dollars and Australia couldn’t have cared. Special mention to Schapelle that suffered the fate of real life overshadowing it as Corby was pardoned/released (the telemovie was pretty awful so it’s best you didn’t watch).
Biggest disappointment: Network Ten
(Notable mentions: “No cuts to the ABC or SBS” becoming “dividend efficiencies” for both; Integrating public affairs into the nightly news bulletin [Ch7/Ch9]; Wake Up [Ch10]; Networks continually over-running programs – STILL [All Commercial FTA Networks]; Fat Tony & Co [Ch9]; The X Factor Australia [Ch7]; The Voice/The Voice Kids Australia [Ch9]; Good drama not getting eyeballs [All Networks]; Promos that giveaway major plot points [All Networks]; ).
For the second year running Ten take out this category for the sheer volume of missteps and mistakes. Pumping up Wake Up and promising it 5 years only to cancel it after 8 months; their continued commitment to Blunderland; TenPlay proving to be the hardest of the catch-up services to use let alone the content taking too long to appear online; More cuts affecting the newsroom further, including the reduction of camera teams and more staff sent elsewhere. So many body blows building on the network that the only ray of hope comes from a possible takeover bid by a consortium of Foxtel and Discovery… and yet maybe that was Rupert/Lachlan Murdoch’s plan in the first place?
Biggest surprise: TIED: The Bachelor Australia [Ch10] & The Real Housewives of Melbourne [Arena]
(Notable mentions: Dirty Laundry Live [ABC2]; Wentworth S02 [SoHo]; Adam Boland quitting TV; House Rules S02 [Ch7]; My Kitchen Rules S05 [Ch7]; Osher Gunsberg back on TV; Studio 10 [Ch10]; Fargo [SBS one]; Big Brother S03 [Ch9]; All reality finales way down on previous seasons).
The Bachelor Australia had some great moments in its second season (Dirty Street Pie, anyone?) but it was Blake’s proposal to “winner” Sam that was then undone as the finale went to air with the news the Bach had recanted and instead was in love with the third-placed Louise. CUE CONTROVERSY AND OUTRAGE. It was the best thing that could have happened to the franchise for Ten – it’s confirmed The Bachelor Australia will return in 2015 AND we’ll get a season of The Bachelorette Australia. Nothing could have prepared us for TRHOM. Nothing. It stretched beyond vacuous and revealed to us a world that nobody but the most repugnant would aspire to. Yet we could not turn away. (Just because it’s a surprise doesn’t mean the show was good.)
Snuck under the radar: The Roast [ABC2]
(Notable mentions: The Feed [SBS2]; Dirty Laundry Live [ABC2]; The Goldbergs [Ch7]; Rectify [SBS one]; Santo, Sam & Ed doing anything; This is Littleton [ABC2]; Good Game [ABC2]; Gotham [Ch9]; Fargo [SBS one]; Vikings S02 [SBS]; Julia Zemiro’s Home Delivery [ABC]).
Tom Glasson, Alex Lee, Mark Humphries, Nich Richardson, Clarke Richards, Jazz Twemlow et al delivered weeknightly news satire that was sharp, direct, hilarious and incisive, all for the low cost to us of NOTHING. All sides of politics were lampooned (thanks Lambie and the Brick – with Wang!) and all sorts of news got the pasting it deserved. Sadly they were one of the victims of the ABC cuts though they’ve been offered one last swing with this gem.
Where The Bloody Hell Were You?: Sherlock S03 [Ch9]
(Notable mentions: The Taste [Ch9]; Batavia [Ch10]; Downton Abbey S05 [Ch7]; Ten’s ratings PERIOD).
It’s bad enough that this series airs in the UK from New Year’s Day and that Nine choose to delay it (anyone that wanted to see it and torrented it found it when it suited them) but to then stagger/poorly schedule the release of it so that nobody really knew when it was and bounce it around in the schedule because it’s not working? Straight out ludicrous. The ratings it received were directly related to the programming treatment it was given. Viewers are sick of this and with the rise of the SVOD services in 2015 they’ll vote with their feet/remotes/iPads.
Biggest move: The impending rise of Australian Subscription Video On-Demand (SVOD) services
(Notable mentions: Adam Boland quitting TV; ABC killing state-based 7:30’s; Ten signing Julia Morris for I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here for 2015; The introduction of Nielsen’s Twitter TV ratings; Grant Denyer finds a home on Ten as host of Family Fued – simulcast on Ten/ONE/Eleven).
The final quarter saw much posturing by broadcast TV, hugely concerned at the growing rumours of Netflix coming to Australia. Fairfax & Nine shot first, announcing Stan (no, nobody know why it’s called that) and locking in exclusively the Breaking Bad sequel Better Call Saul as their launch carrot. Seven jumped into bed with Foxtel’s Presto to announce Presto Entertainment would contain the best of Foxtel’s HBO offering along with a bunch of stuff Seven has output deals for. Then Netflix confirmed they are coming. All three will launch in 2015 around end Feb/early March and it’s game on.
Stupidest move: ABC white-anting the rebooted Spicks and Specks
(Notable mention: Ten promising to not jerk the knee on Wake Up and then doing just that; Ten reviving The Biggest Loser; Underutilised/poorly programmed multi-channels; Commercials failing to deliver sport in HD – IN 2014, people!; Freeview Plus; Rumours of Offspring S06 [Ch10]).
The new series of Spicks and Specks with Josh Earl, Ella Hooper and Adam Richard was, from the second or third ep, at least as good as the middle series of the original with Hills, Warhurst & Brough. The ABC really didn’t give it a chance to bed in, however as the S&S audience proved they will watch the *constant* repeats offered on ABC2 – the easy comparison meant the rusted on viewers (who wrote into every TV Guide complaining that the ABC should bring the old hosts back – even though they left of their own accord) didn’t even give the new show a chance. It settled in nicely and Earl’s charm easily matched Hills. A massive missed opportunity by Aunty after taking a year to confirm the cast. Oh, and by the way – how about we just let the Proudmans go with the pleasant memories we now all share, huh?
Best Repeat: Fargo [SBS one]
(Notable mention: Breaking Bad [ABC2]; The Walking Dead [SBS one]; Doctor Who [ABC1/ABC2]; Agony Uncles/Aunts [ABC1]; ABC iview’s summer binge options).
Such a gem it deserved the repeat, and kudos to SBS for giving it another life toward the end of the year. Another box set to own and re-watch at will. Allison Tolman, Colin Hanks, Billy-Bob Thornton and Martin Freeman all bring that touch of Minnesota nice to life in a way that had us looking forward to the next (and every) “aw jeez”.
2014 was the year of: A sense of growing panic from the commercial FTA broadcasters.
Foxtel dropped their prices in November to make them far more competitive and compelling. The SVOD services nailed their colours to the mast and their intentions in press releases. The Top 50 shows are full of sport and reality TV (only two dramas featured – the INXS miniseries and the Rebecca Gibney telemovie The Killing Field). While it’s far from critical mass more people are sourcing their TV outside the linear broadcast model and the SVOD services will only further it. Their dependence on sport and reality TV can only keep the audience interested for so long… especially when they refuse to deliver live sport (a staple of the Australian TV landscape) in high definition. 2014 was the year for you to prepare thyselves – because it’s all gonna get up in your face in 2015.