The Hits and Misses of 2012 – January to March

So very much has happened in such a little space of time. Now that we’re at the Easter break of the 2012 ratings season, it’s reasonable we take stock and have a look at what the networks have offered up so far this year. Not everyone has a My Kitchen Rules or Revenge in their back pocket to drop out and pillage the ratings at will. In fact, if we learned nothing else in the last 3 months, nobody other than Channel 7 does.

There’s been a lot of TV come and go and while some metaphorical cream has risen to the top, some other cream has been weighed down by the larger metaphorical clot of cream that has overtaken the top of the glass, allowing very little other cream to fulfil it’s purpose and breach the metaphorical glass of ratings milk and have it’s moment in the metaphorical sun. It’s not always about ratings though, even though I just metaphorically suggested it was.

Here’s my evaluation of the shows we’ve seen, enjoyed, ignored and hated. Let me know if I’m wrong or if I’ve missed anything – because while I watch A LOT of TV, I don’t watch all of the TV. I know you watch some of it too.

Hits:

My Kitchen Rules (Ch7) – Superb casting ensured that this third season of the show redeveloped to see off MasterChef was going to succeed. Be it the Princess or Dr Evil or that bitchy guy from Victoria who couldn’t cook everyone weighed in with favourites to love and hate. The audience loved it and the network loved it more, because any show that across four or five nights a week averages 1.7 million viewers… it’s just going to smash the other networks.
Revenge (Ch7) – The millenials answer to MELROSE PLACE was built up through strong advertising during the tennis over summer, and built a panting audience that was willing to accept that rich people are back-stabbing bitches and a girl who’d lost everything could exact revenge on those who ruined her life. By using the millions of dollars her father left her, along with detailed information on how to exact that revenge. The acting is horrible; the plot grease-paper transparent; and it’s oh so good.
Please Marry My Boy (Ch7) – Riding on the coat tails of MKR, PMMB showed that reality dating shows aren’t dead as long as you have a decent twist. Given there’s already casting calls for season two – will it be the same success the second time around, or will few be interested in a format that is, essentially, a one-twist wonder.
The Great Mint Swindle (Ch9) – Cordell Jigsaw’s first turn into scripted drama and it was a corker. Great cast, great story and that story well told provided Ch9 with one of it’s few highlights for the first quarter of 2012.
Modern Family (Ch10) – Anchoring Ch10’s “Super Sunday” as the only show with form in the line-up and the new season didn’t disappoint. Rating consistently over one million viewers and proving that when you stick your neck out and program an evening and promote it, it mostly works out.
New Girl (Ch10) – A priceless pilot, a pretty average second episode that has, week on week, improved the same way it did when it aired in the US. Along with MODERN FAMILY it held “Super Sunday” together and continues to deliver encouraging ratings even against MKR and 60 Minutes.
Homeland (Ch10) – The BEST drama we’ve seen so far this year. Maintained a strong one million viewer average and had to work hard for it, going against the tennis, the cricket and Ch7’s Sunday night stalwart BONES. Season two cannot come quick enough for viewers and Ch10.
Agony Uncles (ABC1) – Even with only two episodes down this charming show is the talk of the watercooler/social-media-network-of-choice. Entirely self-effacing with a delightful hint of self-deprecation, topped with lashings of brutal honesty. Watch it; iview it; do what you need to see it.
Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries (ABC1) – A surprise in that even up against the winter sport monoliths of NRL and AFL, Miss Fisher is proving that sometimes counter-programming works a treat. A solid performer due largely to the authenticity of the stories to the original books, and a cast lapping up the opportunity to play in early 19th century Melbourne.
Danger 5 (SBS one) – Quirky isn’t a fair description. It’s straight out weird, but that’s the charm of this mixed genre WWII spy series. There’s elements layered into each episode that make them worth watching again at least three times over. Above all: Kill Hitler.

Conceded pass:

Sherlock (Ch9) – Season two of one of the best mini-series of 2010 (yes, it took that long to get made) was hampered mostly by the fact that Ch9 held onto it too long. Airing in the first three weeks of January in the UK but not until mid-February here in Australia meant lots of people had already seen it – or purchased the DVD and had it delivered AND seen it before it aired here. It would be a rookie mistake except that all the networks have form in this regard.
Planet America (ABC News 24) – If you’re an American political wonk in Australia, the best you’ve had before this was confusing 90 second reports in the nightly news bulletins. Even if you’re only slightly interested now you’ve got a 50-minute show that will not only educate you in regard to the American political process but keep you well informed as the primaries pass and the campaigns begin in earnest.
Woodley (ABC1) – Crushed under the weight of MKR it’s barely been able to take a breath. Network PR haven’t necessarily helped this delightful comedy from one of Australia’s best students of the physical genre get anywhere either. It’s too good to ignore and should be iview-ed immediately.
Adam Hills In Gordon Street Tonight (ABC1) – While it has struggled to get much attention for this run (a bus shelter campaign? Really?), the second season has matured and developed into our only prime-time variety program, and it’s really good. It benefited last year from the debacle that was LIVE FROM PLANET EARTH so with no counter-point in 2012 it’s almost been lost in the noise.
The Straits (ABC1) – Too many comparisons saying “It’s not THE SLAP” (well, duh) have meant this drama gem has been left untouched by many. An authentic modern drama in a time when we’re all too keen to look back, THE STRAITS is as intelligent and enjoyable as the Top End looks amazing thanks to great cinematography.
Kitchen Cabinet (ABC2) – Conversations with politicians as they cook a meal in their own home and then you eat with them? We can’t have the humanisation of those, those, those… people that work in Canberra. Yet Annabel Crabb made it a thoroughly delightful exercise. Burying it at 9:30pm on ABC2 did the show no favours.

Misses:

Excess Baggage (Ch9/GO!) – Completely maligned and suffered at the hands of tetchy executives who, while keen to invest a lot of money into a new spin on the celebrity weight loss genre, failed to realise that the audience don’t really watch until the last 4 weeks. It became the laughing stock of 2012, and the advertising campaign didn’t help it. It became a unit of measure once it was shunted over to digital multi-channel GO! (“Last night, MKR rated 25 Excess Baggages”) and yet somehow the didn’t dent the outer armour of self-belief of some celebrities involved. Crazy, huh?!
Sports Fever (Ch7/7mate) – A sober reminder that not everything a hit-maker like Working Dog creates turns to gold – though it is by far the best sports show on television today. Buried at 10:30pm it was never gonna make much of a go, but a late change that now sees it broadcast live on 7mate with a later repeat on Ch7 may reveal a deft touch by the network’s programming team, opening the show to a more discerning audience.
Alcatraz (Ch9) – Try as anyone might, since LOST it’s very hard for any sci-fi drama series to get a decent foothold. When you layer in a below average script and make each episode a near carbon copy of the first it’s never going to end well. ALCATRAZ also never really had a chance when lined up against REVENGE.
2 Broke Girls (Ch9) – More like “2 Boring Girls that aren’t funny and live an an entirely implausible situation”.
Biggest Loser Australia (Ch10) – Adding the “singles” element to the show, and hoping that people would hook up in the house (which they did) really didn’t offer anything new to what now looks to be a very tired reality genre. It was savaged in the ratings across the first couple of weeks but given Ch10 didn’t have a BIG BANG THEORY to fall back on like Ch9 did they stuck with it and are seeing some measured success (though not what they’d be looking for given the investment the network have made in it). Opening up dating opportunities for the public with the contestants added an extra special layer of ‘ew’ that builds on the early ad campaign for the show featuring the trainers in the buff. Because, after all, it’s all about them.
Young Talent Time (Ch10) – It led strong at the start of “Super Sunday” but couldn’t hold it, and has now been cast out to Friday nights pre-Glee. It’s nearly at the end of its first season and there’s serious questions as to if it should return… revamping a show that was a must watch for many families at it’s peak and expecting them all to tune in with their kids now isn’t a great strategy. This needs to build across a couple of seasons, and even pushing it into a Saturday night timeslot (like it was back in the day) to make it as accessible as possible to it’s target audience – tweens and the elderly.
It’s A Knockout (Ch10) – Why, HG? Why sell out like that and give us the disturbing new version of the 80’s classic that’s now a McDonald’s-sponsored mess? It was filmed in a skate park in Malaysia over 5 consecutive nights and it felt like it.
Outland (ABC1) – Apparently I and four others are the only ones that enjoyed Outland.

Too early to tell:

Pictures of You (Ch7) – A one episode preview after the MKR finale helped it rate over 1.5m viewers, but then resting it to return after the Easter ratings break seems like suicide. TV watching people don’t remember things – it’s what they’re trained to do. That’s why networks can repeat shows and they still rate well. It should get life in an earlier timeslot and, with the right promotion, should kill the competition because it’s a great show.
Mornings on 9 (Ch9) – David Campbell and Sonia Kruger are doing a bang up job in one of the hardest timeslots on TV – mid-mornings. Taking over from Kerri-Anne hurt a little, but the duo reek of positivity and are gnawing away at THE MORNING SHOW which hasn’t lost a show yet. Yet. Recent figures had MORNINGS win in a couple of east coast cities and while that’s hardly a landslide victory, it’s a beginning.
Breakfast (Ch10) – It’s not rating well, but when you’re competing for a total of less than one million viewers of a morning, the starting slice of your pie isn’t going to be big. The team have already undressed the set (it was pretty busy) and giving Paul Henry more opportunity to speak is a good if dangerous thing. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, and Ch10 need to stick with it and give it an opportunity to respond to the audience and change accordingly. If nothing else it momentarily put the wind up SUNRISE and TODAY which staves off complacency and adds phone-in prizemoney competitions.
Country Town Rescue (ABC1) – Too early to know if the audience will see this spectacular documentary for what it is: an authentic reflection of what actually happened when a shrinking country town did something to help save itself. Scripted reality has ruined the expectation of documentary television somewhat, but this eagle eyed view from the team at Zapruder’s Other Films is an absorbing watch.

Author: SteveMolk

I like TV. Have done since I was plonked down in front of Sesame Street & Play School as a kid in the 70's when we only had two channels. Now we have over 20 free to air channels. Keep up, people. You can contact me here or tweet me at: @MolksTVTalk

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4 Comments

  1. MKR – I was glued to this show but it had started to grate (the ‘suspense’, the snappy editing, the over wrought commentary, the hammy competitors). And silly me, seeking consistency in the judging standards — I think the result was bogus and in the end I loathed all the judges..ok, not Manu <3. Wont watch again but was a fun ride. Wouldnt ever consider watching MC cos all 3 judges are ugly. And thats a fact. Oops meant to say pompous, awkward and pretentious. And unattractive :)

    Homeland & Revenge were great – but they need to televise these when the seasons recommence in the US cos fans are downloading the series from the US. When a show is pretty good, who waits eagerly for a week? Not many, these days. I had already downloaded and watched both series with no ads before they screened in Oz.

    Forbrydelsen (the Danish version, NOT the US version) – SBS screened S1 & 2 back to back on SBS2. Its brilliant. Only show I can remember watching the credits all the way to the very end cos the music/graphics are so haunting.

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  2. Me and the gf were two others who loved Outland. It should have done better as it is a great show.

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  3. Really good write-up.
    My 3 favourite new shows have been (in no particular order, because I found it hard to rate them) Revenge, Homeland and New Girl.

    Adam Hills In Gordon Street Tonight is so under-rated (and under-watched judging by this year’s figures).
    Adam is a great entertainer and the audience involvement is often better than the guest interviews. Personal favourite so far was the Julia Morris interview, which descended into nonsense and ridiculous humour.

    Yawn 2 Broke Girls is unfunny.

    Sports Fever is just great but looks to have suffered death-by-timeslot syndrome already :(

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  4. Please Marry My Boy was cringeworthy TV at its best lol.

    Really enjoyed The Great Mint Swindle, anything with Grant Bowler in it is worth a watch.

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