TV Review: 2013 The year ahead in TV - Hope 103.2

TV Review: 2013 The year ahead in TV

More of the same TV for 2013

By Mark HadleyWednesday 23 Jan 2013TV and StreamingReading Time: 5 minutes

It’s hard to read the media releases regarding this year’s TV programming and not emerge as exhausted as if you’d already seen every show there is to come. That’s not because the networks have provided extensive descriptions; it’s just that everything they spruik sounds like something that’s come before. 2013 looks set to become the year of the safe, the sad and the seen-it. So it’s more important than ever to keep your eyes peeled for the few titles that could continue to make free-to-air TV something worth valuing.

Downton Abbey returns with series 3 in 2013

Seven – The Verdict
Six years ago the Seven Network slew Kerry Packer’s giant, taking the title of prime-time leader from Nine. With coffers bursting from its increased ad revenue it can afford big-budget titles like Revenge, Packed To The Rafters and My Kitchen Rules. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t mistakes to be made.

  • Lauded: Downton Abbey – The third series of this international success continues to track social changes in the Earl of Grantham’s household. Downton promises to promote service and sacrifice over personal gain to an increasingly perplexed 21st century. 
  • Local: A Place To Call Home – The Packed To The Rafters team provides another place to look for the values of a bygone era. Set in rural 1950s Australia, Noni Hazelhurst shows us that in a small town big reputations have to be backed by actions to be believed. 
  • Laughable: Celebrity Splash – “Celebrities perform complicated dives from varying heights with the assistance of professional diving instructors.” Well, I guess that’s one way of thinning out what passes for talent in this country.

Nine – The Verdict
Nine is not so much battling with Seven for first place as fighting to avoid third. After demonstrating in 2012 that even the Olympics can be turned into a ratings disaster, the network is turning to tried-and-tested formulas like Big Brother, The Block and Celebrity Apprentice to win the day. Will it be enough?

  • Lauded: The Voice – The second season of the first talent show to make helping its contestants a part of the competition will return minus Keith Urban. While the Aussie crooner heads for American Idol his seat will be warmed by Ricky Martin.
  • Local: Power Games – The story of the struggle between the Packer and Murdoch media empires. Considering the producers eulogised Packer in Howzat I’m hoping they’ll be a bit more balanced this time around. 
  • Laughable: Underbelly Squizzy – In their continuing search for sleaze, the Underbelly producers are presenting us with little known crooks from the 1920s. Another attempt to pass sex and violence off as informative programming.

Whitlam - Power and the Passion

SBS – The Verdict
True to its charter SBS is planning a year of multicultural insights and alternative input. A much-needed federal boost has freed up more funding for drama. Highlights include Who Do You Think You Are and Better Man. But ‘culture’ is something you can have too much of. 

  • Lauded: Mad Men – The HBO juggernaut that reveals the inner workings of Madison Avenue ad executives in the 1960s returns. Not only great drama, it lifts the lid on how we still try to manipulate each other commercially and personally. 
  • Local: Once Upon A Time In Punchbowl – Looking forward to this follow-up on the same series set in Cabramatta in 2012. Love begins with understanding. In 2012 we learned about the trials of being Vietnamese; this year we turn a sympathetic eye towards the Lebanese.
  • Laughable: Housos – A comedy series based around characters living in government housing estates. Is there really any way to do a show like this and not end up laughing at the poor?

Ten – the Verdict
The writing was on the wall in 2012 when Ten announced it would be shrinking its newsrooms; now ‘Don’t call me serious’ is engraved on the front door. But if you dust off the fluff to come – Modern Family, Masterchef, The Project – there are still a few gems to find. 

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  • Lauded: Batavia – Peter Fitzsimons best-selling book about the wreck of the Batavia and the human horrors that took place in the months following arrives as a mini-series. Fitz may be an ardent opponent of the Gospel but his story will still demonstrate the darkness at the heart of humanity.
  • Local: Mr and Mrs Murder – Shaun Micallef and Kat Stewart start as industrial cleaners by day and amateur sleuths by night. I love Micallef in these quasi-serious roles and look forward to seeing how he’ll help satisfy our undeniable appetite for justice TV.
  • Laughable: Reef Doctors – Lisa McCune in an even more contrived drama than Blue Heelers or Sea Patrol. “Set on the picturesque Great Barrier Brief, Reef Doctors centres on Sam Stewart, an accomplished doctor who runs the remote Hope Island Clinic.” Look out for the totally unexpected love affair by episode three.


Paper Giants - Magazine Wars
ABC – The Verdict
There was a time when the ABC was looked on by the commercial networks as the poor cousin of the family. But thanks to a determination to pursue quality over ratings it’s anticipating the return of talent like Spicks and Specks, Louis Theroux and Chris Lilley. Yet Auntie can still show taste equal to the family’s most eccentric octogenarian. 

  • Lauded: Paper Giants – Magazine Wars – Welcome back Rob Carlton as Kerry Packer and the true story of the battle to win the women’s magazine market in Australia. The Birth Of Cleo was fascinating; this promises to be just as revealing as we delve into the world of commercialised gossip.
  • Local: Whitlam – The Power And The Passion – A two-part dramatic examination of one of Australia’s most significant leaders, and also the people he led. We love to hail someone as the new messiah and hang them when they fail. Clearly as a nation we’re longing for someone we haven’t met yet.
  • Laughable: Wonders Of Life – The origins of life from a physicist’s perspective? Once again the ABC will spend five episodes making the mistake that just because we understand how something came about, we assume we know why we are here.