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Biopics: The big TV trend

When Molly airs, it will kick off another year of miniseries based on the lives of Australian personalities – a trend that isn’t showing signs of slowing.


In early 2014, Australians gathered around their television sets and watched as the rise of one of Australia’s iconic bands played out on their screens.

The combination of nostalgia, drama and memory-laced music proved to be an intoxicating mix, as Channel 7’s INXS: Never Tear Us Apart became an immediate hit. It averaged 3.1 million viewers across the two episodes (metro + regional)*, but the follow-on impact was also felt.

Sales of INXS music exploded after the first episode aired, with The Very Best compilation hitting no. 1 on the ARIA charts – the first time the band had topped the charts in 24 years. And it didn’t just resonate with Australians. The miniseries went onto sell to most of the major territories as well, including the US, France, Spain and Sweden.

Sure, miniseries or telemovies based on famous Australians is not a new concept. They have covered everything from Graham Kennedy (The King, 2007) to the magazine industry (Paper Giants: The Birth of Cleo, 2011). But particularly in the last several years, and post-INXS: Never Tear Us Apart, the popularity of this programming has increased.

Screen Australia Production Investment Manager Tim Phillips, who worked with the team behind the Molly miniseries, says the format is attractive to broadcasters because it can create a must-see event.

“Biopics are perfectly positioned for two-part ‘event’ telemovies, because they come with built-in marketing power and audience engagement,” he says.

It makes sense, but the proof is in the pudding. Last year, all three of the top-rated Australian TV dramas were based on recognisable Australians – Catching Milat, Peter Allen: Not the Boy Next Door and House of Hancock.

“Based on the ratings, audiences have said ‘we want them’ and the broadcasters are reacting to that,” Mr Phillips says.

And the trend shows no sign of abating – certainly not this year.

First up, there’s Molly, based on iconic music industry figure Ian “Molly” Meldrum. The soundtrack to the two-part series, titled Do Yourself a Favour, was certified GOLD in early January – more than a month before the series even was set to air.

And apart from Molly, Channel 7 is set to make a telemovie about Paul Hogan, Channel 9 is developing an Alan Bond miniseries, and Ten will have the Brock miniseries.

With such a rich and varied assortment of Australian personalities throughout history to mine, it seems so long as audiences continue to demand these stories, broadcasters will continue to deliver.

Molly will air on Channel 7 at 8.30pm on Sunday 7 February.

Source: OzTAM and RegionalTAM, 5-city-metro, combined markets, total people, consolidated.

Metropolitan data is copyright to OzTAM and Regional data is copyright to RegionalTAM and may not be reproduced, published or communicated in whole or part without the prior consent of OzTAM or RegionalTAM.

*Metro viewers totalled 2.2 million