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Drama & Docos set to shine in 2017

The Australian broadcasters, networks, pay TV and SVOD companies have revealed what 2017 holds and the result paints an exciting picture for local audiences.

ABC's stable of talent featuring in 2017

From biopics about Olivia Newton-John and Alan Bond to reimagining the iconic books Wake in Fright and Picnic at Hanging Rock, creating new dramas with The Warriors, and a thought-provoking documentary series on racism in Australia, prepare your eyeballs for an onslaught of quality content.

In 2015/16 Australian TV drama enjoyed a record year – across the number of titles that went into production, the total budget, and total expenditure (up 25% to $376 million).

More than half of the 58 TV drama titles that began production in 2015/16 were funded by Screen Australia.

Screen Australia CEO Graeme Mason says after a bumper year the agency is looking forward to being involved in more ground-breaking television.

“Television shines right into our living room, or onto our phones and computers. It is a daily part of our lives and incredibly valuable in shaping the national conversation – as well as how we view ourselves,” he says.

“From documentary to drama to children’s TV, another excellent year of telly awaits us. And Screen Australia is proud to play a part in bringing that to screen.”

Here’s a look at the Screen Australia-supported titles hitting screens in 2017:

Seven Network have a strong focus on the stories of iconic Australians. Hot on the heels of this year’s highest rating Australian TV drama Molly come three biopics: Olivia Newton-John, Warnie and Hoges about the singer/actress, cricketer and Crocodile Dundee himself, respectively. There’s also the second season of The Secret Daughter starring Jessica Mauboy and Blue Murder: Killer Cop, the sequel to the 1995 ABC series with Richard Roxburgh reprising his role as disgraced former detective Roger Rogerson.

At Nine Network, everyone’s favourite fish-out-of-water family are back for a second season with the popular Here Come the Habibs making its return in 2017. And from the same people who brought audiences the 2014 ratings hit House of Hancock comes House of Bond, a two-part biopic about the life of controversial business tycoon Alan Bond.

The line-up for Network Ten includes the highly anticipated TV adaptation of Kenneth Cook’s classic Australian novel Wake in Fright, which will air as a two-part series in 2017 with the cast still under wraps.

Across all the networks there are also a number of titles initially supported by Screen Australia which are now going into a second season that include Wanted (Seven), Doctor Doctor (Nine), and The Wrong Girl and Todd Sampson’s Body Hack (Ten).

On Foxtel, 2017 will bring with it the highly-anticipated TV series Picnic at Hanging Rock, which is based on the 1967 novel that - like Peter Weir’s classic film - will be reimagined for the screen. Also in TV, Foxtel has commissioned the character-driven TV drama Fighting Season about Australian soldiers returning from Afghanistan. The pay TV company and Screen Australia have also invested in the feature-length telemovie Australia Day, starring Bryan Brown and directed by Kriv Stenders (Red Dog), which looks at three diverse Australians whose lives collide in the heat of the national holiday. And in documentary, Foxtel has commissioned four-part series The Archibald for Foxtel Arts, which will follow artists and their subjects as they strive to win the iconic prize.

Meanwhile, Australian SVOD Stan has invested in original TV drama after the success of No Activity and the Screen Australia-supported adaptation Wolf Creek (which sold to Pop TV in the US), announcing four new TV series in development. One of these is the Screen Australia-supported Chaperones. Created by and starring comedy troupe Aunty Donna, who enjoyed huge success in 2016 with their YouTube series 1999Chaperones follows three deadbeats tasked with the day-to-day care of a child star. 

The ABC slate includes a diverse range of drama and documentary, boasting both familiar and new faces. Returning for second seasons are the popular sci-fi drama series Cleverman and doco Stop Laughing… This is Serious. The broadcaster’s generous offering of original titles includes Newton’s Law starring Claudia Karvan as a suburban solicitor who returns to the bar, comedy sports drama The Warriors about two Indigenous footy players thrust into the spotlight of professional AFL, and novel adaptation Seven Types of Ambiguity. Kids aren’t being left out, with disaster-comedy Trip for Biscuits airing on ABC Me in 2017. In documentary we can look forward to the dramatised exploration of the Torres Straight Islands with Blue Water Empire and the trials and tribulations of 14 students documenting their final school year in My Year 12 Life. In arts and culture, David Stratton’s Stories of Australian Cinema is set to hit screens as well as a series of documentaries that form part of the ABC TV and Screen Australia Art Bites initiative. Also coming to screens is the first title from another Screen Australia and ABC iview initiative, Long Story Short – a series called The Edge of the Bush from comedian Anne Edmonds 

SBS will continue to delve into Australia’s rich multiculturalism through thought-provoking documentaries and dramas that aren’t afraid to ask the tough questions. A three-part doco series called I’m Not Racist But… dives head first into this hot topic. The Tale of Two Weddings observes themes around the expectation of family, religion and culture in the modern world, while doco The Mosque ventures into the heart of the Muslim community with unprecedented access to the oldest-working mosque in the country. Filthy Rich and Homeless will focus on often overlooked social issues, as will the second season of ratings hit Struggle Street. Meanwhile Testing Teachers will follow six passionate people in their first year of teaching, and Shaun Micallef’s Stairway to Heaven has the TV personality questioning belief systems and trying to find the answers to life’s big questions. In drama, The Family Law is returning for a second season and there are two original series on offer as well: Safe Harbour is a four-part psychological thriller that tackles the topic of asylum seekers and refugees, while four-part crime drama Sunshine follows a talented young basketballer from Australia’s South Sudanese community who finds his NBA dreams suddenly at stake.

Screen Australia-supported titles

ABC SBS
Art Bites (initiative) A Tale of Two Weddings
Blue Water Empire Filthy Rich and Homeless
Cleverman series 2 I'm Not Racist But... : Date My Race
David Stratton’s Stories of Australian Cinema I'm Not Racist But... : Is Australia Racist?
My Year 12 Life I'm Not Racist But... : The Truth About Racism
Newton's Law Testing Teachers
Seven Types of Ambiguity The Family Law series 2
Stop Laughing... This is Serious series 2 The Mosque
The Edge of the Bush (Long Story Short) Safe Harbour
The Warriors Shaun Micallef's Stairway to Heaven
Trip for Biscuits Struggle Street
SEVEN NETWORK Sunshine
Blue Murder: Cop Killer FOXTEL
Hoges: The Paul Hogan Story Australia Day
Olivia Newton-John Fighting Season
The Secret Daughter Picnic at Hanging Rock
Warnie The Archibald
NETWORK TEN NINE NETWORK
Wake in Fright Here Come the Habibs series 2
STAN House of Bond
Chaperones (development commission)