Maybe you can answer something for me. When did our TV networks stop producing local content? I can’t think of an exact time when they decided to focus more on overseas shows (except for when 7 axed Blue Heelers), but in the last year it’s happened, and now it seems like original Australian content has all but disappeared. All we’re left with are game shows and reality TV, and it’s annoying me. What’s happened to our dramas, our comedies? Doesn’t our industry deserve supporting?
In particular what 7 has done this year is unforgivable. They’ve put all of their top-rating programs on in the first half of the year, an almost unbeatable line-up. Grey’s Anatomy, Desperate Housewives, Brothers & Sisters, Heroes, Prison Break, 24, Lost, Bones… noticing a pattern yet? They’re all US imports, big-budgeted and quite similar. It’s a schedule so crowded that 7 has put 24 – the best drama on TV – on at 10.30 at night! But there are few Australian shows in their schedule; only Dancing With the Stars and All Saints of particular note.
One problem I have is that because their line-up is so similar, people might get sick of their shows and stop watching. But even more than that, it shows such little support for the Australian entertainment industry. The most popular Aussie shows are Dancing With the Stars, Australian Idol, 20 to 1, Border Security; and the only dramas on any of the 3 major networks right now are All Saints and McLeod’s Daughters, discounting the soaps. Could you have imagined that 10 years ago?
I worry about it because I’m not sure how actors, directors, writers, etc., are supposed to get work when their industry has basically decided not to support them. How are we supposed to tell stories, important stories that speak of the Australian culture and spirit, without a venue to tell them in? Already many of our actors have moved into hosting positions because the shows aren’t there for them.
The networks seem to be gambling on expensive overseas shows for their ratings, balancing that with local content that is cheap to produce and popular – Dancing With the Stars, Australian Idol, 20 to 1, etc. But even most of these shows aren’t really local; they’re based on overseas formats. I find it infuriating. Ten is the only network to have produced anything really new and good in the last few years, with Tripping Over and Thank God You’re Here. Add to that Foxtel’s Love My Way, and that’s it. But why should we have to go to Foxtel and pay TV? It’s unforgivable. I’m not even a big fan of past Australian shows, but to have such a barren wasteland is just unforgivable. Isn’t there a mandate that the networks have to show a certain percentage of original local programming each week? I’d be amazed if they’re adhering to it.
If newspapers are any judge then perhaps more people are starting to feel the way I do, so maybe we’ll see a change soon. I know 7, 9 and 10 are all planning several telemovies for later this year; a start. I just hope we’ll see more shows like Thank God You’re Here in the future – something different, funny and Australian. If we could have more shows like Thank God You’re Here, then maybe we could leave this slump behind us. But I won’t hold my breath.