There is, as always, a wide assortment of Australian television programs in the pipeline this year. It is no secret that this nation, oh ye of convict heritage, rather enjoys crime shows. Even for crime lovers that itch will be scratched with surprising regularity, as you will see in the list below.
Here are ten Australian TV shows arriving on screens in 2018. I have limited the scope of this list to scripted productions, with one exception.
Mystery Road (ABC TV)
Is Aaron Pederson becoming the great Australian alpha male of his generation? It’s hard to think of a better actor to fill boots previously occupied by the likes of Chips Rafferty and Jack Thompson. Pederson – for whom heavy-hearted gravitas seems to weep from his pores – will reprise his role as the embittered alcoholic detective Jay Swan, played in two neo-western films written and directed by Ivan Sen: 2013’s Mystery Road and 2016’s Goldstone. The reins have been handed over to director Rachel Perkins (Jasper Jones, Redfern Now) for a six-part spin-off.
Picnic at Hanging Rock (Foxtel)
Foxtel’s highly anticipated series will re-adapt Joan Lindsay’s legendary 1967 novel, with international drawcards in the casting of Natalie Dormer (Game of Thrones) and Yael Stone (Orange is the New Black). The show will inevitably be compared to director Peter Weir’s dreamy 1975 masterpiece. Foxtel recruited three directors – Amanda Brotchie, Michael Rymer and Larysa Kondracki – which in itself indicates the absence of a strong, personal directorial vision. This is an issue across television, where piecemeal team-based approaches diminish the integrity of the auteur.
Australian Gangster (Seven)
The official synopsis of Channel Seven’s crime drama, penned by Two Hands writer/director Gregor Jordan (above), reads: “A wild tale of gangster ambition where the Instagram generation and Westie underworld collide with Sydney’s glamorous social elite.” Daina Reid will direct; she helmed the knockout 2017 series Sunshine, fusing multicultural drama crime with underdogs sports yarn.
Mr Inbetween (Foxtel)
The first Australian production from FX, the American cable TV network with a huge array of hits, is a curious choice: a sequel, of sorts, to the 2005 micro budget mockumentary The Magician, a lean crime drama with an edgy sense of humour and a hitman protagonist – not unlike the 1992 Belgian film Man Bites Dog. Nash Edgerton, director of the criminally under-watched 2008 neo-noir The Square, the upcoming Gringo (starring his brother Joel, Charlize Theron and David Oyelowo) and several Bob Dylan music videos, will direct six 30 minute episodes, with, one expects from his oeuvre, punch and flair.
Muslims Like Us (SBS)
Reality TV is the dirge of television, but I suppose an Australian version of Muslims Like Us might warrant a squiz. Dubbed ‘Muslim Big Brother’, the series will film 10 Australian Muslims around the clock as they live in a shared house for a week, presumably prodded at all hours by drama-hungry producers. The original BBC series generated fiery debate in and outside the Muslim community; SBS are no doubt hoping for (and will likely generate) a similar response.
Underbelly Files: Chopper (Nine)
Talk about big shoes to fill. Aaron Jeffery will play the notorious, ear-less underworld figure Mark ‘Chopper’ Read – and thus inevitably be compared to Eric Bana’s brilliant, dizzying performance as the same character in the 2000 film Chopper. Nobody can say he wasn’t warned.
Safe Harbour (SBS)
The premise of this four-part psychological thriller suggests a politicised Dead Calm: friends on a yacht trip encounter a broken-down fishing boat full of asylum seekers en route to Australia. Filmed and set in Brisbane, Safe Harbour emerges from showrunner/writer Belinda Chayko (Barracuda, Secret City) and director Glendyn Ivin (Seven Types of Ambiguity, the feature film Last Ride). The cast includes the excellent, always magnetic Ewen Leslie, not adequately recognised as one of the finest Australian actors of his generation.
Bite Club (Nine)
According to the official synopsis, this Sydney-shot crime thriller follows two detectives who, after surviving a shark attack, “join forces to hunt the ultimate predator…the serial killer who is also hunting them.” Does that mean the serial killer is the shark? Or somebody working on behalf of the shark? If not, what’s the shark got to do with the price of fish anyway? Directors Jennifer Leacey, Geoff Bennett, Wayne Blair and Peter Andrikidis will presumably get to the bottom of it.
Jack Irish series 2 (ABC TV)
Guy Pearce plays the titular, down in the mouth gumshoe and debt collector as a kind of long lost Australian descendant of Humphrey Bogart. After three telemovies closely based on Peter Temple’s best-selling crime novels, Jack Irish made a smooth transition to a meatier six part format in 2016. The new series will involve nefarious pharmaceutical companies, Pearce’s long-suffering (anti)hero inevitably risking life and limb in pursuit of the truth.
Pine Gap (ABC, Netflix)
Top secret defence facilities have ‘The Truth is Out There’ written all over them. Commissioned by ABC and Netflix, showrunner Greg Haddrick and co-writer Felicity Packard’s political thriller is set in and around the mystery-shrouded base near Alice Springs. The story may or may not involve a civilian plane shot down while travelling over the titular location; Netflix’s official press release had some fun pretending to redact pertinent information.