Also pushing into multi-genre territory is Hungry Ghosts, another four-part drama, with a cast including Bryan Brown, Ryan Corr, Justine Clarke and Clare Bowen as well as a host of less familiar Asian-Australian actors including Ferdinand Hoang, Gareth Yuen and Jillian Nguyen.
From Matchbox Pictures, this series – which was announced at last year’s Upfronts but is now due to air in the first quarter of 2020 (the delay being down to digital effects work) – “has an actual ghost story but is also authentically embedded in the Australian Vietnamese community in a way that audiences won’t have seen before,” said Heald.
SBS will again present a slate of challenging documentary programming in 2020, on topics including addiction, domestic violence, homelessness and immigration.
It will also offer what Heald insists is “a much stronger representation of Indigenous programs right across the network”, not just on NITV.
Leading that slate is First Wars, the third part in a trilogy of documentary series from director Rachel Perkins and production company Blackfella, following First Australians and First Contact.
Perkins said First Wars will examine “our most significant war”, the 150-year-long conflict between white settlers and Indigenous peoples “that shaped and defined Australia more than any other”.
Originally announced last year, the three-part series is slated to air in August and, Heald believes, will have a major impact on the national conversation about our history.
“It’s the first time the story of the frontier wars have been told,” he said. “It’s a landmark series that’s about delivering impacts and changing people’s attitudes.”
Also bound to spark a strong response is See What You Made Me Do, a three-part documentary series on domestic violence, presented by Jess Hill and based on her book of the same name. Produced by Northern Pictures, makers of Employable Me and Love on the Spectrum, this three-part series promises to “trace how a love story can end in murder” and seek solutions to this national pandemic.
Who Gets to Stay in Australia is an observational documentary series that follows real-life asylum seekers to the end of their attempts to find a home in Australia, and their reactions to the outcome. Addicted will follow 12 Australians as they seek treatment for their dependency issues.
Putting a lighter spin on the big issues is Come Fly With Me, a documentary series presented by Justine Clarke that traces the societal changes that have effected Australia in parallel with the rise of aviation – effectively treating the cabin as a microcosm of society at large.
Returning shows include Marry Me, Marry My Family, Filthy Rich & Homeless, Mastermind – and spin-off series Celebrity Mastermind – and Who Do You Think You Are?, with Lisa Wilkinson and Bert Newton among those whose family histories will go under the microscope.
Karl Quinn is a senior culture writer at The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald.