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The Age

Summer in the sitting room

Date: 28/11/1996
Words: 1318
          Publication: The Age
Page: 5
Summer is usually TV's least appealing season. But, as LISA MITCHELL reports, the networks will change all that this year.

PRIME-time creatures of habit wonder what they will do without a weekly shot of Blue Heelers. And who wants to watch the news without Briiian, they whine. But fear not, there is good news ahead, this summer. Beginning December, programmers have scheduled some promising US and British programs, local specials and a sports line-up to sate the appetites of armchair spectators.

It is a good time, broadcasters say, to try out new programs that can be carried through to prime ratings time the next year, if successful.

This year, the networks are going out of their way to fend off boring-telly syndrome - and prevent a drift to pay TV and videos. Here is a summary of the best of summer:

SBS: viewers are chomping at the bit this time of year. The broadcaster looks upon the networks' programming siesta as a time to pick up regular viewers, and stockpiles its best offerings for December-January, according to head of television, Sawsan Madina.

The station kicks off with an infotainment-style program on Australia's multicultural cuisine and innovative food industry that goes to air 21 December, called A Food Lover's Guide to Australia.

Interviewer Andrea Stretton has lured Australia's most private personality, Judy Davis, from hiding for a rare chat on Masterpiece on 23 December. And starting in January is House Gang, a six-part comedy series about a father and spoilt daughter who move in with three intellectually disabled teenagers and their female bikie social educator.

To follow up on Hitler, its highest rating program that screened last summer, SBS will screen Hitler's Henchmen in January, a documentary series about the men who aided Hitler's rise to power.

Five young Australians of non-English-speaking backgrounds give their views on racism, sexual attitudes, violence and media representation in About Us: Colour Bars, an SBS Independent commission that goes to air in February.

TEN: repeats are back with a vengeance this summer with reruns of NYPD Blue, The Nanny, The Simpsons, Seinfeld, and X Files. Savannah and Beverly Hills 90210 will continue with current series, and new series of Baywatch and Seaquest begin.

Ten's highlight will be Boston Common (into its second series in the US) about sibling southerners who move to Boston: she goes to college, he works on campus and spoils all her freshman fun. Steve Paymer, the writer-producer for Mad About You and The Single Guy has a bit-part as a neighbor. In the wings for 1997 are the new drama series State Coroner, with Wendy Hughes, and Big Sky, with Gary Sweet.

ABC: hopefully Frontline fans have forgotten the second series, which screened in 1995. Frontline repeats will run on Monday nights through summer. Otherwise, the pre-Christmas line-up is lively, with one-hour specials on Tap Dogs and Alanis Morissette in concert, and a chronicle of Jackson Browne's career to coincide with his Australian tour.

Fans of the plasticine animation duo Wallace and Gromit can see the latest Oscar-winning feature by Nick Park, A Close Shave in early December. New episodes of The Bill, the British medical series Cardiac Arrest and the quirky, small-town drama Heartbeat are set to go.

Taking Over the Asylum is being given a second chance after the show lost its plum spot earlier this year to election coverage.

Oliver's Travels is a highlight, says Hugh McGowan, network programmer, of the five-part, one-hour each, drama series from the BBC. Alan Bates (Women in Love and An Englishman Abroad) stars as Oliver, a redundant, middle-aged lecturer who is passionate about jazz and crosswords and falls in love with a policewoman. Together, they embark on a journey of discovery across the United Kingdom.

Silent Witness, pegged for Fridays at 8.30pm, is a new eight-part BBC series also worth a look, about a tough and beautiful forensic psychologist. It courses the same investigative vein as Prime Suspect.

NINE: programming manager Len Downs is excited about a new British series called Bramwell, which collected 10 million viewers in the UK.

The show is a period piece about a woman who endeavors to become a surgeon in a man's world.

The other drawcard is Friends. Nine takes over the series from Seven in December with new episodes, ". . . probably in the same timeslot", says Downs.

Two comedies on trial (both in their second series in America) are The Drew Carey Show, a sitcom, and Caroline in the City about a cartoonist searching the Big Apple for love and good material.

A little more of the same from Nine with the Dangerfield series which Downs describes as "another Heartbeat" and Touched By An Angel, in its third series in the US, a show in the Michael Landon, Highway to Heaven mould.

For light entertainment, there will be several specials of Time Out For Serious Fun, a one-off hit last summer showing Australians in their element: doing wild things in their spare time. New series of Dr Quinn: Medicine Woman, Married With Children, Bless This House, Hanging With Mr Cooper and Step By Step will also run.

SEVEN: it's all cops and robbers, starting with The Sentinel, a series about a Washington cop with the acute sensory powers of an ancient sentinel.

Don Johnson is Nash Bridges, a San Francisco police inspector with the private life from hell: two ex-wives, a teenage daughter, and a former partner, turned private eye.

And Out of the Blue tackles the cesspit of British urban crime through the eyes of plain clothes detectives. It's a jungle of rape, murder, child abuse and drug use.

Homicide: Life on the Street returns from last summer, a series about Baltimore homicide detectives who wrangle with city snipers, a frenzy of arson and the shooting of a 10-year-old boy.

Seven is very keen on the "best of" scenario and will run the best episodes of Home Improvements, Great Outdoors, Who Dares Wins, Full Frontal, and Emergency 000.

The network will win sports fans hands down with the 1996 Greg Norman Holden Classic, 28 November to 1 December, and a tennisfest beginning 5 January with the Sydney International at White City, in a lead up to the Ford Australian Open, 13 January to 26 January.

Band of Gold, the British series that was pulled off air recently, returns with a five-day consecutive screening beginning 1 December.

For younger viewers, there is a new series of Muppets specials, called Muppets Tonight.

So there is no excuse, absolutely no excuse, for whingeing, whining, or appreciating the daylight savings we worked so hard to extend. Back to your box.



'In concert' specials on Tap Dogs, Jackson Browne, Alanis Morissette

'Elle McFeast New Year's Eve Special'

'Wallace & Gromit: A Close Shave'

(all December)

'Don Carlos' - special (15 Dec)

'Oliver's Travels', series (Jan)


'Greg Norman Classic Golf',

(28 Nov)

'Homicide: Life on the Street', detective series (1 Dec)

'Band of Gold', UK series (1 Dec)

'Brotherly Love', US sitcom

(6 Dec)

'Ford Australian Open Tennis',

(13 Jan)


'Twisted Tales', series (2 Dec)

'Blankety Blanks' (3 Dec)

'Time Out For Serious Fun', special

(4 Dec)

'Bramwell', UK medical series (5 Dec)

'Friends', second series (9 Dec)


'Baywatch', new series (4 Dec)

'Boston Common', US sitcom (5 Dec)

'Savannah', series continues

'Beverly Hills 90210', series continues


'Tales From a Suitcase', documentaries (from 15 Dec)

'Food Lovers Guide To Australia', series (from 21 Dec)

'Masterpiece: Stretton Meets

Judy Davis' (23 Dec)

'House Gang', comedy series (Jan)

'About Us: Colour Bars', documentary (February)

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