Andrew Mercado on TV: iview, ABC’s Ferrone family + Gruen just getting better

ABC embraced the future before anyone else would, writes Andrew Mercado.

Killing Eve: Redefines genres as it switches effortlessly from workplace comedy to assassin mayhem – get on board, people!

In 2008, Nine axed Nightline and Sunday, Kate Ritchie left Home & Away and TEN launched So You Think You Can Dance Australia. Meanwhile, ABC was on fire, having its most successful ratings years ever, with a share of 17% and shows like Enough Rope, Spicks & Specks and even a doco about parrots all landing in the Top 10. Oh yeah, and it also started a catch-up service called iview.

Now celebrating its tenth anniversary, iview has been revamped and refreshed. In particular, it has followed SBS On Demand’s lead by offering original and quality dramas to binge online and the lineup has some absolute scorchers like Killing Eve, which is going to be in many Top 10 lists this year. Starring Grey’s Anatomy’s Sandra Oh and Doctor Foster’s Jodie Comer, this is an MI5 drama that redefines genres as it switches effortlessly from workplace comedy to assassin mayhem. Get on board people – everybody is going to be watching and talking about this show.

iview is the most popular catch-up service in Australia and why not? ABC embraced the future before anyone else would and its viewers, particularly the older ones, have adopted all new technology enthusiastically. It is no surprise that certain media outlets and networks are seething with jealousy about the ABC’s continuing popularity and some take every opportunity to run negative stories about it, usually “bias”. Aunty’s most devoted viewers, however, will fight to the death to keep the public broadcaster immune from Government interference and well funded enough to keep moving with the times.

One of ABC’s biggest hits right now is the delightful Back In Time For Dinner. The Ferrone family, who were tapped on the shoulder while out shopping and asked to audition, have been great to watch as they have navigated fashion, society and food. The youngest child, Olivia, has been a particular delight, bursting into tears at having to eat tripe in the 1950s but beside herself with excitement when lollies and cordial appeared in following decades. It is my fervent hope that Pete Evans and Sarah Wilson will never influence this child’s unbridled joy by trying to cut sugar from her diet again.

The original BBC Back In Time format has spun off into multiple series, with one covering 1900s to 1940s, the weekend and Christmas specials. That means there is plenty of scope for the ABC to do more of these and I am sure it will. Let’s also hope it is also having discussions about what to do with Gruen, also celebrating its tenth anniversary. It too has had multiple spinoffs (Gruen Nation, Gruen Planet, Gruen Sweat and now just Gruen) and yet again, there is chatter that it may have reached the end of the line.

But I am calling bullshit because this season of Gruen has been as good as any before it. The chemistry between Wil Anderson, Russell Howcroft and Todd Sampson never gets old so why end when everyone is still peaking? Maybe Gruen needs to go Back In Time á la Mad Men. Or maybe there is a series about the media and all those that get nasty because they can’t cope with change.

Top photo: Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer in Killing Eve

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