My life is TV: 10’s drama guru Rick Maier on Murder & Bedrooms

• Maier has been at 10 for close to 20 years in two tours of duty

Network 10 is a big supporter of the independent production sector with more commissions than ever of everything from shiny floor shows and major reality franchises to quirky factuals and Aussie dramas.

Of the three FTA broadcasters, it has easily been the most adventurous and prolific commissioner of programs in 2019.

In terms of drama, shorter commissions are the staple these days. 10’s head of drama Rick Maier told Mediaweek the last drama it commissioned for 22 episodes was Wonderland.

“Shorter series is where the market has moved with financing and international sales. It’s actually more cost effective to make runs of less than 13 episodes.”

Maier has been at 10 for close to 20 years in two tours of duty, the current one now into its 13th year. He has a drama CV that would be hard to match:

The Secret She Keeps, Five Bedrooms, My Life is Murder, Playing for Keeps, Wake in Fright, Sisters, The Wrong Girl, Brock, Mary: The Making Of A Princess, Party Tricks, Secrets & Lies, Wonderland, Reef Doctors, Mr & Mrs Murder, Puberty Blues, Underground – The Julian Assange Story, Bikie Wars: Brothers in Arms, Offspring, Hawke, A Model Daughter – The Killing of Caroline Byrne, Rush and, of course, Neighbours.

Maier also looks after MasterChef Australia for 10, a format that adds about 60 episodes a year to his workload.

A recent successful short-run drama series for 10 was Five Bedrooms. The network will be hoping for the same sort of success with My Life Is Murder, which launches on Wednesday, July 17.

10 is also leading the way in more accurately measuring how audiences are consuming its content. The broadcaster has a ratings dashboard it distributes which collates the crowd across linear TV overnight plus timeshift, BVOD and encore.

For example the final episode of Five Bedrooms had a metro overnight audience of 475,000, but a week later 10 was able to report that had grown to 766,000.

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Hear 10’s Rick Maier talk with Mediaweek’s James Manning about Five Bedrooms, My Life Is Murder, MasterChef and much more.

Maier knows much of his audience aren’t able to watch overnight. “The shelf life of TV dramas is now very long. For our series Five Bedrooms people needed to watch from the start. Those that came to show by word of mouth and missed the first episode were able to go back via 10 play to catch up.”

But Maier also noted that for people who watch a series from launch, some still like to catch just one episode every week. “They like to anticipate, to look forward to each instalment.”

With My Life Is Murder, a drama from CJZ, people can watch out of order, perhaps except for the final episode, where there is a crime solved every week in less than an hour.

Setting the scene for My Life Is Murder, Maier explained the former homicide detective Alexa Crowe that series star Lucy Lawless plays: “We find out through the series that her husband was also a cop and he’s now deceased and she’s out of the game. She’s brought back in by Bernard Currie‘s character who says, ‘You’re the best in the business. We can’t solve this case. We need you.’ He teases her every episode. The setup is not unlike Mission Impossible. You get the brief at the start of each episode and there’s some tantalising hook there that gets her interested. Her brain then kicks into gear and the pleasure is seeing how she solves a crime.”

Mediaweek asked Maier how varied are the pitches that he receives for programs?

You can sell a pitch from a photograph. You can sell a pitch from the most detailed show bible. You can sell it from a comprehensive script. I like to read the script. It tells you whether the writer’s any good, it tells you whether the idea has merit, tells you whether the audience are going to stick with it.”

Once a program is commissioned what happens then?

Maier: “We then get the hell out of the way because the producer knows what they’re doing and we don’t. We can wander around on certain days, say hello to people, but basically we’ll let the professionals get on with it.”

Photos: Images from 10’s new My Life Is Murder with Lucy Lawless and Bernard Curry

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