Programs coming to ABC in 2019: Returning hits + new commissions

• 38 returning programs

The biggest program reveal at the ABC is perhaps news of the number of commissions of previous hits for 2019.

What is arguably the greatest drama success of 2019, Mystery Road, will be back for a second season.

After missing from the schedule this year, Utopia will be back for season four. Other returning comedies are Squinters, Rosehaven, Get Krack!n and The Letdown.

Other programs among the 38 returning programs (not counting the news and current affairs commissions) are:

Anh’s Brush With Fame (season 4), Back Roads (season 5), Black Comedy (season 4), Catalyst, Gardening Australia (30th anniversary), Glitch (season 3), Gruen (season 11), Hard Quiz (season 4), Harrow (season 2), Home Delivery (season 7), Mad As Hell (season 10) and The Weekly (season 4).

There are plenty of new commissions though ticking all boxes for the broadcaster. Among them:

Blue Water Empire

Blue Water Empire is a three-part dramatised documentary series giving a unique insight into the amazing culture and history of the Torres Strait Islands. The series starts pre-colonisation and covers the all-pervasive impact of the arrival of the Europeans into the islands. Following the missionaries came the pearling era, with a rush of men and women from around the world to the Torres Straits. World War II brought devastating change to the Straits and was followed by mass migration to mainland Australia. More recent times have seen an explosion of social activism, particularly the fight for recognition and sea rights that continues to this day.

Indigenous/Factual, 3 x 1-hour episodes
Production Credits: A Bunya Productions production for the ABC

China Love

A fascinating exploration of contemporary China through the pre-wedding photography industry – a billion-dollar fantasy world. Just over 40 years ago, marriage in China was arranged by the state – romantic love was seen as a capitalist concept and was not allowed. Wedding photography (if there was any) consisted of one black and white passport photo of the couple (dressed in Mao-style outfits) as proof of the marriage. Now, China has fallen in love with love and its exploding wedding industry is worth 80 billion dollars. Pre-wedding photography is one of the most significant and curious parts, and something every couple marrying in China is eager to partake of. From underwater shoots to traditional costume, imagination and budgets can run wild, for soon-to-be or long-wed couples

Arts, 1 x 60-minute episode
Production Credits: A Media Stockade production for the ABC


Australia’s first ever vertical video comedy series from multi-Emmy Award-winning Ludo Studio is made to watch in the privacy of your own phone. The show is set on the home-screen of Lucy, a millennial and wannabe influencer who promises her online fans everything they’ve ever wanted – a partner, a career, love and contentedness – while struggling to create any of that for herself. Lucy will do anything to achieve influence – whether vegan mukbanging, live-tweeting a celebrity’s private dinner, or destroying her life with a late-night Ambien-fuelled joke comment on a political discussion. But it’s not just on Lucy’s social apps where we see the story play out. We see inside Lucy’s mind: her Google searches, private messages, photos, phone calls and everything you wouldn’t want anyone to see – ever. Nothing is sacred, nothing is hidden, every private message, incognito search, deleted text and secret selfie exposed. Lucy’s only solace is her bored-workaholic housemate Daisy. While living out their relationship on their phones, Daisy is Lucy’s enabler, encouraging her to pursue the worst of ideas – all for her own malicious entertainment. This experimental series follows Lucy searching, stumbling and sometimes finding love in some seriously weird corners of the internet. While we play the voyeur witnessing Lucy’s private and public life, together we can decide… is this Content?

Drama/Comedy, 6 x 10-minute episodes
Production Credits: A Ludo Studio production for the ABC

Diary of an Uber Driver

The half-hour narrative drama follows Uber driver Ben as he tries to figure out what he should be doing while helping others get where they’re going. Against the ticking clock of impending fatherhood Ben must decipher what being “relevant” looks like in a relationship that seems to think he’s surplus to requirements. Lucky for him, Ben has a revolving car door of human behaviour to trawl through for clues.

Drama, 6 x 27-minute episodes
Production Credits: A RevLover Films production for the ABC

Escape From The City

Escape From The City is a timely “how-to” guide, packed full of expert advice and industry insights for those seeking a different way of life. Each episode sees one of the hosts guiding a family, couple or individual through their life-changing decision to escape the city and move to coastal, country or regional Australia. From beach-side shacks perched on coastal cliffs in Victoria, to terraced houses in need of renovation in quiet country towns and bushland retreats on the edges of the Northern Queensland rainforest, each episode sees one of our property-mad hosts take a contributor on the house hunt of their dreams. Taking into account their needs, desires and budget, our hosts scour the country and present each with four homes, with hopefully one becoming their dream home. Along the way they sample local delights and visit local attractions to get a feel for the area they are planning on moving to.

Entertainment, series of 1-hour episodes
Production Credits: A FremantleMedia Australia Production for the ABC

How Australia Found Its Mojo with Russel Howcroft

In this one-hour documentary, Russel Howcroft, the man whose passion for clever communication has been a cornerstone of Gruen’s success, explores one of the most influential chapters in Australian advertising history. At the centre of this story are Alan (Mo) Morris and Allan (Jo) Johnston who in the 70s and 80s co-founded the Mojo agency. Their toe-tapping, catchy ads made Australians feel good about themselves. Who wasn’t singing along to “How do you feel?”, “Going, going Amoco-ing”, “You oughta be congratulated”, “A week without The Weekly’s not the same” and the iconic clarion call to cricket fans, “C’mon Aussie c’mon c’mon”? Their commercials transcended the business of product pushing and became entertainment within themselves. After years of cultural cringe, they celebrated and elevated what it was to be Aussie. Mo and Jo sold Australia to Australians and then Australia to the USA with Paul Hogan’s “America you need a Holiday” campaign. Featuring the incredibly nostalgic and sumptuous archive content, Russel also talks with Allan (Jo) Johnson, Ian Chappell, Delvene Delaney, Hugh Mackay, John Singleton, Paul Hogan and other key people from the time, to explore the influence Mojo’s body of work had on our pop culture and beyond.

Entertainment, 1 x 60-minute episode
Production Credits: A CJZ production in association with ABC

Magical Land of Oz

Across Australia, as the dawn rises the marsupials go to bed – except for the ones that don’t – because there are exceptions to every rule in this land of ancient wonders, of big skies and jewelled seas.

Narrated by Barry Humphries, Magical Land of Oz is a blue- chip, continent-wide natural history series ranging from the land’s highest snow peaks to the depths of the frigid and wild southern seas, from its last populations of wild numbats to its largest diorama of giant cuttlefish. It’s a land of diverse beauty that delights and surprises. The series both entertains and deepens our understanding of how the natural world is made up of not just unique species, but distinct individuals, whose lives are far from predictable.

Using the latest camera technology, Magical Land of Oz reveals animal populations only recently discovered, and behaviours not associated with species we thought we knew well. We meet animal characters so enigmatic, most Australians are unaware they share not just their island continent – but their own suburban backyards. The series also explores the challenges these animals must navigate in a land of extremes and extreme human-induced change. To do this, we fill the screen with colour, dance, acrobatics, music, mating and murder – all performed by the animals which make Australia a truly magical land.

The stage is set for the story to begin.

Factual/Natural History, 3 x 57-minute episodes
Production Credits: A Northern Pictures production for the ABC, BBC2, PBS and ITV Global

Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds

Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds is a heartwarming documentary series, based around a unique social experiment where a group of older retirement home residents are brought together with a group of pre-schoolers, to see if this intergenerational contact can improve the health and wellbeing of the older people, thus helping them to lead happier, and healthier lives. Over a period of seven weeks, our two groups of 10 elderly people and 10 pre-schoolers, will be brought together for planned, mixed activities each day in a specially designed nursery built within a care/retirement home. Here they will share a structured timetable that encourages physical activity, social interaction, learning and happiness.

This social experiment will be run by a team of scientists, early childhood experts, and gerontologists, who will scientifically analyse and monitor the progress of both groups throughout, tracking quantifiable and measurable changes (both physical and mental) that results from the experiment to the health and wellbeing of the older group, and correspondingly, the developmental growth of the children (to chart the changes in language, cognition, movement, and emotional and social development).

Factual, 5 x 1-hour episodes
Production Credits: An Endemol Shine Australia production for the ABC. Made in association with the ABC

The Recording Studio

The Recording Studio is an emotionally uplifting series that gives members of the public a chance to step inside ABC’s state-of-the-art music studios. Once through the studio door they set to work with Australia’s top music producers, musicians and engineers who have collaborated with some of the world’s leading musical artists. Over two days they work together to record a very personal song that the singer then presents as a gift, a thank-you or a tribute to a loved one or their community. The Aussies who come to The Recording Studio don’t want to cut a demo or record a number one single – their motives are more personal. The series has drama, surprises and great singing. The people that walk into the studio are tested and pushed along the way, but this show is so much more than just about the singing. The life-affirming reasons for giving someone the gift of a professionally recorded song creates a loving and joyous celebration of the relationships we build across time.

One song can change your life. It’s time to hit record.

The Heights

The Heights is a slice-of-life serial drama that centres on the inner-city neighbourhood of Arcadia Heights, exploring the relationships between the residents of the Arcadia social housing tower and the people who live in the rapidly gentrifying community that surrounds it. The Heights mines the frictions and commonalities between the upper and working classes in the melting pot of urban Australia, broaching the complex social issues faced in the reality of our lives today.

Drama, 30 x 26-minute episodes
Production Credits: A Matchbox Pictures production in association with For Pete’s Sake Productions for the ABC

The Pool

An exploration of Australian culture and identity told through the prism of the pool, a focal point throughout history that evokes deep nostalgia and childhood memories, as well as national triumphs and iconic moments of conflict, leisure, design and reconciliation. Directed by Emmy-nominated Sally Aitken, and written by Christos Tsiolkas, these key moments will be unpacked on locations across the nation by Australian luminaries as well as everyday people – each providing their unique commentary on the role of the pool in our collective imagination.

Factual, 2 x 60-minute episodes
Production Credits: A Mint Pictures production for the ABC


INXS frontman Michael Hutchence was a complex and shy man who spent the bulk of his life in the public eye. Unique archival footage and recollections of friends, lovers, band-members, family, collaborators and Hutchence himself paint a trajectory from troubled family background, up to the peaks of rock’n’roll stardom, and down to the depths of the depressed, addicted person he became after an accident caused him to lose his sense of smell and taste, affecting his mental health and his ability to deal with his unravelling personal and professional life.

Arts, 1 x 90-minute episode
Production Credits: A Ghost Pictures production for the ABC and BBC

Backburning: Midnight Oil

From their inception in the midst of the punk movement in 1975 until today, the story of a band who, with their uncompromising attitudes, brought political awareness to their music and thereby broadened the perception of a whole generation. Midnight Oil’s music narrates the times we have lived through over the past 40 years, an era of great tumult and conflict, particularly around the subject of what Australia is, what we stand for and what we may become as a nation.

Arts, 1 x 90-minute episode
Production Credits: A Beyond Entertainment and Blink TV production for the ABC

The Crown and Us: The Story of the Royals in Australia

Using a rich array of archive footage, this documentary series explores Australia’s nation-shaping yet ever-shifting relationship with the British royal family. By examining the many tours down under and royal weddings, this series explores how the monarchy manages to withstand political, religious and cultural undertows to remain deeply infused in the psyche of Australians. But with the intermittent and sometimes raucous debates over an Australian republic, will it always be that way?

Factual, 2 x 60-minute episodes
Production Credits: A Fredbird Entertainment production for the ABC

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