Another year and another swag of great ideas that somehow were trampled in the race to the middle. Australian TV sometimes confounds all of us, particularly those who watch it. There are flashes of brilliance but too often they are lost as broadcasters, particularly commercial broadcasters, hesitate at the thought of taking a risk.
Here's a newsflash: nothing in television is without risk and the biggest risks usually deliver the biggest results (I Will Survive aside). In the US, broadcasters have slowly learnt that lesson, as shows such as Lost, Desperate Housewives and Modern Family transformed the schedule, not by playing safe and aping everything around them but by gambling on originality and fresh twists on classic ideas.
Channel Nine's mixed fortunes in the drama portfolio are a prize example. Cranking out shows such as The Strip, Rescue: Special Ops and Cops: LAC delivered diminishing returns, as each show became a slightly thinner copy of the one before. It was not until they took risks on Howzat! and House Husbands, which Channel Nine would never have contemplated a decade ago, that they earned almost unanimous praise from the market and a big return in ratings.
What the success of those shows teaches us is that the audience is far more sophisticated than programmers have given them credit for. They understand nuance, they don't need signposts to help them find their way, they get it. The market needs to understand that, and start programming more aggressively to smart consumers.
Television could do with a few New Year's resolutions. Better shows. Smarter audience analysis. Fewer smart-arse reviews and smart-arse executives. More focus on what the audience wants. More money for screenwriters. More local programming and local stories. More for the ABC, and less for hiring American and European superstars to judge talent shows.
Happy New Year. And here's to a great 2013.