EXCLUSIVE: Interview with TEN Chief Programming Officer, Beverley McGarvey.
- I’m A Celebrity kicks off re-energised network
- Offspring returns mid-year
- MasterChef: Nigella, Heston, Marco weeks.
- 15,000 Survivor applications, host & location to be announced
- Find My Family & All Star Family Feud after I’m a Celebrity
- No decision yet on The Biggest Loser
When you’ve just enjoyed your biggest summer since 2004-05 you have reason to be optimistic about the year ahead. The Big Bash League has helped position TEN to a competitive position as the 2016 ratings year gets underway. But the real work in 2015 was in taking risks with 4 new shows -all of which paid off for Chief Programming Officer, Beverley McGarvey.
The first of those, I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here, is back with money-can’t-buy chatter over just who was headed into the jungle. That has flowed through to some early ratings results this week.
“We were very happy how it went last year and we learned a lot about how to improve the pace of the show, how to mix up the casting. We’re thrilled not only with the level of celebrity we have but also the diversity of age, personality and background. So we think it will have a lot of texture,” she says.
“Also we’ve knocked the challenges up this year, because we learned last year Australians are brave and pretty much up for anything. So we have really upped the ante with challenges that are more spectacular and noisier.
“Making the challenges harder will mean they win less rewards, which will make camp life more challenging.”
Free-wheeling companion show Get Me Out of Here Now with Joel Creasey and Heather Maltman is a destination for die-hard fans to continue their fandom.
“People talked about (the show) a lot last year so we wanted to provide a platform on one of our challenges where that conversation can happen. Joel and Heather will be let loose. We film with a gazillion cameras 24 hrs a day so there is a lot that ends up on the cutting room floor, so we can expand the brand.”
TV favourite The X Files returned this week after a 14 year absence -but the network has copped some criticism for not fast-tracking it same day. Instead it joined Celebrity and Modern Family to help create an event Sunday.
“We would have had to launch it on Monday night which is Australia Day eve and everybody is drunk,” she suggests. “Then on Tuesday it’s Australia Day. Then you’re up against the Tennis & Cricket on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, it’s out of survey, the back of the week, it doesn’t do your show a service. I know there are a certain amount of people who won’t wait 6 days, but it’s free, 6 days isn’t the end of the world. It’s still a holiday week.
“To do it justice we felt we needed to give it a great lead-in, a good timeslot, and the best shot it has at success is on a Sunday with a good lead-in. It’s only 6 days –some shows you have to wait 6 months.
“If we could have done it day and date we would have loved to, but with extenuating circumstances with the holiday it just didn’t line up.”
US titles NCIS, NCIS: LA, Madam Secretary, The Good Wife, CSI Cyber, Hawaii Five-0 and Law and Order: SVU are also part of Q1.
“There is so much noisy conflict on other shows, so there is a place that is a contrast to that.”
When Celebrity ends its 6 week run there will be new local titles including All Star Family Feudwith some teams of well-known faces and others where celebrities appear with family members.
“It’s a series of specials, Creaseys v Swans, teams of comedians, AFL v NRL, the usual suspects. So it’s just a bit of fun. They are hour long rather than half hour so that lets Grant showcase his skills and chat with people.”
Chrissie Swan also joins Anh Do for reunion show Long Lost Family.
“Chrissie is warm and delightful and Anh Do is a revelation. He’s interesting and funny. It’s a reunion show so Chrissy follows one side of the story and Anh follows the other,” she continues.
“It’s really warm and there is so much noisy conflict on other shows, so there is a place that is a contrast to that. It’s authentic and different, a short run, but we’re excited by the pedigree of the talent and the different nature of the content.”
Will the show differ from Seven’s former series Find My Family?
“They targeted their show a bit older and it had a voice-over, not hosts. Adding hosts adds texture, personality and pace, and we are targeting slightly younger,” she explains.
“We wanted someone who sounded authentic and could talk about being separated from your family and have some empathy. Given Anh’s background he is someone who can speak meaningfully in that area.
“He’s very engaged with the concept so he and Chrissie are a great team.”
Territory Cops, now commissioned by TEN with new episodes, plus Bondi Rescue, The Living Room, Family Feud are screening in Q1.
“Most shows you cast for character, but MasterChef you absolutely cast for cooking skills”
Q2 will see S8 of MasterChef Australia with a very big network coup – new guest judge, Nigella Lawson.
“She’s brilliant talent and incredibly well-loved. She brings something different to the show. Marco and Heston we love but it’s Nigella has such a different style,” says McGarvey.
“We’ve had growth in the show for the last 2 years and with the addition of Nigella, and Shannon still being there, George, Matt & Gary are critical….Heston and Marco are there and we have a great bunch of contestants. So we’re very hopeful it will continue on its trajectory in having a bit of a rebirth.”
Best cooks ever? Is it realistic to keep raising the bar?
“Masterchef may not get the same volume of applicants that we used to get way back because a lot of people are (put) off by the quality of cooking. But we do get quality contestants. Most shows you cast for character, but MasterChef you absolutely cast for cooking skills.”
Also returning is Shark Tank, with newest Shark Dr. Glen Richards, founder of pet care company Greencross, replacing John McGrath. This year it will include “Where are they Now?” segments that follow-up on previous participants.
“The show is really strong, we learned a lot as you do every first season. We know that our audience like products more than they do services that they can touch and feel, rather than ideas,” she says.
“The Sharks were excellent last year but they are even better this year because they have a series under their belt. It will kind of be a slightly-tighter version of what you saw last year with Glen Richards.
“There are a lot more quality applicants as well.”
Hit series Gogglebox will return, with some possible casting changes.
“We’re just looking at that now. We may cycle one or two of the families in or out or add to it, we’re just in pre-production at the minute.”
Working Dog’s Have You Been Paying Attention is a show that TEN stuck with and now has a loyal following.
“It took a while to find its feet and let the audience find it, but they do a great job and they know what they’re doing,” says McGarvey.
“We’re very excited about bringing it back and it has been growing during its time on air, from a small base. It does very well in Encore and Catch-Up, so we’re very happy with the show.”
Turning to TEN’s Drama slate, much-loved Offspring begins filming around March / April after a two year absence. Despite the risk in resuming a series which many had regarded as concluded, McGarvey says early scripts will please fans -but there are no new tips on returning cast.
“When you read episode one you think ‘Fantastic, Offspring is back!'”
“There’s only 65 episodes of Offspring and in the greater world of Drama that is not a lot of episodes. So we definitely think there is life in it.
“When you read episode one you think ‘Fantastic, Offspring is back!’ It picks up where you left off perfectly. So we’re really happy with the creative on it,” she insists.
“The key characters are all back, Asher and Kat, but if we announce the rest of the cast we’re effectively telling where the stories are going. So we will save it to TX time.”
Miniseries Brock starring Matt Le Nevez will air later in the year.
“Brock is fantastic. It doesn’t matter if you’re not a sports fan, it is such a great story. Matt is fantastic in it. It starts in 1969 and is really compelling. There’s all the cars and soundtrack from the ‘70s, so we’re really excited about it coming later in the year.”
Playmaker Media are also behind new drama series The Wrong Girl in which Jessica Marais plays TV producer Lily who falls in love with Jack, her show’s gorgeous new chef.
“It’s a romantic comedy and she happens to have a job in the TV industry in the same way that Nina is a doctor. But Offspring isn’t Grey’s Anatomy and this isn’t a show about a TV station. It’s about a girl in her 20s who happens to work in television. I think she wanted to work in an allegedly-glamorous industry. Note the use of the word allegedly!”
Meanwhile Neighbours rolls on via ELEVEN. Are there any plans to shift the show to a PG classification now that new TV regulations means it no longer has to be G at 6:30pm?
“I don’t think so. It’s something that we talk about all the time. We think it’s a G show for families and people enjoy it,” says McGarvey.
“It has a particular DNA so for us to do anything hasty that messes with it is probably not going to serve Neighbours fans very well. So at this point our intention is to keep it G and keep it where we think it belongs. Obviously we’d like to improve it as you do with all of your shows but at this stage we won’t be moving Neighbours into PG territory.”
“It would be 2017 before we could add another drama series.”
With Brock as a miniseries are there any plans for a new ongoing Drama on TEN? The network is always in development, but nothing to announce as yet.
“(With) Offspring & The Wrong Girl we’d be very happy to return both those shows. Adding a third to the slate is a possibility but it would be 2017 before we could add another drama series.”
Breakout series The Bachelor and The Bachelorette are both at casting stage and could again look at former participants for their title roles.
“That’s absolutely a possibility and the US use that technique. We will go with the best person for the role, so if it’s an incumbent or a new person… it could be either,” she continues.
“Now we’ve had 4 seasons, and 4 couples still together so that’s a high benchmark for us to have to jump over this year!”
They return from August / September along with The Great Australian Spelling Bee.
“We want kids that can spell but also kids that are confident and enjoy the experience, wanting to be on the show,” she notes.
“The show will have some tweaks this year.”
A different timeslot perhaps?
“I would like it to be earlier but obviously it can’t be. If we played it on a Sunday it would be up against The Voice which wouldn’t have been great.
“If we can possibly find an earlier timeslot where it won’t bump into something and suck out the same audience we would look at it. But there’s not that many early evening timeslots where you can appeal to your audience that aren’t already occupied with successful shows.”
What about The Biggest Loser / TBL Families?
“We haven’t decided yet,” McGarvey admits.
“We do have ratings targets for all of our shows and Biggest Loser did exactly what we expected it to deliver. We think there is life in the brand, it’s unique in the space that it occupies, and we’re very mindful of not throwing away brands. It’s very hard to launch a new brand so for that to be around for 10 years ….we are just working through it with Shine.”
There is also the option, Offspring-style, of resting the show this year before resuming it.
“Yes absolutely, anything is possible.”
“We will not be simulcasting Celebrity this year.”
Studio 10 and TEN Eyewitness News continue across the year, along with Family Feud. The game show has undoubtedly improved the network’s stages at 6pm ‘triple-cast’ across three channels. So does a simulcast of one offering result in a lower network share of three offerings?
“Possibly in terms of network, possibly. But obviously maximising the audience on TEN into the primetime schedule at that time of the night is critical,” she explains.
“We have no plans to change anything with Family Feud. We look at that stuff all of the time. But at this point we have no immediate plans to do anything with the triple-cast at 6. It works for us. That may not be true in 6 months or a year but we will always look at it as we do all of our timeslots.
“We will not be simulcasting Celebrity this year. We’ll look at it, but I doubt it. We might do the finale or something, but no plans at the minute.”
Also underpinning its weeknights across the year is The Project, with Waleed Aly proving a big success since joining Peter Helliar and Carrie Bickmore.
“Given that we’ve had a few cast changes, Pete, Waleed and Carrie really gelled last year as a team. So consolidating the growth we had last year is the intention,” she notes.
“Getting the mix of news and humour is critical and they’re doing a great job.”
Lastly, one of TEN’s biggest buzzes for 2016 is Australian Survivor, due later this year. TEN has been inundated with applications, already topping 15,000, with plenty of guesses underway on the location and host.
“We’ll be making an announcement about host and location in the next couple of months,” McGarvey promises.
“There’s a limited number of locations you can film, because there are things that we need. It needs to look remote but have relative access to infrastructure so we’re just making final decisions on that now. Wherever we go we want that tropical island, pure Survivor look and that’s what we’re looking for.
“Our aspiration is to have the production quality of the US series with an Australian tone.
“There is a lot of criteria the host has to fulfil and we do have somebody that we think will be fantastic. We’ll be announcing that person once we get through Celebrity.”