Ratings season is underway and television networks are engaged in a head-to-head battle for your attention.
Pushing their best offerings forward and hoping for maximum audience engagement, the networks are set to rise or fall on the performance of their top dogs.
So how is each show faring? And what grade do they receive in the school of screenings?
The Voice, Channel Nine: C+
Despite a change in the judging panel which saw Kylie Minogue and Will.i.am join the team, audiences are still decisive in their verdict of the reality singing show: They love it.
The show’s season three debut pulled an astonishing 2.16 million viewers and nightly audience numbers have plateaued well over the million mark. Given that the benchmark for a highly successful television show is usually regarded as anything over one million viewers, Channel Nine would do well to cling to The Voice for dear life.
As for the critics, does it matter what they think? In short, no. The formula of this worldwide franchise is so failsafe not even a scathing review could tear it apart.
MasterChef, Network Ten: B-
Regardless of what the remainder of season six holds, the cooking competition has already been renewed for a seventh season in 2015. Ratings for the first 14 episodes of the current season are all sitting comfortably around the 900,000 mark, which is up on last year’s figures.
This could be thanks to Ten deciding to ditch spin-offs like MasterChef Professionals or MasterChef Kids, or maybe new judge Kylie Kwong has brought her own fan base to the party. Whatever it is, Masterchef remains crowd-pleasing family viewing.
After a nearly year-long hiatus, the pressure was on for this blockbuster HBO series to deliver the goods. As season four reaches its tail end, audiences have only one complaint: Why can’t it last forever?
With gory fight scenes, a gripping character development and game-changing twists, Game of Thrones is proving to be the benchmark for television shows everywhere.
Showcase has been scoring some increased audience numbers thanks to its strategic decision to broadcast only two hours after the US. With two sittings – one in the early afternoon, one at night – the show has become the most popular non-sport program on Foxtel. However, Game of Thrones is still kryptonite for pirates and download rates are running rampant.
When Love Comes to Town, Channel Nine: F
By the time the second episode of Nine’s country dating show rolled around, just 647,000 viewers had persevered past the premiere. Numbers have remained dismal for the show that promised Bachelor-style drama but, this time, with the women in control.
As high-maintenance city girls trawled the countryside for husband material, audiences cast their eyes elsewhere for more engaging formulas and critics were scathing in their reviews. Perhaps a lack of standout contestants or catty teaser-worthy drama let the show down. Better luck next time, next town?
Offspring, Network Ten: B
The Offspring writers took a huge risk by killing Nine Proudman’s lover and partner Patrick Reid (Matthew Le Nevez) at the end of season four but it appears to have paid off with the show hitting just under a million views for the first two episodes of season five.
Nina (Asher Keddie) is now alone with her new baby, Zoe, and raising her daughter with her mad sister, Billie (Kat Stewart). She is also trying to move on from Patrick. Despite the sometimes completely left-of-centre plot developments and the kind of silly Proudman family, fans love this show and will no doubt be as devoted when Nina finds love again, and again, and again!?
Fargo, SBS: A
SBS have made some very smart TV acquisitions this year and Fargo is one of them.
An adaptation of the Coen Brothers hit 1996 film of the same name, this black comedy stars Martin Freeman from The Office as the hapless wife killer Lester Nygaard and Billy Bob Thornton as the evil Lorne Malvo. The storyline follows the unlikely accomplices as they try to evade the small town police who chase them for their crimes. This show also introduces the talented Allison Tolman to the world as Deputy Molly Solverson, the clever and considered police officer who is almost one step ahead of the killers in her town’s midst.
While this is not going to break any ratings records, it’s certainly one of the best show’s on TV right now and is definitely worth a look – especially if you were a fan of the film. Several threads from the movie are picked up nicely too.
SBS has each episode so far aired available on its On Demand service. Fargo can also be purchased on ITunes.
Channel Seven was quick off the mark to replace it’s feted ratings winner My Kitchen Rules with a new reality TV show when the cooking show finished up late last month. House Rules was a smart choice. The show has consistently tracked over two million viewers, giving Channel Nine’s The Voice a run for its money.
House Rules, which sees couples from different states put their homes and gardens up for renovation to win the prize of a mortgage payment, combines Australian’s love of buying property with their love of developing. It is basically heroin to TV viewers – who are really D-I-Y reality TV whores. Too harsh? Just watch an episode and see if you don’t walk away feeling slightly cheaper.
If you missed it you should watch…
Puberty Blues season two, Network Ten: A
There was one and only one serious problem with Puberty Blues season two and that was that hardly anyone watched it (Blame Ten’s marketing department for this fault). A smashing critical success, the show has a suburb cast and is beautifully written, crafted and shot. When it hit screens in March, ratings were relatively poor, with some critics blaming Network Ten’s poor overall performance as the reason it was struggling, despite its cult following.
Ratings aside, it is an incredibly honest and real portrayal of teenage life in the 1970s coupled with the compelling struggles of their parents. It has an authenticity to it that is so often lacking from teen dramas – but maybe that’s the problem. These are real kids, not manufactured Disney characters. Then there’s the other issue. It’s as much as show for adults as children, perhaps even more so.
Give it the credit it deserves by watching it on Ten Play, buying it on iTunes or purchasing the DVD.
House of Cards season two, Showcase, Foxtel: A+
Foxtel took a punt with House of Cards season two, choosing to release the entire season in one hit to it’s subscribers who could then go onto binge watch to their hearts’ content. Like a seriously sinister version of The West Wing, House of Cards couples a brilliant cast (all hail the second coming of Robin Wright!) with merciless plot twists and gripping political drama. Kevin Spacey is delightfully sinister and his relationship with his wife, his political opponents and himself is endlessly compelling.
The show will ignite your inner conflict as the Underwoods ruthlessly rise to the top, squashing allegiances and lives on their way up.
The Bridge season two, SBS: A
Weary Danish police officer Martin Rhode (Kim Bodnia) and the kooky Swedish cop Saga Norén (Sofia Helen) return to save the day in this excellent Scandinavian crime thriller, otherwise known as Nordic Noir. Set in Malmö, Sweden and it’s neighbour-by-water Copenhagen, Denmark, Saga and Martin are reunited 13 months after they have worked together at the end of season one, this time to fight an eco-terrorism plot that sees people being poisoned left, right and centre.
The beauty of this show is the dynamic between Saga and Martin, as well as the elegantly subtleties of the writers – everything is teased out without having to resort to pyrotechnics and torture for the suspense to be real. And while this is a serious crime drama, viewers love it for Saga’s quirky Asperger’s Syndrome traits and Martin’s gruff but tender mercies he affords her.
If you haven’t caught season two on SBS, you can download series one and two on iTunes.
Mad Men season seven, Showcase, Foxtel: B+
Don’t underestimate the power of this groundbreaking TV show. While Mad Men may not enjoy the popularity it was once garnered, it is a significant event in television history that it is coming to a close. The final season has been split into two seven-part mini-seasons, the seventh episode aired last night on Foxtel’s Showcase channel and the final seven shows will be released in 2015.
The seventh season sees the 1960s coming to a close and Don Draper (Jon Hamm) trying to be the good guy for once in his life. While he has been relegated from his once powerful role at Sterling Cooper & Price, he is still trying to remain in the game. It will be fascinating to see where he ends up.
While original players like Don’s ex Betty and former business partner Sterling Cooper are finding the end of the 1960s hard to swallow, other, especially Peggy (Elizabeth Moss) and Joan (Christina Hendricks) are reaping the benefits of the more progressive era.
Mad Men can be downloaded from iTunes and watched on Foxtel.