It seems as though the ABC is officially entering the competitive world of 21st-century television.
The national broadcaster is staking its claim in the high-concept, big cast, epic drama scene with Glitch, its new six-part series available in full on its iView service from July 9.
The first episode hits the ground running as small town police officer James Hayes (Patrick Brammell) is called to a graveyard to investigate a “disturbance”.
The disturbance in question is that six people who were supposed to be long dead have clawed their way out of their graves and are wandering around in seemingly perfect health.
One of them happens to be Hayes’ wife Kate, who died of breast cancer two years ago.
It’s a powerful concept and one that’s handled with aplomb – the ABC have pulled an impressive cast (including Emma Booth, Genevieve O’Reilly, Ned Dennehy) and invested in some really stunning cinematography and art direction. It looks expensive.
Unfortunately for the ABC, it’s a powerful concept that’s been done before. Glitch is deeply reminiscent of the 2012 French series Les Revenants, which was later adapted in America as The Returned.
Rodger Corser, who plays the mysterious John Doe, is well aware of the similarities, but says it shouldn’t matter to local audiences.
“This [Glitch] is definitely not ‘Oh great, we will do an Australian version of another show’,” Corser tells The New Daily.
“From what I know this show was pitched before that [The Returned] came along. Sometimes it’s a long process from getting a first draft to getting funding.
“The whole ‘returned from the dead’ thing is a genre in itself now. No one says ‘Oh well you’re doing a cop show, that’s exactly like CSI’.”
He has a point. Plus, it’s nice to see an Aussie show that isn’t a soap or comedy. And while its plot is far-fetched, Glitch has a strange realness to it and strong performances from the main cast mean every single character is compelling.
“What we’ve done on this show is, I think, of an international standard,” Corser reasons.
The ABC’s decision to release all the episodes online at once is certainly a nod to the binge-watching behaviours of the modern television audience and their fearless pioneer, Netflix.
“Australian viewers have such a large appetite for stuff from overseas with box sets and streaming so it was only a matter of time before we had a crack at it,” Corser says, adding that the proliferation of channels has its downsides.
“[Streaming] is great for viewers but in a market as small as Australia you worry the quality of production will go down.”
Thankfully, Glitch has managed to sidestep this concern by focusing on character-based drama rather than cheap thrills to pull audiences in.
You want to know how these people died and why they’re here, and you’re willing to sit through six intense 60-minute episodes to find out.
Despite it borrowing from other international series, Glitch is a pretty impressive effort for Aussie TV.
“We had a decent budget for an Aussie drama but nothing compared to an overseas budget, nothing at all,” Corser admits.
“When you don’t have the big budget, you do other things, you go back to basics. Great art department, great wardrobe department and great camera and lighting department.
“You go for that eerie, sparse feeling. Flickering lights that give that feel to the town that nothing is quite right.”
There might be something “not quite right” about the town of Yoorana and its zombie inhabitants, but watching it all unfold feels far from wrong.