If you want to spark a dinner table debate, ask a bunch of Australians to name the best homegrown television show of all time.
There are those who are loyal to Hey Hey it’s Saturday and its retro peers, while others will argue more modern offerings like Redfern Now and The Slap are the real masterpieces. Regardless of preference, all are passionate in their views.
We presented a list of top Australian TV shows to The New Daily‘s most engaged readers and in an online survey conducted over two days this month asked them to select their top 10 .
To help narrow the field of potential favorites, our TV writer Denise Eriksen enlisted director Tony Ayres, producers Sandra Levy, Debbie Byrne, Pam Barnes and Marena Manzoufas, comedian Dave Hughes, actors Roy Billing and Kevin Harrington, TV hosts Richard Wilkins and Julia Zemiro, writer David Hannam and TV reviewer Debi Enker.
From the resulting 763 responses, we compiled this list of the series that received the most votes, with the No.1 show amassing 422 votes.
Interestingly, of the top 10, eight were produced by the ABC, suggesting there’s still an appetite for locally produced, original, free-to-air content over all else.
Did we get it right? Have your say in the comments.
1. Mother and Son, ABC (1984 – 1994)
More than half of the respondents put this ABC classic in their top 10, no doubt thanks to its hilarious and heartwarming portrayal of a man in his 40s (Garry McDonald) who is still living at home with his ageing mother (Ruth Cracknell).
2. Countdown, ABC (1974 – 1987)
There’s a reason Molly Meldrum is regarded as a national treasure and this show is it. The most popular music program in Australian history, it enjoyed a lengthy run and produced many memorable moments – particularly Molly’s now-infamous trainwreck interview with Prince Charles.
3. Kath & Kim, ABC (2002- 2007)
The satirical brainchild of stars Jane Turner and Gina Riley, Kath & Kim had us all saying “Look at moi” and pronouncing Chardonnay as if it started with a ‘K’. The concept was so inspired that US network NBC tried to convert it for a US audience, but without its pivotal Australianisms it failed to translate.
4. SeaChange, ABC (1998 – 2000)
Sigrid Thornton starred in this family drama as a high-powered lawyer whose life falls apart, prompting her to pursue a change of scenery with her two children. Her interactions with the eccentric locals in the small seaside town she chooses provided the basis for the show’s often funny and regularly moving moments.
5. Hey Hey it’s Saturday, Nine (1971 – 1999)
Starting its life as a children’s show, Hey Hey was soon recognised for the engaging ad-libbing of host Daryl Somers and regulars like Red Symons, Wilbur Wilde and the unforgettable Plucka Duck. The show even enjoyed a brief but successful revival from 2009 to 2010.
6. The Norman Gunston Show, ABC (1975 – 1976)
Garry McDonald makes his second appearance on the list for his brilliantly crafted parody of a bumbling TV host, Norman Gunston. Granted impressive access to some of the world’s biggest stars like Muhammad Ali and Paul McCartney, you never knew where his interviews would end up.
7. Rake, ABC (2010 – today)
Richard Roxburgh plays Cleaver Greene, a smart-talking, dysfunctional criminal defence barrister, who represents the people no one else will touch. The character is loosely based on Sydney barrister and Rake co-creator, Charles Waterstreet.
8. Jack Irish, ABC (2016 – today)
Adapted from a series of books by late Australian crime writer Peter Temple, the show follows Jack Irish (Guy Pearce), a criminal lawyer-turned-debt collector and private investigator, trying to repair his life and career after the murder of his wife.
9. Underbelly, Nine (2008 – 2013)
Across all its six seasons, the drama exploring the dark underworlds of Melbourne and Sydney was critically acclaimed and widely watched. Special mention must go to the first season and Gyton Grantley’s electric portrayal of late gangland figure Carl Williams.
10. Play School, ABC (1966 – today)
Educational, simple, genuinely child-friendly and still on the air after 52 years. Enough said.