It’s been a tough few months for the cast of Doctor Blake, with lead actor Craig McLachlan axed amid sexual misconduct allegations, which he strongly denies, just months after the show was canned by the ABC last year.
And now actress Nadine Garner, 47, who plays Jean Blake on the TV series, has opened up on the turbulent time – revealing in a candid interview with TV Tonight that she wasn’t surprised when the show was axed by the ABC, as she claimed the broadcaster had a “hidden agenda” to prioritise shows for younger audiences.
“We never felt particularly loved by the ABC. They certainly never communicated it to us. Not once,” she told the news outlet. “They sort of ‘put up’ with us. So in a way it was a strange culture to make a show without network support. So when they finally did drop us, it was a bit like the truth had finally come out.”
Garner claimed it was likely due to Doctor Blake being viewed largely by older audiences and added that the network, led by recently departed boss Michelle Guthrie, was aiming more for younger viewers at the time.
“Certainly under Guthrie it was a much more transparent agenda. But even before her it was an unspoken agenda,” she added.
The ABC announced it was ending its partnership with the show in 2017. Head of scripted production Sally Riley said in a statement at the time: “We feel that the time is right to go out while we are still on top.”
She added: “We have a fantastic final season still to come and we look forward to wrapping the series up with a satisfying movie-length finale, as we bid farewell to an Australian TV icon.”
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the ABC addressed Garner’s recent claims in a statement to Starts at 60, saying: “The Doctor Blake Mysteries had a sensational run on the ABC across five series and a full-length telemovie, from 2013 to 2017.
“We decided in 2017 that the time was right to go out while the show was still on top, which enabled us to focus on delivering distinctive new drama to Australian audiences, such as the landmark series Mystery Road and Pine Gap.”
The ABC’s decision to stop broadcasting the show was met with anger from many viewers last year, particularly because it had still been recording huge ratings at the time.
It has since been snapped up by Seven and rebranded as The Blake Mysteries, with the cast reuniting to make a telemovie without McLachlan. While the initial plan was to make four telemovies, it has now been scaled back to one to see how well it does in ratings.
Opening up on continuing filming without McLachlan by her side, Garner told TV Tonight that it had been a “devastating” time and the cast’s grief over the actor leaving would be woven into the new storylines.
McLachlan left the show after he was accused of sexually harassing a number of women during a 2014 Australian production of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. He has always denied the claims against him.
He was later accused of harassing women on the set of Doctor Blake, but an independent investigation cleared him of those allegations.