‘What’s on The Box? Your list of easy summertime viewing’

Jan 08, 2022
What's worth watching from the ABC. Source: Getty Images

Happy New Year! We head into those first few weeks of 2022 — those weeks when we wonder what day it is or why we still have so much ham (I hope that isn’t just me). It’s often too hot to do anything, so I’ve pulled together some of the best free viewing available on ABC. You will need to be able to access ABC iView, which is a free app if you haven’t already got it.

Fires

Warning this series features images and dramatic reconstruction of the 2019-20 Black Summer bushfires, which may distress some people. Inspired by true events, Fires was created by Tony Ayres and Belinda Chayko. Ana Kokkinos (The Hunting), Kim Morduant (Wakefield) and Michael Rymer (2018’s Picnic At Hanging Rock) each directed two episodes.

The series tells the story of ordinary people during that most difficult time and highlights community, heartbreak, loss, humanity and heroism. You may need tissues close by, I know I did.

There are six episodes and each episode stands alone, although there are overlapping characters. I especially enjoyed Noni Hazelhurst in her role as community radio presenter Caris Mazzeo, but I have been a Noni fan since her Play School days. Other notable cast members to appear in the series include Richard Roxburgh, Miranda Otto, Sam Worthington and Steve Bastoni.

Initially I was concerned as I couldn’t bear the thought of any kind of sensationalism around the tragedy, but was pleasantly relieved with the sensitivity and focus of the series. Despite this it will be triggering for some people.

The Newsreader

Enjoy the trip down memory lane to the 1980s.

The Newsreader

provides a glimpse into the newsrooms and the people who bought The News into our loungerooms each night.

Created by Michael Lucas (Five Bedrooms) and starring Anna Torv (Fringe), Sam Reid and William McInnes (SeaChange, Blue Heelers), The Newsreader not only features the news stories of the time — think the Challenger disaster and Lindy Chambrlain’s release from jail — but takes a truly nostalgic approach to the fashions and furnishings of the day. (Why did we think orange and brown were so wonderful together?)

There are six episodes and the storyline strengthens each episode. It’s an opportunity to reflect on the many changes we’ve seen and a few times I found myself actually having to remind myself that, yes, that is actually what I have witnessed in workplaces over the years. There is blatant sexism and clouds of cigarette smoke in the office, among other things. Thankfully times have changed.

Rosehaven

This not a drama but a rather quirky, yet gentle comedy. It is written by, stars and was created by friends Cecila Pacquola and Luke McGregor.

The show is set in rural Tasmania with the beautiful south-east area providing a very lovely backdrop to the story line of Daniel, (McGregor) returning home to help his mother run the family real estate business. When her honeymoon goes wrong his best friend Emma (Pacquola) turns up too.

There are five seasons of Rosehaven each with eight episodes. The series final screened in August 2021.

The lovely cameos of Mrs Marsh (Noela Foxcroft) and the superbly layered Barbara McCallum played by Kris McQuade add to show. Again, quirky, gentle, feel good and oh-so-easy to watch.

Total Control

If you like a bit of political drama, with strong characters and good actors Total Control might be for you. Alex Irving (Deborah Mailman, Offspring, The Sapphires) and Rachel Anderson (Rachel Griffiths, Six Feet Under, Muriel’s Wedding) shine a light on the machinations of Australian politics.

Some critics have said the storyline isn’t real enough, but remember it is drama not 7.30. Total Control is delivered with passion and heart. I appreciate being able to see Australia’s political system on the screen and I found myself connecting to the characters easily. Season Two screened in 2021 and can be enjoyed alone, but I recommend watching Season One to give yourself context. It’s exceptional viewing.

Frayed

This program has caused some division on my couch as The Remote Control Bloke (TRCB) loves it, but I’m not a huge fan. I watched the first season and thought it was okay, but I can’t get into Season Two. TRCB says it’s because all the characters are so horrible you can’t like any of them.

Created by Sarah Kendall (Beehive, The Other One) who also plays the lead character Sammy, Frayed is a comedy drama about a wealthy London housewife who is forced to return to her hometown in Australia. The story that follows involves her confronting her past and revealing why she leaved all those years ago. It’s another show that is set in the ’80s, and while I did enjoy some elements, I’m comfortable enough to accept that it’s going to be one of those shows others will love.

Have you seen any of these television shows?

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