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ABC Oz orders Tolstoy remake

A re-telling of Anna Karenina, a comedy about a former Australian prime minister desperate to stay relevant and a doc featuring rock band AC/DC are the highlights of Australian pubcaster ABC’s 2015 slate.

The Beautiful Lie (6 x 60’), a contemporary re-imagining of Leo Tolstoy’s novel Anna Karenina, is being produced by Endemol Australia’s John Edwards and Imogen Banks.

Shaun Micallef has created and will star in prodco CJZ’s The Ex-PM (6×30’), about Australia’s fictional third longest-serving prime minister who has far too much time on his hands and no one to waste it on.

Blood & Thunder (2×60’) will chronicle the musical partnership that created one of the most successful rock albums of all time, AC/DC’s Back in Black, and is a copro between Bombora Film and Music Co and Beyond Screen, filmed in co-operation with the band.

During the upfronts ABC director of TV Richard Finlayson also announced catch-up platform iview will enable users to buy current and classic series and episodes from the first quarter of next year.

Programming that is no longer in the two week, free catch-up window will be available to download by clicking through to iTunes. Most of that content is already on iTunes but users will be able to buy titles via iview.

Finlayson told C21 the initiative stems from viewers who had complained they could not access older ABC shows on the catch-up platform.

The budget cutbacks imposed on the ABC in the federal budget had not affected the 2015 release slate, he added.

He welcomed communications minister Malcolm Turnbull’s statement that there would be an imminent announcement on further cuts. That followed media reports that both ABC and fellow pubcaster SBS face reductions of A$200m-A$300m (US$174m-US$260m) over five years.

“We are looking forward to an end to the uncertainty,” he said. “I feel for our staff, until we know the size and nature of the cuts. We have prepared a range of scenarios but we won’t make our responses until we see the specific numbers.”

Finlayson said the looming launches of subscription VoD services are creating enormous demand for ABC content and he confirmed ABC Commercial is in talks with Stan, the Nine Entertainment-Fairfax Media joint venture, Netflix and others.

In other programming news, Charlie Pickering, formerly of Network Ten’s The Project, will front an untitled comedy (20×30’) in which he and fellow comedians will comment on world events.

Sticky Pictures’ Sammy J & Randy in Rickett’s Lane (6×30’) will star Saturday Night Fever’s Sammy J as an obsessive, socially inept junior lawyer who scrambles to hold onto his last ounce of dignity while clinging to the bottom rung of the corporate ladder.

Gristmill Productions’ Little Lunch (26×15’) is a mockumentary about what happens in the primary school playground at snack time for ABC3.

There will be a second season of Working Dog’s Utopia and a third of Please Like Me, a Pigeon Fancier/John & Josh International production that screens in the US on cablenet Pivot.

Among the new acquisitions are Agatha Christie’s Partners in Crime, Conquest of the Skies with David Attenborough, Grantchester, Sherlock seasons 1 and 2, Louis Theroux’s LA Stories and Human Universe with Brian Cox.

FremantleMedia Australia’s Watch This Space (4 x 60’) will follow actor David Wenham on a quest to find Australians’ favourite public spaces and to potentially fix the ones that people don’t like.

The previously announced drama line-up includes Ruby Entertainment’s The Secret River, Playmaker Media’s Hiding, Matchbox Pictures’ Glitch and Blackfella Films’ Redfern Now: Promise Me.

There will be third seasons of December Media’s The Doctor Blake Mysteries and Every Cloud’s Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries.

Marking the ANZAC Centenary, Sam Neill will present a personal account of the Gallipoli campaign in Essential Media & Entertainment’s The Waves of ANZAC Cove. Mago Films’ The Waler: Australia’s Great War Horse tells of the 120,000 horses that served with Australian forces, while David Bradbury’s Vietnam ANZACs is an account of Australian soldiers’ action in the Vietnam War and the tragedy of the post-traumatic stress that followed.

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