Party Tricks flop puzzles producer
John Edwards has produced more than 35 series, miniseries and telepics since 1985 in his illustrious career and has rarely made a misstep creatively.
So the producer was as surprised as Network Ten executives when Party Tricks opened poorly last month and even more so when the ratings for the second episode plunged by 32% and never recovered.
The 6-part drama has appealing leads in Asher Keddie and Rodger Corser, was created by Michael Lucas, one of the core writers on Offspring, and produced by Endemol Australia’s Edwards and his long-time collaborator Imogen Banks.
Keddie stars as Kate Ballard, the Victorian Premier, with Corser as David McLeod, the opposition leader and her one-time secret lover.
The premiere was watched by 710,000 viewers in the five capital cities and the second episode drew just 476,000. The consolidated ratings were a bit more respectable: 806,000 capital city viewers, up 14% or 97,000 viewers with time-shifted viewing for the premiere; and 570,000 up 20% or 95,000 viewers, for the second ep.
“We delivered the show we set out to make,” Edwards tells IF. “It was universally extremely well reviewed but it did not connect with mainstream audiences in the way we expected.
“I don’t know why. Conventional wisdom is that you don’t do shows about politicians because you don’t get mainstream audiences.”
So Party Tricks joins two other Edwards’ dramas which did not deliver the ratings he’d hoped for: Power Games: The Packer-Murdoch War, and Ten’s 2005 medical series The Surgeon, which was clobbered by Nine’s RPA.
The producer’s next project will be his most ambitious yet if he pulls it off: a 40-part medical drama, which would be shot in 40 weeks, utilising a team of 10 writers and filming on a block-schedule with a slightly smaller than normal second-unit crew overseen by the director.
He has pitched the show, which he would produce with Mimi Butler, his collaborator on Paper Giants: Magazine Wars, Howzat! Kerry Packer's War and Rush, to networks and is awaiting responses.
“It’s a huge business undertaking which flies in the face of the prevailing trend to shorter-run series,” he says. “But it would provide a lot of programming flexibility and with this volume of work I am trying to develop a new generation of writers, directors and star casts. That’s my ambition.”