‘Rosehaven’s’ Luke McGregor (l) and Celia Pacquola with Rick Kalowski.
In six-and-a-half years as head of comedy at the ABC, Rick Kalowski oversaw a number of series which he believes could have found homes at the commercial free-to-air networks – if they had been offered to them.
“The ABC does an incredible job as the driver of Australian scripted comedy but I truly see no reason why, with the right projects, the love can’t be spread,” he tells IF.
Rosehaven would have been a comfortable fit for the Nine or Ten Networks, he thinks, while Frayed would have suited Nine, albeit, he notes, perhaps with some of the fruitier bad language toned down.
The Letdown might have been a good match for Ten’s demographic while Ronny Chieng: International Student could have fulfilled SBS’s remit..
Given the ratings success of several ABC comedies, Kalowski, who steps down this Friday, hopes the commercial broadcasters will increasingly see the value of scripted comedy after CJZ produced Mr Black for Ten and the Seven Network has the upcoming Fam Time from Seven Studios.
While he is yet to figure out his career path, wherever he lands he looks forward to discussing shows with the networks as well as the ABC.
Among his last ABC commissions is Yes, Chef!, a six-part comedy/drama from Closer Productions and Erik Thomson’s Wozzledot Pictures, co-funded by Screen Australia.
At first glance, the premise – a notorious celebrity chef is forced to flee to his hometown in the Adelaide Hills after his latest outburst goes viral and forms an unlikely business partnership with his 18-year-old pastry prodigy niece – may seem to be the kind of show that could play on the commercial broadcasters.
But as Kalowski explains, the niece is non-Anglo, as are about half the other lead characters, and the narrative deals with the clash between the old guard represented by the chef and the new typified by his niece. He likens the set-up to a comedic version of Netflix’s The Chef’s Table, with a touch of All About Eve into the mix. Casting is due to be announced in April.
Among Kalowski’s legacies at the ABC will be the upcoming fourth season of Rosehaven and likely three other new series which are yet to be announced and are in advanced development, including two international co-productions.
As IF reported, the ABC and the UK’s Sky are developing a second season of Frayed with Merman Television and Guesswork Television. The bittersweet comedy created by and starring Sarah Kendall averaged more than 1 million viewers an episode including playback and catch-up, ranking as the fifth most popular Australian scripted series on ABC iview behind The Cry, Total Control, Utopia series 4 and The Letdown series 2.
When he announced his departure after commissioning and overseeing the production of some 80 titles, spanning pilots, series, digital content and podcasts, the executive told IF he was exhausted and needed a break.
So while he is in no rush to settle on his next gig, he will be continuing conversations here as well as initiating new ones when he goes to the UK next week. He envisions getting involved both in Australian-based projects with international partners, and international ones outside Australia.
“It has been an absolute privilege to work at the ABC,” he says. “It has been a great opportunity to develop and commission shows and to nurture new talent. I have had more freedom than I’d ever had and I learned a huge amount. While being really excited about the challenge of the new, I’ll miss the place and the people very much.”
Sally Riley, the ABC’s head of drama, comedy and Indigenous, continues to oversee the comedy department as the ABC searches for a successor.