Sally Riley explains why the ABC is happy to take commissioning risks
‘Diary of an Uber Driver.’
Sally Riley is bemused when people use this line when they are pitching projects to her: “This is definitely an ABC show.”
The ABC’s head of scripted production, Riley usually replies: “What is that? What is an ABC show?”
Interviewed in her Ultimo office for a two-part story, she tells IF: “If it’s a great show, we’ll do it. I don’t think it must fit in the parameters of what is supposed to be an ABC show.
“We want to not only hold our audiences but also bring in new and younger audiences and we have a broad slate to try to meet both. We will definitely take a calculated risk when we believe in a show.”
As an example of a program which she thinks most people would not expect to see on the public broadcaster, she points to Les Norton, the 10-part Roadshow Rough Diamond drama created by Morgan O’Neill, based on the best-selling novels by Robert G. Barrett.
Alexander Bertrand (Australian Gangster, Hyde & Seek) plays the title role, a knockabout guy from outback Queensland who tries to escape his troubled past by moving to 1980s Sydney, where he lands an job as a bouncer at an illegal casino in Kings Cross. Desperate to return home, he soon finds himself seduced by the city’s illicit charms and dragged into a web of underground criminality.
Jocelyn Moorhouse was the set-up director, working with David Caesar, Fadia Abboud and O’Neill. The cast includes Rebel Wilson, David Wenham, Hunter Page-Lochard, Steve Le Marquand, Syd Zygier, Pallavi Sharda, Justin Rosniak and Kate Box.
“It’s very funny and irreverent, it’s got heart and it really captures the spirit and tone of the books,” says Riley. “Alex is amazing as Les and it was a revelation watching Rebel work; she was riffing and coming up with jokes and keeping everyone on their toes. It’s not the sort of show you would expect the ABC to do.”
Another project which excites her is Revlover Films’ Diary of an Uber Driver, the 6 x 30’ drama scripted by Thomas Ward based on the popular blog and e-book by Ben Phillips, with Matthew Moore directing.
Sam Cotton (Rosehaven) plays the Uber driver with Zahra Newman (Wentworth, Sisters) as Beck, the mother of his unborn child. The assorted passengers are played by the likes of Ed Oxenbould, John Bell, Caroline Brazier and Emily Barclay.
Riley describes the show as “in the tonal vein of Rosehaven and Please Like Me as it follows Uber driver Ben interacting with his passengers while trying to figure out what being ‘relevant’ looks like in a relationship in which his ex seems to think he’s surplus to requirements. It’s the sort of show you watch with a smile on your face.”
The exec was thrilled with the ratings for the third season of What Horse? /Guesswork TV’s Rosehaven, co-commissioned with Sundance TV. A huge fan of creators Luke McGregor and Celia Pacquola, Riley is keen to see more Rosehaven. She also looks forward to collaborating again with Get Krack!n creators Kate McCartney and Kate McClennan.
The second season of Giant Dwarf’s The Letdown premieres at 9pm Wednesday May 29. Regulars Sacha Horler, Lucy Durack, Celeste Barber, Duncan Fellows, Leah Vandenberg, Leon Ford and Xana Tang are joined by Bert LaBonte, Felix Williamson and Felicity Ward.
Creators/writers/producers Sarah Scheller and Alison Bell make their directing debuts alongside Trent O’Donnell and Amanda Brotchie.
Among other returning shows are Working Dog’s Utopia and Jungle’s Squinters. Season 4 of Scarlet Pictures’ sketch comedy Black Comedy, directed by Steven McGregor and Nakkiah Lui, is about to start shooting.
“Black Comedy is one of those shows that just keeps giving. Along with creating iconic characters, it’s one of the best talent escalators for Indigenous creatives in our industry. We actively champion them on to other shows,” she says.
Regulars Aaron Fa’Aoso, Nakkiah Lui, Gabriel Willie, Bjorn Stewart, Maci Grace Johnson, Dalara Williams, Meyne Wyatt, Ningali Lawford, Aaron McGrath and Jalen Sutcliffe are back, with guest appearances from Rob Collins, Christine Anu, Sean Choolburra and Shari Sebbens.
The returning writers are David Woodhead, Gabriel Willie, David Human, Nayuka Gorrie and Nakkiah Lui with new voices in Rhianna Malezer, Boyd Quakawoot, Jalen Sutcliffe, Garth Edwards, Pearl Berry, Yaraman Thorne, Sean Choolburra, Aaron Collins, Donny Imberlong, Grace Eather, Jamie-Lee Craigie, Raelee Lancaster and Shontell Ketchell.