Popular comedians Shaun Micallef and Andrew Denton are returning to ABC in 2012. The big announcement was made last night at a special event in Sydney.

Micallef, best known for ABC's The Micallef Program and more recently Channel 10’s Talkin’ 'Bout Your Generation, will host a half-hour weekly roundup – Shaun Micallef Is Mad As Hell – which will most likely be similar to his former SBS series Newstopia.

Produced by Granada Media and Micallef Productions, the 10×30-minute comedy will report and analyse the week’s events and discuss, argue and dissect what’s happening in the world.

“There hasn’t been any decent satire on the ABC for years,” Micallef said at the function, tongue-in-cheek, while looking at host Adam Hills.

“It’s my chance to do some Ben Elton: Live on Planet Earth.”

It was rumoured that Talkin' 'Bout Your Generation was going to finish, but cold water was poured over this last month by a Ten spokesperson saying the popular series would indeed be returning in 2012 with Micallef at the helm.

Denton, best known for chat show Enough Rope, returns on screen with game show Randling. He returns to the screen after a break, which has seen him work behind-the-scenes on such programs as The Gruen Transfer, The Joy of Sets and low-budget film The Tunnel, through production company Zapruder's Other Films.

The 27×30-minute show will see 10 teams of two battle it out on “words”. It’s touted as a “fierce and funny half-hour”.

Denton told a packed Surry Hills room that the series came from a love of such programs as US game show Oh My Word (1965-1969) and more recently British comedy panel quiz show QI, hosted by Stephen Fry.

The announcement was part of ABC’s 2012 programming slate launch, which played host to such identities as Richard Roxburgh (Rake), Frank Woodley (Woodley), Don Hany (East West 101), Adam Zwar (Wilfred) and 2011 IF Living Legends Margaret Pomeranz and David Stratton.

ABC's director of television, Kim Dalton, said 2012 (with the slogan ‘What’s Not To Love!’) would build on this year’s successful programming.

“We had a very good year. We did some fantastic things in drama and it was great to be back – for a number of years we dropped off [drama],” Dalton said.

“We started the year with Paper Giants which was tremendously received. We got back into a long-running series, being Crownies, and we finished the year with The Slap, which has been an absolute triumph.”

The latter, which finishes its run on ABC1 tonight (Thursday), has sold to the US, Canada and several other territories.

Dalton added that sport and children's programming would remain a high priority at the network in 2012. "I’ve always felt that if you’re a public broadcaster and you’re not absolutely centrally-focused on children’s television then you’re not doing your job properly," Dalton said.

This year, the combined weekly metro reach across all ABC TV channels was 62 per cent, according to the public broadcaster. Last month, 1.1 million visitors used catch-up service iView and there were more than five million plays of program episodes.

Other shows coming to the ABC in 2012 include:

Agony Uncles and Agony Aunts (both 6×30-minutes) will see Zwar chatting to Australia’s funniest and wisest celebrities about love and relationships.

Crime/drama series The Straits, produced by Matchbox Pictures (The Slap), is about a family of smugglers, which transports drugs into Australia and guns and exotic wildlife out, making use of ties of blood and loyalty in the Torres Strait Islands. The series was based on an idea from East West 101 actor Aaron Fa’aoso and it stars Rena Owen who said last night that the show was the most challenging in her 27-year career.

Myf Warhurst’s Nice, a 6×30-minute series which sees Warhurst (Spicks and Specks) embrace past cultural icons while taking a closer look at what surrounds us. She will look at things such as bad fashion/music, food, and so on. “It's an excuse to talk to a lot of old men with beards,” she said last night.

Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries takes us into the life of leading lady detective Phryne Fisher (Essie Davis) in the 1920s. The 13×60-minute series is based on the novels by local author Kerry Greenwood.

Woodley sees one of Australia’s most popular comedians in a romantic comedy “filled with virtuosic physical mayhem”. Best known with comedy partner Colin Lane, Woodley returns to the screen in what he said would only offer physical humour as opposed to verbal.

Rake returns for a second series. In the new series, Cleaver Greene (Roxburgh) has learned nothing from disaster. He is in the midst of a wild affair with a woman whose position makes her a very dangerous liaison. It was written by Peter Duncan and Andrew Knight and is produced by Essential Media and Entertainment – which at last week’s SPAA Independent Producer Awards, was awarded the Television Drama producer category for the series.

Other projects screening on ABC in 2012 include: Redfern Now, Mabo, Jack Irish, Laid Series 2, Next Stop Hollywood, Photo Finish, I’m Not Dead Yet, a special 25th anniversary Rage special, Lowdown Series 2, Outland, This Christmas, Life at 7, First Footprints and Please Like Me. Children's programming will include Bindi Irwin show: Bindi's Boot Camp, Dancing Down Under, LOL (see the December/January issue of IF Magazine), Dance Academy Series 2 and Bushwhacked!.

From left: Adam Hills, Shaun Micallef, Andrew Denton and Kim Dalton

Adam Hills and Kim Dalton discuss the 2012 programming slate

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