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Must-see TV shows of the year



But national TV writer Lisa Woolford serves up her Australian favourites — on the off chance, at least some of them have passed you by.The Newsreader iviewThis very deservedly scooped the pool at this year’s AACTA awards. And it may just be that I’m a journo junkie who loves watching the business play out on screen, or that I truly remember most of the 1986 events the series covered, but this six-part drama, written by Michael Lucas, was a genuine delight from beginning to end. It’s further buoyed by a fabulous cast, including Anna Torv, Sam Reid, William McInnes, Michelle Lee Davidson, Stephen Peacocke and Marg Downey. Five bedroomsParamount+Michael Lucas and Offspring partner-in-crime Christine Bartlett have created another masterpiece in this drama about five very different people who buy a house together. In this second series, we see the surrogate family – Liz (Stewart), Harry (Joseph), Ben (Stephen Peacocke), Heather (Doris Younane) and Ainslie (Katie Robertson) – leaping back into the property market. Grab the tissues though – this writing pair know how to break your heart. Remember how they killed off Dr Patrick? In good news, the third series drops on New Year’s Day.FiskiviewKitty Flanagan co-wrote, co-directed and stars in this hilarious, laugh-out-loud, six-part series as Helen Tudor-Fisk, a corporate contract lawyer forced to take a job at a suburban law firm specialising in wills and probate. Fisk was an unexpected shot of joy, at a time we needed it most, beautifully written and perfectly cast. As well as the incomparable key ensemble of Julia Zemiro, Marty Sheargold and Aaron Chen, there’s a who’s who of Aussie comedy in the guest stars. I’d go so far as to dub it the Australian Ted Lasso. Such a delight.The EndFoxtelThe 10-part dark comedy drama stars Frances O’ Connor as Kate Brennan, a British doctor specialising in palliative care on the Gold Coast. Back in the UK, her recently widowed mother, Edie (Dame Harriet Walter) tries to kill herself and fails spectacularly. The End is about three generations of an eccentric family who clash as they try to figure out how to die with dignity, live with none and make every day count. It’s a truly stunning production, dealing with a range of confronting subject matter from suicide, euthanasia, depression, gender dysmorphia, but handled it in a humane and humorous way.Mr InbetweenFoxtel After three taut seasons, creator Scott Ryan’s clever show came to a perfectly judged conclusion this year. Mr Inbetween, inspired by Ryan’s 2005 cult film The Magician, centres on Ray Shoesmith (Scott Ryan), a father, ex-husband, boyfriend and best friend – tough to juggle at the best of times, even harder when you’re a criminal for hire. In season three, Ray’s quietly mourning the loss of Bruce, while figuring out how to care for his ageing father. And Brittany (Chika Yasumura) draws further away from Ray and yet comes closer to discovering the truth about who he really is.Ms Fisher’s Modern Murder MysteriesACORN TVThis second season of the spin-off from the wildly popular Miss Fisher was clever, funny and just a little bit sexy. As murders continue to plague the streets of 1964 Melbourne, daring detective Peregrine Fisher (the divine Geraldine Hakewill) tackles her trickiest assignment yet: juggling her career, the busy life of an adventuress and her romance with Detective James Steed (the equally delightful Joel Jackson). WakefieldABCOne of the year’s most underrated dramas was set in a psych ward, and cleverly explored the fine line between sanity and insanity. Wakefield Psychiatric Hospital’s compassionate head nurse Nick (Rudi Dharmalingam) – who appears to be on the edge of a breakdown himself – is at the heart of this surprisingly funny drama. The eight episodes, featuring a fabulous ensemble of Australian actors, unravel the stories of several patients and staff at the hospital in a heartfelt and clever way. Warning – Come On Eileen will be on repeat in your head. How to Stay MarriedStreaming 10PLAYThe third series was an absolute gem by writer/director/star Pete Helliar. Lisa McCune and Helliar are a dynamic duo as long-time married couple Emily and Greg. Em hoped her book My Sh*t Husband would be a big success. What she was not hoping for was for Greg (Helliar) to turn it into an empire. There’s a couple of great guest stars including a brilliant Casey Donovan as the perfect P & F president – and former Australian cricketer Adam Gilchrist as himself was another masterstroke.Love Me BingeThe six-episode drama dropped just in time to make the list. And it is magnificent – the script, the casting, the direction. Exploring the search for love across three different family members – Glenn (Hugo Weaving), Clara (Bojana Novakovic) and Aaron (William Lodder) – you’ll likely relate, laugh and shed a tear or two. Throw in Celia Pacquola, Bob Morley, Heather Mitchell, Sarah Peirse, Mitzi Ruhlmann and Shalom-Brune Franklin, some deft storytelling and you have the perfect antidote for what is happening in the world right now. RFDSSevenIt’s real shame this eight-episode drama, filmed on location in and around Broken Hill, was not renewed for a second season. With stars such as Steve Peacocke, Emma Hamilton, Justine Clarke, Rob Collins, Ash Ricardo and Kate Mulvaney, this almost-Flying-Doctors-reboot captures the beauty of the Outback, where the doctors, nurses, pilots and support staff negotiate the unique challenges of emergency retrievals across some of the most inhospitable places in the country. Plus there’s a bit of spicy romance action. HONOURABLE MENTIONSAftertaste(iview)Watch Erik Thomson in a whole new light as grumpy, disgraced celeb chef Easton West returning to his roots to salvage his career. He heads a great ensemble in this funny, six-part original dramedy series, including Rachel Griffiths, Remy Hii, Susan Prior and Wayne Blair. But the standout is musical-theatre star Natalie Abbott in her TV debut as Diana, Easton’s niece.Under the VinesRebecca Gibney and The Crown actor Charles Edwards star in this froth and bubbles fare as a mismatched pair who discover they are joint “sole” heirs to a NZ winery. Another delight is meeting a whole heap of new, and familiar, NZ talent against the stunning backdrop of Central Otago. The Cook Up with Adam LiawSBS On DemandTake the always affable Liaw and mix in two cooks or celebs and it’s the perfect recipe for a loads of fun and heap of great tips are given. Not to mention, it’s been a godsend to my weeknight dinner repertoire. Cheap Seats 10PlayIf you haven’t tuned into this comic whip-around of the week’s news, you’ve been missing out. The Cheap Seats hosts Melanie Bracewell and Tim McDonald blitz through a fun look at the week that was. They’re helped out by showbiz guru and radio announcer Mel Tracina, and sports expert Titus O’Reily.

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