Press release time!
Footy season may be over but new ABC TV series is just warming up
Lisa McCune, John Howard and Vince Colosimo to join exciting new Indigenous cast
Tuesday, October 11, 2016 — ABC TV, Screen Australia and Film Victoria announced today that filming has commenced in Melbourne on THE WARRIORS, a provocative new 8 x 30’ Indigenous comedy drama series.
Created by Tony Briggs (The Sapphires) and Robert Connolly (Paper Planes, Barracuda), THE WARRIORS is set in the world of Australian Rules Football. It explores the elite world of professional sport through the eyes of two new recruits – plucked from obscurity to fame and fortune – and two established players as they are thrown together in a share house in Melbourne.
With temptation at every turn and a lot of football, there’s no guarantee these young men will run through the banner for the first game of the season.
After a nationwide casting search, 18 year old Gordan Churchill will make his acting debut as Maki, the number one draft pick. Gordan was discovered in the remote Indigenous community of Warnum in the Kimberley Region. The series also introduces WAAPA graduate Nelson Baker as Zane, the number five draft pick.
Lisa McCune is the team’s tireless communications manager, Vince Colosimo is Coach Mark ‘Spinner’ Spinotti charged with getting the wooden spooners back in finals contention. Club president, footy legend Bill Shepherd, is played by John Howard, returning to the world of Australian Rules Football after starring in the 1980’s classic The Club.
Comedian Ben Knight is Scottie who is returning from his third knee reconstruction, and Reece Milne (Home and Away) plays Doc, the seasoned team-captain charged with showing the rookies the ropes. Newcomer Tasia Zalar is Zane’s sister Ava, who joins the boys to try out for the women’s league.
“What attracted us to this project was both the concept of following four mischievous footballers experiencing the highs, lows and often funny situations of life as an elite athlete, as well as the opportunity for Indigenous creatives to partner with highly regarded practitioners and accelerate along their career trajectory” said Penny Smallacombe, Head of Indigenous at Screen Australia.
“Film Victoria is delighted to be supporting the team behind The Warriors and also providing skills development opportunities for a number of Victorian Indigenous screen practitioners” said Jenni Tosi, CEO at Film Victoria.
“The Warriors is a wild ride that sees our characters teeter between temptation and dedication with the added layer of cross-cultural relations. It’s brilliant to be able to deal with this subject matter through a no-holds-barred comedy” said Sally Riley, the Head of Scripted Production.
THE WARRIORS is a landmark Australian television project, exclusively written and directed by some of the country’s finest Indigenous talent including Jon Bell (Cleverman), Tony Briggs (The Sapphires) and exciting newcomer Tracey Rigney. Directed by Adrian Russell Wills (Wentworth), Beck Cole (Black Comedy), Steven McGregor (Croker Island Exodus, Redfern Now) and straight from a director’s attachment on Alien: Covenant with Ridley Scott – Catriona McKenzie (The Circuit, Redfern Now and The Gods of Wheat Street). Produced by Arenamedia with John Harvey.
THE WARRIORS will air on ABC in 2017.
Obviously this is very good news. Australia (and the ABC) needs more local production, the concept sounds halfway decent* and the talent behind it is strong – we’ll be there opening night for sure. But is it good comedy news?
Putting aside the fact it’s hard to know if it came through the comedy department – “Sally Riley, the Head of Scripted Production” oversees scripted Comedy, but also Fiction, Children’s and Indigenous (which she used to run, and where she was involved in Black Comedy, Gods of Wheat Street, 8MMM Aboriginal Radio, Redfern Now and Cleverman) – this seems a lot closer to the ABC’s lengthy tradition of lightweight drama than it does something that’s actually all that hilarious.
You know what we mean: the lead is basically played straight while the more occasional the role the nuttier the character becomes. It’s a story where a fish out of water is constantly doing that “comedy react” thing as they are plunged into a crazy world full of knockabout comedy characters. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll be impressed at the way it tackles important issues, etc.
“But geez, Tumbleweeds,” we hear you ask, “they literally describe it as a “no-holds-barred-comedy” – what more do you ungrateful bastards want?” Um, maybe a production team with a track record in comedy? Tony Briggs and Robert Connolly have made and appeared in more than their fair share of decent drama and they’re a large part of the reason why we’ll be tuning in but comedy? The Sapphires had Judith Lucy, but past that…
We’ll say it again because we know our rep as haters often means people don’t bother to read everything we write: this looks like an exciting production and it’s one we’re excited about. But c’mon: if you’re making a “comedy drama”, don’t then go on to call it a “no-holds-barred-comedy”. And if you think promoting a lightweight drama as a comedy is the best way to get people excited about a show, why don’t you just make more comedies?
*this’ll be a good test of a theory held by one of us that the reason why Australia loves sport but seems largely disinterested in dramas (or comedies, or quiz shows) about sport is because a): the people who love sport can simply just watch actual sport (and shows looking behind the scenes at sport), and b): the people who don’t love sport have so much sport rammed down their throats simply by living in Australia that they have zero interest in watching a drama or comedy about sport.