EXCLUSIVE: Ambitious legal drama Crownies will have its final episode on ABC1 next week, but the drama may have life in the form of another spin-off.
“Crownies won’t be coming back as Crownies,” ABC1 Channel Controller Brendan Dahill tells TV Tonight.
“But we are talking to (producers) Screentime about a spin-off. There are lots of things I love about Crownies and lots of things that were done brilliantly, and I’m really proud of Crownies.
“I’m genuinely surprised it didn’t engage a bigger audience than it did. Genuinely surprised. But I don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater. There are plenty of brilliant things in it and we’re talking to Screentime at the moment.
“That’s why we haven’t made the announcement yet about no Season Two. It’s not a Season Two of Crownies, it’s a spin-off from Crownies that takes Crownies and the characters in a slightly different direction.”
The 22 part drama was ABC’s most ambitious and expensive drama in years, but launched to modest ratings and mixed reviews.
“The criticism comes in the more soapie elements and fair enough. But there were plenty of really on-the-pulse moments. The Dominique Strauss-Kahn case, babies dying of dehydration in the car because people leave them there. There were so many cases when you open your paper they’re right there and the production team were right on the pulse of what Australian courts are inundated with,” Dahill explains.
The show was not announced as returning during ABC’s 2012 Programming Launch this week because Dahill says he was still considering his options in recent weeks.
“I’ll be completely honest, I was undecided. There’s bits of Crownies that have really worked and I didn’t want to throw them away because of (poor) ratings,” he says.
“So what Screentime have come up with is a really great compromise that allows us to keep the best bits, and learn and move on.”
He also cites Hamish Michael and Marta Dusseldorp as two of his favourite performers in the show.
“Hopefully they will get recognised when Awards season comes around, but they’re up against some stiff competition.”
A spin-off is rare in Australian drama but it isn’t unprecedented. As far back as 1976 Solo One was a spin-off from Crawford Productions’ Matlock Police. E Street also had a major makeover while The Flying Doctors became RFDS. Pacific Drive was changed from a late night M rated show to a PG daytime show when it got axed. A Country Practice and Neighbours also switched networks while Chances bore no resemblance to its original premise.
Dahill emphasises it is still early days on the development of the spin-off.
“Nothing is signed. We’re still talking through creatively how it’s going to look.
Screentime is positive, creative and energised all the time and we’d love to keep that going.
“I’m hoping it might be late 2012, but it might end up in early 2013, purely because we’ve got such a rich drama slate in 2012 and I will be hard-pressed to get it in the schedule.
“We’ve learned from the experience and Screentime have learned.
“Hopefully next time round we’ll get it better.”