The period drama starring Essie Davis wasn’t announced as returning for 2014 in this week’s ABC Programming Launch.
Producer Fiona Eagger tells TV Tonight the ABC is yet to come to a decision and time is running out to retain cast and begin script development.
“I believe there’s a desire from the ABC for a third series, I think they’re very proud of the show. It’s got very loyal following and it’s doing outstandingly well in terms of ratings on Friday nights and overseas,” she said.
“But I think what the ABC is struggling with is that they’ve had budget cuts and they’ve got a lot of potentially-returning shows. They’ve got an embarrassment of riches.
“So they haven’t gone into development or commissioned a third series.”
An ABC spokesperson confirmed to TV Tonight, “No decision has been made either way.”
This week ABC announced 12 new and returning Dramas including the Crownies reboot Janet King, ANZAC Girls, Broken Shore, Old School, Jack Irish, Dr. Blake Mysteries and the drama poster child, Rake.
Essie Davis was invited to the ABC 2014 launch party but was unavailable to attend.
With so many upcoming Dramas series, Eagger is concerned Miss Fisher may fall victim to a crowded production slate.
“I think they might forward-commit sometimes so there might be a change of practice. They’re anticipating bringing in the reins a little bit more, so the next year there is going to be a little bit tougher on Drama,” she said.
“The word we’re getting is that there’s a bit of a squeeze going on for the Drama dollar. Whether that’s internally or in anticipation of an external force I’m not sure. I think it’s something audiences and practitioners have to watch -that the ABC Drama dollar is not eroded.”
But the indecision may also stem from ABC’s ongoing desire to attract younger viewers.
Last week Director of Television Richard Finlayson told TV Tonight the broadcaster was looking to attract broad audiences and change was coming.
“Possibly fewer, but bigger Dramas. Taking bigger risks and bigger punts,” he said.
“’Fewer, bigger, better’ is an idea across the whole slate, really. We need to push our resources behind some bigger bets.”
Eagger points to the Drama’s popularity through iview as evidence it has a broad audience and says the show is family viewing for teens and parents, with Phryne Fisher as an ideal female role model.
“I think if you look at Friday night figures alone, yes you would think it was skewing older, but I think that’s actually under-estimating it’s Reach,” she says.
“I feel like there is an obsession at the ABC, and probably all broadcasters, about ‘Where is the Television audience?’ and feeling like they are losing younger viewers and (wondering) how can they push into that 25-50 age bracket? But I believe we have a lot of supporters in that age bracket as well.”
Miss Fisher is also popular overseas, distributed through All 3 Media into the UK, and Europe It also screens on Netflix in the US.
“All 3 Media can’t even understand why we are having this debate,” said Eagger.
Meanwhile, an online petition at change.org has attracted fans from around the world including the US, UK, NZ, Poland, Latvia, Russia, Czech Republic, Mexico, Singapore, Sweden and more.
It now has 2,500 signatures.
James Newburrie from Clayton, who started the petition, writes:
The show has become a cultural touchstone and an educational experience for people my age and younger. Miss Fisher has taught me about:
- Period fashions;
- Pre-suffrage women’s rights; and,
- The underlying tensions in Australian society of the time.
Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries are critical to the mission of the ABC not merely because it is only show worth watching on Friday night, but because it may be the only show on Australian television which is still ‘appointment viewing’.
Eagger is concerned that if ABC doesn’t give a third season the greenlight soon, cast members may become unavailable.
“Our cast are well-loved and someone else is going to want to snaffle them very quickly,” she says.
“We could lose Essie to the UK if we’re not careful.
“We need the go ahead to be on screen in 2015.”
A Miss Fisher Christmas special will air next month.