New gig for Leigh Sales, Mother and Son revived, as ABC reveals 2023 line-up
Only months ago, the ABC delivered a fitting farewell to Leigh Sales as she signed off after 12 years at the helm of its flagship current affairs program 7.30. Her departure even warranted its own episode, Farewell To Leigh Sales: A 7.30 Special.
At the time, Sales maintained she was taking a six-month sabbatical while considering her next move. Now it seems she is all done considering.
At the network’s “upfront” presentation of its slate for 2023 on Thursday afternoon, the 49-year-old was announced as the new host of Australian Story.
The program was last presented by the late Caroline Jones in 2016, but since then has forged ahead without a host, with each episode typically introduced by a person close to the subject.
Compared to the rigours of 7:30, presenting Australian Story represents a low-key return for Sales, although it could be one of several ABC projects she works on next year.
“Leigh has a strong connection with the Australian public and a deep interest in people’s stories,” said director of news Justin Stevens. “We can’t wait to see what she brings to this role. Once Leigh’s back at work we’re also looking forward to exploring ideas for other projects she will be involved in, both on air and behind the scenes.”
During the presentation, which was delivered to the public via video for the second year running, the broadcaster also revealed plans to bring back one of Australia’s best-loved sitcoms, Mother and Son.
Created by Geoffrey Atherden and starring Ruth Cracknell and Garry McDonald, the original series ran for six seasons between 1984 and 1994. Now it is being “reimagined” for a modern audience, with Denise Scott and Matt Okine stepping into the roles of Maggie and Arthur.
“When it was first pitched to me, I thought they were joking,” says ABC’s head of comedy Todd Abbott. “I am always nervous about returning to something that lives in people’s memories as a classic, but Matt Okine had a clear vision about why this could work and be relevant.”
The reboot will honour the original premise – a recently separated man who moves back to live with, and care for, his mother as an adult – but also offer something “new and contemporary,” according to Abbott.
“Denise Scott is playing a character who grew up in the 1960s, a liberated woman who is now facing the reality of getting older and all the discrimination that comes with that,” he says.
Mother & Son heads up a slate of new comedy programming for the national broadcaster that also includes Gold Diggers, about a pair of sisters searching for husbands in 1850s Victoria, and the return of workplace comedy Utopia after a four-year break.
Comedy trio Aunty Donna team up for Aunty Donna’s Coffee Cafe, a story about three best mates running a trendy coffee shop down one of Melbourne’s less-than-iconic laneways.
Meanwhile, Limbo is a six-part series starring Ryan Corr and Bobby Morley as two friends haunted by their former lovers. Also returning to the comedy fold are fan favourites Hard Quiz and The Weekly with Charlie Pickering.
There are new projects for The Chaser alumni, with Chas Licciardello heading up No Stupid Questions, a series that promises to answer your most pressing puzzlers, while Craig Reucassel returns for a second serving of War on Waste.
On the drama front, the previously announced Bay of Fires will roll out in 2023. The series stars Marta Dusseldorp as Stella, a woman who unexpectedly drops into a small community with her children and soon learns the town harbours secrets.
There is also the highly anticipated House of Gods, created by Osamah Sami and Shahin Shafaei, which takes audiences behind the walls of an imam’s family and the community he leads, and an adaptation of Markus Zusak’s best-selling novel The Messenger.
Unsurprisingly, The Newsreader returns for a second season in 2023. The Logie-winning drama was ABC’s most-watched drama of 2021, securing a total average audience of 1.5 million across all linear and BVoD (broadcast viewing on demand) platforms.
Season two will cover more of Australia’s political and social history, including election night in 1987, through the shocks of the Hoddle Street shootings and the stock market crash, the heroin epidemic, towards the protest and pageantry of the 1988 Bicentenary.
The ABC’s 2023 slate also features projects designed to spotlight the network’s tentpole talent.
Tony Armstrong will host Great Australian Stuff, a series promising to unpack the surprising, strange, and sometimes dark history behind our most iconic Aussie artefacts. Annabel Crabb hosts another series of Kitchen Cabinet, while Zan Rowe and David Wenham receive second outings for their respective shows, Take Five and The ABC Of.
Despite a tumultuous year in the ratings, Q&A will be back for 2023, and we can also expect a new batch of Bluey episodes too.
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