Terry Television anticipates the television event of the year.
Yes its almost upon us. The TV event of the year. And I don’t mean them
Logies thingies.

No, it’s Rewind, the ABC version of History Detectives, which was the ABC
version of an idea from the US and a scattering of ideas from the
U.K. And one they couldn’t even get up to the starting line in its
original form, as Crikey has reported –
How Aunty’s History Detectives became defective

Now it’s about to burst onto our screens this Sunday evening at 9.25
pm. God, let’s hope shifting Compass by 45 or so minutes doesn’t upset
viewers. It will come after an encore showing of Pride and Prejudice, a good
frock-up from the Beeb, that will reveal to ABC executives and the like
how a good bit of dressed fun can be done (of course with a budget).

Ahh, the budget. Rewind (AKA History Defectives) had an $8
million budget, Gi-normous by ABC standards. Got them nowhere at all. Up
the creek without a paddle and completely lost earlier this year.
The tale of this program is one long sorry saga of managerial
indecision, production competence and utter frustration, judging from
reaction to the previous story.

Let’s take the latest efforts from ABC Promotions. Is this the invisible
program or what! A few snippets in gossip columns but nothing major. In
fact zilch could be the word used to describe the pre-publicity. Not even
in the SMH TV Guide insert, which sometimes resembles the house journal
of the ABC. And quite rightly they do plug for Nine’s The Alice as well as Pride and
Prejudice
and Regency House Party, also on Sunday evening on the ABC.

So a perhaps frustrated person from the program e-mailed around a
hundred academics and other supporters (including Crikey) urging them to
watch and to download if they wanted, a poster for Rewind.

The academics were chosen (and there are some influential academics and
some media people) perhaps because historian Michael Cathcart is the new
host. He replaced Jennifer Byrne, who was named as the original host, but
bolted when the name change and switch of time slot from 7.30 to
9.25-9.30 was announced.

Can’t blame her can you for doing something right to protect herself
because the original premise for the program had changed. Some insiders, current and former, have remarked at how the program
tells the ABC story of blundering decision making at the top, offset by
skilful production teams and talented people in the program. Although in
this case there were leadership problems from the off, starting with the
ABC executives overseeing the program.

It missed its original deadline of February this year (a six month delay
is quite spectacular).

Last November when the team was being assembled (after being commissioned
in March of last year) the on-air date was still February, but apparently
there was nothing in the can, a sort of oversight by the first Executive
Producer, Stefan Moore and his ABC manager, Daryl Karp, who was the head
of ABC Television factual programming (before moving to Film Australia).
February apparently came and went and Autumn arrived in the shape of
March, and according to insiders, no decision on the number of programs.

Overseeing all of this was the ABC head of Television, Sandra Levy.

The first pilots were made in April and reportedly were okay for
pilots. But in May, as indecision and more delays started appearing
because of conceptual problems, Stefan Moore was replaced as EP by Peter
George, rather than Allan Hogan the experienced former Nine producer (60
Minutes and Sunday).

Peter George was a long time ABC staffer and foreign correspondent.This
was his first gig as an EP.

Now it’s going to air in the dead slot of 9.25-9.30 Sunday evenings, when
Ten’s first run US dramas do well, the movies on Nine and Seven okay
numbers, and the ABC viewers are heading for bed, some with their cocoa.

Will they watch?

Well the lack of pre-publicity says all about expectations from the
ABC. There have been some on air promos on the ABC, but Rewind is the
invisible program so far as the ABC banging the drum. Bananas in Pajamas and
Bob the Builder have a higher profile.
But then I wait to be proved wrong (but The Alice does look more appealing).

Peter Fray

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