Be afraid, be very afraid for TV in 2009.

ABC TV today said “We have vision” in releasing its 2009 line up which was described as being the “most original, creative and exciting television of the Year”. Oh, dear.

But then the Ten Network’s 2009 programming was launched and it was described as “its strongest program line up in recent years with an expanded international and domestic slate rivalling previous offerings to secure a big year, all year, for TEN in 2009.”

Network Ten chief executive officer, Grant Blackley, said, “investment in Ten is investment in a highly targeted and efficient proposition.”

Yes but will it rate?

This is what Ten says about its great white hope for 2009 and the Big Brother hole:

MasterChef Australia : Anticipated to be one of the biggest “event” TV shows of 2009, as hundreds of hopefuls are set to turn out across the country with aspirations of becoming Australia’s first true MasterChef. Over 10 weeks every “Donna Hay” wannabe from amateur cook to budding foodies and even tuck-shop mums will be tossing their chef’s hat in the ring, each hoping to become Australia’s next super chef. A team of experts will lead our 16 hopefuls through their staggering challenges as they battle it out for the grandest prize of all…the title of MasterChef .

Sponsored by Masterfoods perhaps, and with Sydney cooking writer and homewares spruiker, Donna Hay. More product placement? The synergies with the weight-loss program The Biggest Loser and Masterchef are, frightening! Ten already has two day time cooking shows, now one in prime time?

That sets the tone; but the first program mentioned was Ten’s securing of the broadcast rights for the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

Now, that won’t do a thing for 2009 and the network’s hopes in its 16 to 39 and 18 to 49 programming, and yet it was the very first thing mentioned in the Ten press release.

Ten has many of the indifferent and moderate performers returning from this year, such as Australian Idol, Rush, Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader?, Californication, the Law and Orders, and solid hits like Bondi Rescue.

For the ABC’s part, its 2009 will hopefully not be summed up by this breathless PR-ing for what seems an interesting program:

If This Day Tonight had had an illegitimate child with Countdown called Beatbox, which then had s-x with its first cousin Race Around The World, whose half sibling The Chaser then had a one night stand with its own distant relative This Day Tonight, the result would be the genetically explosive ten part series, Project NEXT.

In 2009, Andrew Denton’s company, Zapruder’s other films with ABC TV will commence the search for the next generation of Australian television talent. It’s not about unearthing more karaoke singers and “soso” dancers.

Project NEXT is about finding a bunch of original thinkers, movers, mischiefmakers and cagerattlers, and enticing them into a room to create an irreverent program about serious things.

Let’s hope it’s better than that. But it is a sign that the ABC is desperate to invoke the Andrew Denton name in 2009, even though Enough Rope ends in several weeks time. Difference of Opinion will have 32 programs next year and could slot into the Monday night 9.35pm timeslot to replace Enough Rope.

Peter Fray

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