SBS in 2019: New dramas, documentaries – and more 'slow TV'

A drama about cyber-bullying, a supernatural thriller featuring Vietnamese families and a new quiz show are among the programs coming to SBS next year.

The multicultural broadcaster revealed its 2019 television slate in Sydney on Tuesday.

“We tell stories and show people on screen that you don’t see anywhere else, giving a voice to communities that would otherwise go unheard,” said SBS’s TV and online content chief, Marshall Heald.

Major scripted debuts include Hungry Ghosts (using elements of the Japanese and Korean supernatural thriller genre, this series explores the lives of Vietnamese families in the aftermath of war); The Hunt (a drama about four teenagers involved in a nude photo-sharing scandal); and Robbie Hood (a six-park comedy, exclusive to SBS on Demand, about a teenager living in a remote Aboriginal community).

A new local version of British quiz show Mastermind – last made in Australia in the 1980s for the ABC – will occupy the 6pm weeknight slot on SBS's main channel. Beginning in April, it will feature four people competing in two rounds: one based on general knowledge and one on a specialist subject.

"It's one of the most iconic game shows of all time, and it provides a point of difference to the news on the other channels," Heald said. "The host is still be announced – but they will need to be smart, funny and tough."

Noni Hazlehurst will present My Family Secret, examining the multicultural history of everyday Australians. Other non-scripted series include Medicine or Myth? (hosted by Dr Charlie Teo, an expert panel puts homespun remedies to the test); Australia in Colour (archival footage is brought to life in colour, showing the true multicultural face of the nation); and the final season of The Family Law (based on Benjamin Law's bestselling memoir).

Noni Hazlehurst will host My Secret Family on SBS in 2019.

Noni Hazlehurst will host My Secret Family on SBS in 2019.Credit:James Brickwood

This year, The Ghan – a broadcast of a train making its way across the country, with no music or breaks – averaged 536,000 viewers. In 2019, SBS promises “one nail-biting slow TV event” for each week of January, including a journey on The Indian Pacific, a boat trip through The Kimberley region and similar footage filmed in the UK and New Zealand.

"When you're a small network like us – and a publicly-funded network – I think you have an opportunity to innovate with the form of television," Heald said. "People obviously found the format really beguiling and surprising."

In January, more than half a million viewers watched this train make its way across Australia.

In January, more than half a million viewers watched this train make its way across Australia.Credit:SBS

Continuing its focus on social disadvantage and cross-cultural relationships, SBS has renewed Struggle Street; Secrets of Our Cities; Marry Me Marry My Family; Untold Australia; a follow-up to Muslims Like Us called Christians Like Us; and Who Do You Think You Are?, tracing the family backgrounds of Scott Cam, Rodger Corser, Kurt Fearnley, Casey Donovan and others prominent Australians.

The SBS Food channel, having lost some content to new commercial rival 7Food, will launch new series including Donna Hay's Basics to Brilliance and Basics to Brilliance: Kids (guidance on how to master simple recipes); Lee Chan World Food Tour (the TV presenter eats her way around the world); and The Travelling Chef (Brett McGregor searches the world for new flavours). Starring in other programs on SBS Food are Adam Liaw, Poh Ling Yeow, Shane Delia, Peter Kuruvita, Luke Nguyen, Maeve O’Meara, Kylie Kwong, Nigella Lawson, Rick Stein and Luke Nguen.

Nguyen will also host Luke on a Train, on the main channel, in which he takes a culinary trip through Vietnam. Gourmet Farmer and Ainsley’s Market Menu also return, along with flagship news programs SBS World News, Insight and Dateline.

At least four programs (Medicine or Myth?, Luke on a Train, The Family Law, Hungry Ghost) will be hosted by, or starring, Australians with Asian heritage.

"Free-to-air television hasn't represented the diversity of our country for a very long time, even though more than 50 per cent of Australians have at least one parent born overseas," Heald said. "I think it's quite extraordinary that until The Family Law came along, there hasn't been an Asian-Australian drama series on television, ever."

Myf Warhurst and Joel Creasey will host Eurovision in 2019.

Myf Warhurst and Joel Creasey will host Eurovision in 2019.Credit:SBS

Youth-focused Viceland channel will screen The Feed; Wellington Paranormal; The Orville; You’re the Worst; and Brooklyn Nine-Nine.

NITV will have new documentaries including She Who Must Be Loved (the story of Alfreda Glynn, a 78-year-old Aboriginal woman and stills photographer); and Gurrumul (exploring the life of one Australia’s most important musicians). Going Places with Ernie Dingo returns, as does Living Black; The Point; Marngrook Footy ShowKriol Kitchen; On Country Kitchen and the Logie-winning Little J and Big Cuz.

Myf Warhurst and Joel Creasey will host the 64th annual Eurovision Song Contest, (including a televised competition in which viewers choose Australia’s representative), and SBS will also broadcast the 41st Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.

The network’s sports line-up includes FIFA Women’s World Cup; W League Football; Premier League; Tour de France and other cycling races;WNBL Women’s National Basketball League; the French Open; Dakar Rally; gymnastics and figure skating.

While commercial networks prefer reality shows in 7.30pm slot, SBS will offer international documentaries including Dr Michael Mosley’s Trust Me, I’m a Doctor; the return of the 7 Up series, Great Australian Railway Journeys; World From Above; and Civilisations.

International drama debuts include The Name of the Rose (an adaptation of Umberto Eco’s novel, starring John Turturro); Zero Zero Zero (filmed across four continents, it tracks a cocaine shipment from different perspectives); Butterfly (about the acrimonious relationship between divorced parents over their gender-variant child); McMafia (a drama about a complex web of international criminals);The New Pope (a sequel to The Young Pope, starring Jude Law, Sharon Stone and John Malkovich); Chimerica (a photojournalist travels to China to discover the identity of the man who stood in front of a tank during the Tiananmen Square massacre); and fresh seasons of Knightfall, The Good Fight; Vikings; Counterpart; The Son; and The Handmaid’s Tale.

“We look for creative approaches that scare us,” Heald said. “Even if we grapple with a serious issue, we are optimistic in our approach.”

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