For the first time since 2015, Mad As Hell is returning at the start of the ratings year – January 31st – for its EIGHTH season! This will be the first at the new studios in Southbank, Melbourne, where the ABC has consolidated all its television and radio production in Victoria. But the whole team has moved across, so expect arguably the best satirical show on Australian TV to continue where it left off.
In 2015, Comedian Lawrence Leung took his successful stage show about a young Asian-Australian turning against all of his parents expectations to become a travelling conman, and turned it into a movie: Sucker!
The main cast includes Timothy Spall, John Luc, Lily Sullivan, Kat Stewart, Lawrence Leung and Jacek Korman. Shaun plays the small role of Harry, a bug-eyed second-hand record store proprietor.
If you missed it when it was released, Sucker is airing on Channel 11, Tuesday 9th January at 8:30pm.
On Thursday night, we’ll be treated to a sort-of-Micallef double-header, with the finale of Series 2 of The Ex-PM on ABC at 8:30pm, where Dugdale goes head-to-head in a debate with his political rival.
Following it will be a special on the ABC Ripponlea studios, which closed this year, after being home to many classic TV shows for 50+ years. The last show to be filmed there, which will feature throughout the special, was Mad As Hell. Expect to see some behind the scenes footage and an interview with Shaun.
During the filming of series 2 of The Ex-PM earlier this year, I had the pleasure of visiting the set and meeting some of the cast.
The main filming location was not actually in the Darling Downs, Queensland, but at the former rail workshops in Newport, Victoria. In fact, Dugdale’s campaign head quarters, and all the rooms they use as their offices, were in a former administration building on site, complete in its dilapidated glory.
Some of the nearby maintenance sheds were used to build and shoot specific sets, such as the prison sets in the Justice episode.
Outside sat Dugdale’s campaign bus, which unfortunately, actually broke down during filming and had to be towed away!
The crew were really accommodating and friendly, and I watched as they filmed a scene from “Image”, where the whole cast gathered in Dugdale’s office to talk about his upcoming media appearances while Rita trimmed his nose hairs. It was a complicated shot, and involved six camera angles, which was three different setups using the two cameras in the small room – it was a real room, not just a set!
I was also grateful for the opportunity to talk to Shaun, Francis and the one and only John Clarke, who was very giving of his time to talk about social media presence and the future of the ABC. He was ever bit as personable as everyone remembered.
If you’re enjoying Series 2, enjoy some of the behind the scenes photos.
We’re nearly ready for Series 2 of The Ex-PM – it starts this Thursday 8:30pm on the ABC.
Andrew Dugdale (Shaun), once the longest serving Prime Minister, is returning to politics, and standing for election in the seat of Darling Downs in regional Australia. He’s aided by his wife, daughter, agent, personal assistant, driver, security detail and ghost-writer – so what can go wrong?
Dugdale will be back on the hustings, seeking every publicity opportunity he can to get himself back into the public eye.
White Rabbit, Red Rabbit is a play where the actor has no idea what the script is before they perform it, on stage, for the first time, in front of the audience. Shaun was that actor tonight at the Melbourne Arts Centre, improvising between lines on the written page and playing with the audience as the script dictated.
It was a darker play than expected, but thought provoking, and always good to see Shaun playing it up on stage – hopefully we’ll see him do something more like it soon.
In the midst of writing, editing and starring in two TV shows, Shaun has whipped up a new book for our grubby little hands.
Once upon a time being, forever and ever ago, there lived a forest tall of tales … ? When an innocent princess wanders into the forest, she finds herself trapped between a wolf with a ravenous appetite and a sweet little house with a secret. Meanwhile, a desperate fisherman enters into a very bad bargain with a power-hungry monkey. And meanerwhile still, a tiny tricksy tailor promises a promise that not even the most magic of beanstalks can help him escape.
In the same style as those he used to invent for his kids, Shaun has written woven traditional fairy stories into new and surprising adventures. It’s aimed at “tweens”, but there’s something to enjoy for any fan of Shaun’s style or work. I’m a good part through it, and it’s fun and meandering; and not as much of a mind-bend as his previous novels.
The stunning illustrations are throughout by award-winning artist Jonathan Bentley.
It seems like twelve weeks have flown past, but as we watch the last episode of Shaun Micallef’s Mad As Hell tonight, the cast and crew will be holding their wrap party for what has been a fantastic season, and proof that it’s needed in Australia’s TV landscape.
But don’t despair… it will be back in 2018 for Season 8! Everyone I’ve spoken to the ABC can’t be more thrilled to have it back, and are excited to see it in ABC’s new Southbank studios next year. There’s a real sense of family and team about the show – the cast and crew really love working on it together, and Shaun admitted he still gets a lot of enjoyment from making it. So with a bit of luck we’ll see it in the early part of 2018.
With tonight being the penultimate episode of Series 7, that means there’s only one more episode (next week) of Mad As Hell for this year!
Coincidentally, by all accounts, next week’s taping of Mad As Hell will be the last thing to be recorded at the ABC Elsternwick studios, which have been the ABC’s main television facilities in Melbourne since 1956.
The studios have been the home of Countdown, The Big Gig, The Late Show, Recovery, countless others, and of course – The Micallef P(r)ogram(me), Newstopia and Shaun Micallef’s Mad As Hell.
Next year, the show will tape in new studios at the ABC Southbank site in Melbourne, where all ABC operations in Victoria have been consolidated. The move was anticipated earlier in the year, but the new studios have not been ready.
Speaking to some of the cast and crew, there is a feeling of melancholy over leaving the studios in Gordon Street, with the history (along with asbestos) being ingrained in the walls, and many people of the people still there having had worked in the building for over 30 years. Even for the Mad As Hell team, it’s been six years alone.
It’s a fitting thing that Shaun and his team, who currently carry the satirical torch for the ABC, should give it the final on-air send off.