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ABC digs deep with 10 new shows and some reimagined faves

ABC Radio Melbourne's breakfast host Sammy J is co-hosting a new science show, with a twist.

ABC Radio Melbourne's breakfast host Sammy J is co-hosting a new science show, with a twist. Photo: ABC

As Vera fans lament the loss of their favourite TV detective after 13 seasons, the national broadcaster has announced a mid-year line-up of 10 new shows and the return of a few favourites.

Amid ever-increasing competition for audience share with streaming giants including Netflix, Amazon, Disney and Paramount+, the ABC says it is rising to the challenge in content, programming and delivery.

We’ll see former 7.30 host Leigh Sales at the helm of a groundbreaking factual series following autistic student journalists, colleague Lisa Millar investigating where all the muster dogs ended up, and breakfast radio host Sammy J to co-host Secret Science, including topics on how men can improve their sperm count.

After expat Australian actor and singer Hugh Jackman wrapped Deadpool & Wolverine with his mate Ryan Reynolds, the New York-based A-lister is also on board to narrate Megafauna, a two-part series following experts who reopen a cold case on the disappearance of these prehistoric giants.

(For the record, in Australia we once had the huge wombat-shaped Diprotodon and the giant goanna Megalania).

At an ABC Upfront showcase on Thursday, chief content officer Chris Oliver-Taylor said this year marked a major change in the way the ABC is thinking about its content.

“It is all about on demand,” he said.

Currently the No.2 free-to-air BVOD (broadcast video on demand) network to date in Australia, the ABC says that year-on-year “weekly active user growth is up on ABC iview”.

For the kids, its a 10 per cent year-on-year growth on minutes viewed.

Catherine Murphy and Tony Armstrong will be hosting a sports panel show. Photo: ABC

Sports panel show, Barnsey and a spin on Hard Quiz 

For sports fans who miss out on AFL360 (Fox Sports) with Gerard Whateley and the Herald Sun‘s Mark Robinson, the ABC’s TV and radio sports reporters Tony Armstrong and Catherine Murphy have teamed for Monday’s Experts.

Although there’s a stack of other sports shows on free-to-air, including Nine’s Sunday Footy Show and Footy Classified, the ABC’s Offsiders with Kelli Underwood, and Seven’s The Front Bar and Talking Footy, the ad-free ABC is hoping to find a niche for another sports entertainment show.

“With a panel of sports journalists and comedians, they will cover the biggest stories and the funniest and most awe-inspiring moments of the week.”

Daughter of iconic rock singer Jimmy Barnes, Elly-May Barnes is at the helm of Headliners, a seven-part series about a quest to create two bands made up entirely of musicians living with a disability.

With support and inspiration from Barnsey, who underwent open heart surgery in December, we watch as they transform a group of strangers into main stage acts for a sellout concert.

Lisa Millar meets up with the 10 graziers and their dogs in this new series and how the dogs have changed their lives. Photo: ABC

With Sammy J, Myf Warhurst and Matt Okine (Mother and Son), Secret Science is at the top of the list to premiere on May 21 followed by Hard Quiz Kids in early June.

Muster Dogs: Where Are They Now? will revisit the human and canine stars of the first two series to check in on the dogs’ progress since the final milestone challenge.

Known for his impatience with incompetence, stand-up comedian Tom Gleeson will run a Hard Quiz series for kids.

Aged between 10 and 13, Gleeson will “interrogate ordinary but brainy contestants”. Hopefully it all goes well.

There’s also Guy Montgomery’s Guy Mont-Spelling Bee – he’s a regular panellist on Ten’s Have You Been Paying Attention – who is partnering up with Aaron Chen (Fisk) to ask comedians to spell.

Along with a triple j 50th celebration later in the year, rounding out the final 10 is Plum, a series addressing the current crisis about footballers and on-field concussions starring Brendan Cowell and Asher Keddie.

Spicks and Specks launched in 2005, with 10 seasons in the can across 315 episodes. Photo: ABC

An oldie but a goodie, Bluey and season renewals

Adam Hills, Warhurst and Alan Brough reunite for Spicks and Specks with new segments, the return of the secret song, live music, as well as all those competitive games.

In association with ITV, the ABC commissioned Austin, starring two UK comedy stars Ben Miller and Sally Phillips and filmed in Canberra, about their neurodivergent son.

Bluey Minisodes premieres mid-June (one- to three-minute segments featuring Bluey & Bingo), Bay Of Fires starring Marta Dusseldorp is back in production for Season 2 as is kids comedy adventure, Spooky Files.

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