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Hannah Gadsby, a royal wedding and a female doctor: in 2018, TV got a shake up
From ground-breaking to game-changing, rule-breaking to near parliament-breaking – 2018 has been a big year for TV makers and audiences. Here are some of the most memorable moments.
Doctor Who is finally a woman
What would the 1963 makers of the BBC’s Dr Who have made of television in 2018? They imagined aliens, other worlds and alternate realities, but it took 55 years to imagine a woman in the show’s title role.
Despite some hesitation from a select group of die hards , the 13th Doctor, Jodie Whittaker, took the TARDIS to great effect this year. With a fantastic mix of innovation and respect for the show’s legacy, Whittaker and new showrunner Chris Chibnall have allowed Dr Who to explore known worlds from a new perspective.
Standout episodes included Rosa, in which The Doctor and her companions returned to civil rights era USA to meet Rosa Parks, and The Witchfinders, where The Doctor was caught up in the witch hunting season in Lancashire in the era of King James.
Hannah Gadsby shakes up stand up
Comedy specials have been niche television events for decades, especially championed by US cable outlets like HBO and Comedy Channel. With Netflix now in the mix, the scope for comedy has expanded, and through this global “post-television” network, alternative voices like Hannah Gadsby have found their people.
In Nanette, Gadsby rails against self-deprecating jokes, announces she’s quitting comedy, takes on the canon of Art History and exposes her own traumatic sexual abuse. All done while being funny as.
Praised by the New York Times, Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair, The Guardian and many others, Gadsby’s impact can be measured by the feathers she’s ruffled, too. Comedians like Jerry Seinfeld have had to take note of Gadsby’s ability to go beyond “have you ever wondered why” jokes, and her boldness has also earned her a reputation as a strong voice amid whatever comes after #MeToo. A game changer for comedy, for international on-demand television, and for those who hold power generally.
A Honey Badger breaks The Bachelor
Reality television is, of course, never real, but it’s amazing how many real feelings these shows can evoke. Who knew that a quest for true love, staged in front of a national commercial TV audience, made up of a casting call of pretty young things with little in common might be doomed to fail?
This year’s Australian season of the American franchise The Bachelor added some extra spice with footballer Nick “The Honey Badger” Cummins, who dropped as many ocker sayings as possible while taking his shirt off. After all that, he broke the rules of the game by refusing to choose one of the show’s potential mates – leaving it a case of all sizzle, no steak; and making the show’s producers look like they couldn’t organise a piss up in a brewery. Cue outrage. Cue surprise. Cue discussions about the spin off series.
Parliament House – the soap opera
Backstabbing! Affairs! Denials of knowledge about constitutional citizenship requirements! While politicians all over the world have made for extreme television watching this year, Canberra has been particularly spicy in 2018.
There was Barnaby Joyce airing his dirty laundry in the first half of the year for a reported $150,000. Meanwhile the dual citizenship saga, first sparked by Greens senator Scott Ludlam’s resignation in July 2017, continued. It ate up public funds and airtime.
The show that keeps spinning sequels, “Leadership spill”, continued in August, with Scott Morrison snatching the top job from Malcolm Turnbull. A program that the Australian people are increasingly getting sick of - and it was a shame to see Julie Bishop leave the show.
A royal wedding that’s actually interesting
The marriage of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle was a guilty TV pleasure for many, but also an important historical moment. Television has been a fundamental part of how the British Royal Family is understood (and tolerated) since 1957 when The Queen made her first televised Christmas address. The 2018 showstopper was not the bride’s dress or groom’s nod to his still beloved mother, but rather the sermon by Bishop Michael Curry and The Kingdom Choir’s version of Stand By Me.
Here the former oppressed and oppressors met and were brought together by what was an undeniably very sweet event. While there was some apparent uncomfortableness from certain members of the Royal Family, it was captivating viewing for those watching at home in tiaras and pyjamas.
Honourable mentions include the resignation of SBS newsreader and style icon Lee Lin Chin; American actor Roseanne fired from her own sitcom in a show of zero racism tolerance; ABC sketch show Tonightly coming, growing, then getting cut; (men’s) cricket being “ruined” by a ball tampering scandal and subsequent weepy press conferences; and NBC/Netflix’s The Good Place continuing to show that network sitcoms can be clever, philosophical, and still wonderfully funny.