You don't need pay TV: best Aussie dramas on free-to-air

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With so many great Aussie shows on free-to-air TV, it's hard to see why people are still paying for Foxtel and Austar -- especially when pay TV has just as many ad breaks.

Many of Australia's best local productions offer the same quality as programs commissioned by subscription television networks, and often enjoy greater success due to their broader audience.

Over the next few weeks, TV.com will look at the most-loved comedies, dramas, reality shows and more. First up, the best Aussie dramas on free-to-air TV.

Underbelly (Nine, season 3 due in 2011)

Best Australian crime drama ever? We think so. While every season has been fantastic, the premiere season of Underbelly still holds a very special place in Aussie crime drama history.

With its phenomenal acting, writing and cinematography, Underbelly is a show we gladly displayed all over the world -- so far it's screened in New Zealand, the UK, Scandinavia, Canada, France, the Republic of Ireland, Italy, the Balkans, Korea, Portugal, Russia, South Africa, Turkey and Germany. Is this our best export? The next installment, Underbelly: Razor, is set in 1920s Sydney.

Packed to the Rafters (Seven, on hiatus)

Packed to the Rafters had to be second on our list; as a family-oriented drama it ticks all the boxes.

Possibly Australia's favourite TV show, Packed to the Rafters perfectly and poignantly captures everything about the ups and downs of everyday family and working life. And most importantly, it does so in a way that's not annoyingly over-the-top -- for instance, when a character dies, it isn't a result of an explosion or a plane crash or a roof-collapse (ahem, Neighbours). Instead, it's something as tragically commonplace as a car crash (poor Mel), and its realism makes it all the more sadder.

Rafters is up for several Logie Awards this year, including two Gold Logie contenders: Jessica Marais (Rachel Rafter) and Rebecca Gibney (Julie Rafter) -- vote in our poll and let us know who you think deserves to win!

Rush (Ten, season 4 due in 2011)

With three seasons already under its belt and a highly-anticipated fourth due shortly, Rush is undoubtedly loved by the cop drama set.

Rush is another one set in Melbourne (though this one's fictional), and follows the working and personal lives of a Police Tactical Response team. Apart from a small hiccup in the first season when fan-favourite character Senior Constable Grace Barry (Calire Van Der Boom) was killed off, Rush has continually kept us entertained and wanting more.

Rush is up for four Logies this year, including Most Outstanding Drama -- and it certainly deserves the nomination.

Offspring (Ten, season 2 premieres in May)

Asher Keddie, also up for the Gold Logie this year, fronts this amusing Aussie drama that's essentially about the love lives of people who work in a hospital. Underbelly alums Don Hany, Kat Stewart and Jane Harber also star (the Australian drama industry is an incestuous place).

While hospital dramas are not an unfamiliar concept, Offspring manages to keep things fresh with its combination of family drama and Aussie humour.

East West 101 (SBS One, 8:30pm Wednesdays)

Another one starring Don Hany, East West 101 is a cop drama based on the real-life experiences of detectives within metropolitan Sydney's Major Crime Squad.

Filmed on location in Sydney suburbs including Lidcombe, Redfern, Auburn, Sefton and Chinatown, East West 101 has a grittier, more realistic take on the traditional cop drama. The show also deals with multiculturalism and the prejudices still present within Australia today.

Rescue: Special Ops (Nine, season 3 due in 2011)

Rescue: Special Ops (now just known as Rescue) busts out of the ordinary cop drama genre into a full-on rescue show that'll have you on the edge of your seat. No matter what dangerous escapade you get into, these guys and girls will be able to rescue you -- whether it be on a cliff, in the sea or in a fire.

You'll again recognise another few former Underbelly stars giving their all to this fantastic adrenaline-filled show -- Daniel Amalm and Les Hill from the first season, and Peter Phelps from Underbelly: A Tale of Two Cities.

Winners & Losers (Seven, 8:30pm Tuesdays)

The newbie of the list, Winners & Losers has performed phenomenally in the ratings. With over 1.6 million viewers tuning in to the March premiere, this relationship drama has been consistently winning the Tuesday ratings war.

It's an extremely enjoyable watch, with viewers getting a kind of proxy satisfaction out of seeing a set of high school losers become winners in every sense. The characters are all well fleshed-out, realistic and well-acted. We like.

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