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

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.

Comments (13)
Submit
Sort: Latest | Popular
I love these Australian TV shows, my all time favorite is Drover's Run and All Saints, and of course Packed to the Rafters...and would like to watch the new ones...but don't know where to find them here in the USA. Hulu? Netflix? Is there a certain Australian app I can download to watch the newer shows??
Reply
Flag
These are all terrible, terrible shows. They're all the type of shows that people set up their Neilsen box to watch, while they download Supernatural, Bones and Weeds.
Reply
Flag
I truly don't watch any of these and didn't like Offspring at all. I tried to watch it but it was so painful, awkward and slow moving and one of the characters who was apparently some great Australian actress I didn't like remotely.
Reply
Flag
Well, I'm looking forward to seeing season 4 premiere episodes of Breaking Bad on Foxtel, with no advertising breaks. Yes, that's right, what the writer forgot to tell you was, that while some chanels on Foxtel do have adds, not all of them do. Certainly not the movie channels. With shows like Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Deadwood, all shown add free, and many years before they are shown on FTA, sure, I'm happy to pay for that priverlidge.
Reply
Flag
Very much looking forward to watching all these again, and the New East West 101, looks heaps good. But what about Sea Patrol Final season?
1
Reply
Flag
Excellent shows on FTA, pay tv in Australia just has mindless crap mostly with 10 year old repeats, sure there are some good or even great shows on pay tv but not too many and not worth the cash. I love Rush and Rafters plus shows like The Force (7) Bondi Resue (10) Sea Patrol (9) and also Big Bang Theory (9) is just great for light hearted fun. Plus with the extra digital channels these days there is plenty of extra crap to equal the foxtel crap. Sometimes a good show may be on pay TV but there are other ways to view these most of the time.
Reply
Flag
Tangle on Showcase is great, one reason to have Foxtel! Cloudstreet is another that looks like it is going to be good on the same channel. I do love East West 101 on FTA though... terrific show.
Reply
Flag
So these shows are supposed to encourage people to drop FOXTEL and AUSTAR and go back to FTA - Seriously if this is the best FTA has to offer a few more people might be tempted to jump ship.
Reply
Flag
Are you kidding me? These are all terrible, with the possible exceptions of Offspring and East West 101, which are just bad.
Reply
Flag
Yep Underbelly rocks, winners and losers is funny, east west 101 good as well. and British TV sucks.
Reply
Flag
Watch Underbelly and get a clue.
Reply
Flag
Australia makes crappy shows.
I'd much rather the American and British.
Reply
Flag
There's no such thing as a good Australian TV show. You do need pay TV, the American and British stuff is all on there.
Reply
Flag

Like TV.com on Facebook