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NBC Maps an Australian Invasion

Last in a series

December 09, 1986|MORGAN GENDEL

For producers looking to shoot new scenery and spend less greenery, Australia is the last frontier--literally.

"The Last Frontier" was the name of the recent CBS miniseries starring Linda Evans, the first Australian miniseries sold to a U.S. network. Now, NBC has at least three series projects in the works that would be shot Down Under if the network decides to move ahead with them.

Australia is caught up in the same cycle as Canada: Local film makers, often government-subsidized, get noticed (directors Peter Weir, "The Year of Living Dangerously"; George Miller, "Mad Max"; Fred Schepisi, "The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith"); there's an increase in quality crews and support services; the U.S. TV industry moves in.

Though it's not as nearby as Canada, Australia shares the advantage of having a large pool of English-speaking talent. More significantly--especially after the success of " 'Crocodile' Dundee"--it has piqued Americans' interest in its unique national identity, which Canada has not done.

"There is an interest in the accent, a unique look to the terrain down there," said Perry Simon, NBC's vice president for drama programs. Simon noted that NBC began exploring opportunities there two years ago.

The peacock network's current Aussie projects in development include an hourlong modern-day family show starring Lee Majors that would combine city and outback locales, and "Bondi Beach," an action show from Glen Larson set in modern-day Sydney. Both series would take advantage of "the savings as well as the unique cultural setting," Simon said.

A third series, "Aaron's Way," from Lorimar, would use Australia as a double for--get this--the Napa Valley. "For some reason," Simon said, "it didn't occur to any of us that to shoot this in February, set in the grape fields and beautiful harvest--that there are no grapes" in Napa in winter. Australia's opposite-season cycle made it a natural second choice.

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