• Celia Pacquola; Yoson An and Alyssa Sutherland filming 'New Gold Mountain'; Rob Collins; and 'Romulus' (SBS)Source: SBS
Top talent including Jay Laga’aia, Celia Pacquola, Adam Liaw and Yoson An, a gold rush drama series and a diverse slate of documentaries are all part of a powerful and thought-provoking line-up.
SBS Guide

18 Nov 2020 - 12:51 PM  UPDATED 24 Nov 2020 - 8:45 AM

New Gold Mountain, a drama series exploring the history of the Australian gold rush, and Copping it Black, a murder mystery set amid the Indigenous art market, are two of five new commissioned drama series announced as part of SBS's bold, original and entertaining slate for 2021. The boundary-pushing slate also includes documentaries exploring literacy, domestic abuse and anxiety; 160 hours of new drama every month on SBS On Demand; new food shows on SBS Food and NITV; and programs offering opportunities behind the camera for under-represented creatives.  

The 2021 program slate, announced today, features the network’s biggest-ever local commissioned content offering, with distinctive stories Australians won’t see anywhere else. Highlights include: 

  • Five new commissioned drama series across SBS and SBS On Demand in 2021: Copping it Black, The Unusual Suspects, New Gold Mountain, Iggy & Ace and The Tailings
  • New 200-episode series, The Cook Up with Adam Liaw, to air weeknights on SBS Food
  • New and returning commissioned documentaries exploring diverse Australian stories and highlighting literacy, domestic abuse, anxiety and personal identity
  • New Gold Mountain cast revealed and new faces to the network including Celia Pacquola, Jay Laga’aia, Rob Collins and Jess Hill
  • 160 hours of new drama to premiere on SBS On Demand each month including: Shadowplay, Romulus, The Handmaid’s Tale, War of the Worlds and Shrill

  • Log in and explore SBS On Demand in more languages with the introduction of Hindi, Korean and Vietnamese, joining Arabic and Simplified Chinese, plus more in-language and subtitled content for communities
  • More opportunities supporting underrepresented creatives behind the camera as SBS expands its initiatives to boost diverse storytelling  
  • SBS Media to offer unparalleled insights with new thought leadership studies

SBS Managing Director, James Taylor said: “2020 has demonstrated the distinctive and vital role of SBS as a contemporary, multilingual Australian broadcaster - part of the very fabric of our multicultural Australia - in an extraordinary way. We are reaching and engaging with more Australians than ever before, and next year we will continue to support diverse communities, reflect and celebrate contemporary Australia in all its glorious diversity, bring Australians together and connect with audiences in a way that others can’t.”  

SBS Director of TV and Online Content, Marshall Heald said: “2021 is set to be a bumper year across the network, with a record number of local dramas, documentaries and acquired programs that will surprise, challenge and inspire audiences. We scour the globe, and the country, for unique stories in languages, genres and formats that will connect Australians with the world around them and with each other. Now, more than ever, we want to continue championing the issues and communities not often seen or heard.”

SBS is delighted to bring five new commissioned drama series to Australian audiences in 2021 – the most significant drama offering the network has ever delivered.

With the support of Screen Australia Indigenous Department and French company APC Studios, SBS and National Indigenous Television (NITV) are excited to announce Copping it Black, a new local drama with universal appeal, from CAAMA and Bunya Productions, with the producing team behind Mystery Road. The beauty of Indigenous art and the sometimes-devious practices in the global art market take Detective Toni Alma on an epic hunt for a killer. Spanning her small Northern Territory community and art galleries across the globe, this is a murder mystery like no other, exploring culture, community and the very human pursuit of identity and belonging. 

Today, SBS announced a talented local and international cast that will headline the network’s most ambitious drama series yet, New Gold Mountain. The murder mystery explores the story of the Australian gold rush from the perspective of Chinese miners who risked everything for a chance at unlikely wealth in a strange new land. The impressive cast is led by Mulan and Dead Lucky’s Yoson An, Vikings star Alyssa Sutherland, and Christopher James Baker from True Detective, with familiar face Dan Spielman and exciting new talent Mabel Li.

Led by powerhouse female trio, Aina Dumlao (Sanzaru, Ballers, MacGyver), AACTA award-winner Miranda Otto (Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Homeland, The Lord of the Rings trilogy) and Michelle Vergara Moore (Condor, The Time of Our Lives), the highly anticipated four-part heist caper The Unusual Suspects is also coming to SBS in 2021.

SBS is passionate about exploring Australia’s diversity on and off screen and remains committed to building career pathways for the next generation of diverse and First Nation’s storytellers. Announced today, SBS’s Digital Originals program, in partnership with Screen Australia and NITV, will be extended for another three years. The program provides opportunities for creatives traditionally underrepresented in the screen sector to develop scripted short-form projects for SBS On Demand. Applications for the 2022 Digital Originals program open in February 2021.  

Next year, SBS will premiere two new Digital Originals – Iggy & Ace, a comedy exploring friendship, addiction and recovery through a queer lens, and The Tailings, a dramatic coming of age story. The latter is a murder mystery set against one of the most fragile, beautiful landscapes in Australia, the west coast of Tasmania, and celebrates the tenacity and pride of regional communities rarely seen on screen.

With nine million registered users on our world-class streaming destination, SBS On Demand, Australians can enjoy the best programs from around the world, handpicked and curated in more than 50 languages, free and accessible to all. In 2021, SBS On Demand will premiere 160 hours of new drama every month. From Norway to New Zealand, Sweden to South Korea, Israel to Italy, SBS continues to deliver fresh new stories to broaden Australians’ perspective of the world. This content cements SBS’s reputation as the home of premium drama and new titles premiering next year include psychological murder mystery The Sister, post-war thriller Shadowplay, Northern Ireland crime drama Bloodlands and Latin-language epic Romulus. There will also be new seasons of the critically acclaimed The Handmaid’s Tale, War of the Worlds and Why Women Kill.

In 2020, SBS was proud to be the first in Australia to launch an end-to-end multilingual experience on SBS On Demand, with people able to log in, explore and watch programs curated for them in Arabic and Simplified Chinese. In 2021, SBS will add three more languages to this service with Hindi, Korean and Vietnamese to be introduced, and will also be significantly increasing the subtitled content available providing greater access to Australian stories. SBS will also continue to expand this unique service with the introduction of virtual channel experiences in Arabic and Simplified Chinese on the platform in 2021, creating content destinations uniquely tailored for these communities.

SBS will continue to champion diverse Australian stories with an impactful and inclusive commissioned documentary slate. SBS has made its biggest ever commitment to one-off documentaries in 2021 with a total of 10 documentaries in two collections – Australia Uncovered and Untold Australia. In partnership with Documentary Australia Foundation, SBS is proud to present Australia Uncovered a strand of seven stand-alone documentaries that tackle the big questions in our nation today, in the most revealing, surprising and compelling ways. From comedian and actor Celia Pacquola exploring the anxiety so many people are struggling with in Australia vs Anxiety, to the families’ desperate search for justice in Bowraville (The Bowraville Murders), to the gender politics during the term of Australia’s only female Prime Minister, Julia Gillard (Strong Female Lead), these shows reveal the issues facing contemporary Australia, and are told by many of the country’s best, award-winning storytellers. Untold Australia will return for a fifth instalment of three documentaries. From Birdsville (Birdsville or Bust) to Ipswich (Bowled Over), this series will reveal an honest and intimate portrait of contemporary Australian life.

Announced today, Lost for Words presented by actor and singer Jay Laga’aia is a heart-warming three-part series exploring Australia’s staggeringly low adult literacy rates. Jay and an expert literacy teacher will follow the journey of 10 adults who are given a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to change what has always been holding them back – reading, writing and spelling.

Everyone’s favourite doctor will return with Australia’s Health Revolution with Michael Mosley. Dr Mosley and Australian diabetes educator and exercise physiologist, Ray Kelly, explore the big picture of type 2 diabetes in Australia. Building on the success of Is Australia Racist?, What Does Australia Think About?  will uncover how Australia really views disability, ageism and obesity.

From NITV, Incarceration Nation will put the justice system on trial and question the cost this system is having on the culture, values and wellbeing of Indigenous people in Australia. See What You Made Me Do will explore one of the most complex and urgent issues of our time – domestic abuse. Presented by investigative journalist Jess Hill, this series will examine the fine lines between love, abuse and power. 

The network will welcome the return of some of its most successful commissioned documentary series with the 12th season of Who Do You Think You Are?Announced today, Uncle Jack Charles and Celia Pacquola are among the prominent Australians uncovering the secrets of their ancestry next year. Australia in Colour also returns, and Noni Hazlehurst will be back for Every Family Has A Secret.

SBS is delighted to announce Eurovision will be back in 2021 after its unprecedented cancellation earlier this year, with Montaigne preparing to take the stage in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, with a brand-new song. SBS will again bring the colour and chaos of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras live to loungerooms across Australia, but for the first time ever, the event will have a new home, the iconic Sydney Cricket Ground, to ensure a ‘COVID safe’ event. Beloved quiz shows Mastermind and Celebrity Mastermind are also set to return.

In 2021, SBS remains the leading destination for premium food programming as Australia’s only free-to-air food channel, with 24/7 access on-air and online. 2021 will be its biggest year yet, with more investment in local content than ever before. SBS is thrilled to announce a brand new 200-episode series, The Cook Up with Adam Liaw, that will air every weeknight at 7pm on SBS Food.

Also on the menu is chef Analiese Gregory, who will bring the rugged food culture of Tasmania to audiences in A Girl’s Guide to Hunting, Fishing and Wild Cooking and also Australia’s Food Bowl with Stefano de Pieri. Chef Shane Delia is back with A Middle East Feast with Shane Delia, seeing him recreating the food traditions of his homeland. Guillaume Brahimi will return with Plat du Tour to accompany the Tour de France, and NITV’s Strait to The Plate, hosted by Aaron Fa’aoso, will unearth the stories, culture and secrets behind the unique cuisine of the Torres Strait. Other returning food series include Cook Like an Italian with Silvia Colloca and Asia Unplated with Diana Chan.

Last year, SBS World Movies joined the network’s portfolio of free-to-air channels. Broadcasting more than 700 films each year, the free, 24/7 channel celebrates the very best of world cinema and in 2021, the channel will deliver a consistent line-up of movie weekends and seasons including Oscar Winners, Lunar New Year, Music in the Movies, French Season and Pioneers of Cinema.

Now into its fourth consecutive year of audience growth, SBS VICELAND continues to balance a mix of comedy and entertainment alongside factual and news programming. In 2021, daily stripped shows will continue to deliver consistency seven days a week with top performers such as 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown and Taskmaster airing alongside brand-new comedy panel show Patriot Brains, cutting-edge current affairs from Vice Investigates, and new seasons of Wellington Paranormal and The Casketeers.

As the home of First Nations storytelling, NITV will present more powerful documentaries. The Fight Together follows NRL star Dean Widders’ journey to invent a new pre-game ceremony in response to the Maori Haka, to celebrate Aboriginal cultures and counter racism in rugby league. The First Inventors, a co-commission currently in development with Network 10, will see presenter Rob Collins meet and collaborate with First Nations authorities whose frontline fieldwork is giving exciting new insights into ancient Indigenous innovations and discoveries. NITV will also have returning seasons of favourites including the Logie award-winning Little J and Big Cuz and Going Places with Ernie Dingo.  

In 2021, SBS will bring Australians together with some of the best events in international sport. After securing the broadcast rights for a further ten years until 2030, the power and beauty of the Tour de France will be back. Other highlights next year include the UCI Road World Championships, the International Champion’s Cup, the US Open Finals, full coverage of the National Basketball League (NBL), alongside matches from the National Basketball Association (NBA) and Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) leagues, the ISU Figure Skating, FIG Gymnastics and the Dakar Rally. Catch all the action with highlight segments and recaps of some of the best sporting moments over the year.

After a year like no other, Australians can continue to turn to SBS for trusted, independent and distinctive news and current affairs in 2021. With a truly global newsroom, SBS’s nuanced coverage of local and international stories will provide Australians with facts and reflect the complexity and diversity of Australia today. SBS’s current affairs showcase, including Insight, Dateline and The Feed, will be back on Tuesday nights, and NITV’s news and current affairs, including The Point and Living Black, will continue to bring First Nations voices and perspectives to all Australians.

SBS will continue to provide marketers with unparalleled insights into contemporary Australia, with the SBS Media team releasing a series of thought leadership studies, in partnership with leading universities, over the next 12 months.

SBS Director of Media Sales, Adam Sadler, said: “Global and national events in 2020 have seen SBS’s role become more critical and our offering even more distinctive, making our unique media sales proposition more compelling.

“We’ll release the first study in our thought leadership series later this month with What it Means to be an Australian’ examining Australia’s national identity, values and hopes for the future and the implications for advertising and brands, and next year ‘The Power of In-Language’will explore the benefits of connecting with people through advertising in their first language. These, along with other studies we’ll release throughout the year, will reinforce the unique role SBS plays in reaching an audience that others can’t, and goes to the heart of SBS’s commercial power of purpose."

From the historical drama of New Gold Mountain to the increased in-language content on SBS On Demand, from the tasty line-up of cooking shows coming to SBS Food to powerful dramas and documentaries on SBS, NITV and SBS On Demand, the SBS network's 2021 program slate of original and insightful content will entertain and engage across Australia. 

Join the conversation on Twitter using #SBS2021

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