ABC reveals 2023 upfronts, Leigh Sales to host Australian Story

Leigh Sales has revealed she will return to TV screens in 2023 as the anchor of Australian Story.

Sales will become only the second host in the program’s history, after Caroline Jones. Sales acknowledged the honour in following Jones, who died in May this year.

Sales said: “Australian Story is one of the most beloved programs in the country and I am so excited and humbled to be invited to front it. I can’t wait to be involved in the production process of such a talented team.”

Sales wrapped up her 12-year tenure at 7.30 in June, after the most recent federal election. At the time of her exit, she said she would use up her six months of long service leave and reclaim her evenings with her children.

Sales’ appointment to Australian Story was announced as part of ABC’s 2023 upfronts, a virtual showcase of the public broadcaster’s programming plans for next year.

The ABC will also reboot classic comedy Mother and Son with Matt Okine and Denise Scott in the roles previously played by Garry McDonald and Ruth Cracknell. The original series ran from 1984 to 1994 and is considered one of Australia’s most beloved comedies.

The reimagined version will feature Okine as the recently single Arthur who moves home after his mum Maggie sets fire to the kitchen.

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On the scripted comedy side, there will also be Gold Diggers, about a pair of sisters searching for rich, dumb husbands in the 1850s Victoria goldfields, and Limbo, a six-parter about two best friends, starring Ryan Corr and Bob Morley. A new season of Utopia is also on the way.

There will also be Aunty Donna’s Coffee Café, the absurdist comedy troupe’s first narrative series. It will follow three mates running a trendy café in Melbourne.

Chas Licciardello, Kirsten Drysdale and Lawrence Leung will team up for No Stupid Questions, where no question is too dumb or off-limits.

The long-awaited second season of AACTA-winning series The Newsreader will land next year, with Anna Torv and Sam Reid set to reprise their roles as journalists Helen and Dale in a tumultuous newsroom.

New dramas include Bay of Fires, a simmering crime drama starring Marta Dusseldorp as a woman who is a newcomer to a small Tasmanian community with many secrets, House of Gods, a series from Osamah Sami and Shahin Shafaei, centred on the ambitions and dramas of an imam’s family, and The Messenger, based on Markus Zusak’s novel.

Popular presenter Tony Armstrong will host a factual show called Great Australian Stuff, which will look into fascinating national objects, from the Victa lawnmower to Speedos. In a similar vein, Phil Breslin will present First Weapons, in which he travels across the country to meet weapons makers from Wadi Wadi to Menang Noongar country, exploring First Nations weaponry.

Joel Creasey will front a series called New Leash on Life, which tracks our love of canines and the journeys of rescue dogs. Tim Winton will anchor Ningaloo Nyinggulu, a docuseries about the North West Cape. And still in nature, there are docuseries called Dolphins: Is Our Love Too Deep? and The Platypus Guardian.

On the arts side, Whiteley on Trial will investigate the largest case of art fraud in Australian history, that of dealer Peter Grand and conservator Aman Siddique who were convicted on fraud charges but then the verdict was overturned, while conductor Simone Young’s career will be the subject of Knowing the Score.

Hosted by Zoe Coombs-Marr, Queerstralia will chart the history of queer stories in the margins of Australian history.

There’s a docuseries about singletons who have put off their first date called Better Date Than Never, while Anthony LaPaglia will explore the history of the Italian community in Australia in The Black Hand.

Returning series include Back in Time for the Corner Shop, Kitchen Cabinet, Designing a Legacy, Take Five with Zan Rowe, The ABC Of, Art Works, Back Roads, Catalyst, Compass, Gardening Australia, Gruen, Hard Quiz, Landline, Offsiders, Restoration Australia, The Weekly with Charlie Pickering, 7.30, China Tonight, Foreign Correspondent, Four Corners, India Now, Insiders, Media Watch, News Breakfast, Planet America, Q&A, The Drum and War on Waste.

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