5 Australian TV shows that have broken through to the UK

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When it comes to Australian slang, of course you know that ‘barbie’ means barbecue. Just like you know that ‘stoked’ means excited. But did you know ‘arvo’ is short for afternoon, or that the Aussie slang for a poker machine is a ‘pokie’?

All true, cobber. If you won on a pokie one arvo you’d be rightly stoked. Find out more at Pokies Palace.

We’ve still got a way to go before we can tell our thingos from our thongs (thingummybobs and sandals), but we’re increasingly familiar with Antipodean idioms, and that’s partly down to the Australian TV shows which have performed well on British shores over the past 30 years. They’ve shared their tears and laughter with us as well as their lingo.

So here are 5 of the best Australian shows to have hit the jackpot and broken through into the UK…



One of Australia’s most successful TV exports (it’s sold to over 60 countries), Neighbours celebrated its 30th anniversary this year and as much a soap institution over here as it is in its home country.

It’s the show that’s launched the careers of Kylie Minogue, Russell Crowe and Margot Robbie, to name a few, and given us unforgettable moments such as Charlene and Scott’s wedding, the 2006 plane crash, and Harold Bishop attempting to strangle Paul Robinson to death.

Of course, it’s also given us some slightly stranger moments, including Susan Kennedy forgetting the last 30 years of her life after slipping on some milk, a cameo from Little Britain’s Lou & Andy, and, most famously, Bouncer the dog having a dream about marrying another dog.

EastEnders never tried anything so bold with Wellard or Little Willie.


Kath & Kim

You know you’ve got a popular show when the US remakes it, but they certainly didn’t come anywhere close to the brilliant original, which was a quiet cult classic on these shores when it aired in the mid-2000s.

Satirising the kitsch life of affluent suburban ‘bogans’ (working-class Australians), it’s a comedy about the crass eponymous mother and daughter Kath & Kim, and is best described as the comedy of banality – much like The Royle Family or The Office.

If you didn’t catch it when it first aired it’s worth seeking out. Keep an eye out for cameos from some of Australia’s most famous exports, including Geoffrey Rush, Eric Bana, Barry Humphries, and Kylie Minogue.


Summer Heights High

Chris Lilley’s bold and occasionally controversial high school mockumentary proved a hit when it aired here on BBC Three in 2008.

It also proved that school’s the same awkward horrible mess whatever hemisphere you’re in, whether you’re the snob, the miscreant, or the teacher trying to make ‘IKEA: The Musical’ happen.


Prisoner: Cell Block H

70s/‘80s soap-drama Prisoner, as it was known in Australia, was actually inspired by a British show, Within These Walls, but Prisoner has outlasted its inspiration in the public consciousness, both here in the UK and around the world.

Following the machinations of the inmates and staff of the fictional female detention centre, Wentworth Prison, it wasn’t easy viewing, with riots, rapes, fires, suicides, murders, and – particularly later in its run – violence, but it rapidly became popular, becoming such a cultural touchstone it was referenced on everything from Absolutely Fabulous to Coronation Street.

It’s since been relaunched as Wentworth – renamed in the UK,again, as Wentworth Prisonand a fourth season is on its way.


Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries

A glamorous, independent, female private investigator in 1920’s Melbourne; the Honourable Miss Phyrne Fisher (Essie Davis, recently seen in brilliant Aussie horror The Babadook) is the feistiest heroine in one of the most grown-up and gorgeous period dramas on your TV, whatever side of the Equator you’re on.

She’s the flirty feminist in the flapper dress, with a firearm lodged in her purse and a bob haircut you could cut your alibi on. If she were a couple of decades later Miss Fisher would give Marvel’s Agent Peggy Carter a run for her money. The show looks terrific, the costumes will make your wardrobe doors fall off in envy, and the murder mysteries are as deadly and entertaining as Charleston on a crate of dynamite.

Airing on the Alibi channel and Netflix, Miss Fisher has already broken into the UK, but it’s so good, it really deserves an even bigger break.


Which other Australian TV shows are you a fan of? Let us know below…