ABC TV has been left red-faced after the BBC pulled out of plans for a major co-production.
The two broadcasters have been secretly developing plans for a new Australian version of the BBC’s successful Antiques Roadshow with both confident of selling the finished series into lucrative international TV markets.
The program is based on visits to a different city or town each episode where antique experts assess items presented to them by locals.
The BBC first aired the weekly program in 1979 and it has since generated separate versions in both the American and Canadian markets.
In a bold move, the ABC secured former Australian prime minister Paul Keating as the host and star of the new program.
But The Bug understands the BBC has abruptly ended its association with the planned program after initial development work and the production of a pilot episode.
“The BBC can confirm it is no longer associated with development of an Australian version of Antiques Roadshow,” is all a spokesperson would say when contacted by one of The Bug’s London bureau staff.
However, The Bug has been told by an ABC insider that the esteemed global broadcasting organisation concluded after viewing the pilot episode that it could not be associated with the final product.
“The BBC wanted a distinctly Australian location for the pilot episode so the ABC decided to shoot it in Darwin,” the insider said.
“Mr Keating was flown up there and he turned up to the hall the ABC had hired in a Zegna suit and was sweating like a pig under the TV lights, so things didn’t get off to a good start.
“It didn’t help when he did his piece to camera at the start of the episode and said ‘Darwin is always best seen from 20,000 feet in the air on your way to Paris’.
“The locals who were lined up and ready to show him their would-be valuables didn’t like that and things went rapidly downhill when a few of them grumbled about the remark and Mr Keating dismissed them as ‘unrepresentative swill’.
“Then when he started examining items one woman showed him a 19th century gold-framed, miniature portrait in oils by the famous British artist Richard Cosway. She said it was brought back to Australia 100 years ago by her great grandfather who bought it for almost nothing while serving in Europe in World War One.
“It’s a fascinating and emotional story, but Mr Keating dismissed her by saying he was only interested in ‘big picture stuff’.
“At one stage the ex-PM shouted: ‘Doesn’t anyone here own a fucking antique clock!’
“It was like that all day during the shooting of the pilot. Mr Keating just insulted everyone who presented anything to him as well as the items they showed him.
“When they objected he called them all sorts of names – boxhead, pig, foul-mouthed grub, intellectual rust bucket, piece of vermin, and gutless spiv.
“He told one very elderly gentleman that he resembled ‘a lizard on a rock – alive, but looking dead’ and even told one woman (pictured) that she was a ‘pre-Copernican obscurantist’ whatever that is.
“The pilot episode ends with Mr Keating doing another piece to camera to sign off.
“In it he once again insults Darwin and says ‘if you’re not living in Sydney you’re just camping out’.
“That got the local crowd angry again and when they started booing and shouting at him, Mr Keating told them to ‘go and get a job’.
“The whole idea of a Down Under Antiques Roadshow is a good one, but this version clearly wasn’t what the BBC was looking for,” the insider said.