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Lions re-born

A switch in time has been made in a bid to save Nine's Young Lions writes Darren Devlyn.

ERROL Sullivan, TV industry heavyweight and the man behind Young Lions, feels an overwhelming sense of relief.

"This," he says in reference to Young Lions being shifted from 8.30pm to 9.30pm Wednesday, "gives us a second chance. We are absolutely, positively delighted the show has a new home.

"This is a re-launch and what I want to get through to people is that, finally, the show is terrific."

Three weeks ago, the executive producer of Young Lions, The Secret Life of Us and Blue Heelers, made the startlingly frank prediction in the Guide that the majority of local dramas launched in 2002 faced oblivion.

The claim had extraordinary resonance, given Young Lions, produced by Sullivan's Southern Star Entertainment for Channel 9, has been perceived as the show gasping hardest for survival. New shows White Collar Blue, MDA and Marshall Law have performed will below expectation. Young Lions however, attracted the most attention because it was being thumped by Sullivan's other local cop show, Blue Heelers.

In a recent ratings survey, Blue Heelers scored its biggest Melbourne audience for the year (670,251) while Young Lions languished on 223, 720.

"The big worry with all the new shows is not that people are turning off; it's that they haven't turned on," Sullivan explains from the Young Lions production base in Surry Hills, Sydney.

"Water Rats went off air with an (national) audience of 1.3 million. The new shows are well below that."

Some might be interpreting the young lions time change as evidence Nine programmers are sharpening the axe.

Sullivan says he knows better, firm in his belief the move will help the show unearth a new audience and that vast improvement in the show can renew the interest of viewers who might have changed channels during early episodes.

"The story of Water Rats gives you faith," Sullivan says.

"In its first series it struggled against Blue Heelers, Nine moved Water Rats and it had five years of success. Also, the secret life of us and Blue Heelers both had time changes and prospered."

Nine's brief with Young Lions was to deliver a show capable of cornering the 18 to 49-year-olds, widely regarded as the most cynical, difficult-to-please demographic.

The 18 to 49s are seen as settling into their TV viewing later in the evening than the older predominantly 50+ Blue Heelers crowd. There is also a belief the complexity of Young Lions demands a level of concentration harder to muster at 8.30.

Young parents, Sullivan adds, might feel more inclined to support a show with grit once their children are tucked away.

"Young Lions is not a domestic, cosy drama," he says.

By Darren Devlyn
September 18, 2002
The Herald Sun