<i>Gruen</i> ... (L-R) Todd Sampson, Wil Anderson and Russell Howcroft will possibly only return is there is 'creative drive'.

Gruen ... (L-R) Todd Sampson, Wil Anderson and Russell Howcroft will possibly only return is there is 'creative drive'.

The ABC has confirmed its high-rating Gruen franchise will not air this year – despite the broadcaster previously announcing it would be part of the 2014 line-up – and it may not return next year, either.

Although the ABC and sources close the program insist plans are underway for a 2015 season, Fairfax Media understands nothing is finalised. 

This may surprise fans given Gruen Planet and Gruen Nation drew an average audience of 1.2 million across the five major cities last year. (Its average ratings climb to 1.8 million once regional figures and repeat screenings have been included.) 

Other incarnations of the show – in which host Wil Anderson and panellists Todd Sampson and Russel Howcroft take a wry look at advertising, spin, politics and sport – have also drawn big audiences. 

Its absence this year has been put down to its hosts – each of whom have demanding day jobs – being tied up with other commitments. 

Anderson, for instance, has continued to build his comedy career in the United States; Howcroft is the general manager of Channel Ten and a judge on the network’s Recipe to Riches; and Sampson (Leo Burnett CEO) has joined the board of Fairfax Media (publisher of this website) while shooting a new documentary series for the ABC and Discovery Network International. 

The fact there were ‘‘no major events such as an election or Olympics’’ this year also made producers reluctant to create another season of the politics-oriented Nation or the sports-focused Sweat

While the ABC is keen to air Gruen next year, it's believed those at the helm of the program view its return as an entirely creative decision. Only if they can improve upon the previous seasons, or evolve the franchise, will they come back. Otherwise, they’d prefer to go out on a high and be fondly remembered by viewers.

The promotion of Gruen co-creator Jon Casimir – described as ‘‘the driving force and creative genius of the show’’ – to ABC’s head of entertainment could also affect its chances of a return. But those close to the program insist Casimir would still be closely involved in Gruen through his new role, which he started in April. 

Sources have told Fairfax Media that ‘‘the intent is for Gruen to come back, absolutely’’ and ‘‘not only are plans for its return underway; we’re working on dates [for its season debut].’’

Given Anderson has committed to an international tour for the first half of next year, if Gruen returns, it is likely to air in late 2015.

The most likely formats are Gruen Planet and Gruen Nation (assuming next year includes a federal election).

An ABC spokeswoman said in a statement: ‘‘It has never been the plan to retire the Gruen franchise, which has been enormously successful for us. But as it’s panned out, we’ve not been able to get it back on air in 2014. We very much look forward to seeing Gruen as part of our programming in 2015.’’

mlallo@fairfaxmedia.com.au