Miriam Margolyes Impossibly Australian, ABC review: look at us!

The format may be tried and tested but Margolyes is always something of a wild card – making this a show worth watching.

Miriam Margolyes OBE is back, once again touring the nation and chatting away to various far flung characters to tease out their stories with an endearing mix of charm and blunt honesty. Over the last few years she’s become something of a staple on the ABC – this is her third series for them since 2020, with a brief detour to visit Ireland for SBS in 2023 – so she’s clearly doing something right.

Or maybe it’s the format that’s doing all the hard work. While Margolyes herself is a unique character (and character actor) who’s won awards for her performances and plaudits for her skills as a raconteur, Impossibly Australian is the latest in an extremely long line of local and international programs that can basically be summed up as ‘lets go somewhere and chat to the locals’.

Visiting somewhere interesting, having a look around, and coming back to talk about it isn’t exactly a new format: Marco Polo would have done extremely well on television. But in recent years this kind of tourism programming has become increasingly common in the UK and Australia.

Some mid-level celebrity or another has a bit of a wander around a mildly interesting part of the countryside, being charming and amicable while hoping the folks at home don’t remember how The Trip took the piss out of this kind of thing over a decade ago.

It’s also a win-win for cash-strapped local broadcasters, as there’s two separate audiences out there waiting to tune in. For locals, it’s a chance to see their local communities reflected back, and to shine a spotlight on stories that otherwise might not be told. For international viewers, it’s a way to get a close-up look at a part of the world they’re interested in – even if their main interest is the scenery.

Fair go

The slimmer the justification for the trip the better (no need to get bogged down in lengthy psychodrama). In Almost Australian, Margolyes – an Australian citizen who’s been with her Australian partner since 1968 – hits the road to explore what it means to be Australian. In Australia Unmasked, she hits the road to uncover the real state of equality and the ‘fair go’.

Now, in Impossibly Australian, she hits the road to see how Australians are dealing with the future and the changes that it brings.

Read: ABC iview: new shows streaming April 2024

Fresh from a heart operation (or, as she clarifies, ‘procedure’) that’s restored her health but left her feeling anxious about the future, the goal here is to find out how other people are dealing with similar feelings. Considering the state of the world today she possibly could have managed that by a quick trip down the shops, but Byron Bay and Broken Hill are a little more interesting visually.

Episode one sees Margolyes hanging out with the expat community in Perth. As people who’ve chucked it all in to start a new life they’re an interesting lot, though the real standouts – the skipper of the Australian Blind Sailing Team, a pair of Fremantle residents who were part of the stolen generation – are interesting for reasons beyond their thematic link to Margolyes’ journey.

The next episode sees her visit Byron Bay, where her disdain for hippies won this particular reviewer over even if she did later see the error of her ways (somewhat). Finally, in episode three she reaches Broken Hill, which turns out to just be a really good chance to hang out with the locals and see the sights. Which is really all you want from this kind of program.

Beyond the striking landscapes and colourful characters, which this series delivers in spades, the big draw here is Margolyes herself. ‘For some reason, I’ve got cream for my arsehole,’ she mentions while packing her bag during the first 90 seconds of the first episode, just in case you weren’t sure what you were getting into (as it were).

The format may be tried and tested, but Margolyes herself is always something of a wild card. There’s plenty of spark in her interactions with people, and you never quite know which direction she’ll take things. If someone has to roam the countryside chatting up the locals, we could certainly do worse.

Miriam Margolyes Impossibly Australian airs on the ABC Tuesdays at 8pm, and is also available on ABC iView.


3.5 out of 5 stars


Miriam Margolyes


Helen Barrow

Format: TV Series

Country: Australia

Release: 09 April 2024

Available on:

abc iview, 3 Episodes

Paul Dalgarno is author of the novels A Country of Eternal Light (2023) and Poly (2020); the memoir And You May Find Yourself (2015); and the creative non-fiction book Prudish Nation (2023). He was formerly Deputy Editor of The Conversation and joined ScreenHub as Managing Editor in 2022. X: @pauldalgarno. Insta: @dalgarnowrites