Friday, 26 December 2008

The Year Ahead

60mins Each week during the year 2008 we featured the corresponding week from thirty years ago, 1978, as reported in TV Times magazine.

We will continue the theme into 2009 as we look at events from television from the year 1979, including:

  • The networks' contributions to the International Year Of The Child.
  • The long-awaited launch of the Nine Network's expensive current affairs gamble, 60 Minutes (pictured) and the 0-10 Network's new drama Prisoner.
  • The first glimpse of multicultural television from the Special Broadcasting Service.
  • The Seven Network's new airport drama Skyways, and a new project for the 0-10 Network from the creators of Number 96.
  • A TV comeback for Graham Kennedy?

Also, the year 2009 is going to see some significant developments as well, most notably the launch of Freeview and more digital channels. The year will also mark fifty years of television in Queensland, Western Australia and South Australia, and twenty years since the first regional market aggregation in eastern Australia.

Happy New Year to you all, and hope that 2009 will be an excellent year.  Thank you for your comments during the year and, of course, any feedback or suggestions are always welcomed.

And a reminder, too, that the blog will continue to be in slow mode for the next couple of weeks.

2008: We Remember...

Some of those that departed us this year:

Andrew Harwood

Bob McGready

Clinton Grybas

Heath Ledger

Jessica Jacobs

Kevin Heinze

Mark Priestley

Malcolm Searle

Michael Pate

Peter Leonard

Reg Lindsay

Rob Guest

Tanya Halesworth

Thursday, 25 December 2008

1978: December 30-January 5

tvtimes_301278 Holden rocks Hollywood
Mark Holden burst onto American TV screens in Hollywood's Diamond Jubilee special. Within days the CBS network's Hollywood offices were deluged with fan mail. But, despite his newfound attention, the Aussie pop star is keeping a low profile on the PR circuit. Besides, he has enough to keep him busy with writing and recording songs for his new album, working with a drama coach, and keeping various business appointments. And the phone doesn't stop ringing. Holden's new American album, to be released in 1979, will feature a new direction for him musically with a stronger focus on rock and roll.

The Dean Report
TV Times columnist Peter Dean looks back on the year 1978, describing it as a year 'remarkable mediocrity, broken by the occasional oasis of quality'. Dean's highlights of the year included imported series I Claudius, Are You Being Served?, The Incredible Hulk, Doctor Who and The Muppet Show. Current affairs program Willesee At Seven was the only Australian program to make his 'best of' list. Even big-ticket mini-series Holocaust, hailed as the TV event of the year, was reviewed by Dean as "a novelettish treatment of indescribable human agony, presented with slicknesss and flair, but failing to move or ignite." Dean lamented the axe falling on current affairs programs This Day Tonight, Monday Conference and A Current Affair, and deemed Blankety Blanks the winner of the Vinegar Award for supremacy in bad taste. Sport had a bumper year with cricket, golf, tennis, racing, World Cup soccer and the Commonwealth Games.

bartholomewjohn Doctor on the glow
Feeling tired after a day at the office? Then go for a jog - that's the advice given by Bartholomew John (pictured) the New Zealand actor appearing in The Young Doctors: "It's the best way to get rid of tiredness. It wakes you up, sharpens your appetite - and puts the fridge out of reach so you don't nibble." He also suggests a quick dip afterwards, even in winter. "I'm certainly no Bondi iceberg but sometimes in winter, instead of going to the heated pool at the gym, I jump into the surf. But go for a run to warm up. It's freezing in - but it is refreshing."

The title of the new 0-10 Network drama series Prisoner has been changed to Women Behind Bars.

The second series of Father Dear Father, made in Australia for the Seven Network, is likely to be seen first in the United Kingdom where it is scheduled for screening in the new year.

Fred Parslow, who played Jarvis in The Sullivans, returns to Crawford Productions to play a guest role as a dodgy businessman in Cop Shop.

Viewpoint: Letters to the Editor:
"Countdown is a very entertaining show and even my parents watch it sometimes, although they have the volume turned down low." F. Allison, SA.

againstthewind "It is great that overseas networks have bought Against The Wind (pictured) as they now shouldn't be so ignorant as to think that Australians only have koalas living in our backyard gum trees and kangaroos hopping in and out of shopping centres." D. Hewett, VIC.

"Of all the Sunday night shows the various channels offer us, the ABC series Nicholas Nickleby, standards inestimably above the rest. With such perfect casting and brilliant overall production, shows like Nicholas Nickleby put the best of Australia's and America's dramatic offerings to shame." E. Hawksford, NSW.

What's On (December 30-January 6):
New Year's Eve is Sunday, and ABC features British and American specials on the night before a New Year's presentation at 11.59pm and music special Blood Sweat And Tears just after midnight. HSV7 presents New Year's greetings at midnight, followed by a special edition of Nightmoves. GTV9 does little special for the evening with movies running through the night, and ATV0 closes down before midnight.

Sport continues throughout the week with the Australian Open from Melbourne, and Australian Hardcourt Championships from Tasmania, on HSV7, World Series Cricket on GTV9 and continuation of the cricket Third Test on ABC.

Source: TV Times (Melbourne edition), 30 December 1978. ABC/ACP

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Beautiful one day, Logies the next?

Logiehand The Queensland Government has reportedly made a bid for the Gold Coast to host the TV Week Logie Awards in an attempt to take the awards away from their traditional home of Melbourne.

Queensland Government representatives made the offer to executives of PBL Media, owners of TV Week and the Nine Network, to pay for the event to be relocated to the Gold Coast. 

For about the last decade, the awards have been hosted at Melbourne's Crown Casino, and while the event is confirmed for Crown next year a relocation in the future has not been ruled out.  James Packer, owner of Crown, now has a reduced holding in PBL Media so that somewhat loosens the ties between the event and the venue that had previously been firmly set.

logiesfirst Since their inception in Melbourne in the late-1950s (pictured), when TV Week was a Melbourne-based publication, the TV Week Logie Awards have only ever been hosted in either Melbourne or, on a few occasions, in Sydney.  Even though TV Week is now a Sydney-based publication, the awards ceremony has kept its historical connection to Melbourne.

The star-studded event is seen as a possible shot in the arm for Queensland's ailing local TV industry, particularly since its largest production, Big Brother, was axed earlier this year.  The only other prime-time national program to come from the state this year has been Nine's Gold Coast-based crime drama The Strip which delivered only average results.

While it is a romantic notion to keep the awards based in Melbourne, the fact is that the industry has changed, and so has the emphasis of the awards and the magazine's demographic.  It would be unfortunate for Melbourne to lose the night, but it has lost favour with a lot of its 'old school' fans over time and the younger viewers that the magazine appeals to now may be more inclined to support a fresher approach to the event, with less of the tradition, and a new home base.  Though critics of the move say this will only serve to give the Logies a 'tacky' image as the Gold Coast doesn't quite share the same glamour or have the heart for showbusiness as Melbourne does.

Source: The Daily Telegraph

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

1978: December 23-29

tvtimes_231278 Cover: Humphrey B Bear (Here's Humphrey)

Barber's still a big game hunter
Tony Barber has a reputation for stamina, and surviving.  Two years ago, the career of the former radio disc jockey and game show host was at an all-time low with the axing of Great Temptation and Name That Tune and the failure of his variety show for ATN7 Sydney.  To add to his woes, the Nine Network signed him up to host a revival of Great Temptation but it did not eventuate.  Barber then returned to his former home of Perth and there the energetic host bounced back with the national game show Family Feud being produced at TVW7, and now being seen on over 30 stations around Australia. 

thesullivans_christmas When Santa went to war!
Steven Tandy, Richard Morgan and Jamie Higgins (pictured), of The Sullivans, might be indulging in some off-screen Christmas cheer, but things weren't so cheery in the show's early-'40s setting where even Father Christmas was rationed and was banned from appearing in advertising.  Australians were instead encouraged to put their money to more patriotic causes such as war savings loans and bonds.  Sue Cram, researcher for The Sullivans, has been meticulously tracing back just what impact the war had on Australians at Christmas.  There were rations on various items including tea, beer, cigarettes, potatoes, chocolate and nuts, all normally popular items at Christmas.  Australia was also supplying the American forces with food and they got much of the ham that was produced.  On Christmas Eve 1942, the temperature hit 101 degrees Fahrenheit in Melbourne, where even ice was rationed.

Wooley cornered
Former This Day Tonight Hobart reporter Charles Wooley has joined ABC's Four Corners.  The 30-year-old has worked in newspapers and television in Western Australia and Tasmania and joined This Day Tonight in 1974.  Married with "two daughters, a dog and a cat" he sees the move to Four Corners as an advancement in his career.

donlane Shake-up for Lane show
A reshuffle in the production team for Nine's The Don Lane Show has had an impact on plans to take the show out on location in 1979.  Two of the show's comedy writers, Mike McColl-Jones and Tim Evans, already may be missing from the show when it returns in the new year.  McColl-Jones has accepted a position at rival ATV0's Peter Couchman Tonight, and Evans is believed to be in negotiation with HSV7 for the role of producer on the Saturday night Penthouse Club.  Also missing from The Don Lane Show in the new year will be producer Lesley Shaw, to be replaced by producer and former journalist Vince Lovegrove.  And returning to the position of executive producer for the show will be Peter Faiman.

Cop Shop actress Jo-Anne Moore and former This Day Tonight host Sonia Humphrey have been cast for the ABC series Twenty Good Years.  Former The Box actress Helen Hemingway has also been signed up for the series which is currently in production.

Viewpoint: Letters to the Editor:
"I hope we aren't going to be bored to death over the Christmas holidays when all the good shows have a break.  Blankety Blanks saved the day last year but now that's been axed we will be left high and dry." M. Allen, SA.

"Why do we have to have so many repeat programs, and in some cases, repeats of repeats!  There are many programs in Australia which are not screened here in Tasmania.  Is this because we can't afford to have them here? The repeats go on, and even good comedians become stale after a while." J. McRae, TAS.

"Why is it that any decent TV program or movie is programmed for viewing either in the middle of the day or night?  It makes me angry that a top class series like Poldark is screened at 11.00pm, or that the repeat of Upstairs Downstairs is shown at 2.00pm, when working people in 9-5 jobs simply cannot watch." R. Ogilvie, QLD.

What's On (December 23-29):
Saturday brings NSW Open tennis on HSV7, World Series Cricket on GTV9 and Gillette Cup cricket on ATV0.  On Saturday night, Young Talent Time on ATV0 presents a special Christmas edition with an hour of Christmas carols.

Sunday is Christmas Eve, and ABC devotes much of the evening to British Christmas specials.  HSV7 presents a movie, Father Knows Best Reunion, and GTV9's World Series Cricket continues until 10.30pm.  ATV0 continues a Melbourne tradition with Carols By Candlelight from 9.30pm, followed by Christmas Midnight Mass at 11.30pm.  And viewers are offered two versions of the Christmas classic Miracle On 34th Street, with the black-and-white 1947 version airing on HSV7 at 10.00pm, and the more-recent 1973 version on ATV0 earlier in the night at 8.00pm.

Christmas Day on Monday has movies and Christmas specials throughout the day on HSV7 and GTV9, while ATV0 has a late start to the day, commencing transmission at 3.00pm with a repeat of Carols By Candlelight followed by The Early Bird Christmas Day ShowABC's traditional Divine Service appears at 10.00am, then the test pattern takes over until mid-afternoon.  At 3.30pm, the cast of Play School, including Benita Collings, John Hamblin, Alister Smart, Don Spencer, John Waters and Noni Hazelhurst, present a special version of the Christmas story, told in Godspell-style with songs, improvisation and props.

ABC's 7.00pm news is cut to ten minutes for Christmas night, followed by the traditional Queen's Christmas Message.  Like the previous night, ABC has more British fare with Christmas specials throughout the evening.  But over at GTV9, not even Family Feud and The Young Doctors get the night off for Christmas, both screening as usual.

Boxing Day, 26 December, has the Australian Open tennis from Kooyong, Melbourne, live on HSV7ABC has the One Day International live from the Melbourne Cricket Ground, and GTV9 has two hours coverage of the Sydney-Hobart Yacht Race.  The evening includes HSV7's live coverage of the Australian Derby horse racing from Perth.

Friday includes the first day's play in the cricket Third Test, live from the Melbourne Cricket Ground, on ABC.

memory03 ATV0's weekday afternoon game show lineup, Blankety Blanks, Pyramid Challenge and Perfect Match, quietly comes to an end on Friday.  For Blankety Blanks (pictured) it is an inglorious end for a program that only a year earlier was a prime-time ratings giant before being moved by ATV0 to a midday timeslot earlier in the year following reports of a falling out between the station and the show's host Graham Kennedy.

Source: TV Times (Melbourne edition), 23 December 1978.  ABC/ACP

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Barrel girl rings into the High Court

gingerdewinter There are plenty of news reports today that Virginia Bell (pictured) has been appointed as a justice of the High Court of Australia, and only the fourth woman ever to be appointed to the role.

Ms Bell has had a long and distinguished 30-year career in the legal profession, and is experienced in other matters, too.  With theatrical interests at a young age, and as a former ABC journalist and presenter, it was Bell as her alter-ego Ginger de Winter who was also apparently the self-appointed president of the mythical Australian Barrel Girls Association

Claiming to be a former TV barrel girl from the era of In Melbourne Tonight, de Winter would appear as a regular guest on the 1980s nostalgia program The Golden Years Of Television, a program that appeared first on Network Ten before moving with host David Lyle to Nine.

number96_title In between reruns of old black-and-white programs, Ms de Winter, with her fake eyelashes, gaudy earrings and strapless frocks, was one to share all the juicy gossip from some of TV's early icons, whether it be from backstage on In Melbourne Tonight or propping up the bar at Norma's on the night the bomb went off at Number 96

Ms de Winter also claimed to know whose bared breasts on Number 96 were real, and whose were fakes!

Saturday, 13 December 2008

1978: December 16-22


Cover: Marlon Brando (Superman The Movie)

Restless break for June Salter
Actress June Salter will take an extended break from The Restless Years to tour with the theatrical production Crown Matrimonial.  The hit stage play has had an extended season in Sydney and has also played to packed houses in Brisbane and Newcastle, but a national tour was not possible unless Salter could be relieved from her commitments to The Restless YearsCrown Matrimonial starts its three-month national tour in February 1979.

War of the words
Veteran TV scriptwriter Mike McColl-Jones has left the Nine Network's The Don Lane Show to work on ATV0's late-night Peter Couchman program which is headed for a higher profile in the new year, extending to five nights a week.  "I think Peter Couchman has that same attraction that Graham Kennedy had.  Women want to mother him.  That is a particularly good quality for a man in his job to have," he told TV Times.

I'm not just a pretty face!
Actor Tony Bonner is feeling he has been able to shake off the stigma of the young, handsome, heroic type which he earned by playing helicopter pilot Jerry King in the '60s TV series Skippy The Bush Kangaroo.  The Sammy Award-winning actor has had recent roles in Power Without Glory, the telemovie The Alternative and ABC play End Of Summer before taking on an ongoing role in Cop Shop.  Bonner has also directed a series of half-hour documentaries, titled Making It Together, and is preparing to play the role of a blind man in an upcoming Seven Network telemovie Image Of Death.

From bullets to ballots
Millions of viewers know Gregory Ross as Constable Tony Benjamin in Cop Shop, but to his colleagues he is known as the Prime Minister.  Ross is closely associated with the Liberal Party in Victoria and hopes to stand as a candidate in the future.  "I hope to become a full-time politician in the future, maybe three or four years.  I've had the ambition for some time and I am deadly serious about a career in politics," he told TV Times

GTV9's children's series Nine Will Fix It recently featured a story on money being made at the Royal Reserve Treasury in Melbourne.  The crew also had the heart-breaking task of witnessing old money being shovelled into furnaces.  "That was painful!," according to presenter Penny Spence.

The Young Doctors star Marcus Hale, an experienced motorcycle stunt rider, found himself in a real hospital after an accident while riding to work had rendered him unconscious and with deep cuts on his chest, facial abrasions and a lump on the head.  The actor recalls nothing of what caused the accident.

ABC newsman Richard Carleton is currently on a trek through darkest Africa, on his way back to Australia for the new current affairs program Nationwide.

Viewpoint: Letters to the Editor
"ABC must be mad screening that rubbish Three's Company after only last year showing us the brilliantly funny Man About The House.  You would think the Americans could come up with something original."  D. Builton, TAS.

"What I want to know is why TCN9 Sydney is screening so many appalling programs in prime time while really superb movies like Medium Cool and Molly And Lawless John are hidden away in late night slots?  And if it's because they're repeats, it won't wash.  None of the channels has any qualms about repeating other programs in prime time." J. Anderson, NSW.

What's On (December 16-22):
Another week, and more tennis on HSV7 with the Ampol Men's Challenge, South Australian Women's Classic and the New South Wales Open filling afternoons during the week.  More cricket, too, with the Second Test on ABC and World Series Cricket on GTV9.

Christmas specials feature throughout the week, with specials from Good Times, Laugh-In, Grizzly Adams, Donny And Marie, Morecambe And Wise and The Black And White Minstrels.  On Thursday night, ATV0 screens Christmas carols from the Sydney University Choir.

Sunday night movies are All The Way To Paris (HSV7), Out Of Season (GTV9) and Operation Petticoat (ATV0).  ABC presents a Royal Heritage special on Queen Victoria.

Source: TV Times (Melbourne edition), 16 December 1978, ABC/ACP

Friday, 12 December 2008

1978: December 9-15

tvtimes_091278Cover: Ron Howard (Happy Days)

Where's our wonder woman?
The producers of Nine's upcoming current affairs program 60 Minutes are looking for a female reporter following the unexpected departure of Kate Ballieu from the team due to sickness and personal reasons.  "I think it would be nice in this day and age to have a woman on the reporting team.  But in no way will she be what is actually accepted as a woman reporter.  She will not be doing so-called women's stories," producer Gerald Stone told TV Times.  The big budget program, based on the US program of the same name, is set to premiere early in 1979 with reporters Ray Martin, George Negus and Ian Leslie

bunneybrooke 96 wouldn't know the new-look Flo
Eighteen months after Number 96 ceased production, actress Bunney Brooke (pictured), who played the pragmatic Flo Patterson in the long-running series, has moved onto a promising movie career with roles in recent productions Dawn and Newsfront as well as upcoming titles Alison's Birthday and Welcome Back Stranger and a telemovie A Good Thing Going.  As well as movie roles, Brooke has also been busy with appearances in TV series The Young Doctors, Kirby's Company and Wayzgoose and in ABC plays A Visit To The Uncle and Palace Of Dreams.

Those forthcoming attractions
TV Times
often receive letters from viewers who are sick of on-screen promotions for upcoming programs, but for the networks they are serious business and are here to stay.  Brisbane QTQ9 publicist Dorothea Timms said that the channel spends more than $2 million on station promotions, including labour costs and airtime. "Channel Nine's biggest client is Channel Nine," she said.  ABC promotions manager John Woods said that on-screen promotions have been used to success, one example being shows like British comedy The Goodies recording a ratings boost after an on-screen campaign around the theme 'The Goodies Will Get You'.  The commercial networks have also found that heavily-promoted programs do generally perform better in the ratings with recent examples being Roots (0-10), Against The Wind (Seven) and The Godfather (Nine).

It may become three-way traffic
Australian TV producers the Reg Grundy Organisation and Crawford Productions may have a new player to contend with next year with US company Hanna-Barbera embarking on local productions in Australia, with one science-fiction and two historical dramas being considered for production.  The company will have the assistance of movie producers Hal and Jim McElroy in developing the new programs.

Rumours persist that Graham Kennedy may return to TV in the new year with a Saturday evening show for GTV9, and that former Penthouse '78 co-host Mary Hardy could join him.

Trial By Marriage, a new comedy series written by The Truckies actor Michael Aitken, is to go into production in mid-1979 for ABC.

The dedication of Cop Shop actor George Mallaby was put to the test when he turned up for work with a fever and a temperature of 104 (F) and ignoring medical advice to postpone filming he stayed on set the whole day.

againstthewindViewpoint: Letters to the Editor
"I would like to praise the series Against The Wind (pictured).  This show was so good our family even went without our longtime favourite The Don Lane Show."  B. Hestelow, NSW

"I would like you to know how much myself and friends enjoy The Restless Years.  We like everyone in it, and Miss McKenzie (June Salter) is a lovely person.  June Salter was also in Certain Women and was lovely."  J. Ryan, QLD.

"Why do ABC announcers wear the sort of clothes that interfere with the colour contrast on one's TV set? Last night I was watching Bruce Wakely telling viewers about forthcoming programs on ABC, just before station close-down, when suddenly, his tie started to turn a funny colour.  I have found similar problems with some of James Dibble's suits and Graham Lindon's shirts.  Surely ABC technical staff can do better than this?" G. Wymer, NSW.

What's On (December 9-15)
Australia versus the World features in GTV9's World Series Cricket over the weekend and on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday.  On Sunday, ATV0 presents live coverage of the Gillette Cup cricket from Brisbane.

There's also more cricket with ABC's telecast of the Sheffield Shield from Sydney on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, and the Second Test, live from Perth, starting on Friday.

Seven's tennis coverage continues every day during the week from Sydney and Adelaide, and on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings, HSV7 presents live coverage of the Adelaide International Tournament.

On Tuesday night, ABC presents a telemovie Shimmering Light, starring John Meillon, Mark Hembrow, Ingrid Mason, Patrick Ward and US actors Beau Bridges and Lloyd Bridges.

On Friday night, HSV7 movie host Ivan Hutchinson presents Ivan's Holiday Movie Guide previewing some of the movies coming to cinemas over the upcoming holiday period, including International Velvet, Battlestar Galactica, The Boys From Brazil and Death On The Nile.

Sunday night movies are He Is My Brother (HSV7), Judith (GTV9) and That Touch Of Mink (ATV0).

Source: TV Times (Melbourne edition), 9 December 1978.  ABC/ACP

Sunday, 7 December 2008

TelevisionAU Update

Due to some personal matters to attend to leading up to Christmas, an upcoming break over Christmas-New Year, and a bit of an IT issue to resolve before then as well (though not as bad as the one pictured!), the blog here will be updated less frequently for the next little while but will hope to be back to normal around mid-January 2009.


Sunday, 30 November 2008

1978: December 2-8

tvtimes_021278 The Sullivans' amazing Grace...
Actress Lorraine Bayly is made to look considerably older than her 36 years when playing the motherly Grace Sullivan in The Sullivans - with make-up applied to add wrinkles and darken her cheeks, having her hair tied back and wearing loose-fitting dresses.  In fact, when she is not in Grace Sullivan mode, she is barely recognised in public.  But when asked how long we can expect to see Grace on screen: "Well, we are negotiating at the moment and I've signed to continue to next year.  There's a strong possibility that Grace will be there when the war ends in 1945." also TV's golden girl
The Sullivans' Lorraine Bayly (pictured, with co-stars Richard Morgan and Steven Tandy) has become the highest-paid series actress in the history of Australian TV.  The actress, who recently won Best TV Actress at the 1978 Sammy Awards, is not saying exactly what she is being paid but it is reported to be more than $1000 a week.  Meanwhile, the cast of The Sullivans are about to take a four-week break over Christmas and Bayly will also be taking an extended break during  1979 for a trip to Brazil. 

American TV accents ousting the ocker!
A survey of Australian TV commercials has found that almost one in three are using American-accented dialogue.  This compares to around ten per cent of commercials shown on British television.  The study, carried out by the University of Melbourne, showed that the ocker Aussie accent was rarely used in prestige commercials and that, except for big names like Paul Hogan, it was used more in program content rather than commercials.

kerrymcguireBuddha's golden ransom
The telemovie Puzzle, one of a series of telemovies made between Australia's ABC and international Trans-Atlantic Enterprises, was originally to feature American actress Tina Louise.  A last minute withdrawal by Louise saw the role of glamorous Claudine Cunningham played by Australian actress Wendy Hughes.   To screen on ABC this week, Puzzle also features Robert Helpmann, Kerry McGuire (pictured) and US actor James Franciscus.

Colleen Hewett and Michael Aitken played husband and wife in ABC's The Truckies, and now have again been cast as partners for an upcoming guest appearance in Seven's Cop Shop.

Robert Coleby, one of the cast of ABC's new series Patrol Boat, will be joined in one episode by seven-year-old daughter Anja.  The young actress also appeared in an episode of Coleby's previous series Chopper Squad.

Viewpoint: Letters to the Editor
"I would very much like to congratulate anyone who had anything to do with Against The Wind.  It is a great pity that there aren't more shows like it." N Webster, QLD.

"I would like to add my voice to the many praising The Truckies.  With a bit of luck we may have another series.  Our family always enjoys the Gilbert and Sullivan operettas which ABC has occasionally shown, and hope for more." J Williams, VIC.

"As Countdown is primarily for teens and pre-teens, it should be more selective with the film clips chosen to be featured.  One in particular is Deadlock Holiday by 10cc, which in my opinion was very suggestive.  Film clips of this nature should only be shown to mature audiences.  Countdown viewers are at a very impressionable age and could be influenced in the wrong way."  B Baker, SA.

"I would like to congratulate Neil Inall and his excellent team of reporters on Horizon 5.  It is a pleasure to be able, daily, to view this program which is very interesting and informative." H Kerns, QLD.

What's On (December 2-8):
HSV7's summer tennis coverage continues with all-day coverage, from 11.00am to 6.00pm each day, of the women's Federation Cup from Melbourne and the Toyota Women's Classic from Sydney.

ABC has live coverage from Brisbane of the cricket First Test on Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday, from 11.55am to 7.00pm.

Wednesday night includes the series final of The Inventors on ABC, with the announcement of the winner of The Inventors Award selected from the 72 who have featured on the show during the year.  Presenting the award will be David Port, son of panelist Leo Port who passed away earlier in the year. Later in the evening, a Holiday special, Bill Peach In China, takes a rare look at life and tourism in China.

The Mike Walsh Show finishes up for 1978, ending its second year at the Nine Network after moving across from the 0-10 Network.

Sunday night movies are Dirty Weekend (HSV7), Goodbye Columbus (GTV9) and The Hornet's Nest (ATV0).

Source: TV Times (Melbourne edition), 2 December 1978.  ABC/ACP

It's Seven in '08

7_tvman With the official ratings season over as of last night, the press releases will no doubt come out from all networks over the next few days - each of them claiming various victories in the hope of being able to capture more of the advertising pie next year - but the overall winner will be the Seven Network for the second year running.

Even when taking out the weeks affected by the Olympic Games, Seven still edges ahead of traditional rival Nine in total people (6pm to midnight), with Seven 28.5 per cent, Nine 27.3, Ten 21.0, ABC 17.4, SBS 5.6.

Nine will claim, however, that it has won in the advertiser-friendly 25-54 age bracket with 28.7 per cent over Seven's 28.0 per cent.  And Ten will claim victory in the 16-39 age group with 29.7 per cent, while Nine got 28.4 and Seven got 26.4.

Seven's Packed To The Rafters was the year's most watched series, with a season average of just under 2 million viewers (5 cities, OzTAM), followed by Find My Family and Nine's Underbelly.  The popularity of Underbelly is particularly significant given that the show was banned from screening in Victoria, where the series was set, until much later in the year.  Even then, only five episodes have so far been shown in Victoria.  To have had the series rate so well when essentially the second-largest market in Australia was barred from watching it is no mean feat.  Further down the ladder is Ten's highest rating series for the year, the Australian So You Think You Can Dance? averaging 1.49 million viewers.  ABC's highest rating series was the British drama Doc Martin with 1.32 million, and SBS' most watched series was Top Gear with an average of just under 890,000.

In one-off events, it would be hard to out-rate the Olympic Games with the Opening Ceremony watched by 2.82 million viewers, followed by the AFL Grand Final on 2.49 million and the Australian Open Tennis Men's Final on 2.45 million.

Source: SMH

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Celebrating Mr Grundy

reggrundy The wife of long-time TV producer Reg Grundy (pictured) is arranging an exclusive celebration in his honour, to be held next week at a Sydney hotel.

Grundy turned 85 earlier this year and was also named in the Queen's Birthday honours list for his services to television.

memory10 Joy Chambers, an author and former model, TV game show panelist and actress, married Grundy back in the 1970s and has invited a list of TV stars and back-stagers that helped Grundy become a household name and create an international production empire, with hit shows including Wheel Of Fortune, Sale Of The Century, Pot Of Gold, Neighbours, The Young Doctors, Chopper Squad, Prisoner (pictured), Perfect Match, The Price Is Right, Blankety Blanks, Sons And Daughters, It's A Knockout and The Restless Years.

Grundy also produced US versions of Sale Of The Century and Prisoner and co-produced the 1977 feature ABBA The Movie which followed the pop group's Australian tour.

Some of those believed to be attending next week's celebration include Brian Henderson, Ernie Sigley, Larry Emdur, Alan Jones, TV boss David Leckie and production staff that worked on Grundy's first TV venture Wheel Of Fortune which he hosted back in 1959.

Having dominated Australian television production and expanded the business overseas - with branches in the United States and Europe -  Grundy sold the company to British-based Pearson Television in 1995.  The company is now part of the international Fremantlemedia group, continuing production in Australia with shows including Neighbours, Australian Idol and So You Think You Can Dance.

After selling his TV production company, Grundy invested in radio as major shareholder in regional network RG Capital before the company was bought out by Macquarie Bank.

Reg Grundy and Joy Chambers now live in Bermuda.


Summer Temptation could be its last

Reports today that Nine's long-running quiz show Temptation is well and truly finished with the show's host Ed Phillips not having his contract renewed by the network.

tonybarbie Beginning in 2005, Temptation was a rework of the long-running Sale Of The Century which ran from 1980 to 2001.  Sale, of course, was itself a rework of the 1970s Great Temptation that ran on the Seven Network from 1970 to 1975 with Tony Barber and Barbie Rogers (pictured).

Towards the end of 2007, Temptation's future appeared to be in doubt when Nine cut it back to four nights a week to accommodate a revival of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire on Monday nights.  Temptation was then 'rested' in favour of the US sitcom Two And A Half Men which has given Nine strong ratings in the 7.00pm timeslot.

temptationNine did eventually put Temptation back into production earlier this year but the batch of episodes were never put to air, instead the network continued to push the Two And A Half Men bandwagon.  With the non-ratings season starting this weekend, Nine has decided to begin to air those remaining Temptation episodes.

A summer showing of Temptation could have given Nine an indication of whether the format is worth continuing into 2009, but instead they've decided to let the show fade out and bid farewell to Phillips.  Viewers will be reluctant to give the show any support over summer now, knowing that it won't be back in the longer term.

Temptation co-host Livinia Nixon appears to be staying on board at Nine as weather presenter on Melbourne's Nine News.

Curiously, Phillips has been let go from Nine just as other news comes out that the network is piloting a new 5.30pm show to lead-in to Nine News, with no presenter formally appointed.  Network identities Karl Stefanovic (Today) and Leila McKinnon will host the pilot of the new show but the network has said that if the show is given the green light then new hosts would be appointed.


Monday, 24 November 2008

Free lovin' among the networks

watchtv2 For most of the time, our free-to-air networks are fighting the battlegrounds of the all-important ratings, defending their territories (ie. audience shares), justifying their existences and, sometimes, sending out smarmy press releases to try and taint or taunt the opposition.

But from tonight, a little bit of that fierce rivalry is chipped away, just slightly, with the launch of Freeview

tv_antenna Freeview is an initiative of a collective of networks - ABC, Seven, Nine, Ten, SBS, NBN, WIN, Southern Cross, Prime - as they push to get more viewers to switch from the analogue technology that we've been watching since the 1950s to the digital signals that have been rolling out across the country since 2001. 

In launching Freeview to the public this evening, all participating networks took the rare opportunity to promote the brand in a "roadblock" style - having the same promotion broadcast simultaneously across all networks, including ABC and SBS, at exactly the same time - 6.29pm - essentially capturing everybody watching free-to-air TV at one of the most-watched times of the evening.

The ultimate goal of Freeview is to have everyone switched over to digital in time for when analogue signals start being switched off over the next few years.

Previous attempts by the industry to boost the take-up of digital have been rather low-key and less than motivating.  This was, in some ways, not helped by the tight regulations inflicted by the government on what the commercial networks especially would be allowed to do with digital. 

watchtv3 But now with Freeview, all the free-to-air networks are offering a large-scale uniform branding exercise to broadly promote digital television and the benefits that it has - namely multi-channeling by the networks through both high-definition and standard-definition (allowed from the commercial sector from 2009) and an electronic program guide. 

All up, Freeview promises 15 individual channels, comprising three from each of the five networks - ABC, Seven/Prime/SCTV, Nine/WIN/NBN, Ten/SCTen and SBS - which includes the existing digital channels already available.

Freeview also takes a swipe at subscription television by emphasising the multi-channel option and that once the equipment is purchased there are no ongoing contracts or fees.

The branding exercise will also be extended to the retail of set-top-boxes and digital TV equipment from next year. 

Saturday, 22 November 2008

1978: November 25-December 1

tvtimes_251178 How Georgiou stays a jump ahead
The cops featured in Crawford Productions' police dramas are used to high-speed car chases, but actor John Orcsik (pictured) from Cop Shop is just at home on a horse.  A former bodybuilder and karate student, Orcsik for several years owned and operated a horse riding school in Western Australia: "I gave it away in the end because I was working on my body at the time and as I built myself up I became too heavy for the horses."  Orcsik is glad to be able to include horse-riding as a skill when applying for acting roles, but it has only been called upon in the ABC series Ben Hall and in a guest appearance on Tandarra.

Mark's taste of Hollywood
Returning from the Cannes Film Festival saw pop star and actor Mark Holden make a stop in Hollywood, and three months later he's still there.  Originally planning to visit the US to gather songs for his new album, Holden has ended up with a producer and has been arranging and recording tracks, proposing them to record companies, and also attending an acting school.

Germaine to look us over
Aussie ex-pat Germaine Greer is heading to Australia to make a documentary on Sydney as part of the Canadian-produced series Cities Of The World.  Other cities to be featured in the series include Leningrad, Rome, Stockholm, Berlin, Toronto, Jerusalem, New York and Dublin.  The series, being produced by British-born John McGreevy, is expected to air towards the end of 1979.

tinaarena Tiny talented Tina
According to her mother, 10-year-old Tina Arena (pictured) "had been making singing and chattering noises almost from the day she was born, and when she was two we knew she would have to do something in showbusiness."  The youngster's penchant for singing led to her parents entering her into the Young Talent Time new talent segment.  Tina recalls, "I won the heat and the quarter finals, but I lost the semi-finals.  I wasn't disappointed and I enjoyed myself, but it was a complete surprise when Johnny Young asked if I would join the team. "  The young star is hopeful of an acting career when she is older.

Staff at Melbourne's ATV0 have been amused by the placement of sets for the new series Prisoner.  The replica prison wall, exercise area and vegetable garden are all located next to the channel's administration offices.

harrymichaels Former Number 96 star Harry Michaels (pictured) is celebrating the first anniversary of his weekly daytime variety program Greek Affair which he hosts and produces for the 0-10 Network.  The program is also screened in Cyprus and Michaels is also negotiating to sell the program to the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States.

ABC sports commentator Norman May has tipped England to win the Australia-England Test Series which starts in Brisbane this week.  Joining May on ABC's summer cricket coverage will be former Test captain Bobby Simpson, Keith Miller and Frank Tyson.

Newly-retired naval officer Commander Alun Evans has joined ABC as an advisor on the new series Patrol Boat.

Viewpoint: Letters to the Editor:
"ABC has one big weak point.  It does not show good quality full-length movies on a regular basis."  D Irving, NSW.

micromacro "What is wrong with the stations they they spend thousands on such rubbish as Micro Macro (pictured) and Blankety Blanks?  They are an insult to the average person's intelligence.  Do they really think we are so dumb?"  A McCallum, VIC.

"I'd like to see foreign films on TV (with subtitles of course), and every TV station having its own theatrette in town, to take the place of 'news theatres'.  Why shouldn't someone, who has an hour or two to spare, be able to pop into a mini-theatre to pay to watch on a maxi-screen, the program that they could have been watching had they stayed at home."  P Cunningham, NSW.

What's On (November 25-December 1):
The Seven Network's summer tennis coverage begins with the Queensland Open from Brisbane on Saturday and Sunday, followed by the Federation Cup, the women's equivalent of the Davis Cup, from Monday through to Friday, live from Kooyong in Melbourne.

The Nine Network's usual daytime line-up of US soap operas takes a break for summer, with re-runs of Australian dramas Division Four and Silent Number appearing in the schedule.

ABC's weekly game show Micro Macro moves from Friday nights to Monday at 6.25pm.

The 1978-79 season of World Series Cricket starts on Tuesday with Australia versus the West Indies, telecast live from the Sydney Cricket Ground, on GTV9 from 2.20pm through to 10.30pm.  The following day features Australia versus The World.

On Wednesday night, HSV7 presents a repeat of the one-hour special John Denver In Australia, while ATV0 screens a repeat of the Holiday Survival Test showing viewers how to avoid common accidents over the upcoming holiday period.

The first cricket Test, Australia versus England, starts on Friday with live coverage on ABC from the Brisbane Cricket Ground.  Coverage starts at 11.50am and continues through to 6.30pm.

Friday night sees the final edition of ABC's long-running current affairs program This Day Tonight, ending an almost twelve-year run.

Sunday night movies are Baffled (HSV7), Kotch (GTV9) and an Australian film Squeeze A Flower (ATV0) featuring Rowena Wallace, Jeff Ashby and Barry Crocker.

Source: TV Times (Melbourne edition), 25 November 1978.  ABC/ACP

Friday, 21 November 2008

Imparja news signing off

imparja_logo Imparja Television, Australia's last independently-owned regional TV operator, is reported to be closing down its regional news and current affairs unit.

ABC reports that the Alice Springs-based, indigenous-owned broadcaster is closing its local news operations in a round of cost cutting.   Already seven jobs are believed to have been cut with more to follow.

The cutbacks follow the station's recent move into a multi-million dollar complex in Alice Springs and its failed bid to purchase the Nine Network's Darwin station NTD8.  Curiously, the bid to purchase NTD had to include a commitment to maintaining local news and staffing levels in the top end capital.

imparja_newsEarlier this year Imparja made significant changes to its schedule by aligning itself with the Nine Network line-up, adding the Nine Network 'dots' to its logo and scrapping programs sourced from Network Ten.  The station also cancelled its nightly half-hour locally-produced news bulletin, in favour of a relay of National Nine News from Brisbane, and aligned its schedule to Eastern Standard Time instead of Central Standard Time.  Local news was to be provided only via one-minute updates during the evenings and a new weekly program Footprints.

Imparja was launched in 1988 with a commitment to producing and promoting Aboriginal culture.  With the cutbacks to its local news coverage the station's only indigenous-based production now is a weekly children's program although Imparja does provide facilities and transmission capacity to the indigenous broadcaster NITV

Now for around 430,000 viewers located in remote and outback Australia the only local news coverage on television can be found on bite-sized news updates on Southern Cross Seven Central, produced from a newsroom in Canberra, and the news service of the fledgling NITV whose broadcast coverage is limited.

The cancellation of local news by Imparja follows some other regional broadcasters going down a similar path, with Prime and Southern Cross Ten in much of their eastern states coverage areas providing limited news coverage that barely fulfils the guidelines set down by the broadcasting authority.  In contrast, regional networks WIN, NBN, GWN and Southern Cross Television provide more substantial local news coverage with full-scale evening bulletins across their respective regions.

Source: ABC

Saturday, 15 November 2008

1978: November 18-24

tvtimes_181178 Alfred Sandor - Lonely hearts specialist
Alfred Sandor might be the un-romantic Dr Raymond Shaw in The Young Doctors, but in real life he is the ladies man and met his third wife after coming to Australia in 1969.  But in a career that has included appearing in more than 250 TV shows, including daytime soaps, and stage productions in the US before moving to Australia, Sandor (pictured, centre, with TYD co-stars Michael Beecher and Lyn James) doesn't quite know what makes soaps so popular.  "I think it's because there's a lot of lonely people around," he guesses.  "But I've been aghast when doctors have told me they look at the program.  They say they get a good laugh out of the program and enjoy it.  They say what happens would never happen in a real hospital but still enjoy the show."

Quest winner's dilemma
Should a 14-year-old musical prodigy finish her schooling, or go overseas to study with the world's leading teachers?  That is the question facing the family of pianist Marilyn Meier, the viewers' top choice in the finals of ABC's Quest '78.  Meier's parents are also prepared to sell up their orchard in Camden NSW, and take the family to the US or Europe to give their daughter a chance at an international music career.

ruthcracknell Ruth's happy behind the times
Actress Ruth Cracknell (pictured) admits she isn't a seventies person.  She happily claims that her time was back in the Edwardian era, back before World War I.  "Given a chance I would have loved to have lived then, in Edwardian England."  Currently in rehearsals for an upcoming stage production of Bedroom Farce, Cracknell has also been working on a new ABC series Golden Soak for screening next year.  But like most actresses, she is frustrated by the lack of solid roles for women in films and television.  "Most writers - not all - are men and they write purely from a male viewpoint.  The time is right now, for stories about women through women's eyes."

This year's Sydney Opera House New Year's Eve concert, starring Sherbet, is to be telecast by TEN10 Sydney and ATV0 Melbourne, with the possibility of other 0-10 Network stations taking the program.  The concert is also expected to be relayed via satellite for screening in Japan.

During the recent Miss Australia telecast, co-host Annette Allison was so excited at fellow Queenslander Anne Sneddon winning the title that she waved her arms in joy and knocked over floor manager Gary Rhodes off the podium.

Roy Hampson, whose morning hosting on ATV0 has taken a break this year, is due to return to the channel in the new year.

Actor John Dommett has returned to Australia after an extended break in the United Kingdom, and is to return to his former role in The Young Doctors in January.

Viewpoint: Letters to the Editor:
"I have been watching The Truckies ever since the show started.  In short I love The Truckies.  I know quite a few gear jerkers (truck drivers) because I own a flipflop (CB radio).  They swear just as much, they work just as much and booze just as much.  I'm sure The Truckies will be a boomer of it goes overseas."  J. Blackshaw, NSW.

"I would like to express my appreciation to ABC for the Tickled Pink series.  The plays I saw were refreshing, both for their comedy and production.  Usually I'm not a fan of Australian shows because of their boredom.  Tickled Pink was so vivid, the cast so professional and general production outstanding."  J. Couani, NSW.

"I was delighted to see during the Sammys an award going to one of this country's most talented actors, George Mallaby.  His role in Cop Shop as the stern desk-bound station chief is played to perfection."  R. Bruce, NSW.

What's On (November 18-24):
's telecast of the Australian Open Golf Championships continues on the weekend with eight hours coverage on both Saturday and Sunday.

mickiedestoop On Saturday, ATV0 devotes much of the day to the Nerve Deafness Telethon.  The telethon starts at 9.00am with hosts Steve Raymond and Mickie de Stoop (pictured) and continues through to 6.00pm.  At 6.30pm, Young Talent Time presents a special telethon edition with live performances and acknowledging of donations.  Then later, at 8.30pm, the telethon's evening segment is hosted by Peter Couchman through to the telethon's close at 11.45pm.

ABC's Sunday night 7.00pm news is cut to ten minutes, and the magazine program Weekend Magazine is given the night off, to make room for a 50-minute documentary Vietnam Today.  Presented by Tony Joyce, the special captures the realities of everyday life for the average Vietnamese in the new Vietnam.

GTV9's Family Feud moves from its regular 5.00pm timeslot to 7.00pm weeknights for the summer, replacing The Sullivans.

On Monday night, ABC presents O'se Shalom, a 90-minute documentary analysing and explaining the Jewish faith, including rituals, family life, marriage, diet and worship.  Presenting the program is Sydney rabbi Raymond Apple and This Day Tonight host Sonia Humphrey.

Sunday night movies are Point Blank (HSV7), Our Man Flint (GTV9) and The Seventh Dawn (ATV0).  All are repeats.  Later in the evening, GTV9 presents the movie classic Sorry Wrong Number, and HSV7 screens The Hunchback Of Notre Dame.

Source: TV Times (Melbourne edition), 18 November 1978.  ABC/ACP

Friday, 14 November 2008

Pat the Rat is back

1984cover This weekend marks the return of Where Are They Now? on the Seven Network and headlining the return episode is a reunion of cast members from the '80s soap Sons And Daughters.

Included in the reunion will be Rowena Wallace - whose on-screen 'Pat the Rat' persona was pivotal to much of the series and earned Wallace a TV Week Gold Logie in 1985 - joined by fellow cast members Peter Phelps, Ally Fowler, Tom Richards, Ian Rawlings and Belinda Giblin.

After the glory of winning the Gold Logie in 1985, Wallace has been in and out of the spotlight ever since - but not always for the right reasons. In 2005, Wallace was facing a 20-year jail term for falsely claiming $30,000 in Centrelink benefits, during a time she was living in a commission house and suffering depression.

Wallace's return to the spotlight came in the unlikely form of reality show Celebrity Overhaul (think The Bigger Loser for celebrities) later followed by a role in the perennial soap Neighbours.

The Where Are They Now? reunion of Sons And Daughters cast members comes after the show has staged similar reunions for cast members of Prisoner, Number 96, The Young Doctors and Hey Dad.

Source: TV Tonight, Sunday, Celebrity Overhaul
Related: '80s soap icon back for another run

Where Are They Now?, Sunday 16 November 7.30pm, Seven*
* Melbourne. Other areas/affiliates check local guide