Monday, 31 March 2008

There's an April fool born every centiday

April Fool's Day invariably brings out all sorts of mockery from even the most serious news sources. But here's an old one that we particularly loved.

ABC's This Day Tonight in Adelaide proudly broke the news on 1 April 1975 that metric time was being introduced to Australia. The new metric time system would see seconds become millidays, minutes become centidays, and hours become decidays.

To further guide viewers through the system, South Australia's deputy premier Des Corcoran was there to commend the new system, and Adelaide's Town Hall clock had been converted to a 10-hour clock face.

Even the day after the story went to air, confusion still reigned over the so-called transition to metric time. ABC continued to receive calls from angry viewers who had fallen for the gag, and a department store manager had reportedly been inundated with enquiries from concerned customers, including one livid customer who had just bought a new digital clock and was now faced with having to convert it.

"It was a very successful spoof," commented This Day Tonight producer John Geyer, "Des Corcoran was a good sport for agreeing to appear, and played his part perfectly."

Pictured: TDT Adelaide reporter Nigel Starck with a "metric" clock.

Source: TV Times, 19 April 1975

YouTube: The Box

Reprinting a review that I'd written for TelevisionAU some years ago. The reason I'm re-printing it here is because that page of the website is now obsolete, and because some rare clips from the series have appeared on (you'd never guess!) YouTube (see below):

The raunchy prime time series Number 96 set the pace of Australian TV soap opera drama in the early 1970s with its mix of comedy, sex and melodrama. The 0-10 Network expanded on the successful 96 formula with The Box.

Produced by Crawford Productions, The Box began on 11 February 1974 at 9pm, immediately following Number 96, and both shows ran back to back for several years and both ranked as the most popular programs on Australian TV in 1974.

The Box was based around the behind-the-scenes drama of a fictional television station UCV12 and featured a range of characters including bumbling TV actor Tony Wild (Ken James), bitchy reporter Vicki Stafford (Judy Nunn), station owner Sir Henry Usher (Fred Betts), gossipy tea lady Mrs Hopkins (Lois Ramsey), effeminate producer Lee Whiteman (Paul Karo) and management figures Paul Donovan (George Mallaby) and Max Knight (Barrie Barkla).

While The Box was considered purely fictional, it was sometimes regarded as being almost an accurate, if not satirical, reference to the television industry at the time. The bombastic Sir Henry was believed at the time to be based on elements of real-life ATV0 owner Sir Reg Ansett and Nine Network owner Sir Frank Packer, though it was much later revealed by producer Jock Blair that the character was loosely based, affectionately, on Hector Crawford. So realistic were the characters that actor Peter Regan, who played host of a Tonight-type show on UCV12, went on to host a real life variety program, Quest.

Like Number 96, The Box also tackled numerous adult topics such as bisexuality and adultery, and generous amounts of nudity. One storyline would see various characters visit a nudist retreat, with actors featured in various stages of undress.

The Box
, while not regarded by Crawford as his best work, was to be a saviour for Crawford Productions, who had suffered the axing of long running police shows Homicide, Division 4 and Matlock Police within a short space of time. The Box would be Crawford's only ongoing production until new projects were commissioned in 1976-77.

In 1975, the success of The Box, and the popularity of Number 96's movie spin-off the previous year, prompted Crawford's to produce a movie version of The Box which would feature special guest star Graham Kennedy.

By 1977, the ratings success for both Number 96 and The Box had faded and both series wound up production within months of each other. The final episode of The Box appeared on ATV0 in Melbourne on 11 October 1977.

sawhitley, various scenes from The Box:

Part 1 including Fred Betts, Barrie Barkla, Helen Hemingway, Lois Ramsey, Monica Maughan, Belinda Giblin, John Waters, Judy Nunn

Part 2 including Judy Nunn, Paul Karo, Jerry Thomas, Peter Regan, Geraldine Turner, Fred Betts, Barrie Barkla

Part 3 including Helen Hemingway, Barrie Barkla, Fred Betts, Vanessa Leigh, Ken James, Jill Forster, Lois Ramsey, Paul Karo

Part 4: including Jill Forster, Lois Ramsey, Tracy Mann, Ken James, Paul Karo, Peter Regan, Judy Nunn, Paul Barry, Fred Betts

First episode: opener and end credits

Further reading:
Super Aussie Soaps by Andrew Mercado
Aussie Soap Archive

Pictured: George Mallaby and Barrie Barkla in The Box

Sun rises a bit earlier for Today

No doubt there are many people who, like myself, can think of nothing worse than being awake and watching TV before 6.00am every morning but, obviously, there are many others whose day has started well before the sun rises, and may want to tune in to something other than US morning shows on delay, televangelists, or the Japanese news on SBS.

And now, for the first time, Australian TV is doing something for those early risers - all in the name of trying to get ahead in the ratings.

Nine's Today has had a few rough years of late, due to the Seven Network's popular Sunrise taking hold of the timeslot, and Nine's struggle to main a strong defense to the competition, though some promising ratings increases have followed the appointment of co-host Lisa Wilkinson (pictured) last year.

Nine's latest strike in the breakfast TV battle is to shift the starting time of Today from 6.00am to 5.30am, giving it a half-hour head-start over Sunrise. The earlier starting time had been piloted in Queensland, due to that state not practicing daylight saving, where Today has been airing live there from 5.00am, while Sunrise has continued to start at six. The experiment showed, apparently, that there were enough Queenslanders switching on Today before 6.00am to justify the change across the country.

Changing start times is nothing new in breakfast TV - Today, Sunrise and the old Good Morning Australia all had and tried different start times over the years - but to break the 6.00am barrier is rather a significant change as the first acknowledgment that there is an audience at that time of the day and that they may want a more substantial program than what is being offered in that timeslot now.

Though, realistically, this is more just a case of Nine wanting to get the edge over Sunrise by being able to claim they are 'first' to air each morning. No doubt it will only be a matter of time before Seven decides to react with a similar timeslot change.

Today. Weekdays 5.30am. Nine.


Saturday, 29 March 2008

YouTube: Game Shows

Always plenty of gems to be found on YouTube, and this time a clip that caught my attention was this tribute to game shows, introduced by Tony Barber, a veteran of the genre having hosted The Great Temptation, Name That Tune, Family Feud, Sale Of The Century, Jeopardy and Wheel Of Fortune. This clip was taken from the TV Week Logie Awards presentation in 2002, with the game show tribute serving as the lead-up to the announcement of the year's most popular game show.

Some of the titles featured include Pick A Box, Give It A Go, It Could Be You, The New Price Is Right, Wheel Of Fortune, It's A Knockout, Sale Of The Century, It's Academic and Perfect Match. How many others can you name?

Also on the game show theme, another clip added recently to YouTube is Network Ten's tribute to their contribution to the genre as featured on their 1996 special Forty Fun Years. Among the titles featured are Casino 10, two versions of Personality Squares, The Marriage Game, Perfect Match, The Celebrity Game and The Daryl & Ossie Show.

This blog's parent website TelevisionAU has a tribute to some of our most successful game show formats.

YouTube: mrmatchgame, sawhitley

1978: April 1-7

Cover Story: Life with Father:
TV Times' writer Howard Dudding talks with Father Dear Father star Patrick Cargill who is in Australia to appear in a local version of the British series being made for the Seven Network. The nearly-60-year-old had plenty of praise for his young Australian co-stars Sally Conabere and Sigrid Thornton (pictured with Cargill on the TV Times cover). "They've worked marvellously on the series, they're not afraid to ask a question if it's going to teach them something, and they're lovely kids," he said.

Howson off for Oscar interviews:
Mike Walsh Show regular John Michael Howson has departed to Los Angeles to interview Hollywood stars, including Jane Fonda and Sylvester Stallone, as part of the lead-up to the Nine Network's coverage of the 50th Academy Awards. As well as Howson's celebrity interviews, Mike Walsh will host an Academy Awards preview on Sunday night, and the Nine Network will screen the Academy Awards presentation on the Tuesday evening only hours after the awards have taken place in Los Angeles.

High-flying world of a TV whiz-kid:
Ian Kennon talks to TV Times about his role as general manager of TEN10 Sydney. The 36-year-old, the youngest general manager in Australian TV, had just returned from London where he had been negotiating with British producers about making more Benny Hill specials in Australia, and had received pleasing news that the channel had come second by only a fraction in the week's ratings, and Kennon's new 'baby', soap-opera The Restless Years, was rating extremely well. Kennon also reflects that the best things to have happened to TV in its first twenty-two years were In Melbourne Tonight, Number 96 and current affairs shows. He is also proud of his own channel's game show Blankety Blanks with Graham Kennedy (pictured), "per ratings point, Blankety Blanks is the cheapest show to produce. It's the most successful show ever."

Viewpoint: Letters to the Editor
"I would like to say how disappointed I am in Glenview High and The Restless Years. The former claims to be the story of a typical high school. I think that if any of our high schools had the same amount of problems that Glenview apparently has, then there would be a few serious inquiries from the Education Department. The Restless Years is a little more credible, however, the whole plot seems to rely entirely on sex to hold it together." A. Pellizzer, VIC.

"I have just sat through the (TV Week) Logie Awards and I am left disillusioned with the same dreary acceptance speeched from weather girls, etc, who wish to thank everyone from the producer to the tea lady." Y. Newitt, QLD.

"Waistcoats may be fashionable, but they don't do anything for Mike Walsh. They make him look like a trussed up fowl. And why are his suits all so dark and old-fashioned looking?" J. Anderson, VIC.

What's On (April 1-7):
VFL returns for the 1978 season, with the return of the traditional Saturday evening replays on The Big League (HSV7), and a half-hour highlights package on ABV2. ABV2 also presents the one-hour late-night football review The Winners with Drew Morphett.

presents Mike Walsh's Academy Awards preview on Sunday night - after the movie - with John Michael Howson giving his tips on who will win on Hollywood's big night. GTV9 then presents the 50th annual Academy Awards on Tuesday night, just hours after the event has been picked up via satellite. Bob Hope is host of the awards, and leading the nominations are movies Julia and The Turning Point, with eleven nominations each. GTV9 then follows the awards night an overnight presentation of previous Best Picture winners Rebecca, The Lost Weekend and Marty.

Premiering on ATV0 on Thursday night is the action drama Chopper Squad, based on the rescue services of a Sydney surf club, starring Dennis Grosvenor, Robert Coleby, Eric Oldfield and Rebecca Gilling. Later the same night, ABC presents the debut of US soap opera satire, Soap.

Sunday night's movies are The Kansas City Massacre (HSV7), Carry On Again Doctor (GTV9) and The Outlaw Josey Wales (ATV0). British dramas The Duchess Of Duke Street and I Claudius continue on ABC.

Source: TV Times (Melbourne edition), 1 April 1978. ABC/ACP

Saturday, 22 March 2008

1978: March 25-31

The day Mike Walsh blew a fuse!
TV Times
' cover story reveals some of The Mike Walsh Show's behind-the-scenes hazards in producing a daily live variety program. One incident involved a local electrician being summonsed at the last minute to present a segment on how to replace a fuse, only to have host Mike Walsh realise the electrician spoke little English. The segment became a impromptu, though brief, comedy spot. Another incident saw one visiting guest that came very close to catching a glimpse at Walsh's normally top-secret interview notes while on-air, which gave some unflattering references to some of the star's previous incidences which he would have rather forgot.

Ed Devereaux stars in school kidnap drama:

Ed Devereaux, star of the former children's drama Skippy, is to star in a BBC dramatisation of the real-life 1972 kidnapping of a teacher and her young students from a school in the small town of Faraday in Victoria. The re-enactment of the crime is to feature in an eight-part series, Life At Stake, which is to screen in Australia on ABC.

May the best mind win!

The first episode of a new ABC quiz show, Mastermind, is about to go to air. Forty-eight contestants will embark on a battle of the brains over seventeen weeks. The winner of the series will then head to the United Kingdom to appear in the BBC series of the same name. But unlike most quiz shows, Mastermind will have no loud audience participation, no "pick a box" or "spin the wheel" type stunts - but does take general knowledge question and answers to a new level with subjects ranging from the music of Beethoven, to the royal families of Europe in the 19th century. One of the show's upcoming contestants will be Hutton Gibson, an American-born computer programmer living in Sydney who had also been champion on other game shows including the US version of Jeopardy. Mr Gibson also has a son, Mel, who had just graduated from the National Institute of Dramatic Art.

Viewpoint: Letters to the Editor:

"The lovely little lady who, until now, had been only a voice on radio 2BL afternoon programs popped up on ABC News at 1.00pm. How wrong can one be? I had pictured Margaret Throsby to be a lass wearing long caftans, shawls and an Afro hairstyle. Instead, I find she is quite beautiful. Thank you ABC, it is about time we saw a pretty girl reading the news." I.C. Alexander, NSW.

"Why is such a low-down, vulgar and senseless show such as Blankety Blanks allowed to be shown? The alternative channels often have little better. Give us good family shows. The Celebrity Game was enjoyed by my family. They like something that makes their brains tick over." C. Roberts, VIC.

"Paul Makin of Willesee At Seven handles serious subjects with understanding, but he should stop there while he's ahead, as his interviews and antics with visiting celebrities and his street interviews are embarrassingly unfunny." G. Sheen, NSW.

What's On (March 25-31):
Weekend sport telecasts include the traditional easter Stawell Gift on ABC and HSV7. ATV0 presents a delayed telecast of Caesar's Palace Challenge Cup Tennis, from the Caesar's Palace Hotel in Las Vegas. ABC presents the Australian Rowing Championships from Hobart, and the Australian Surfing Championship from Budgen Beach, NSW.

ATV0 presents a one-hour US musical spectacular celebrating the 100th anniversary of America's Bell Telephone Company, hosted by Bing Crosby and Liza Minnelli.

GTV9 screens a one-hour presentation of the Little River Band performing in concert in at the Rainbow Theatre in London. The special includes songs from the band's album Diamantina Cocktail, and interviews with the band members. The band will also appear as special guests on GTV9's The Don Lane Show.

Easter Sunday night movies include the biblical epic The Greatest Story Ever Told (GTV9) with an all-star Hollywood cast including John Wayne, Charlton Heston, Angela Lansbury, Shelley Winters, Telly Savalas and Max Von Sydow as Jesus.

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

Monday, 17 March 2008

Melbourne's Good Friday for the kids

Aside from the Christian significance of Good Friday, for Victorians the day also marks the traditional Royal Children's Hospital Good Friday Appeal. The all-day telethon, telecast on HSV7 Melbourne and Prime Television in regional Victoria, with the support of radio stations 3AW and Magic 1278 and the Herald Sun newspaper, is the culmination of various fund-raising activities by charities and community groups throughout the previous twelve months.
The appeal was started in 1931 as a sports carnival run by the Sporting Globe newspaper, then later expanded to a radio appeal on sister station 3DB, and in 1957 made its first television appearance on HSV7.

Last year's appeal achieved a record total of $A11,788,970.87.

UPDATE @ 22.3.2008: The 2008 Royal Children's Hospital Good Friday Appeal has signed off with a record breaking final total of $12,482,380.00!

The Royal Children's Hospital Good Friday Appeal. Friday 21 March, from 9.30am. HSV7 Melbourne and Prime Television (Victoria)

Official site: Good Friday Appeal

(top): Seven National News reader Mal Walden and weathergirl Ilona Komesaroff in 1978 (TV Times)
(middle) Jeanne Little and Mike Willesee in 1977 (TV Scene/HWT)
(above) Garry Meadows and The Great Temptation's Barbie Rogers in 1975 (TV Scene/HWT)

Sunday, 16 March 2008

9HD happens tomorrow

After last year's launch of high-definition channels for Seven and Ten, tomorrow (Monday) is Nine's turn as it plans a quiet launch to 9HD.

Details from Nine of the new channel have been scant to say the least, but in The Australian last week, Nine did concede that the HD channels are not the main game but rather next year will see a far more intense battle as the commercial networks are permitted to launch additional standard-definition channels on their digital signals - in the same way that ABC and SBS have been operating additional digital channels such as ABC2 and the World News Channel.

Like Seven and Ten rivals, 9HD, in addition to simulcasting much of the normal Nine schedule in high-definition, plans to offer a limited amount of time-shifted programming and some separate program content such as documentaries, movies or mini-series not being shown on the standard channel.

The new channel 9HD will broadcast through Nine's digital signal in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, as well as Nine's stations in Adelaide and Perth that are owned by regional broadcaster WIN. No word yet if the 9HD channel will be fed to WIN's regional stations, or to Nine's Northern NSW outlet NBN.

Saturday, 15 March 2008

1978: March 18-24

Cover: The Sullivans' forgotten man:
TV Times' cover story is about the leading man in The Sullivans, who also appears to be the one that the public hears least about. However this does not bother actor Paul Cronin who acknowledges that "there is more to being a series actor than that". Pictured on the cover is Cronin with co-stars Richard Morgan and Susan Hannaford.

'Sex change' for Hasham:
Joe Hasham is moving on from his six-year role as homosexual Don Finlayson in Number 96 to a smooth-talking ladies man in the Nine Network soap The Young Doctors: "In Number 96 I was the perennial nice guy, but now I'm to be a 'nasty'. But that will be a pleasant change, too."

The Molly versus Boz show!

host Ian 'Molly' Meldrum has dismissed a clash between himself and American singer Boz Scaggs as "just a friendly tap", but did admit he'd been on the receiving end. Meldrum said a dispute had arisen due to a misunderstanding of Scaggs' TV commitments while in Australia, after Countdown had been refused an interview with the singer, but Scaggs had appeared in an interview on The Don Lane Show.

This gadget helps you catch two TV shows at once:
Philips has announced it has solved the problem of favourite TV programs clashing on separate channels, or appearing when you're not at home to watch them. The company's new video cassette recorder (possibly like the one pictured?), estimated to cost around $A1000, makes it possible for viewers to watch one program while another is being recorded. The new recorders also have a timer which allows programs to be set up to be taped up to three days in advance.

Viewpoint: Letters to the Editor:

"I am sick and tired of hearing people complaining about cricket taking over other shows during the summer. If you don't like cricket, you don't have to watch it. You can always change channels or go and do something else." D. Snudden, NSW.

An attack from TV Times columnist F.C. Kennedy on the standards of TV programming during the summer months, published in an earlier edition of TV Times, sparked a reaction from at least two regional TV programmers:

"I, as a programmer, take great exception to the article because he refers to the larger cities like Sydney and Melbourne with never a thought to the provincial channels. May I assure you that we do care for our audience.. our total amount of repeat programming between 6.00pm and 11.00pm during January amounted to 3 hours and 15 minutes, which, I think you would agree, out of 155 hours is very reasonable." P. Hunniford,
CTC7 Canberra, ACT.

"As your magazine is sold in country areas, why don't you be the first to recognise the four million viewers, roughly a third of the TV audience, who do not have to put up with repeats? Regional TV services such as ours have adopted a first-run policy for 12 months of the year. For instance, prime time repeats on this station in November, December and January came out at less than two per cent." Laurie Burrows,
Darling Downs Television (DDQ10), QLD.

What's On (March 18-24):
As reported in TV Times back in January, this week's edition of Countdown comes from the Festival of Arts in Adelaide with special guests John Paul Young, Skyhooks, Dragon, Mark Holden and the Little River Band.

ATV0's Eyewitness News At Six expands to one-hour from Monday 20 March 1978, with newsreader Bruce Mansfield, sport with Rob Astbury and special reports by Peter Couchman.

ABC screens a 90-minute
BBC special Terror International, focusing on the men and women who plan and execute global terrorism, and how and where they are trained and financed.

HSV7 presents the 22nd annual telecast of the Royal Children's Hospital Good Friday Appeal in association with the Sporting Globe newspaper and radio station 3DB. Special guests on the all-day telethon include overseas stars Patrick Duffy (The Man From Atlantis), Jack Smethurst (Love Thy Neighbour) and Susan Penhaligon (Bouquet Of Barbed Wire). Also appearing on the telethon is Lee Simons (Nightmoves), presenters from 3DB, cast members of Cop Shop, Glenview High, Willesee At Seven and World Of Sport, and personalities including Mike Willesee, Mary Hardy, Happy Hammond, Ian 'Molly' Meldrum, Andrew Harwood, Mal Walden, Ilona Komescaroff and Norman Gunston (Garry McDonald). Appeal organisers hope to top the previous year's record total of $A1,489,866,84.

Sunday's movies are all repeats, leading into the Easter break, with Heaven With A Gun (HSV7), A Farewell To Arms (GTV9) and The Candidate (ATV0).

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

Saturday, 8 March 2008

YouTube: You gotta start somewhere..!

Paul Bongiorno is well known as Network Ten's chief political correspondent and Canberra bureau chief. But what is perhaps not so well known about Ten's man in Canberra is that a much younger Bongiorno was heading down a different career path as a priest in country Victoria in the early '70s.

Realising the priesthood was maybe not his ideal career choice, Bongiorno moved to journalism and his TV career had a somewhat humble beginning. Here is Paul Bongiorno presenting the weather forecast on Eyewitness News for TVQ0 Brisbane in April 1983.

Also featured in this clip is co-newsreader Jacki MacDonald, also better known at the time as the ditzy co-host of Hey Hey It's Saturday in the southern capitals, but an extremely popular local identity in her home town of Brisbane.

YouTube: aussiebeachut
Source: Sydney Morning Herald

1978: March 11-17

Cover Story: A Young Doctors' wedding album:
The Young Doctors' wedding of the year between Dr Tony Garcia and Nurse Tania Livingston (Tony Alvarez and Judy McBurney, pictured). The surprise wedding came after plans for Dr Garcia to marry Lisa Brooks (Paula Duncan) had fallen through the previous year.

Sigley plans sidelined:
Plans for Ernie Sigley to negotiate with HSV7 for the role of co-host of Penthouse Club have been put on hold after Sigley went to hospital after a mild heart attack and has had doctors' orders to avoid work for three months. Sigley had been one of three guest co-hosts on Penthouse Club while the channel finds a permanent replacement for former co-host Mike Williamson. A spokesman for the channel said negotiations may resume when Sigley is clear to work again.

Tate home for TV play:
Actor Nick Tate, currently in the sci-fi series Space 1999, has returned home to Australia to star in a new ABC drama, Man Of Action. In the play, one of three to be produced, Tate plays a ruthless businessman, Kenneth Riessel. The part of Riessel's wife is to be played by former Number 96 actress Carmen Duncan. The three plays form a trilogy, A Place In The World, written by Michael Cove. The only link between the three stories is that the main character in each went to the same school.

Are they really different up north?
TV Times' Queensland editor Peter Dean questions the perception of outsiders that those from the Sunshine State are a 'different' bunch, and if they are, is this reflected on local TV screens? Dean approached the program chiefs of Brisbane channels ABQ2, BTQ7, QTQ9 and TVQ0 to explore this obviously pressing issue. Among the responses received, ABQ2's Bernard Terry said it was important to maintain a local focus with programming, while taking into consideration national trends. Mike Lattin of BTQ7 said the main difference in Brisbane viewers when compared to southern cities is that they are more honest. They admit to watching soaps and sitcoms, while viewers in Canberra will say they watch ABC but really watch shows like Number 96.

Viewpoint: Letters to the Editor:
"Is Graham Kennedy going to leave Blankety Blanks? I hope not as the show wouldn't be the same without him. It is the best on TV." A. Tanzer, QLD.

"The Sullivans' producers have successfully presented a realistic portrayal of Australian war years. But we have found one flaw in The Sullivans. During the war years, beer was considered as liquid gold and where we were in those times, bartenders never gave drinks on the house, which is a ritual by barlady Maggie Hayward (Vikki Hammond)." V. Swilks, VIC.

"I have long suspected TCN9 of being anti-British in their programming, and now I am certain. A friend in England told me to look out for Get Some In and to be sure to watch it as it was in the top 10 in the UK. It turned up on TCN9.. but not for long. They used it as a filler when the cricket was rained out." M. Bennett, NSW.

What's On (March 11-17):
The Moomba Festival continues in Melbourne, and is covered on TV with HSV7 televising the Moomba Masters Waterski International from the Yarra River, and all four Melbourne channels showing live coverage of the annual Moomba Parade from the streets of the Melbourne CBD though ironically for the other channels, the year's Moomba King is GTV9 personality Bert Newton.

The first episode of Marcia Hines Music appears on ABC, hosted by pop queen Marcia Hines with guest appearances by actor John Waters and singer-songwriter Doug Ashdown.

ATV0 presents a Sunday afternoon live telecast of the Vintage Sports Car Club meeting at Phillip Island - forty-five pre-war sports cars will compete in a special day of road racing to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first Australian Grand Prix held in Phillip Island in 1928.

ABC presents The Geeks, the first play in the 1978 series of Stuart Wagstaff's World Playhouse. John Stanton, Judy Morris, Lynette Curran and Rod Mullinar star as two couples whose friendship is headed for change with one of the wives suggesting the couples go one step further and share their love.

Sunday night's premiere movies are The Super Cops (HSV7), Cabaret (GTV9) and the 'modified TV version' of Chato's Land (ATV0), with British dramas The Duchess Of Duke Street and I Claudius on ABC.

Source: TV Times (Melbourne edition), 11 March 1978. ABC/ACP

Technorati Profile

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Happy 40th, GTS4!

South Australian regional television station GTS4 celebrated its 40th anniversary on the weekend.

The station, based in Port Pirie and licenced to Spencer Gulf Telecasters, commenced operation on 1 March 1968. It was the second commercial regional channel in South Australia, after SES8 Mount Gambier which commenced two years earlier.

In 1974, GTS4 partnered with Broken Hill station BKN7 (which launched in August 1968) and both stations have broadcast a common schedule since then. In the early-'90s, both stations became part of the Central Television Network sales alliance, with other South Australian regional stations and Alice Springs-based Imparja, but were the only members to inherit the Central branding on-air.

By that stage, Central GTS-BKN, as it became known, featured predominantly a Seven Network schedule with some contributions from the other networks. In 2003, GTS-BKN which by then was owned by the Southern Cross Broadcasting group, was assigned a secondary television licence, permitting it to operate a second signal in its local coverage areas, and chose to align GTS-BKN as a solely Seven-fed outlet, and launched its second service as a Ten Network relay, Southern Cross Ten.

The original GTS-BKN stations were subsequently re-branded Southern Cross GTS-BKN. Both stations now cover a population of 131,000.

Southern Cross GTS-BKN and Southern Cross Ten are now part of the Macquarie Media Group following its acquisition of Southern Cross Broadcasting television stations and branding.

YouTube: scbnetwork
Source: Australian TV Archive

Saturday, 1 March 2008

Saturday night highlights

Saturday nights are usually regarded as the graveyard of prime-time TV. The assumption of commercial network programmers is that the type of viewers that advertisers most likely want to attract are out of the house on Saturday night, so there is no point in trying to appeal to them.

As a result, Saturday night TV has usually been a tired mix of re-runs, shows that never worked on a weeknight timeslot, documentaries with little appeal, or straight-to-TV movies. There is some joy for football fans in the winter months, but for others there is little to get excited about.

Though there have been some exceptions in recent times. ABC has served loyal fans of British shows like The Bill, Parkinson and Doctor Who, and the SBS double of Iron Chef and Melbourne-based Rockwiz with Julia Zemiro and Brian Nankervis, pictured) helped make Saturday one of their most popular nights of the week. But despite the stigma of being TV's equivalent of a nursing home, Saturday nights have provided a few stand-out, or at least well-remembered shows:

Sydney's ATN7 presented one of the first popular comedy revue shows in the mid-'60s with the irreverent Mavis Bramston Show, featuring Gordon Chater, Carol Raye, Barry Creyton and later names like June Salter, Noeline Brown, Ron Frazer and Barbara Angell. There was no such person as Mavis Bramston (pictured) - rather the name was taken from a derogatory showbiz term, something like 'Oh, what a bunch of Mavis Bramstons!'. Such was the popularity of The Mavis Bramston Show, and the fondness in which it is remembered, a recent stage production, Mavis Bramston: Reloaded brought the old revue back to life.

Young Talent Time
(pictured) was a gamble by the 0-10 Network in 1971 when pop star Johnny Young assembled a group of child performers to form a variety show for children and families as an alternative to football replays on the other channels. The program was an immediate success and continued for eighteen years, and turned child performers such as Debra Byrne, Tina Arena and Dannii Minogue into household names.

At around the same time as Young Talent Time, Melbourne's HSV7 had acquired the rights to the Saturday night harness racing but needed something to hold viewers' interest in the gaps between races. Hence, The Penthouse Club, a variety show with Mike Williamson (later replaced by Ernie Sigley) and comedian Mary Hardy (pictured) that ran for almost ten years. A similar sports-themed variety show, The Club Show, also ran on Saturday nights in Sydney with Rex Mossop, and Adelaide's ADS7 also produced its own Penthouse Club with local personalities Bob Francis and Anne Wills.

The Nine Network's popular Saturday morning children's show Hey Hey It's Saturday had outgrown its morning timeslot after twelve years, and made the move to Saturday night in February 1984. The show's popular line-up of Daryl Somers, Ossie Ostrich, Jacki MacDonald and John Blackman (pictured) continued into the evening format, as did some of the show's studio segments including Red Faces, a mock talent quest modelled on the network's popular New Faces. The mix of variety, comedy and celebrity interviews made Hey Hey It's Saturday a weekly tradition until it was cancelled at the end of 1999. The timeslot was then filled by Australia's Funniest Home Video Show, a show that unashamedly relies on cringe-worthy slapstick, usually at the expense of children and animals, but appears to have maintained some level of popularity on Saturday evenings.

Comedy team The D-Generation had made their TV debut with a sketch comedy series on ABC in the 1980s, and later the Seven Network. The team had also conquered breakfast radio in Melbourne, and in 1992 made a return to TV with ABC's The Late Show - a mix of live and pre-recorded comedy sketches. The program also made a cult hero out of former TV cop Bluey (Lucky Grills, pictured) when they comically re-voiced scenes of the 1976 police drama, and also applied the same treatment to ABC's historical series Rush. The success of The Late Show led to the group producing Frontline, Funky Squad, The Panel, Thank God You're Here and movies The Castle and The Dish.

There are obviously other shows that I've missed - particularly outside of Melbourne. What do you remember about Saturday night TV? What have been your highlights, or lowlights, of Saturday night in front of the TV?