Monday, 28 July 2008

Mike Munro leaves Nine

mikemunro A week is a long time in television, and Mike Munro has just announced his retirement after 30 years in television - most of those with the Nine Network.

Beginning as a copy boy with The Australian and The Daily Mirror newspapers in 1971, Munro joined Sydney's TEN10 Eyewitness News in 1978 but later went back to newspapers, working as a US correspondent for News Limited.

In 1982, Munro returned to Australia to Network Ten and two years later was signed up for the Nine Network's Willesee current affairs program, the predecessor to today's A Current Affair.

Two years after joining Willesee, Munro moved up to Nine's 60 Minutes where he combined serious current affairs stories with some well-known celebrity interviews including Barbra Streisand, Katharine Hepburn and Bette Midler. His interview with politician's wife Jan Murray created headlines when she revealed that she “did the business on the desk and left her knickers in the ashtray” at Parliament House.

The years of constant overseas travel took its toll and Munro decided to move to A Current Affair in 1993 initially as a reporter before taking over from Ray Martin as host in 1999. During this period he also took on a different role as host of Nine's This Is Your Life when it launched in 1995.

Munro then returned to 60 Minutes as an investigative reporter, while continuing to host This Is Your Life, and later reading National Nine News' afternoon edition and weekend edition in Sydney. He also narrated the factual program Missing Persons Unit, co-hosted a series of What A Year and last week launched his twelfth season hosting This Is Your Life.

Mike Munro will stay with Nine until the end of October, continuing to read the weekend National Nine News in Sydney up until then.

Sunday, 27 July 2008

1978: July 29-August 4

tvtimes_290778 Cover: Mike Walsh nominates his ten all-time favourite films. Among the list are The Sound Of Music, Cleopatra, Singin' In The Rain, The Getting Of Wisdom and Gone With The Wind.

Dramatic ABC switch
ABC has announced a dramatic change to its prime-time line-up with plans to schedule drama and comedy programs in the 7.30pm timeslot, meaning the end for current affairs program This Day Tonight which has occupied the timeslot for the past eleven years. This Day Tonight will be replaced by a new program Nationwide, to be shown in the later 9.30pm timeslot. The launch of Nationwide early in 1979 will also mean the end of ABC's long-running discussion program Monday Conference.

Truckies set to roll
ABC's latest drama series, The Truckies, is finally ready to go to air despite being dogged by problems during production. The show's main leading lady, a 65-tonne Volvo truck called Maggie D, was found to be drinking fuel much faster than producers had budgeted on. As for human cast members, John Wood fell ill and ended up in hospital, Colleen Hewett fell pregnant and had to be written out from later episodes when her baby bump could not be disguised, but was then written back at the last minute in when producers decided to make her character pregnant, and the four male leads (Wood, Michael Aitken, Mike Carmen and John Hewitt) were all discovered to not have truck licences and were sent off to a Melbourne driving school for a crash course in prime mover techniques. But producer Oscar Whitbread only had one complaint during production - the weather - particularly when one drought-inspired episode was being filmed and they were caught out by rain!

7_black In search for a soap
The Seven Network has put the call out - if you could write a soap opera not set in an apartment block or a hospital, then they want to hear from you. Seven is currently showing re-runs of the US sitcom Bewitched in the early evenings and would instead like to add a new early-evening soap to its line-up to challenge Nine's The Young Doctors.

Regional channels unite for quest
A new talent quest is to go into production in a unique venture between 25 regional TV stations. National Star Quest, being co-ordinated by Reg Grundy Productions for Australian Television Facilities (ATF) which represents the 25 participating stations, will feature acts performed at their local regional station with all videotaped performances sent to WIN4 Wollongong to be compiled into a single program with a studio compere and judges. If successful, ATF may then look to making more regional-based production for national screening. Allan Hoy, manager of WIN4 told TV Times, "We're not really aiming to set up a fourth commercial network, but it is entirely possible that in a few years the big city stations might be taking programs from us, rather than the other way around, as at present." Thirteen episodes of National Star Quest are being planned with production starting in September. Executive producer of the program will be Hal Croxon, a former producer of the 0-10 Network's Pot Of Gold.

saturdayshow Viewpoint: Letters to the Editor
"What has ABC done to Saturday nights? How could it follow Shirley Bassey with such sweet and tacky entertainment as The Saturday Show (pictured)? The opening numbers were supposed to warm you up, but they couldn't warm up an anaemic bullfrog. The Saturday Show may be ideal for the Bullamakanka Choral Society, but not the ABC." J. McArthur, NSW.

"I have watched Mastermind since its inception and shall do so until the end, looking forward to Mastermind 1979. Huw Evans is a most charming and extremely well-spoken compere - not a gaudy Bob Dyer trying to be funny as well as asking questions." Y. Farr, NSW.

"The excellent British science-fiction series Dr Who has been running for sixteen years, and it has never yet had a fair go from ABC. They continue to waste it in ridiculous screening times. If inane garbage like Space 1999 can command a 7.30pm timeslot, then surely Dr Who can claim the same." S. Collins, QLD.

What's On (July 29-August 4)
Pop star Ray Burgess is special guest on ATV0's Young Talent Time, while later in the evening on HSV7's Penthouse '78, Mary Hardy and Ernie Sigley are joined by Bartholomew John, Norman Banks and Frank Dyer, a finalist of the show's Search For A Star talent quest.

memory03 Blankety Blanks (pictured) is shifted from prime-time to afternoons, with ATV0 moving it to 12.00pm from Monday, followed at 12.30pm by repeats of racy soap opera The Box. In place of Blankety Blanks at 7.00pm is re-runs of The Six Million Dollar Man, with one-hour episodes cut into half-hour episodes over two nights.

ABC presents the 150th episode of The Inventors and to celebrate has invited some of their previous winners to present their latest inventions.

The 1978 Commonwealth Games opens in Edmonton, Canada - with ABC providing live coverage of the Opening Ceremony at 6.00am Friday morning and highlights of the ceremony Friday night at 8.00pm and again at 11.20pm.

Sunday night movies are Night Of The Lepus (HSV7), Little Ladies Of The Night (GTV9) and The Go-Between (ATV0). Renowned concert pianist Isador Goodman is the special guest on ABC's Sunday night music show Capriccio! hosted by Carol Raye.

Source: TV Times (Melbourne edition), 29 July 1978, ABC/ACP

Pantyhose Strangler strikes in September


Umbrella Entertainment's second Number 96 DVD release, centred around the Pantyhose Stranger storyline, is set for September.  It is available to pre-order at online retailers such as Sanity, JB and Ezydvd as well as from Umbrella directly.

Number 96: The Pantyhose Strangler features 32 episodes from the hit series, spanning a period from late 1974 to early 1975, when Sydney's most famous apartment block was under threat from the mysterious murderer.  Everyone in the block was a potential victim, or suspect.  The identity of the notorious murderer is finally discovered by Marilyn MacDonald (Frances Hargreaves) late one night in the local laundrette: “Oh my God – it’s you!”

Although the Pantyhose Strangler struck at a time when Number 96 was perhaps beyond the ratings peak of its earlier days, it was not to be the last mysterious murderer to enter the building.  Several months later, the apartment block was under attack yet again from the bomb blast which wiped out four of the show's regular characters.

Related: Number 96 DVD #2

Saturday, 26 July 2008

Sunday, Nightline given the chop

The Nine Network has announced the axing of two of its long-running news and current affairs programs - Sunday and Nightline.

raymartin08 The axing of Sunday perhaps came as no real surprise.  The program has been the subject of rumours for some time, particularly since the departure of host Jana Wendt and the show's change in direction to tackle the more casual format of Seven's Weekend Sunrise which was dominating the timeslot.  The situation for Sunday was not helped when Nine stalwart Ray Martin (pictured), who was appointed the show's new co-host last year, resigned from the program just days before it was due to resume for 2008 in the earlier timeslot of 7.30am.

The demise of Sunday brings to an end a program with a proud history although it had plenty of critics when it began in November 1981.  The show's emphasis on quality journalism, investigative reporting, international current affairs and long-form stories were a far cry from the usual commercial TV style of current affairs and the timeslot - 9.00am Sunday - was also one that was largely unknown territory for current affairs programming.  Most other channels at the time of the week were either showing test patterns or children's programs or religious content.

But in initiating the program, Nine saw the program as the perfect vehicle for attracting the higher-income viewers who did not traditionally watch commercial television - hence Sunday would be capturing a market that no other commercial TV program was aiming at, and could therefore charge a premium for advertisers in what was traditionally a low-revenue timeslot.  Quality viewers as opposed to quantity.  This strategy was later picked up by other networks with programs such as Meet The Press (Network Ten).

jimwaley Sunday continued for around twenty years with original host Jim Waley (pictured) at the helm, and along with National Nine News, 60 Minutes, A Current Affair, Nightline and Today was a steady contributor to Nine's image as the news leader - and with the support of network owner Kerry Packer, who often regarded Sunday as his 'baby', the program was protected from the usual pressures of ratings as the goal was to provide quality reporting and viewers.  The efforts of Sunday were reflected in the program winning a number of awards, both in Australia and overseas, for journalistic excellence.

janawendt In 2002, Waley was moved to reading Sydney's National Nine News after the retirement of veteran newsreader Brian Henderson.  In Waley's place at Sunday was a familiar name to the Nine Network, Jana Wendt (pictured) - the former 'perfumed steamroller' of 60 Minutes and A Current Affair, returning to Nine after several years as host of rival SBS' international current affairs program Dateline

The passing of Kerry Packer and changes in management saw a period of unrest for Sunday.  The show was now no longer seen as a protected species despite its strategic positioning, and was also coming under attack from the Seven Network which had expanded its popular Sunrise format to Sunday mornings.  The launch of ABC's Sunday morning current affairs program Insiders also provided a potent competitor.  Sunday no longer had the monopoly on viewers in that timeslot.

By 2006, Wendt had departed the program following failed negotiations with management over her role in the revamped budget-slashed Sunday.  In her place was former 60 Minutes reporter Ellen Fanning with finance journalist Ross Greenwood.  The new-look program was seen as an attempt to downgrade the show to a position somewhere in between the Sunday of old, and the light-hearted Weekend Sunrise on Seven.  Greenwood was later replaced by Ray Martin, perhaps as a band-aid measure to try and restore some of the show's credibility as a serious current affairs outlet.  But since Martin's resignation from Nine early this year, Fanning has fronted the program solo.  The program, now moved to the earlier 7.30am timeslot, has since failed to regain any of its ratings status, continuing to be out-rated by its Seven rival.

laurieoakes The final edition of Sunday goes to air on Nine on 3 August.  The program will be replaced by a one-hour news bulletin Sunday Morning News which will incorporate news and sports coverage with political analysis from one of Sunday's most enduring presenters, political commentator Laurie Oakes (pictured).

The demise of late-night news bulletin Nightline comes just weeks after Nine had expanded its news coverage to include a 5.00am weekday news bulletin as a lead-in to the breakfast program Today

The Nightline format was launched around fifteen years ago in competition with Network Ten's popular 10.30pm news bulletin that had launched a couple of years earlier, but in recent years Nightline had often found itself bumped later and later into the evening, sometimes not appearing until after midnight.

The final edition of Nightline aired last night (Friday 25 July).   This leaves Ten News and ABC's Lateline as the only regular late-night news bulletins.

Nine has announced that no staff cuts are intended by axing Sunday and Nightline, and that staff from the two programs are expected to be redeployed to other positions.

Source: Sunday, The Age
YouTube: aussiebeachut
More: What's On The Tube

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Happy Birthday, Bert!

bert1978There's not many people that can claim to have been featured on This Is Your Life three times, but Bert Newton achieves that with this week's tribute special to coincide with his 70th birthday - following from his first appearance in the 1970s version hosted by Roger Climpson, and his second which followed twenty years later.

Appearing in the special event, which in usual This Is Your Life custom was sprung onto Bert by surprise when it was taped a few weeks ago, are guests including Hugh Jackman, Olivia Newton-John, Rove McManus, Ugly Dave Gray, Lisa McCune, Julia Morris, Anthony Callea, Eddie McGuire and overseas stars Joan Rivers, k.d. Lang, Julian Clary, Michael Buble and Clive James.

This Is Your Life: Bert's 70th Birthday, Wednesday 23 July, 7.30pm, Nine.

Pictured: Bert Newton (right) celebrating his 40th birthday in 1978 with wife Patti and friend and colleague Don Lane. (Picture: TV Week)

Saturday, 19 July 2008

1978: July 22-28

tvtimes_220778Cover: Paul Michael Glasner (Starsky And Hutch)

'Mystery' men in pop song festival
As TV Times went to press, the 0-10 Network was still to determine which songs or performers will appear on the seventh annual Australia Popular Song Festival which takes place at the end of the week. More than 2000 entries had been submitted to the contest, and organisers have had to cut that back to eight for the telecast. On the judging panel will be representatives from the Australian Performing Rights Association and radio stations 3XY and 2SM, Countdown presenter Ian 'Molly' Meldrum, two executives from the Yamaha Foundation and journalists Kevin Sadlier and Pat Bowring. The festival winner will go on to represent Australia in the World Popular Song Festival in Japan later in the year.

againstthewind Redcoats, rebels, rum and romance
Eric Scott takes a look behind-the-scenes at the production of the Seven Network's upcoming mini-series Against The Wind (pictured), a thirteen-part series set in 18th century Australia, that is costing a million dollars to produce. Researcher and writer Bronwyn Binns created the series, and was joined in production by former Crawford Production colleagues Henry Crawford and Ian Jones. Production is expected to be completed at the end of August.

glumps The world of the Glumps
The Glumps (pictured) is a family of plasticine creatures and the subject of a new 26-part animated series for producer Lyle McCabe. Cameraman Mark D'Arcy-Irvine created the characters and with a friend spent six months making the series of six-minute cartoons. The Glumps is to be aired in Australia on the 0-10 Network and is expected to be sold overseas.

Recipes for the 'ideal' TV show
Sydney's three commercial TV program managers have given their definitions of the 'ideal' TV show. While all three managers were unanimous in their definition, in that it is essentially a program that has all the audience watching for the whole time it's on, they all had different ideas on how they would execute it. Glen Kinging of ATN7 suggested an action-adventure series, given the popularity of early westerns, cop shows and private-eye characters, and the new trend towards science-fiction and space-adventure. Gordon French of TCN9 believes that programs with a broad format and family appeal would be ideal to capture the maximum audience, and names The Wonderful World Of Disney, a program that just happens to screen on his channel, as the perfect example. And over at TEN10, Ron Heynes says that anything with John Wayne in it would be an instant success, and given that the situation comedy MASH is already doing well for the network, suggested putting John Wayne into MASH, and just for good measure (with his tongue firmly in cheek) have him try to save a wheelchair-bound nun ("nuns make for great ratings") from prison in order to rescue Graham Kennedy. Guaranteed to be a ratings hit!

New faces for The Restless Years
Diane Craig and Michael Smith have joined the cast of the 0-10 Network soap The Restless Years. Craig is to play a 35-year-old schoolteacher Gail Lawrence, who looks like becoming involved with one of the show's younger characters. But the actress has admitted that she only joined the show because "there was nothing else offering". Twenty-one-year-old Smith comes into the series as Shane Archer, cousin to Alan (Sonny Blake) and described as wild and unpredictable. Smith joins The Restless Years after a stint with another series Glenview High.

Viewpoint: Letters to the Editor
"Many thanks to ATV0 for screening the Australian-produced adventure series Chopper Squad. It is a great pity the series was removed after a comparatively short period because of low ratings." L. Znaminko, VIC.

"Instead of cursing CTC7 Canberra for showing mostly a lot of garbage plays, I must congratulate them for the excellent films of Aspen and Roots. Let's have more of these fine films, especially at weekends." M. Knight, NSW

"I wish to voice my disapproval of the TV commercials which advertise Stayfree Napkins. Honestly, with all the sex and nudity being shown on TV, is nothing private and personal anymore? Although I must admit the ad is done tastefully, this type of advertising is completely unnecessary." G. Robins, VIC.

What's On (July 22-28)
ATV0 on Tuesday night presents a one-hour special The Barry Humphries Show, taped during the performer's recent tour of the UK. Appearing in the special are Humphries' alter-egos Dame Edna Everage and Sir Les Patterson.

ABC presents the return of The Inventors for its ninth season with compere Geoff Stone and panelists Diana Fisher, Leo Port and Vic Nicholson. Following The Inventors is the special presentation of the Prince Philip Prize For Australian Design. Thirteen commercial and domestic products which won the Australian Design Award during 1977 will be presented to a national panel of judges, with the winning product being announced by HRH Prince Philip, Duke Of Edinburgh, via satellite.

Thursday night, ABC presents Quentin Crisp In Australia. Dubbed "England's most famous homosexual", the 70-year-old Crisp is in Australia to preach on the subject of 'style', and this half-hour special also looks at Australia's response to its first 'travelling, performing homosexual philosopher.'

On Friday night, ABC presents a half-hour Commonwealth Games Preview, hosted by Peter Meares with Norman May, Gordon Bray, Dick Mason, Cedric Smith and Bill Long. The program will discuss Australia's chances at the upcoming Commonwealth Games to be played in Edmonton, Canada. Also on Friday night, ATV0 presents the Australian Popular Song Festival, hosted by Barry Crocker.

theboxSunday night movies are The Hot Rock (HSV7), Plaza Suite (GTV9) and the movie version of the former hit TV series The Box (pictured, ATV0).

Source: TV Times (Melbourne edition), 22 July 1978. ABC/ACP

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

From Big Brother to big bother

bb_eye Newsflash for anyone living under a rock or on Mars for the last few days - the axe has fallen on Big Brother after eight years, over a hundred talent-starved celebrity wannabes, just about as many horrendous outfits worn by (the otherwise very able host) Gretel Killeen, and the ongoing scorn of the nation including one former prime minister who tried to do a Kerry Packer and pleaded "get this stupid program off the air."

But, like it or loathe it, if one show could exemplify the format of reality TV and the pop culture phenomenon of the decade, Big Brother would have to be it. It may not have been the first of the genre but it was the first to give rise to saturation programming and viewer involvement via telephone voting and an internet presence.

The Big Brother format, where contestants would be 'locked away' from society with every movement recorded and influenced by the leader 'Big Brother', and would be voted off one-by-one by the viewing audience, was born in the Netherlands in the late 1990s and its success led to the format being franchised, with as many as 70 different versions around the world.

With the concept being so readily adopted by viewers, particularly in the younger demographics, it seemed to be a perfect fit for Australia's Ten Network. Since the early-'90s, Ten has backed away from trying to appeal to all ages but rather focus on the advertiser-friendly 16-to-39 age bracket. During the 1990s, Ten achieved its focus largely due to imported product such as The Simpsons, Beverly Hills 90210, Melrose Place, Seinfeld, Baywatch and The X Files, but the supply of such programs could not last forever. Ten adopted the Big Brother format after it had been successfully employed by the United Kingdom's Channel 4, a commercial network with a similar focus towards unconventional programming and youth appeal.

bb_saramarie The premiere of the first series of the Australian Big Brother went to air on Tuesday 24 April 2001 - with host Gretel Killeen, a comedian, author, voice over talent and TV presenter, introducing Australia to its first batch of Big Brother housemates: Ben, Blair, Sara-Marie (pictured), Christina, Peter, Jemma, Johnnie, Lisa, Gordon, Todd, Sharna and Andy.

Over the next eighty-five days, while locked away in the Big Brother house situated at the Dreamworld theme park on the Gold Coast, the housemates would be challenged with physical tasks, managing a limited budget, sharing bedrooms and a bathroom and maintain a civil existence with a group of strangers, of varying personality types and backgrounds, all while under the watchful eye of 'Big Brother' and millions of Australians.

bb_ben The eventual winner of the first Big Brother series was Sydney-based Ben Williams (pictured, with Killeen) who took the show's $250,000 prize and embarked on a campaign of charity work, in particular for the World Vision organisation. Series runner-up Blair McDonough from Melbourne, went on to become a soap star in Ten's Neighbours, and second runner-up, the raucous but likeable Sara-Marie Fedele from Perth, became something of a minor celebrity phenomenon with a release of a CD, a book, and appearances in other Network Ten programs such as Totally Wild. She later re-emerged as the face of smoke-busters Nicobate and as a contestant on Celebrity Big Brother and the Seven Network's Dancing With The Stars.

Other housemates from the first series to gain some public profile included Pete Timbs who later became a writer for TV Week and a radio presenter, and Jemma Gawned moved into the cosmetics industry and appeared on Good Morning Australia and Search For A Supermodel.

gordon_sloanAnother series one housemate, Gordon Sloan (pictured) later became known for participating in the 'human shield' protest in Baghdad. In 2007, the 34-year-old died after a suspected drug overdose or may have been drugged by another person.

Of course, over eight seasons of Big Brother, the show has proven to be an instant headline-seeker, whether deliberate or otherwise:

  • The evicted housemate who refused to talk or co-operate with host Killeen as a political protest,
  • The two male housemates disqualified from the show for an alleged 'turkey-slapping' incident (and consequently, adding that phrase to the mainstream vernacular)
  • The ongoing public scorn, including from former prime minister John Howard, over 'adults only' content being shown in prime-time. (The 'AO' version was then rested the following year)
  • The former housemate arrested in Queensland for alleged indecent behaviour
  • An evicted contestant allowed to return after it was revealed a voting bungle led to the wrong contestant being evicted
  • Producers criticised for forcing a housemate to relive the trauma of a miscarriage while looking after a baby doll as a task
  • The housemate whose father had passed away while she was in the house, and producers being criticised for not notifying her, despite them following the wishes of the family
  • The Mexican government lodging a complaint after a Friday Night Live task had contestants hurling liquid-filled balloons at the Mexican flag, which had been placed upside down

Over its eight seasons, Big Brother has been more than just a few hours of television a week. As well as the half-hour daily shows there were the Sunday night evictions, Monday night nomination shows, surprise evictions, intruders entering the house, intruders evicted from the house, 'adults-only' shows, talk/panel shows and interviews and even spin-offs like Celebrity Big Brother, Friday Night Live, Big Brother Up-Late and a rather forgettable pantomime. There has been live streaming over the internet and content delivered to mobile telephones, online chat rooms, forums and blogs. Big Brother was constant fodder for breakfast radio, both in content and in talent with a number of former housemates now employed in radio, and gave talk-back radio listeners a constant cause to vent their annoyance at its existence.

bb_mikegoldman Thousands have been employed on the show behind-the-scenes, as well as a small cast of hosts on-camera including Mike Goldman (pictured), who was not only the voice-over announcer for the daily show, but also hosted the Friday Night Live show and had his ad-lib skills tested with Big Brother Up-Late and this year as fill-in host on the Sunday night eviction show.

bb_merlinAnd as the public face of Big Brother, Gretel Killeen had the unenviable task each week of keeping the Sunday night eviction shows under control, while having producers shouting directions through her earpiece, and while trying to control an auditorium-filled crowd of hysterical teenagers, all while trying to keep some level of conversation flowing with family and friends of nominated housemates, and the evicted housemates on-stage. It was a task that not many TV presenters would have had the ability to maintain but Killeen was tireless in her role. (How many others would have coped as well with the silent protest of evictee Merlin, pictured, on stage in 2004?)

bb_kylejackieo When changes were made to show at the end of the 2007 season, after a drop in ratings, Killeen was let go from the show and replaced with controversial but not-very-likeable pair Kyle Sandilands and Jackie O (pictured). Not a popular decision given Killeen's abilities (and also Ms O's TV resume including such hits as Australian Princess, The Nation and Undercover Angels), but one seemingly made by producers to make a point that Big Brother in 2008 would be different than before.

So when Big Brother began in 2008, there were the two new hosts, there was the return of 'adults-only' via the new weekly show Big Mouth, hosted by another two unusual choices Tony Squires and Rebecca Wilson, Big Brother Up-Late was gone, and the process of nominations was changed. Added to all this was a somewhat overindulgent casting of housemates with unusual attributes, either physically or otherwise - as opposed to genuinely interesting or appealing housemates - and the reliance on "celebrity" appearances such as twerpy teenager Corey Worthington, flamboyant Carson Kressley and blonde-and-big-busted Pamela Anderson. As a result, Big Brother in 2008 became a mere parody of itself. Ratings dropped and criticism of the show increased, but Network Ten continued to soldier on in its support of the show, claiming that it was tracking well in its desired demographics. However, when federal treasurer Wayne Swan delivering his budget speech was being watched by more viewers than Big Brother, even Ten must have realised the show's time was up hence this week's announcement that the show will not return after this year's season finale.

Even though Big Brother rides off into the TV sunset early next week, it may not be gone for long. Speculation is already rife that the format could be adopted, in one form or another, by one of the other networks or even be revived by Ten at a later stage. It is hard to imagine that a show that has been such a pop culture phenomenon will just disappear without trace. Time will tell on that one.

Big Brother 2008 Final, Monday 7.00pm, Ten Melbourne (other areas/affiliates check local guides)

Monday, 14 July 2008

Seven takes in more Practice

acp_1982The Seven Network is adding to its line-up of mid-dawn drama repeats.  As well as the recent addition of Sons And Daughters, Seven has slotted in late-night repeats of its other '80s series A Country Practice.

ACP, which ran for over 1000 episodes, has had a few re-runs on Seven and pay-TV since its demise in 1993, as well as episodes being released on DVD.  The re-runs being scheduled now appear to be starting from around episode 475, which places it somewhere around 1987 - about half-way through its original run (comparing the blurb on ebroadcast's TV guide to the episode guide at Wandin Valley Bush Nursing Hospital).

acp_1982a A Country Practice - set in the fictional rural NSW community of Wandin Valley, but particularly around the town's medical practice and hospital -was originally proposed to the Ten Network in 1980 by James Davern, a producer of the former ABC series Bellbird.  Ten knocked it back, one assumes to pursue other drama gems such as Holiday Island, Punishment and Arcade!  Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

Davern then pitched the concept to Seven, who liked the idea and then ordered thirteen episodes.  ACP made its debut on Seven in November 1981 during the normally-quiet summer non-ratings period - giving the series a good two months to drum up an audience before the 1982 ratings season got underway.

The original cast included a strong line-up of familiar faces, such as Brian Wenzel (Certain Women), Lorrae Desmond (Number 96, Arcade), Shane Porteous (Number 96, The Restless Years), Penny Cook (The Restless Years) and Syd Heylen (Sunnyside Up, The Box, Arcade), and some new names including Shane Withington, Anne Tenney, Grant Dodwell and Wendy Strehlow.  

The launch of A Country Practice and Sons And Daughters only months apart set up Seven with two solid drama hits for several years. While Sons And Daughters was pure melodramatic soap opera, ACP was more down-to-earth and never one to shy away from various social issues - such as drugs, teenage pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, homosexuality, domestic violence, gambling, nuclear testing and sexual assault - and with any TV series set around a hospital, just about any disease and ailment known to man would make an appearance in Wandin Valley.

acp_molly And so the goings on from Wandin Valley continued over the next twelve years, including some landmark TV moments - most notably, the death of the much-loved Molly Jones (Anne Tenney), the colourful city slicker who had moved to Wandin Valley with her nurse husband Brendan (Shane Withington), who succumbed after a long battle with leukaemia.  Viewers around the nation wept as Molly slipped away while watching Brendan and daughter Chloe (Emily Nicol) fly a kite.

acp_1988Many more characters would come and go, including doctors, nurses, matrons, vets, town clerks, park rangers, schoolteachers, hippies and policemen, but by 1993, Seven decided the show had finally out-lived its welcome.  The epic three-hour final episode, screened on 22 November, saw the show's main focal point, the Wandin Valley hospital, ravaged by bushfire. 

Then, the Ten Network that had turned a Seven flop, Neighbours, into an international success, dared to see if lightning could strike twice by taking on ACP.  It was a curious venture, given Ten's target demographic were younger viewers, and ACP was a series that skewed towards an older audience - part of the reason why Seven let it go - but Ten had dropped its long-running series E Street and needed a replacement.

ACP took on a markedly different appearance when it resurfaced on Ten six months after its demise on Seven.  Suddenly, Wandin Valley had moved from inland NSW to the Dandenongs on the outskirts of Melbourne.  Only a handful of characters from the 'old' ACP came across to the 'new', and no reference was made at all to the characters that didn't follow.  The series was scheduled on Wednesday nights, but failure to capture an audience soon saw it shunted off to Saturday afternoons to play out its remaining episodes.

Like various other Australian dramas, ACP has been sold overseas with screenings in the United Kingdom, Europe, New Zealand and Canada.

A Country Practice, Monday night/Tuesday morning 1.00am, Seven Melbourne.  (Other areas/affiliates check local guides)

Source: Wandin Valley Bush Nursing Hospital, Super Aussie Soaps

Sunday, 13 July 2008

1978: July 15-21

tvtimes_150778 Let 'er RIP!
After forty episodes over five years, Paul Hogan (pictured) has decided it was time to let his classic ocker 'Hoges' - his trademark football jersey, shorts and boots - lay to rest. Now, the emphasis on The Paul Hogan Show will be on the caricatures based on either real-life figures, such as Don Lane or ABC adventurer Harry Butler, or more of Hogan's unique characters to go along with Luigi the Magician, Nigel the skateboard kid or Stung the derelict. Hogan, married with five children, and co-star and producer John 'Strop' Cornell, are knocking back offers to do more commercials after the success of the famous cigarette campaign they have both appeared in. The pair have also had movie offers - most have been knocked back, but two are still being considered. "I'd like to take advantage of doing a film," Hogan says. "I'm wide open but there's no way I'd do a Carry-On-Up-The-Khyber production."

UK comedy Aussie style
British comedy writers Johnny Speight and Ray Galton are writing a new comedy series for the 0-10 Network. The Tea Ladies will be a 'conversational comedy' based around a pair of Parliament House tea ladies. The new series, being produced by McCabe-Paradine for 0-10, will go into taping in September.

kimwran It's Miss Wran if you please!
Kim Wran (pictured), of The Young Doctors, has some very definite views on marriage: "A woman should be independent. I'd never get married unless I had $100,000 of my own. And then if I were ever in the position of being 45 to 50, and my husband said 'You're not young any more and I'm going off with a girl of 25,' I wouldn't have to hang on. I wouldn't lose my pride or dignity." The 23-year-old actress, who also happens to be the daughter of NSW premier Neville Wran, is equally as indignant if anyone dares address her as 'Ms', "I can't figure out why people call me that. I'm Miss Kim Wran! The women's lib bit isn't really for me. Men should be men, and women should be women. Equality in jobs is great, though some women shouldn't be in the jobs that they are."

New tragedy for Grace Sullivan
Grace Sullivan (Lorraine Bayly) gets the news that she has been dreading but half expecting. Her only remaining civilian son, Terry (Richard Morgan), who was rejected from the Air Force on medical grounds, has joined the Army. In episodes of The Sullivans to screen during this week, Terry's impulse decision came after Michael Watkins (John Walton) has joined up after a long battle to get out of his civilian job.

Viewpoint: Letters to the Editor:
"It is disgusting that a program the quality of Space 1999, should be degraded by Melbourne's HSV7. It is evident that they have no time for science fiction. Or, they do have time for it but at 12 midnight it is hardly fair that youngsters and adults alike should have to stay up that late." M. Savage and A. Best, VIC.

"In these days of bad grammar and slovenly speech one would presume that a former schoolteacher would know how to correctly use the Queen's English. However, on Pot Of Gold we heard Bernard King boast many times that in his early years he was a schoolteacher. He was giving judgment on one of the show's contestants, and passed this jarring remark: 'She would not be good enough for the Roxy or I' ! Not good enough for I! Bernard, your illiteracy is showing." H. McNeill, NSW.

"Why did ABC drop such a terrific show - Flashez? Twice I wrote to them and I received answers saying they could not do anything about it. We now have to watch British shows which are not as entertaining as Flashez. Why pay the British when ABC could air Australian shows?" G. Chewlun, QLD.

saturdayshow What's On (July 15-21)
Saturday night, ABC presents another episode of The Saturday Show (pictured), with guest star Johnny Lockwood, followed by current affairs with Four Corners, and then six hours of golf with the British Open Championships, live from Scotland.

On Wednesday night, ABC presents the final of quiz show Mastermind. Four contestants from the semi-finals will compete for the title Mastermind of Australia 1978.

This week's guests on ATV0's Peter Couchman Tonight include Denis Walter, Bev Harrell, Jane Scali, Wendy Stapleton and Cliff Portwood.

Sunday night movies are Butterflies Are Free (HSV7), Return To Fantasy Island (GTV9) and A New Leaf (ATV0).

Source: TV Times (Melbourne edition), 15 July 1978. ABC/ACP

TelevisionAU Update 13-Jul-08


FLASHBACK #46: Lots of smiles at the studios of Adelaide's SAS10 on the occasion of the station's first anniversary in 1966.  Pictured, left to right, are local presenters Roger Cardwell, Gail Spiro, Penny Ramsey, Bobo The Clown, Michelle Kenny and Paul Griffiths.  SAS10 launched on 26 July 1965, and within its first year had launched a number of local productions including Bobo The Clown, Romper Room, Today and the evening news.  Later productions included Fat Cat And Friends, Earlybirds, Crackerjack, Trax, Touch Of Elegance, Junior Jury and annual Christmas telethon. In 1987, SAS made TV history when it changed frequency and affiliation to Seven.  In 2005, SAS7 produced a special, Made In Adelaide, to commemorate 40 years of television from SAS.  Picture: TV-Radio Guide, 31 July 1966.  (Go to for enlarged picture)

Melbourne 1970, 1990
South Australia 1976, 1980, 1982, 1985, 1986
Western Australia 1987

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Tuesday, 8 July 2008

YTT two-some back on the stage

debrabyrnephilipgould Green Lurex one-pieces with bell-bottoms, shirts with long fringes and hours on the beach in the blistering sun - some of the less-favourable things that Philip Gould and Debra Byrne (pictured) recalled from their days in the popular Young Talent Time, in an article that featured in yesterday's Herald Sun newspaper.

But despite the glaring fashions and the environmental hazards associated with working on the program, both Philip and Debra remember fun times just "being kids" and the fond friendship they shared.

The pair have had their career paths cross a number of times since they appeared on Young Talent Time when it first began on Melbourne's ATV0 in April 1971, but it has been almost thirty years since they've worked together.  Now they are together again in the upcoming musical, Follies, being staged at Melbourne's Arts Centre by The Production Company.  The stage production also features John Diedrich (Bluey, Special Squad), Judi Connelli, Nancye Hayes, Patti Newton and Charles 'Bud' Tingwell.

debrabyrnephilipgould_73 But for Philip and Debra (pictured, right, in 1973), working together after so many years is not a struggle.  "It's like nothing's changed.  We're back where we were.  We can still have a giggle and we know what sets each other off," Philip told Herald Sun's Harbant Gill.  "We're like brother and sister," said Debra, "you just pick up from where you were, because you know each other in such a deep way."

Follies is being performed at the State Theatre, Arts Centre, Melbourne, July 16-20. 

Source: Herald Sun, 7 July 2008.
Related Links: The Production Company

1978: July 8-14

tvtimes_080778Cover: John Travolta

'Clean-up' TV rebel on the warpath
Mary Whitehouse, the English self-styled guardian of all public morality, is about to embark on a four-week tour of Australia and New Zealand to point out the dangers that TV poses to civilisation. Some of the shows on Ms Whitehouse's radar include Are You Being Served? with its sexual innuendo, including those of a homosexual nature, and crime show The Sweeney which she considers the most violent program on television. But among Ms Whitehouse's more admirable pursuits is the fight against the exploitation of children in the media.

Here's mud in Mike's eye
TV adventurers Mike and Mal Leyland have covered much of Australia to bring the country and its people to our screens. Now, as part of the latest series to air on the Nine Network, Mike Leyland has set his sights further afield, to Niugini, where he spent a month on safari - encountering warring tribes, a sing-song in the Highlands which culminated in the killing of 3000 pigs, and the 'mud men' who wear helmets made of mud, usually on ceremonial occasions, as part of a centuries-old tradition to scare off evil spirits.

Seaspray star sets sail for Cop Shop
Sue Haworth
, one of the child stars of the 1960s ABC series Adventures Of The Seaspray, is returning to television after over a decade. The young actress, who gave up her acting career to go to England to marry and start a family, is to appear in Cop Shop as a Greek girl who is promised to marry Detective Mike Georgiou (John Orcsik).

Carry on Trekking! dianemarchant
TV Times
reporter Eric Scott does not know the actual airdate of the first Star Trek episode in Australia - but he knows someone that does. Melbourne schoolteacher Diane Marchant (pictured) is Australia's number one fan of the show and a founding member of the US-based Star Trek fan club. Ms Marchant also boasts a growing collection of Star Trek memorabilia, including fan magazines, signed cast photos and video cassettes of all the episodes. On 13 July, Marchant and Star Trek fans all around Australia will celebrate the tenth anniversary of the show's first airing in this country.

Viewpoint: Letters to the Editor
"ABC needs smartening up! By removing the following programs, the clean-up will start: Soap, a pathetic, unfunny, vulgar show; The New Avengers, bad enough the first time around let alone repeated; Mastermind, which is boring; Dave Allen At Large, sick to death of constant repeats; Pot Black should be shown later." J. Farrell, NSW

"I had thought that Blankety Blanks was getting low, but I was thoroughly disgusted while watching DDQ10 Darling Downs, on 12 June. Graham Kennedy openly ran his fingers over a married contestant's breast. In my opinion, he would be the lowest blankety blank." L. J. White, NSW

"What on earth do the Brisbane commercial TV stations think they are doing? They spend money producing relatively good sports programs, then hire readers who no doubt know what they are saying, but are hopelessly uneducated." S. Hewitt, QLD.

What's On (July 8-14)
carla On Saturday night, GTV9 presents a 90-minute special, Dave Allen In Australia, featuring guest stars Max Walker, Bunney Brooke, Judy Morris and Carla Hoogeveen (pictured)

On Wednesday night, HSV7 screens Julie Anthony's First Special - a musical tribute to the popular singer's journey from growing up in South Australia to landing the lead role in the stage musical Irene.

kenjamesABC screens the final episode of drama series Catspaw (featuring Ken James, pictured) followed later in the evening by a live-via-satellite telecast of the British Open Golf Championship from Scotland.

Sunday night movies are Man About The House (HSV7), Prudence And The Pill (GTV9) and Underground Man (ATV0), while ABC presents the debut of Capriccio! - a variety program hosted by Carol Raye (Blankety Blanks, Number 96) featuring music selected by well-known personalities. The first episode features music chosen by former Number 96 sex kitten Abigail.

Source: TV Times (Melbourne edition), 8 July 1978. ABC/ACP

Saturday, 5 July 2008

'80s soap icon back for another run

sonsanddaughters Sons And Daughters, the '80s soap opera that made sepia tones fashionable with its signature closing sequence, is coming back for another airing on the Seven Network.

Starting midnight this Wednesday night - or if you like, very early Thursday morning - Seven is trotting out another repeat screening of the long-running saga that originally ran from 1982 to 1988 with a cast including TV Week Gold Logie winner Rowena Wallace, soapie stalwarts including Pat McDonald, Cornelia Frances and Anne Haddy, '60s pop idol Normie Rowe and '70s sex symbol Abigail.

Sons And Daughters created storyline twists usually reserved for melodramatic US fare, including the show's original premise which saw a blooming love affair between John Palmer (Peter Phelps) and Angela Hamilton (Ally Fowler) cut short when it was revealed that they were long-lost brother and sister - quite a bizarre twist if not somewhat disturbing!

A later bizarre twist came when Rowena Wallace decided to leave the series, but instead of killing off her character, Patricia Hamilton-Morrell, the writers instead had the character transformed by plastic surgery while overseas, and would return with a new identity, Alison Carr (Belinda Giblin).  The situation got even more murky when, in the show's dying stages, Wallace then returned to the series, reprising the original Patricia character and set to clash with her apparent alter-ego Alison Carr.  But in true soap opera fashion, another twist revealed that Wallace's character was now Pamela Hudson, the twin sister of Patricia Hamilton.

It is unclear whether Seven is starting the series from episode one, or picking up where the last re-run left off when it ended abruptly over a year ago when it was being shown in a morning timeslot.  Though, given that Sons And Daughters ran for 972 episodes, and Seven appears to be committing only to one episode a week in this re-run, fans can look forward to seeing the series wrap up sometime in the year 2025!

The series joins Seven's other late-night retro re-runs Marshall Law, Young Ramsay and even reality-talent show Popstars - all shown at various times in the wee small hours.

somethingintheair Other Aussie retro re-runs include GP on ABC1, Something In The Air (pictured) in prime-time on ABC2, Water Rats on Nine, and the collection of dramas from Crawford Productions, including Matlock Police, Skyways, Division Four and Carson's Law, being shown on regional WIN Television.

Sons And Daughters, Wednesday night/Thursday morning 12.00am, Seven*

Pictured: Rowena Wallace, Pat McDonald and Kim Lewis
Related links: Aussie Soap Archive

* Melbourne.  Other areas/affiliates check local guides.