Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Going to party like it’s 1990…

tvtimes_1978_1979 Each week for the past two years we’ve been documenting the events of Australian TV during the corresponding week of thirty years ago – 1978 and 1979 – as reported in TV Times magazine.

Now, sadly, we have to bring that sequence of posts to an end as we do not have a weekly archive of TV Times beyond the close of 1979 – and, indeed, the magazine title itself became obsolete in August 1980 when it was merged with rival magazine TV Week.

tvweek_060190 However, we are able to ‘skip’ a decade and can bring you TV as it was in the corresponding week of 1990 – twenty years ago – as reported in TV Week.  This will start in the new year.

As we move into a new decade in the present day TV continues to come to terms with the new era of digital multi-channelling.  The year will see the continued presence, and possibly even the addition, of new channels under the Freeview banner.  2009 saw the introduction of One HD, SBS2, GO!, 7TWO and ABC3, and there could be more to follow.  Freeview will also continue to be challenged by Foxtel’s “next generation” offering.  The year will also see community TV allowed its first steps in digital broadcasting, having waited and campaigned for many years for access to digital broadcasting spectrum, and Mildura will witness Australia’s first phase-out of analogue television signals.

masterchef The year will see the return of Masterchef Australia – will it maintain the public’s attention in 2010 as it did in 2009? – and more of Hey Hey It’s Saturday after its two reunion specials garnered massive support in 2009.  There will be no more Rove but we may see a greater presence from Shaun Micallef, following the popularity of Talkin’ ‘Bout Your GenerationThe 7PM Project will continue to hope to gain stronger support – but how long will Ten pursue it?  There will be a third series in the Underbelly franchise, and Neighbours will celebrate its 25th anniversary. 

The TV Week Logie Awards could break with tradition and be held in Queensland, and the year will also include the Commonwealth Games, from Delhi, India, and the Winter Olympics, from Vancouver, Canada.

The new year also marks a new era in the reporting of ratings data as, for the first time, viewing by time-shifted means (e.g. viewing of programs recorded by devices such as VCRs, PVRs, etc.) will be tallied along with programs that are viewed ‘live’ to air.

sbs_2008 The year 2010 will also mark the 50th anniversary of ABC channels ABS2 Adelaide, ABT2 Hobart and ABW2 Perth, as well as commercial station TVT6 Hobart (now a branch of WIN Television).  SBS will celebrate its 30th anniversary later in the year and aggregation of Regional Queensland television will be 20 years old from the end of 2010.

And 2010 will mark ten years since the website Television.AU was established.

Monday, 28 December 2009

1979: December 29-January 4

tvtimes_291279 Cover: Paula Duncan, John Orcsik, Joanna Lockwood, Peter Adams (Cop Shop)

TV in the ‘70s
As the 1970s come to a close, TV Times takes a look back at some of the names, programs and events that helped shape the decade that was.

1970: The Long Arm, axed after a short run on the 0-10 NetworkDon Lane’s Tonight show is given the boot, as is Showcase, a year after Rod McLennan takes over as host.  Bert Newton hosts The Acid Test for Nine, and a sitcom, Mrs Finnegan, draws an indifferent response on SevenABC launches a drama series, Dynasty, and a panel show, Would You Believe?, with Carmen Duncan and Jacki Weaver.  New quiz show, Temptation, hosted by Tony BarberNoel Ferrier hosts Australia A To Z on ABC.

pbrady 1971: Networks now obliged to increase Australian-made programming by 50 per cent and must each screen six hours each month of first-run Australian drama or comedy.  Matlock Police begins on the 0-10 Network, and The Godfathers starts on NineIn Melbourne Tonight is cancelled after 14 years.  Pick A Box comes to an end after 23 years on radio and television, and a new show, Money Makers, is launched with Philip Brady (pictured).  Hey Hey It’s Saturday begins on GTV9Johnny Young launches Young Talent Time and the acclaimed US children’s show Sesame Street begins on ABCCash-Harmon Productions present the 0-10 Network with a pilot for a new adults-only drama, Number 96Mike Willesee launches A Current Affair on Nine.  Television begins in Darwin.

number96_1972 1972:  The Nine Network launches a private detective drama, The Spoiler, with Bruce Barry, while Rod Mullinar stars as Ryan for the Seven Network.  New Zealander James Laurenson appears as half-caste Aboriginal detective Napoleon Bonaparte in the Seven Network series, BoneyNumber 96 (pictured) makes its debut, and some of the opening episode is censored from viewing in Melbourne after being shown in Sydney the night before.  ABC launches a new comedy show, The Aunty Jack Show.  The Government announces that Australia will convert to colour television in 1975.

1973:  The Mike Walsh Show makes its debut and marks a new standard for daytime television.  Certain Women and Seven Little Australians begin on ABC, and Bert Newton hosts a variety series for the national broadcaster.  The Price Is Right with Garry Meadows begins on the 0-10 Network.

macandmerle 1974: Crawford Productions launches The Box for the 0-10 Network.  The Seven Network launches a variety show, JC At 8.30, to combat Number 96, but is taken off-air after 10 shows.  Reg Grundy’s first soap opera, Class Of ‘74, debuts on Seven. Peter Wherrett presents the first series of motoring program Torque for ABCGordon Chater and Gwen Plumb star in an ABC comedy, Mac And Merle (pictured).  The gold rush of the 1850s is recreated in the ABC series, Rush, starring John Waters.  A new pop music show, Countdown, is launched on ABC.  All networks are given the go-ahead to broadcast test colour transmissions.  The Nine Network launches a telethon to raise relief funds after Cyclone Tracy wipes out Darwin.

grahamkennedy_3 1975:  All networks convert to full-scale colour transmission on 1 March.  Cash-Harmon follows up Number 96 with an early-evening series for Nine, The Unisexers, which is taken off the air after three weeks.  Graham Kennedy (pictured) is banned from appearing on live TV after his suspect “crow call”.  Mike Willesee hosts This Is Your Life for the Seven Network and Garry Meadows hosts a game show, High RollersDon Lane returns to Australia to launch The Don Lane Show on Nine.  An end of an era as Crawford cop shows Division 4 and Homicide are both cancelled.

1976: The 0-10 Network adapts the British program It’s A Knockout as Almost Anything Goes.  A new sitcom, The Bluestone Boys, makes light of life in prison.  The Nine Network launches two new early-evening series, The Young Doctors and The Sullivans.  The Young Doctors is axed after a few weeks on air but given a reprieve following public reaction.  TV Times, in association with the Seven Network, present the first Sammy AwardsThe Ernie Sigley Show is abruptly axed following an off-air outburst by the show’s host directed at Kerry Packer and producer Peter Faiman.

tonybarber 1977:  Number 96 and The Box are both cancelled by the 0-10 NetworkBellbird comes to an end on ABC after ten years, and Homicide winds up on Seven after 12 years.  Graham Kennedy returns to TV as host of Blankety BlanksThe Naked Vicar Show is launched on ABC, and Benny Hill makes a series of specials in Australia for the 0-10 Network.  The Seven Network launches Glenview High and Cop Shop, and 0-10 launches The Restless YearsTony Barber (pictured) returns to TV as host of Family Feud. The US mini-series Roots attracts high ratings.

tvtimes_211078 1978: ABC debuts quiz show Mastermind and a light-hearted panel show, Micro Macro (pictured).  The Seven Network screens its landmark mini-series Against The WindA Current Affair is axed by the Nine Network, and Monday Conference winds up on ABC.  The comedy series Tickled Pink begins on ABC.  The 0-10 Network launches The Steve Raymond Show in response to losing The Mike Walsh Show to Nine.

1979: ABC re-launches its afternoon children’s programming block as ARVOPeter Luck presents documentary series This Fabulous Century for Seven.  Airport drama comes to Seven with Skyways, and the 0-10 Network’s Prisoner becomes a hit.  Nationwide marks a new era of current affairs for ABC, replacing This Day Tonight.  The Nine Network takes a costly gamble with its new current affairs show, 60 Minutes.  New dramas The Oracle, Golden Soak and Twenty Good Years air on ABC.  New requirements for local children’s TV programming lead to new shows Simon Townsend’s Wonder World and Shirl’s NeighbourhoodHey Hey It’s Saturday returns to TV after the ill-fated The Daryl And Ossie Show on the 0-10 Network.  The Special Broadcasting Service presents a series of multicultural programs on ABC.

ericoldfield_2 Young Doc’s sidetrack
The Young Doctors star Eric Oldfield has turned his talents to pop music.  The former star of The Godfathers and one-time Cleo centrefold (pictured) has recorded Girls On The Beach, to be released by the Grundy Organisation.  Grundy’s publicity manager Felicity Goscombe defends the song as being purely commercial: “Why not?  He’s good looking, has a good voice and is such a change from the ‘uglies’.  We’re trying to bring back some entertainment to the music business – and a lot of glamour.”

Voyage to Greece along Yarra
The producers of the 0-10 Network’s weekly Greek variety show, Grecian Scene, have produced a Melbourne-based Christmas special for national distribution in Greece.  Grecian Scene co-host Olga Davis described the show as “a typical party, with Greek food and wines, music, songs and dancers.  A traditional Greek Christmas celebration with an Australian background.”  The special, filmed on board a paddle-steamer cruising the Yarra River, aired in Melbourne last week.  “The Greek TV station bought the show for its national network.  They seemed to think it a good idea, to show people some part of the life their relatives live in Australia,” Davis told TV Times.

angelapunch Timeless town
In re-creating Sydney Town, circa-1788, for the upcoming mini-series The Timeless Land, a great deal of research and design went into constructing cottages, barns and buildings of the period, including an impressive two-storey Government House – but had it not been for modern-day plastic the reconstructed town could never have happened.  The cottages have timber frames, with sheets of clear plastic moulded into the shape of timber logs and wooden roof shingles.  Supervising designer George Liddle told TV Times, “We wouldn’t have had a hope of being able to afford to build the town if it hadn’t been for vacuum-formed plastic sheeting.  Each of these sheets costs $2, which means we were able to build a cottage for around $500, instead of at least four times the price for timber, and four times quicker – a great economy.”  The reconstructed town is situated on a private properly in Kellyville, outside of Sydney, which the producers have rented.  Apart from offering the perfect scenery the property has a large dam, which is being used as a Sydney Harbour backdrop.  The Timeless Land, starring Michael Craig, Angela Punch McGregor (pictured) and Nicola Paget and a supporting cast including Noel Trevarthen, Rod Mullinar, Peter Cousens, David Gulpilil, Anna Volska, Patrick Dickson and Arnhem Land tribesman Charles Yunupingu, is expected to go to air on ABC around mid-1980.

kerryarmstrong Briefly…
Actress Kerry Armstrong (pictured) has left Prisoner and taken up the role of another country girl, the niece of Fay (Kris McQuade) in Skyways:  “I don’t know why I always get cast as a country girl – maybe it’s because of my big leg muscles.  I got them from dancing school.”  After she’s finished on Skyways, Armstrong will be appearing in the upcoming mini-series Water Under The Bridge, now in production for the 0-10 Network.

Young Talent Time cast member Bobby Dreissen is recovering from injuries after a hit-run incident in Melbourne.  The 13-year-old was riding a bicycle when he was hit by a car.  “I was frightened more than anything else.  I hadn’t a clue what was happening at the time – one minute I was pedalling along, the next I’m rolling about on the street in agony.”  Despite injuries to his back and hands, Dreissen continued to meet his commitments to Young Talent Time, performing the day after the incident.

Helen Morse is tipped to win the lead female role in the upcoming mini-series A Town Like Alice.

Peggy Toppano and Lorrae Desmond, who play two sisters who run a bookstore in the new series Arcade, are finding work positively absorbing.  “Sometimes I get so engrossed in all the fascinating books on the set that I have to drag myself away to rehearse my lines,” Toppano told TV Times.

Viewpoint: Letters to the Editor:
”I just cannot resist commenting on Tracey Yesberg’s letter (Viewpoint, 24 November 1979) regarding So You Want To Be A Centrefold.  Anyone with such narrow views was under no obligation to watch, but naturally curiosity wins again.  I am also female, and also watched, as I am the lone female in our family and I was curious.  I agree it was trash but something different for all the wide-eyed men.  I personally admire the models for having the guts to be so uninhibited in front of the TV cameras, and, anyway, there are far more important morals in today’s corrupt society to worry about, and nude models are certainly not one of them.” J. Lewy, NSW.

“I would like to see some of Gracie Fields’ movies on TV.  They’ve done festivals of movies to honour stars like John Wayne and Elvis Presley, so why not Gracie?  I am 71, and used to live near Gracie in Rochdale, Lancashire.  As a matter of fact I sing some of her songs as a member of the Country Women’s Association concert party in Wollongong, NSW.”  B. Lindop, NSW.

What’s On (December 29-January 4):
’s coverage of the Australian Open tennis, live from Kooyong, Melbourne, continues from Saturday through to Wednesday.  From Thursday, attention shifts to Hobart for the Australian Hardcourt Championships.

New Year’s Eve includes ATV0’s coverage of the Festival of Sydney – New Year’s Eve Concert from the Sydney Opera House, hosted by Rolf Harris and including appearances by John St Peeters, Marcia Hines, Jon English, The Angels and the Combined Pipe Band of Sydney.  The 5-and-a-half hour telecast includes Sydney’s spectacular New Year’s Eve fireworks to signal the arrival of the new year and the new decade.

HSV7 farewells 1979 with overseas specials Dick Clark And A Cast Of Thousands and Elton John At Wembley, before New Year’s greetings at midnight.  At 12.02am, Lee Simon presents a special New Year edition of Nightmoves.  Meanwhile, GTV9 presents the Concert Of The Decade, featuring highlights from the recent 2SM/Moove Festival from the steps of the Sydney Opera House.  Highlights from the day’s cricket between Australia and the West Indies airs at 10.00pm, with the 1970 movie Song Of Norway at midnight.

ABC’s New Year’s Eve starts with the People’s Command Performance, from Caesar’s Palace, Las Vegas, featuring Joan Rivers, Chubby Checker, Vincent Price, Rod Stewart, Jerry Lewis and Lainie Kazan.  At 9.40pm, Gregory Peck and Ann-Margret present A Holiday Tribute To The Radio City Music Hall, followed at 11.10pm with New Year’s Rocking Eve, a concert featuring Blondie, Village People and Barry Manilow.  Then, at 12.40am, a concert special from Elton John that was recorded on Christmas Eve, 1974.

On New Year’s Day, HSV7 crosses to Perth at 6.00pm for the annual Perth Cup and GTV9 has more cricket from 4.00pm.  Later in the evening, ABC presents the Edinburgh Military Tattoo 1979, and ATV0 presents a re-run of the British mini-series, Elizabeth R.

Wednesday night’s Faces Of The Eighties features politician Simon Crean, who, at the age of 30, is one of the rising stars of the Labor movement.

Sunday night movies: The Taming Of The Shrew (HSV7), My Father’s House (GTV9), A New Leaf (ATV0).  After the movie, ATV0 repeats the two-hour special Thanks For The Memory, a roundup of the news and events of the 1970s, originally aired last month.

Source: TV Times (Melbourne edition), 29 December 1979.  ABC/ACP

Sunday, 27 December 2009

Remembering the Noughties

At this time of year, and this time of decade, comes the inevitable “lists” of some of the highlights, and possible lowlights, of the year or decade coming to a close.

So who are we to be any different?  Time to look at some of the events, programs and people that have stood out for this past decade, in chronological order:

2000newyearsday 1. 2000 Today/Millennium Live.  The worldwide celebration of the new millennium was well covered on TV, from the earliest celebrations in New Zealand and Australia and following the progress of celebrations throughout the world over the next 24 hours.  ABC was the Australian participant in the global 2000 Today telecast, and the Nine Network tapped into its worldwide resources to present Millennium Live.

cathyfreeman2. Sydney Olympic Games.  The world’s attention was focused on Sydney for two weeks as the city presented the Games of the XXVII Olympiad in September 2000.  The opening ceremony, featuring Cathy Freeman (pictured), earned the Seven Network the highest ratings received for any telecast since 1969. 

watchtv23. Digital TV begins.  Beginning on 1 January 2001 with a whimper rather than a bang, digital TV promised widescreen pictures, high-definition, surround sound and new channels.  However, the initial roll-out of digital TV into Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth came before many retailers had tuners or set top boxes to sell.  As a result the launch of digital TV was seen by only a few.  Although the original proposal was to have Australia fully converted to digital TV by 2008, this date has now been postponed to 31 December 2013.

bb_merlin 4. Big Brother.  An invention of Dutch TV producer John de Mol in the late-1990s, Big Brother had made itself known in a number of countries before being unleashed on Australia in 2001.  All commercial networks fought to gain access to the format, but it was Ten that was to succeed and would use Big Brother as its flagship program in reaching out to the advertiser-friendly youth demographic with the reality genre.  The program turned host Gretel Killeen (pictured, with contestant Merlin Luck) into a household name and created short-term suburban heroes out of some of its contestants.  Some of the show’s more controversial moments attracted plenty of scorn from the public, added words like “turkey slap” into the mainstream, and Prime Minister John Howard at one time demanding the show be taken off the air.   Falling ratings led to the show finally coming to an end in Australia in 2008.

kathandkim_2 5. Kath And Kim.  Although the ‘high maintenance’ Kath Day (Jane Turner), her ‘hornbag’ daughter Kimberley Craig nee Day (Gina Riley) and Kim’s second-best friend Sharon Strzelecki (Magda Szubanski) were creations of the 1990s, featuring in sketch comedy shows Big Girls Blouse and Something Stupid, they got a new lease of life when ABC took up the show with eight half-hour episodes going to air in 2002.  Kath And Kim gave ABC some of its highest ever ratings over its three-series run and the show added a number of words and phrases into the language - “look at moiye”, “c’ardonnay”, “foxy morons” and “muffin top”, just to name a few – and even scored an AFI award for Best TV Drama!  Kath And Kim then led to a Christmas-themed telemovie, Da Kath And Kim Code, before the Seven Network took over the rights, producing a top-rating fourth series in 2007.  The concept was even picked up by the American NBC network to be re-made for the US market, a feat rarely achieved by any Australian series.

australianidol 6. Australian Idol.  When it was announced that Network Ten was to adopt the Pop Idol franchise in Australia, there were cries that Australia had already ‘been there, done that’ with the Seven Network’s Popstars (2000-2002).  But in launching Australian Idol on the back of Big Brother during 2003, Ten had a new reality-themed hit on its hands and a couple of ‘70s pop idols, Mark Holden and Marcia Hines, were given a new profile as part of the judging panel.  The show transformed Ian ‘Dicko’ Dickson from record producer to media celebrity and even gave serial breakfast radio pest Kyle Sandilands a shot at the TV spotlight before recent radio controversies saw him dropped from the show at the start of the 2009 season.  Although Guy Sebastian (pictured) is perhaps the only Australian Idol winner to go onto any sustained pop music career, other contestants to continue some level of pop music stardom after the series include Anthony Callea, Shannon Noll, Ricki-Lee Coulter (who has also co-hosted Australian Idol in later years) and Jessica Mauboy.

bertnewtonrovemcmanus 7. Asia Tsunami Telethon.  On 26 December 2004, a tsunami triggered by an earthquake under the Indian Ocean wreaked havoc across a number of Asian countries, with the death toll estimated to reach into the hundreds of thousands.  With such massive destruction and casualties, Australia’s three commercial networks put aside their rivalries and got together to present a three-hour telethon, simulcast across all three networks.  Hosting the event was Andrew O’Keefe (Seven), Eddie McGuire (Nine) and Rove McManus (Ten) with appearances by personalities from all three networks, including Gretel Killeen, Bert Newton, Ray Martin, Melissa Doyle, David Koch and Larry Emdur.  The three-hour telethon raised more than $A20 million.

thankgodyourehere 8. Thank God You’re Here.  Working Dog Productions, producers of Frontline, The Panel, All Aussie Adventures, A River Somewhere, Funky Squad and movies The Castle and The Dish, came to Network Ten with a new twist on the improvised sketch genre.  Thank God You’re Here would place unprepared performers into an established scene and be greeted with the words ‘Thank God you’re here’ before having to improvise their way through the scene without any prior knowledge of what the scene is about.  Hosted by Shane Bourne (pictured, with judge Tom Gleisner), Thank God You’re Here became a ratings hit for Network Ten when it launched in 2006.  The popularity of the show led to the format being franchised worldwide, with adaptations in countries including the United States, United Kingdom, Russia, Canada, Sweden, Belgium and Italy.  After three series on Ten, the show was then picked up by the Seven Network in 2009.

underbelly 9. Underbelly.  Melbourne’s real-life gangland wars of the 1990s to mid-2000s provided the perfect backdrop for a TV series.  Adapted from the book Leadbelly, by John Silvester and Andrew Rule, Underbelly debuted in February 2008 – but, ironically, except in Victoria where the series was banned by order of the Supreme Court due to pending trials.  With liberal amounts of sex, nudity, coarse language and graphic violence as well as its real-life basis, Underbelly was a ratings hit despite not showing in its home state, although the court later permitted an edited sample of episodes to be shown in Victoria later in the year.  At the time of writing the full, unedited version of Underbelly is still banned from broadcasting and sale within the state of Victoria.  A second series of Underbelly, sub-titled A Tale Of Two Cities, followed the activities of the underworld drug trade in the 1970s and 1980s.  A third series, Underbelly: The Golden Mile, is now in production for 2010, set in Sydney in the early'-‘90s.

masterchef 10. Masterchef Australia.  When Network Ten announced that it had purchased the Masterchef franchise as the replacement for Big Brother, nobody thought the show would take off.  Who would watch a cooking show, six nights a week?  What sort of drama or human emotion can be dragged out over a hot stove over thirteen weeks? Doesn’t keeping the contestants in a share house look a bit much like a Big Brother-rip off?  What was Australia’s self-proclaimed youth network thinking?  But within weeks of its debut, Masterchef Australia was showing to prove its critics and doubters wrong.  There was, it seemed, plenty of human emotion and drama to be played out as contestants slaved over hot stoves in preparing high-end cuisine to achieve the status of being awarded Australia’s first Masterchef, with $100,000 prizemoney, further professional tuition and a book publishing deal.  Some well-considered casting and a charismatic threesome, chefs George Calombaris and Gary Mehigan and food critic Matt Preston (pictured), turned out a show that gave Ten the highest ratings it had seen at 7.00pm for many years and turned food preparation into a spectator sport.  The show’s grand finale was watched by over 3 million viewers (OzTAM, 5 cities), making it the highest rating non-sports telecast since OzTAM records started in 2001.  The success of Masterchef Australia has led to a celebrity version being played out this year, and 2010 will see a second series of Masterchef Australia and, apparently, a junior contest as well. 

Of course, this is far from being an exhaustive list of highlights, or lowlights, of the decade.  What would you rate as your standout highlights of the decade?

Monday, 21 December 2009

7TWO comes to Prime

Prime_7TWO Christmas is coming a few days early for viewers of Prime Television with the announcement that the regional network will be carrying the Seven Network’s digital channel, 7TWO, from Wednesday 23 December.

7TWO will commence service on Prime’s digital transmission, covering Regional NSW, Regional Victoria, Canberra and the Gold Coast, at 9.00am on Wednesday on channel 62.  The channel will then broadcast 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

The delay in bringing 7TWO to Prime’s digital broadcast has caused some frustration among local viewers, knowing that other regional outlets such as Southern Cross Television have been relaying the channel to smaller markets Tasmania and Darwin since early this month.

7TWO launched in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth and Regional Queensland on 1 November.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

1979: December 22-28

tvtimes_221279 Cover (clockwise from bottom right): Peter Lochran (The Young Doctors), Marcia Hines, Mike Walsh, Susan Hannaford (The Sullivans), John Orcsik (Cop Shop), June Salter (The Restless Years)

Belinda buries her sexy past
Belinda Giblin
doesn’t want to be known as “that sexy secretary from The Box.”  She’d much rather be known as an actress who won a Sammy award this year for Best Actress in a Single TV Performance, for her role in the telemovie Say You Want Me:  “That award was a compliment to my acting.  It wasn’t a popularity poll win but a win because of my acting skills.  It’s been the biggest buzz of my professional career.”  Now featuring in the Seven Network series Skyways in a seven-week guest role, Giblin has no regrets about doing The Box, though the “sex symbol” tag was quite amusing, she says. 

On wings of song…
A one-hour special to air this week on ABC, Christmas Round Australia, takes a look at the diversity of an Australian Christmas.  The special program features Santa arriving by helicopter at an RAAF base in Amberley, QLD.  At Falls Creek in the Victorian Alps he switches to a snow mobile, and in the remote town of Cook he arrives into town in a converted railcar.  The special also looks at the multicultural diversity in celebrating Christmas, with Greek children singing Ta Kalanda, an Italian children’s choir singing Tu Scendi-Della Stella, and Aboriginal children at the Ernabella Mission singing carols translated into native languages.  Christmas Round Australia is narrated by Margaret Throsby and produced by Ric Birch.

robertmoore Death of Robert Moore
Robert Moore
has died in Melbourne at the age of 46.  The former host of Monday Conference was in Melbourne where he was working on an interview with Professor Sir Gustav Nossal for the ABC series Faces Of The Eighties.  It was to be the final program in the series.  ABC general manager Talbot Duckmanton paid tribute to Moore:  “Bob Moore was held in widespread respect by all who encountered him.  His fairness and integrity were beyond question in his interpretation of politics and the art of government – fields so frequently wracked with controversy.  He was above all a professional, totally dedicated and absorbed in the job he had to do.  The ABC, and public life, can ill afford to lose a figure of the calibre of Bob Moore.  At 46, he had so much still to offer.”  Born in Adelaide in 1932, Moore first joined ABC in 1960 and later progressed to the current affairs program Four Corners as a reporter and later producer and anchorman.  In 1970 he made a ten-part series of interviews, Profiles Of Power, and the following year became the host and producer of Monday Conference, which ran for 290 editions.  Moore’s death came a year to the day after the end of Monday Conference.

Best wishes from Brian for a good news decade
newsreader Brian Naylor wishes he could promise only good news in the 1980s.  “I’d be less than honest if I said I could expect the 1980s to be a happier, or more peaceful, decade than the one just past, but I can only hope that it will be.”  Naylor will be the compere of Carols By Candlelight which is being telecast on the Nine Network for the first time after several years on the 0-10 Network.  “I feel very strongly about how much and what kind of programs newsreaders should ally themselves with outside the news area, but this is one that I’m delighted to do.  It’s a happy family night and I feel honoured working on a show that will be screened in homes at Christmas time around the country,” he told TV Times.  Having just completed his first year as newsreader at GTV9, the switch from rival HSV7 has proved so successful that Naylor and GTV are now negotiating a new three-year deal after only one year of the previous three-year contract.

Are you being served down under?
John Inman
will star as the flamboyant Mr Humphries in an Australian version of the comedy series Are You Being Served?  Lyle McCabe Productions is set to make the 13-episode series for the 0-10 Network, with production due to start in Melbourne early in the new year.  “The idea is that Mr Humphries has been sent out to Australia to help a cousin of young Mr Grace,” producer Lyle McCabe told TV Times.  “All the characters in the Australian series will be similar to the ones in the British comedy.  Department stores around the world seem to attract a similar kind of person.”  A full cast list for the new series is expected to be announced in a few weeks.

The Restless Years star Ivar Kants is leaving the series after nine months as Ken Garrett.  Kants, with his wife and two children, will be heading to England where he will reprise the role of footballer Geoff Hayward in David Williamson’s play The Club.

bertnewton_cigar Bert Newton (pictured) is almost certain to make his movie debut in Fatty Finn, based on the famous Australian comic strip.  It will be Newton’s first acting role since he appeared as a TV reporter in the short-lived comedy series, The Bluestone Boys.

Gerard Kennedy, best known from Division 4 and more recently in Against The Wind, is returning to TV with an ongoing role in Skyways as airline executive Gary Doolan.

Former Melbourne and Adelaide tonight show host Bob Moors hasn’t been seen on TV for a while, but is set to appear in the upcoming 0-10 Network mini-series Water Under The Bridge

Television producer Ron Way has left Seven’s This Is Your Life after 166 episodes to move to his latest venture, a telemovie based on the life of Johnny O’Keefe for the Reg Grundy Organisation.  Way had produced O’Keefe’s early-‘60s variety show Sing Sing Sing for the Seven Network.

Viewpoint: Letters to the Editor:
”I want to express my great disappointment at everyone’s best actress, Lorraine Bayly, not winning anything at all at the Sammy awards.  Every week we read of The Sullivans being Australia’s best show, yet it hardly rated a mention throughout the Sammys.”  V. Hannaford, WA.

“I am downright annoyed at all the TV networks for using late timeslots for shows worth watching.  Programs with a three-star rating are starting at 9.00pm to 10.30pm.  This is ridiculous when a movie buff like myself has to get up for work the next day.  What happened to the good old time of 8.30pm?” M. Mather, VIC.

“Is it any wonder that overseas celebrities often baulk at interviews by our TV reporters?  Sydney TEN10’s effort with Sammy Davis Jnr is a typical example.  Katrina Lee introduced him, then he was shown talking to her but we were not allowed to hear him at first before Katrina was too busy telling us what he was going to say.  Then we were allowed to hear Sammy say exactly what Katrina had already said.  Now by this I take it that the stations either think we are too stupid to understand such people or that these celebrities are so inarticulate that they won’t be understood.”  B. Rose, NSW.

What’s On (December 22-28):
Saturday and Sunday features the closing stages of the New South Wales Open tennis tournament, live on HSV7.  From Monday (Christmas Eve), attention moves to Melbourne’s Kooyong courts for the Australian Open.  With a break on Christmas Day, the Open resumes on Boxing Day.

GTV9 presents England versus the West Indies in World Series Cup cricket on Sunday, live from Brisbane.  Cricket resumes on Wednesday (Boxing Day) when Australia and England play in Sydney.

briannaylor On Monday night (Christmas Eve), GTV9 presents live coverage of Carols By Candelight from Melbourne’s Sidney Myer Music Bowl.  Hosted by Brian Naylor (pictured) and including performances by Rolf Harris, John Farnham and Linda George.

Christmas Eve also includes overseas Christmas specials from Are You Being Served? (ABC), Carry On Christmas (HSV7), Bing Crosby: The Christmas Years (GTV9) and the Morecambe And Wise Christmas Show (ATV0).  ATV0 also presents Sing We Noel, from the Mormon Symphony Orchestra at Royal Albert Hall, London, and a repeat of last week’s Sydney Festival Of Carols before Midnight Mass.

HSV7 starts earlier than usual on Christmas Day with movies from 8.00am through to 1.30pm.  Various Christmas and variety specials continue through the rest of the afternoon.  ABC starts its day at 11.00am with Divine Service, from the Anglican Church of St Clement in Kingston, Tasmania.  GTV9 has cartoons through the early morning before a Christian Television Association special at 8.30am.  Humphrey B. Bear presents his own Christmas message at 9.00am before GTV9 presents a replay of Carols By Candlelight at 10.00am.  Movies continue through the afternoon.

ATV0 doesn’t start on Christmas Day until 2.00pm with a special, The Magic Of Christmas, followed by the 1973 movie Miracle On 34th Street.

On Christmas night, ABC presents the Queen’s annual Christmas Message at 7.15pm followed by Christmas Round Australia at 7.30pm, showing the variety of ways in which children celebrate Christmas across Australia.  Followed at 8.30pm by a Christmas episode of Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em.

HSV7’s Christmas night includes The Flintstones Christmas, The Stanley Baxter Christmas Show and the Father Knows Best Christmas ReunionGTV9 has Christmas episodes of The Odd Couple, Laverne And Shirley and Happy Days, followed by the 1978 telemovie Gift Of Love, starring Marie Osmond, Timothy Bottoms, June Lockhart, Bethel Leslie and Donald Moffatt.  At 10.30pm, GTV9 presents the Queen’s Christmas message followed by the movie Godspell.

ATV0 starts Christmas night with a Young Talent Time Christmas special at 6.30pm, followed at 7.30pm by the 1954 movie White Christmas, starring Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye.

Boxing Day features the Sydney-Hobart Yacht Race, preview and official start, on ABC from 11.00am with Australian Open tennis and World Series Cup cricket on HSV7 and GTV9 respectively.  In the evening, HSV7 crosses to Ascot racecourse in Perth for the annual Australian Derby.

Sunday night movies: A Christmas To Remember (HSV7), Kotch (GTV9), Christmas: The Coal Mine Miracle (ATV0). 

Source: TV Times (Melbourne edition), 22 December 1979.  ABC/ACP

Saturday, 19 December 2009

1979: December 15-21

tvtimes_151279 Cover: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy (Star Trek)

Countdown to the ‘80s
Countdown’s Ian ‘Molly’ Meldrum and producer Ted Emery have travelled the world to compile a 90-minute special edition of the show to signal the end of the 1970s.  The pair interviewed more than 100 pop stars across Australia, the US, UK and Europe for the special which will air on ABC this weekend.  “The program is still being sorted out but we plan to present a variety of top world stars of the decade talking about the music of the ‘70s,” Emery told TV Times.  The program will also discuss the future and who is likely to be a dominant force in the 1980s.  Some of the interviewed pop stars include David Bowie, Rod Stewart, Stevie Wonder, Elton John, ABBA, the Rolling Stones, the Doobie Brothers, the Boomtown Rats, Alice Cooper, Bryan Ferry, Fleetwood Mac and Australians Olivia Newton-John, Daryl Braithwaite and Glenn Shorrock.

ilonarodgers Ilona Rodgers’ private battle
It has been a tough year for actress Ilona Rodgers, the newcomer to the cast of The Sullivans.  For the New Zealand actress there was enough pressure coming into the popular series, with producers’ hopes of her taking on the high-profile star status in the wake of losing Lorraine Bayly, but Rodgers was also seven months pregnant when she took on the role. She was also tending her mother who was dying of cancer, and supporting her husband, who has stayed in NZ, trying to start up a new farming venture.  But Rodgers is happy with the role in The Sullivans:  “The first three months were really tough, but now I think I’m on top of it.  My only complaint is that I haven’t had a good game of snooker since John Waters (pictured, with Rodgers) finished working on the show.”  Her husband, David Warren, has made frequent visits to Australia since the birth of son Mischa, who has also made several trips across the Tasman to spend time with his father.  “I had him with me for a long time, but it’s unfair that I should have the only benefit of watching him grow up,” Rodgers told TV Times.

TV star ‘back from the grave’
Film actor Bryan Brown has been signed up for the upcoming mini-series A Town Like Alice to play the role of Joe Harmon – a role made famous in film by Peter Finch.  The mini-series, based on Nevil Shute’s novel, will go into production for the Seven Network early next year.  In charge of production will be Henry Crawford, producer of Seven’s earlier success story Against The Wind.  For actor Brown, his only other TV appearance has been in Against The Wind, as the Irish boyfriend of Mary Mulvane (Mary Larkin), killed in the first episode.

Those restless colonial years
When Jeff Archer of The Restless Years goes off on an overseas trip, actor Noel Trevarthen will be going back in time to play Judge Advocate Captain Collins in ABC’s eight-part drama, The Timeless Land.  Trevarthen will appear in the series’ first two episodes, covering the four years from 1788 when the British landed and Captain Collins read out the proclamation claiming Australia for the Crown.  “Collins is an interesting character.  He was a court favourite of George III, and, as a reward for his services, the King made him judge advocate of NSW.  But he was one of the few people at the time who believed in the future of NSW.  A lot of his contemporaries were only interested in grabbing the land.” 

hectorcrawford Briefly…
The town of Echuca, on the Murray River, will be the star of a new mini-series adapted from Nancy Cato’s best-selling book, All The Rivers Run. Producer Hector Crawford (pictured) is currently negotiating with American interests for financial backing for the series, which is expected to be made as 10 or 12 one-hour episodes.  Production is likely to start later next year.

Actress Liddy Clark (Ride On Stranger) has won the award for Best New Talent at the recent annual Penguin Awards, held in Melbourne.  Other winners on the night included NWS9’s Ian Fairweather, for his contribution to children’s television, Cop Shop’s Peter Adams as Best Actor and Prisoner’s Carol Burns for Best Actress.

Janet Kingsbury has left her job as a reporter for the travel show, Bill Peach’s Holiday, to return to acting.  The parting from the ABC series has been amicable, and stories featuring Kingsbury that have already been completed will go to air during 1980.  Kingsbury, whose last acting job was four years ago in the movie Let The Balloon Go, has started a new role as Anne Hunter in the series The Restless Years.

annesneddon Anne Sneddon (pictured), the 1979 Miss Australia, has entered TV current affairs as a reporter and co-host on BTQ7’s Haydn Sargent’s Brisbane:  “I like journalism and I’d like to be the best on TV.  I can wait 15 years, as long as I keep getting better.  With the help I’m getting from the whole team here, I should.  If I don’t, I need a hard kick.” 


Viewpoint: Letters to the Editor:
”I really have to laugh at the ad asking private motorists to save petrol!  Why isn’t the ad directed more towards those who race cars?  Don’t they waste more petrol than the private motorist?” R. Goodwin, NSW.

“Isn’t it about time women had a go where nudity on TV is concerned?  How about the men getting more of their gear off?  Put men in see-through baths etc.  So come on and give us women something to watch on TV.  After all, women watch more TV than men.  There is enough of the female body being exposed, so come on men, have a go.” L. Davies, NSW.

“I have read where the Australian series Skyways has not been getting good ratings and may be axed.  Why, oh why, are we subjected to such insults to our intelligence as CHiPs and Lucan?  The storylines are weak, the direction terrible and the acting second-rate.  Yet the Australian show is good.  Myself, my family and friends have lived almost every story in real life.  The acting is really first-rate and the direction is excellent.  I can watch Prisoner, Cop Shop and Skyways frequently, but the above-mentioned American shows only get one or two viewings because they are appalling!” M. Arnett, NSW.

What’s On (December 15-21):
’s summer of tennis continues with the South Australian Open on Saturday and Sunday, live from Memorial Drive, Adelaide, and the New South Wales Open from Monday to Friday.

On Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday, GTV9 crosses to Perth for the World Series Cup cricket between Australia and England.  Then on Friday, the World Series Cup moves to Sydney for Australia versus the West Indies.

paulgriffiths Paul Griffiths (pictured), Patrick O’Neill, Mark Hamlyn and Dale Sinclair are the team presenting Line-Up, a new weekly magazine-style program on ABC, starting Saturday night in the timeslot normally occupied by Four Corners.

In Cop Shop (HSV7, Monday), Danni (Paula Duncan) has a surprise visitor who has managed to pull a few strings to obtain her address.  Meanwhile, Liz (Liz Burch) and Baker (Gil Tucker) seem to be sharing many precious moments together.

Friday night on HSV7, Shirley Strachan and the gang from Shirl’s Neighbourhood appear in a one-hour special, Christmas In The Neighbourhood, featuring guest appearances by Jo Jo Zep and the Falcons.  Later in the evening, ATV0 crosses to Sydney Festival Of Carols, held at the Domain and hosted by John McNally with performances by June Bronhill, Helen Zerefos, Steve Watson, Sandy Scott, Suzanne Steele, the Claire Poole Singers and the Crusade and St. Mary’s Cathedral Choirs.

Other Christmas specials to appear during the week include Bing Crosby’s Merry Olde Christmas, Bob Hope’s All-Star Christmas Show and Laugh-In’s Christmas.

Sunday night movies: Amelia Earhart (HSV7), The Entertainer (GTV9), Zandy’s Bride (ATV0).  ABC presents the Australian Opera production of Norma, featuring Joan Sutherland and the Elizabethan Sydney Orchestra conducted by Richard Bonynge.

Source: TV Times (Melbourne edition), 15 December 1979.  ABC/ACP

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Leaving the neighbourhood

memory16 Neighbours: The Perfect Blend, the fan website dedicated to Neighbours, has announced that it is coming to a close early next year after seven years covering the series.

In a statement published on their website:

“It's with sadness that we announce that Neighbours: The Perfect Blend will be coming to an end next year after seven years providing Neighbours news, information and interviews. We simply don't have the time to give it the attention it deserves, and have also seen a shift towards negativity from our readers and on the messageboard in the last few years that has gradually taken the fun away from what we were doing. But, for the most part, it has been fun, and we've all loved turning the website into one of the biggest and best Neighbours resources online.”

The website is one of the most thorough and detailed collection of resources on everything you could want to know about Australia’s most famous neighbourhood – including episode guides, location information, character profiles, updates on past and present cast members, multimedia features and interviews with cast members and production crew.

The site has certainly been a useful resource in writing for this blog.

neighbours_2009Neighbours: The Perfect Blend (the name taken from the show’s signature tune) will continue to be updated up until 27 February 2010, the website’s seventh anniversary, and will stay online for future reference.  The messageboard forum will also continue at

Next year will also mark a significant year for Neighbours as it celebrates its 25th anniversary.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

1979: December 8-14

tvtimes_081279 Sergeant O’Reilly’s ball and chain!
A happy occasion on Seven’s Cop Shop with the wedding of Senior Sergeant Eric O’Reilly (Terry Norris) and Lorna Close (Moya O’Sullivan).  The wedding, held in an outdoor setting, will go to air this week in Melbourne and Brisbane and later in Sydney.

Arcade builds into a blockbuster
Production on Cash-Harmon’s new soap opera, Arcade, has started at the studios of TEN10, Sydney.  The new big-budget series is hoped be a hit with viewers the same way as their previous hit show, Number 96.  However, unlike 96, Arcade is expected to rely on humour rather than sex and violence.  Among the scriptwriting team for Arcade are former Number 96 writers Johnny Whyte and David Sale.  Whyte was flown in from London especially to work on the Arcade script.  TEN10’s Studio A has been re-modelled into a mock shopping complex, with shop sets designed down to the last detail, while a shopping complex in the suburb of Cremorne is being used for outdoor shots.  More than 1300 people were auditioned for roles in Arcade, and some of the actors and actresses chosen will be making their TV debut in the series, joining more familiar cast names including Lorrae Desmond, Peggy Toppano (Blankety Blanks), Olga Tamara, Greg Bepper (Class Of ‘74, Glenview High) and former Number 96 stars Aileen Britton and Mike Dorsey.  Although a timeslot for Arcade has yet to be decided, producers are hoping to launch the series with a movie-length debut in mid-January.

Future shocks
Robert Moore
, the former host of the long-running Monday Conference, is now presenting Faces Of The Eighties, a series of seven half-hour interviews with influential Australians heading into the new decade.  But Moore predicts that there may be tough times ahead in the 1980s: “We’re a lot more frightened today.  For instance, people have now come to believe – and not just the experts – that we may never see full employment again.  The idea of full employment may just have been a passing phase in human history.  We were lucky enough to enjoy it, but it’s running out now.”  Moore also predicts that Australians will continue to become fonder of a warmer climate, which will see a population boom in Queensland and Western Australia: “If this is true, you’d be pretty dumb buying land for houses in Tasmania and Victoria today.”

alfredsandorYoung Doctors take the cake
It was a multiple birthday celebration when TCN9, Sydney, threw a party for the cast of The Young Doctors to celebrate its third birthday last month.  The party, a four-hour cruise of Sydney Harbour, also coincided with cast member Alfred Sandor’s birthday, with a cake and a kiss for the birthday boy from colleagues Rebecca Gilling and Karen Pini.


Actor Gary Gray and his new wife Honor Walters were in the money when the horse they co-own, Miss Pere, won the first race at Sandown recently.

Country music star and host of Country Homestead, Reg Lindsay is finally noticing, after ten years of regular visits to the United States, that he is starting to be recognised.  “They know me in Nashville.  They say ‘Why, that’s the Australian fellow’.  I’ve had half a dozen singles released in the US and the album I made in Nashville will be released later this year.  We’re still thinking of a title.”

Mike Dorsey, starring in the new series Arcade, has had to grow a beard to try and distance himself from his former on-screen persona of Reg ‘Daddy’ McDonald in Number 96.  Despite appearing in The Young Doctors since Number 96 ended two years ago, he is still recognised as the former character.

Viewpoint: Letters to the Editor:
”Complaints to TEN10, Sydney, for not televising the 1979 Custom Credit Indoor Championships at a respectable time.  We were very disappointed at not being able to view their outstanding matches, along with their respective interviews, and feel other viewers share our opinion that 10.30pm to 1.30am is not a suitable timeslot for people who work and have to rise early.”  K. Kand, NSW.

“When the commercial channels screen a film in the 7.30pm timeslot, why do they almost double the viewing time by screening innumerable commercials?  People who view at this time usually like, or need, to go to bed early, and if you are enjoying the film, it is annoying to have to switch off halfway through.” M. Walker, NSW.

“Why do we have to put up with Diana Fisher and her silly remarks on The Inventors? Vic Nicolson and Professor Stephenson both know what they’re talking about, but what does Diana Fisher know?  Her remarks about colours etc must nearly drive most people mad.” B. Heald, NSW.

What’s On (December 8-14):
Weekend sport includes the World Series Cricket, live from Melbourne, on GTV9, and tennis with the NSW Women’s Classic, from White City, Sydney, on HSV7.

HSV7’s movie host Ivan Hutchinson presents a 90-minute special previewing all the big-screen movies to be released over the Christmas break – titles including The Muppet Movie, Star Trek, Apocalypse Now, Rocky 2, Meteor, 10 and More American Graffiti.

robertmoore Former Monday Conference host Robert Moore (pictured) presents the first in a seven-part series, Faces Of The Eighties, interviewing Sir Roderick Carnegie, chairman and managing director of Australia’s second largest company and largest mining company, CRA.

GTV9 has some long-gone Australian series in its late-night summer line-up – Luke’s Kingdom, King’s Men and the comedy Last Of The Australians.

In Skyways (HSV7, Monday and Thursday), Simon (Ken James) and Kelly (Joanne Samuel) set a date for their wedding.  Meanwhile, in Cop Shop (HSV7, Monday), the marriage of Senior Sergeant Eric O’Reilly (Terry Norris) and Lorna Close (Moya O’Sullivan).

Sunday night movies: A Howling In The Woods (HSV7), Night Flight From Moscow (GTV9), The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter (ATV0).

Source: TV Times (Melbourne edition), 8 December 1979.  ABC/ACP