Saturday, 27 February 2010

GTV9 sells off Hollywood-on-the-Yarra

gtv9_22bendigostreet The address of 22 Bendigo Street, Richmond, has been one of Australian TV’s most famous and iconic addresses. 

The century-old building has for more than 50 years been home to GTV9 – a channel that began test broadcasts, covering the Melbourne Olympic Games, in 1956 before launching proper operation early in 1957.

The building was initially a piano factory when it was built in 1908 and was later converted to a Heinz factory in the 1930s before it became home to one of Melbourne’s first two commercial TV stations.

gtv9_sirdallasbrookes Governor Sir Dallas Brookes (pictured) was chauffeur-driven into the studios, live-to-air, before officially opening GTV9 on 19 January 1957.  Less than four months later the channel launched its new nightly variety show, In Melbourne Tonight, featuring a young radio announcer, Graham Kennedy.  Two years later Kennedy would be joined by a former HSV7 rival, Bert Newton, and the pair became an unbeatable double act.

grahambertWith daytime productions, including quiz shows and children’s programs, and IMT’s nightly cavalcade of singers, dancers and performers, the building that was known as Television City became Melbourne’s own “Hollywood on the Yarra”.  In 1964 the channel expanded the premises to include a new state-of-the-art studio, Studio 9, specifically for IMT.  The new studio opened up the possibilities of large-scale variety performances and productions – hopefully to fend off competition from newcomer ATV0 which had launched from modern studios in suburban Nunawading in the same year.

Kennedy resigned from IMT at the end of 1969, but the legacy of IMT saw decades of variety and tonight shows from the same studio – including The Ernie Sigley Show, The Graham Kennedy Show, The Don Lane Show, New Faces, Tonight With Bert Newton, Hey Hey It’s Saturday, The Footy Show and, to bring the list to full circle, a ‘90s revival of In Melbourne Tonight

Radio DJ Mike Walsh hosted a 1960s version of the breakfast program, Today, while Eric Pearce read the evening Television City News from GTV9 before handing over to Brian Naylor at the end of 1978, who in turn handed over to Peter Hitchener twenty years later.

saleofthecentury Game show Family Feud moved its production from TVW7 Perth to GTV9 in the late-‘70s.  Host Tony Barber then moved on to Sale Of The Century (pictured, with hostess Victoria Nicolls) from the same studios in 1980, continuing for over 20 years and more recently revived as TemptationDaryl Somers hosted a revival of Blankety Blanks in 1985, and, a decade later, Tim Ferguson hosted Don’t Forget Your Toothbrush.  Other game shows from the studios included Supermarket Sweep, Crossfire and two versions of The Price Is RightEddie McGuire hosted Who Wants To Be A Millionaire and it’s current spin-off, Hot Seat.  In 2006, twenty years after he was suddenly axed from Nine, Bert Newton was back at Studio 9 hosting a game show, Bert’s Family Feud. 

Also to come out of 22 Bendigo Street were dramas including Emergency (one of the first TV dramas ever made in Melbourne), Hunter, Division 4, The Sullivans, Starting Out, The Flying Doctors, All The Way and Chances.

A young comedian called Rove McManus came to GTV9 to present a late-night comedy show for ten weeks in 1999.  Former D Generation cast member Mick Molloy also had a stab at a weekly show in the same year.  Neither show would see in the new millennium, though McManus took his act across to rival Network Ten.

Not content with just being “Television City”, 22 Bendigo Street was also home to radio station 3AK for nearly 30 years – after GTV9 bought the station in the early ‘60s – with its ‘Good Guys’ and ‘No Wrinklys’ pop music line-ups in the 1960s and the more relaxed ‘Beautiful Music’ in the ‘70s and early ‘80s.

Two years ago the building was expected to be sold for $10 million but the sale was aborted amidst the global financial crisis.  This week it was announced that the three-hectare site occupied by GTV9 has been bought by developers Lend Lease, with plans to redevelop the site into residential complex expected to be worth $400 million.

9_logo_2009_2 GTV9 is expected to move over the next 12 months to smaller, high-tech premises in the inner-city Docklands precinct, mirroring similar moves by rival HSV7, to the Docklands, almost a decade ago, and ATV10, to inner suburban South Yarra in the early ‘90s .  Larger studio productions are expected to be outsourced to the nearby Central City Studios.

Source: SMH, The Age, Lend Lease, City of Yarra, Australian TV Archive

Saturday, 20 February 2010

1990: February 10-16

tvweek_100290 ‘I’m anchored to the chair!’
Despite her recent working trip to Czechoslovakia, A Current Affair host Jana Wendt (pictured) says it’s likely to be a long time before she goes anywhere else for an extended break.  “I am anchored to this chair,” she told TV Week.  “I wish I had a chain to prove it to you.”  But combining the job of current affairs host and mother to two-year-old Daniel she says is never easy, and, if she ever does move on from ACA in the distant future, considers doing something a bit more laid back in television.  “Peter Ross is on a lovely wicket at the ABC doing nice things where you can sit back and relax and enjoy it… Something where you can take a deep breath, be a bit more reflective and work consistently for a while without having to keep up with this kind of momentum.”  TV Week also reveals one of TV’s best kept secrets – the day that the Nine Network almost lost Wendt to Network Ten.  While it was widely reported that Wendt was headed to the American Fox network, at the invitation of former boss Gerald Stone, in reality she was involved in negotiations for an even bigger deal with Ten.  Wendt said she only consider moving to Ten if most of her A Current Affair team could come over as well – so Ten managed to verbally tie up most of the ACA crew.  Then news of the deal leaked out, and Nine chief Sam Chisholm reacted quickly and signed up Wendt and her team with generous contracts – leaving Wendt with a contract worth $2 million over three years.

Dannii’s set to quit Summer Bay
Home And Away star Dannii Minogue is set to leave the series when her contract expires in June.  “(The producers) want me to stay, but I’ve got other commitments,” she told TV Week.  Her first single, Love And Kisses, will be released later this month and she plans to finish recording her debut album while on a two-week break from Home And Away in March.  Minogue plans to promote the new album’s release in London after she finishes up on Home And Away.  “I may go back to Home And Away but it’s too hard to do that and promote the record too.”

carolwillesee Family first for Carol
The recent premiere of Nine’s Family And Friends also marked another long-awaited TV debut – the TV acting debut of Carol Willesee (pictured), former wife of current affairs host Mike Willesee.  The mother of three made headlines in 1987 when she walked off the set of new series Home And Away after only two days of production, citing fears that the role of Pippa Fletcher would take too much time away from her family.  But producers of Family And Friends are happy with Willesee’s performance in her guest role and have already indicated that an ongoing role is ready for her, but appreciate that her family commitments are still a priority.  “That’s quite understandable,” says producer John Holmes.  “It’s up to Carol.”

markmitchellkimgyngell Briefly…
Former The Comedy Company stars Mark Mitchell and Kim Gyngell make their debut in their own new shows on Network Ten this week.  Mitchell stars in a sketch comedy series, Larger Than Life, and Gyngell reprises his popular character Col’n Carpenter in a new half-hour sitcom also starring Vicki Blanche, Monica Maughan and Stig Wemyss.

60 Minutes reporter Jeff McMullen spent four weeks of his Christmas break in blizzard conditions in Antarctica, filming a story for the current affairs show.  “People are outraged that I was allowed to take this risk… but I was the one who wanted to do it,” he told TV Week.  The 6400 kilometre trek, reported to be the longest polar journey ever made,  was led by six scientists and three dozen huskies.

US actor Telly Savalas, best known for his role as New York cop Kojak, is in Melbourne for a major role in the Seven Network mini-series Rose Against The Odds, based on the life of boxer Lionel Rose.  Savalas plays boxing promoter George Parnassus, who promoted many of Rose’s professional fights in Los Angeles in the 1960s and ‘70s.

johnlaws John Laws says…
”Little did I know when I heartily praised ABC’s Inside Running drama series that it had already fallen victim to the axe.  Inside Running was a compelling and wonderfully scripted and acted series about barristers in Melbourne.  I regard it as one of the best drama productions made in Australia.”

Program Highlights (February 10-16):
Saturday:  HSV7
crosses to Port Douglas, Queensland, for the Super Skins Golf, then in the evening covers the Fosters Cup, Essendon versus West Coast Eagles, live from VFL Park, Melbourne.  GTV9 crosses to the Gabba, Brisbane, for the Benson and Hedges World Series: Pakistan versus Sri Lanka.
Sunday:  The 1990 ratings season kicks off in earnest.  GTV9’s Sunday morning news programs Business Sunday and Sunday are back for another year.  Super Skins Golf (HSV7) and World Series Cricket (GTV9) dominate the afternoon, and the evening is highlighted by ATV10’s new comedy double, Larger Than Life and Col’n CarpenterGTV9’s Our World presents Part 1 of G’day Comrade, featuring George Negus on location in Russia, followed by the return of 60 Minutes.  Sunday night movies are Three Men And A Baby (HSV7), The Last Emperor (GTV9) and The Golden Child (ATV10).
Monday:  Midday With Ray Martin (GTV9) returns for another year, and ABC’s The Afternoon Show and Countdown Revolution return in the late afternoon and early evening.  Four Corners and Media Watch both return to ABC in the mid-evening.
Tuesday:  Returning shows for 1990 include The Investigators (ABC) and Candid Camera In Australia (ATV10).  Kerry O’Brien presents the debut of a new late night current affairs program, Lateline, on ABC.
Thursday:  HSV7 crosses to Huntingdale Golf Course, Melbourne, for the annual Australian Masters.
Friday:  ABC’s rural affairs program Countrywide returns for a new year, as does Burke’s Backyard (GTV9).

Source: TV Week (Victoria edition), incorporating TV Times and TV Guide. 10 February 1990. Southdown Press. 

Monday, 15 February 2010

1990: February 3-9

tvweek_030290 Justine’s back… but is Alex set to take off?
Justine Clarke
and Alex Papps, former Home And Away couple Roo Stewart and Frank Morgan, are now both on the Nine Network.  But while Papps is settled in at The Flying Doctors, Clarke has moved into TV’s newest suburb, Kingsmead, in the new series Family And Friends.  Clarke admits that she had second thoughts about signing up with another series.  “I did um and ah for a while.  But I knew I was working with the same team who developed Home And Away, so I was confident and it was easier for me to make the decision,” she told TV Week.  But the future of her former colleague is unknown as production has finished filming the sixth series of The Flying Doctors, but there is no word as to whether there will be a seventh.  Nine has asked to reduce the show’s budget, but Crawford Productions don’t want to lower the standard of the show.  “I don’t know what’s going to happen,” Papps told TV Week.  “Ratings-wise it’s doing well.  It’s just the cost.  If it goes into series seven, I’ll definitely be there.”

anniejonesbrettclimo Annie lands in Cooper’s Crossing
Now sporting a short-cropped haircut, former Neighbours star Annie Jones is forging ahead with her career.  The TV Week Logie Award-winning actress has just completed work on the Crawford Productions’ mini-series Jackaroo and is now embarking on a new role as an opal miner’s daughter in The Flying Doctors.  Her character’s arrival in the outback drama leads to a romance with Dr David Radcliffe (Brett Climo).  For the former Neighbours star, Ramsay Street feels a million miles away:  “It was such an intense time and all of a sudden it was gone.  I was lucky I had something else (Jackaroo) to go to.”

familyandfriends Well, what a start!
The Nine Network’s new drama Family And Friends kicks off with a cliffhanger when two of the main characters are stuck in a well.  Young lovers Jennifer Chandler (Roxane Wilson) and Robert Rossi (Renato Bartolomei) are caught in a Romeo And Juliet-style romance as it brings together two families with long-standing feuds.  After a fight between the two lovers’ fathers, the pair are told to leave and not come back.  In their bid to secretly elope, they meet at an old well which is covered but as they walk across it, the cover breaks.  The new series also stars Sean Myers, Robert Forza, Simon Westaway, Anna-Maria Monticelli, Diane Craig, Anne Phelan and Dinah Shearing.

’s long-running quiz show Sale Of The Century returns for its 10th year, starting the year with a masters’ challenge featuring world champions from the past three years over a two-week battle.  Previous Sale contests, such as “the Ashes” and “the Commonwealth Games”, have been a hit with viewers and it is hoped this latest contest will be a new year ratings hit.

A cast shake-up in Network Ten’s E Street will see no less than five characters written out of the series.  Lawyer Jennifer St James (Virginia Hey) will upset the pending nuptials between Daniel Windsor (Chris Orchard) and Dr Elly Fielding (Penny Cook), and will result in Jennifer departing with Daniel to Switzerland, taking three of his four children.  His eldest daughter, Toni (Toni Pearen), will remain in Westside.

Actor Paul Keane was ready to resign from his long-running role as Des Clarke in Neighbours, but has instead opted to take a four-month break and is expected to return in April.  Keane’s break from the show comes as cast morale is at an all-time low following the departure of several key cast members, but producers are confident that Des will return with some good storylines.

On The Grapevine…
The Vine was really knocked out by the astrologer who “predicted” that former Perfect Match hostess Kerrie Friend would be doing some travelling overseas this year.  This amazing prediction hit the streets after Friend, who’d announced her intentions well in advance, had left Australia for Los Angeles.

johnlaws John Laws says…
”There’s some good news in the comedy area with confirmation of a new 13-episode series of Acropolis Now on Seven.  Making its debut last year, it provided one of the ‘sleeper’ hits, pulling in ratings in the low 20s in the major cities.”

Program Highlights (Melbourne):
Saturday:  GTV9
presents the last day of competition and the Closing Ceremony from the Commonwealth Games, live from Auckland. 
Sunday:  ATV10 crosses to Manly, Sydney, for the Ironman Super Series.  Competitors include Grant Kenny, Guy Leach and Trevor Hendy.  HSV7 presents live coverage of the Davis Cup tennis, from Royal Kings Park, Perth, and GTV9 crosses to the SCG for Australia versus Pakistan in the Cricket Third Test.  Sunday night movies are At Close Range (HSV7), Smokey And The Bandit (GTV9) and the first instalment of the re-run of mini-series Vietnam (ATV10), starring Nicholas Eadie, Barry Otto and Nicole Kidman.
Monday:  GTV9’s morning chat show, In Melbourne Today, returns for a new year with hosts Ernie Sigley and Denise Drysdale.
Wednesday:  The debut of GTV9’s new drama Family And Friends is up against E Street (ATV10).  HSV7 presents the AFL pre-season competiton, the Fosters Cup, featuring Footscray versus Richmond.
Thursday:  The second episode of Family And Friends is followed by The Flying Doctors’ return with a new series.

Source: TV Week (Victoria edition), incorporating TV Times and TV Guide. 3 February 1990. Southdown Press. 

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Sun now rises on Saturday

sunrise The battle between breakfast rivals Sunrise and Today steps up another notch this week, the first week of the official ratings for 2010, with the announcement that Sunrise is now extending to Saturdays.

The move now sees the two perennial rivals competing seven days a week.  Today has, for a while, had a seven day presence, while Sunrise initially expanded only to a Sunday edition, Weekend Sunrise, leaving the Saturday early morning timeslot to long-running children’s program, Saturday Disney.  It is not known at this stage what will become of Saturday Disney, a show which has been on-air for 20 years now, in the wake of Weekend Sunrise extending to Saturday mornings.

sunrise_2 The battle between the two shows also intensified last month with Sunrise re-launching, with a new-look studio, refreshed on-air presentation, the return of former weather presenter Grant Denyer and a move towards a more serious news focus – although the show’s recent “election”, over the issue of whether or not male presenters on the show should wear a tie, does blur this focus somewhat, but there has to be a balance between serious and flippant.

And while Sunrise and Today are fighting it out – and summer ratings data indicates that this year’s ratings battle will turn out to be the tightest yet between the two, particularly in Sydney and Melbourne – national broadcaster ABC continues its very serious ABC News Breakfast on ABC2 and gears up for the launch of its new 24-hour news channel.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

John McCallum

johnmccallum Actor and producer John McCallum, co-creator of the iconic TV series Skippy The Bush Kangaroo, has died in a Sydney nursing home at age 91.

Born in Brisbane in 1918, McCallum was trained at London’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Art before a career that included stage, film and television in both the United Kingdom and Australia.  In the mid-1940s, McCallum met actress Googie Withers and the pair were later married and would work together on numerous occasions during their married life.

In 1958, after a decade in the UK, McCallum returned to Australia to run theatre company JC Williamsons.

By the mid-1960s, McCallum had produced the popular Australian film, They’re A Weird Mob, based on the book about an Italian immigrant settling into life in Australia. 

The success of the film led to McCallum and producer Lee Robinson to devise an Australian-based TV series that would have wide international appeal.  Their co-creation would become Australia’s first global television hit, Skippy The Bush Kangaroo.  (Although McCallum later credited Robinson for being the brains behind the concept, devising the show’s premise around a boy and his pet kangaroo and for naming the pet Skippy)  The children’s series put an Australian twist on a well-travelled genre of overseas shows to feature multi-talented animal characters, such as Flipper, Lassie and The Littlest Hobo, and was sold to over 120 countries including syndication throughout the United States.

Forty years after production on Skippy ended, the series is still shown on a semi-regular, late-night basis on the Nine Network.

Apart from Skippy, McCallum also produced TV series Barrier Reef, Boney, Shannon’s Mob and Bailey’s Bird.

John McCallum is survived by wife Googie and children Joanna, Nicholas and Amanda.

Source:, TV Eye, Talking Heads, ABC News, IMDB

Monday, 1 February 2010

Who you can’t vote for in the Logies…

logie_2010 It is that time of year when TV Week asks its readers, and the wider TV viewing population, to vote for their favourite personalities and programs for the annual TV Week Logie Awards.

This year’s presentation, to be held on 2 May, marks the 52nd annual presentation of the awards first named by Graham Kennedy, who decided that the middle name of TV pioneer John Logie Baird sounded like a good name for an award and, in naming the award after him, it would forever be a tribute to his achievement.  (It was remarked in later years that had Kennedy known just what an impact the Logies would have had on Australian TV culture, he would named them after his own middle name – Cyril)

These days, viewers can vote for the awards without having to buy a copy of TV Week.  In the past, votes could only be made via coupons printed in the magazine or by using a unique PIN printed inside the magazine when voting online.

However, despite the voting being conducted online for a few years now, the online interface used to collect the votes is essentially just a basic web poll.  None of the glamour or excitement of TV’s night of nights here.  No colour.  No pictures, or even video clips of the people we are being asked to nominate (and this can be handy when trying to identify some of today’s TV starlets who aren’t easily recognised by name alone). In fact, voting for your favourite TV stars and programs now looks to be as clinical and enjoyable as filling in your average tax return, especially now as the stars and shows are reduced to mere numbers or tick boxes. 

Also curious are the omissions from TV Week’s list of voting ‘suggestions’ (although they are our only options, there is no “other” allowed here).  Just a few that this author noticed missing from the categories:

Most Popular Actor: Tom Oliver (Neighbours), Alan Fletcher (Neighbours), Andrew Supanz (All Saints), Kip Gamblin (All Saints), John Waters (All Saints)

Most Popular Actress: Janet Andrewartha (Neighbours)

logieaward_silverMost Popular Presenter: Larry Emdur (The Morning Show), Kylie Gillies (The Morning Show), David Reyne (9AM With David And Kim), Kim Watkins (9AM With David And Kim), Sandra Sully (Ten News), Dave Hughes (The 7PM Project), Peter Everett (Ready Steady Cook), Sam Pang (ADbc), Grant Bowler (Border Security), Ed Kavalee (TV Burp), Daryl Somers (Hey Hey It’s Saturday – The Reunion), Jonathon Holmes (Media Watch), Magda Szubanski (The Spearman Experiment).

There also seems to be some inconsistency in what qualifies as “presenter” – Masterchef’s three judges are listed as potential nominations for the category, but the show’s (then) host, Sarah Wilson, is not.  The Biggest Loser’s fitness coaches, Shannan Ponton and Michelle Bridges, are listed in the “presenter” category, but the show’s (former) host, Ajay Rochester, is not.  The Seven Network’s talent quest, Australia’s Got Talent, gets a guernsey, with host Grant Denyer and judge Dannii Minogue qualified for a mention, but no mention of Minogue’s colleagues, Red Symons and Tom Burlinson.  For rival show Australian Idol, Andrew G├╝nsberg is listed as host, but no mention of any of the show’s three judges, Ian ‘Dicko’ Dickson, Marcia Hines, Jay Dee Springbett and ousted judge Kyle Sandilands (who did appear in the preliminary stages of the show in 2009).  SBS newsreader Anton Enus qualifies for a vote, but his weekend counterpart, Lee Lin Chin, does not.

Australia’s Got Talent qualifies in the category of “most popular light entertainment program”, but a rival show of essentially a similar format, Australian Idol, is categorised under “reality”.

Most Popular Light Entertainment Program: TV Burp, Hungry Beast, Double Take, Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader?, Hot Seat, The Einstein Factor and The New Inventors are all missing from the nominations list.  The one-off special Rove Presents Hamish And Andy’s American Caravan Of Courage is allowed to be voted, but another one-off special from the same network, Shaun Micallef’s New Year Rave, is not.

Logiehand These are just the omissions noticed by this one author.  There may be plenty more that TV Week and the networks have failed to acknowledge as being worthy of a vote – and yet the Logie Awards are intended to be the ‘people’s choice’ awards covering all the various genres of television and allowing all on-air talent – with the only eligibility being that they appeared in a credited role during the 2009 television year – an equal opportunity of being voted for.

It is surprising that, after 52 years, TV Week and the publicity agents from all the networks can not get together and muster up a complete list of eligible personalities and programs and be consistent in what, or who, qualifies for a particular category.  The gaps in these voting categories only serve to add ammunition to growing public sentiment that the Logie Awards are no longer a credible recognition of the achievements of our television industry.

TV Week’s Logie Awards site (with the link to vote online) is at