Jul 15 2017

Classic TV Guides: ABC’s Murder Story

In the early days of Australian television, locally-made drama was largely limited to one-off plays — mostly by ABC.

One such production was Murder Story, a Sydney-based production that was an adaptation of an English story, based on a real-life murder case.

Murder Story starred John Ewart as Jim Tanner, a 19-year-old intellectually-disabled man who is sentenced to death for the murder of a police officer. His parents are played by Douglas Kelly and Neva Carr Glyn.

The production also starred Richard Meikle as Tanner’s accomplice, John Alden as the prison chaplain, and Don Crosby and Deryck Barnes (pictured above with Ewart) as prison officers.

Murder Story was broadcast live to air on ABN2, Sydney, in May 1958. It was “kinescoped” for broadcast in Melbourne — on ABV2 on Tuesday 15 July 1958.

Murder Story is among the latest additions to Classic TV Guides:



Permanent link to this article: http://televisionau.com/2017/07/classic-tv-guides-abcs-murder-story.html

Jul 13 2017

The short saga of Hotel Story

YouTube: Conniptions886

By the end of 1976, the 0-10 Network‘s former flagship dramas Number 96 and The Box were coming to the end of their reign.

Number 96 producer Bill Harmon hoped to fill the inevitable gap that was to come with a string of spin-off projects featuring key members of the Number 96 cast.

None of the proposed concepts would come to fruition despite “pilot” episodes being incorporated among existing Number 96 storylines.

Crawford Productions, makers of The Box, had just launched The Sullivans for the Nine Network and sought to replace The Box for 0-10 with Hotel Story.

Billed as a sort of adults-only sex-and-sin, “Love Boat“-style drama, Hotel Story promised a regular cast of characters and a passing parade of guest roles checking in and out of the luxury inner-city hotel and providing their own self-contained dramas.

The series had scored some significant talent. Former Division 4 stars Terence Donovan and Frank Taylor were signed up, as was former Number 96 star Carmen Duncan, American actor Richard Lawson and former The Box star Patricia Stephenson.

Also among the cast were Christine Broadway (The Box and ATV0 weather girl), Rod McLennan, George Spartels, Elli Maclure, Max Meldrum, Claire Balmford, Claire Binney and Camilla Rountree.

June Salter, Carla Hoogeveen, Serge Lazareff  and Patsy King were also signed on for guest roles.

Production of the show’s pilot was completed towards the end of 1976, with interior scenes filmed at the studios of Melbourne’s ATV0 and the hotel exterior based around the then Old Melbourne Inn in North Melbourne.

Drama struck on the eve of production in May 1977, when a change to the show’s structure was made at the last minute. The emphasis on sex was out, and a more conservative approach to stories was in. The series was now being commissioned to run as two episodes a week for thirteen weeks, at a reported cost of $1 million to the 0-10 network.

The sudden change in approach left a number of actors that had been lined up for guest roles left out of a job. There had also been troubles with Actors Equity, largely based around the fee being paid to Lawson in comparison to the show’s Australian actors.

But more controversy was to come. Just weeks after Hotel Story was in regular production, the network axed the show — before a single episode had gone to air and with only seven of the planned 26 completed.

TV Times reported that while the actors had been working away in one studio, network executives were viewing the completed first episodes in a nearby boardroom — and did not like what they saw.

Even after the network pulled the pin it was 72 hours before the actors learned of the show’s fate. “We were the last to be told and so far can only go on what has been written in the press,” Terence Donovan told TV Times.

The network denied press reports that Graham Kennedy, the host of the top-rating game show Blankety Blanks who had been doubly hired as a programming consultant for the network, personally engineered the axe to be made to Hotel Story plus other network shows hosted by Ernie Sigley and Vi Greenhalf.

“Graham is on contract to us as a consultant and we value his opinion, but we don’t have him sitting around previewing our programs and deciding whether they will go on or not,” a spokesperson for ATV0 told TV Times.

Kennedy was, however, believed to have been in the boardroom with the executives viewing the preview episode of Hotel Story. His was not the casting vote but he was known to have offered feedback on the program.

Given the media attention around the show’s production woes, ATV0 saw an opportunity to cash in on the controversial axing of the project. It hurriedly rushed the first episode to air — assisted by newspaper advertisements featuring a collage of some of the press headlines regarding the show and the punchline, “You be the judge”. Some of the further completed episodes aired over the following weeks.

Although Crawfords had produced some successful titles for the 0-10 network in previous years such as Showcase, Matlock Police and The Box, it now wasn’t a good time for relations between the two parties. While Crawfords was checking its contracts for any financial compensation for 0-10 withdrawing its support for the series — and ATV0 even denying that a contract existed — the company had been proposing another drama series for the network.

A historical series titled The Wool Kings had been agreed in principle by TEN10 in Sydney and ATV0, although timing of the production was not agreed on between the two network partners.

Set in the 1880s, The Wool Kings was said to be centred around a grazier who moves into politics. However The Wool Kings was never to be.

If any upside was to be found from Hotel Story, it’s that guest star June Salter was to win a Sammy Award for Best Actress In A Single TV Performance later in the year.

The 0-10 Network did recover from Hotel Story with a new soapie, The Restless Years, that debuted in December 1977 and was produced by the Reg Grundy Organisation (makers of The Young Doctors).

At the risk of history repeating itself, Crawfords and 0-10’s successor the Ten Network actually dared to revisit the basic concept of Hotel Story years later but adapted to a tropical island setting — Holiday Island.

Holiday Island, similar to Hotel Story, featured regular cast storylines interspersed with the dramas of the tropical island resort’s visiting guests. The series, produced in 1981, was to be a TV disaster of another kind. Even though the show’s opening titles were filmed in tropical Queensland, the biggest blunder was filming a series set in the tropics in the cold of Melbourne during winter.

Viewers were also not convinced by some unusual casting plus attempts to make Melbourne’s gloomy winter landscape resemble a palm tree-laden tropical paradise.

Some dodgy green-screen effects, actors having to suck on ice blocks to stop their breath being visible in the cold air, and a fake tropical cyclone for dramatic effect didn’t help, either.

Holiday Island lasted around six months.

Source: TV Times, 4 June 1977, 25 June 1977, 9 July 1977. 16 July 1977. The Age, 5 July 1977.


Permanent link to this article: http://televisionau.com/2017/07/the-short-saga-of-hotel-story.html

Jul 05 2017

Hunter: Australian TV’s James Bond

YouTube: Conniptions886

Fifty years ago saw the debut of the Nine Network‘s new spy drama, Hunter.

Produced by Crawford Productions, Hunter‘s first episode aired on GTV9, Melbourne, on 5 July 1967 — with sister station TCN9, Sydney, following suit the next night. However, given the vagarities of Australian network programming at that time, the series actually made its debut in Adelaide, on NWS9 on 4 July.

The title role of COSMIC (Commonwealth Office of Security and Military Intelligence Co-ordination) secret agent John Hunter was played by Tony Ward, an actor who had also been working as a current affairs reporter. He had joined the Melbourne-based Hunter after working on Sydney current affairs shows Seven Days and Telescope.

Hunter also made a star of acting newcomer Gerard Kennedy, who played Kragg, a chief agent working for the fictitious Council for the Unification of the Communist World (CUCW). Kennedy went on to win a TV Week Logie Award for Best New Talent for his performance in Hunter.

Hunter‘s regular cast also included Nigel Lovell, Fernande Glyn and Ronald Morse.

Unlike Crawfords’ other series Homicide, which was set in Melbourne, Hunter came with a more impressive budget and worked from a much wider landscape and which gave it more sophisticated look. Although the series was based in Melbourne, production went out on location to Sydney, Queensland, central Australia and even to Singapore.

The series ran for 65 episodes, with Nine and Crawfords opting to pursue a new Melbourne crime drama, Division 4. Gerard Kennedy went on to the new show’s lead role, winning two TV Week Gold Logies for his popularity.

Ward, who had left Hunter before the end of its run, having been somewhat upstaged in profile by Kennedy, went on to dramas The Long Arm, Delta and Dynasty and would go back to current affairs reporting, working for Nine’s A Current Affair.

Source: Classic Australian TV, IMDB. TV Times, 5 July 1967. Sydney Morning Herald, 6 July 1967. TV Week, 15 June 1968, 10 August 1968.




Permanent link to this article: http://televisionau.com/2017/07/hunter-australian-tvs-james-bond.html

Jul 01 2017

Scott and Charlene’s 30th wedding anniversary

Children of the 1980s can feel a little bit older knowing that today marks the 30th anniversary of the wedding of Neighbours teen sweethearts Scott Robinson and Charlene Ramsay (Jason Donovan and Kylie Minogue).

The wedding, broadcast on 1 July 1987, brought together the two neighbouring (and sometimes warring) families. It marked the culmination of a 12-month romance between the high school student Scott and apprentice motor mechanic Charlene. The wedding also came in a year that Donovan had won the TV Week Logie for Most Popular New Talent and Minogue for Most Popular Actress.

The wedding episode was ratings gold for the Ten Network and created a chart-topper for Angry Anderson, whose song Suddenly played as Scott and Charlene tied the knot.

Though no sooner had the honeymoon ended for the couple, the pair had been offered a house in Brisbane by Charlene’s grandfather Dan Ramsay (Syd Conabere). The storyline served as Minogue’s exit from the series, with Donovan following later.

The wedding of Scott and Charlene would also become pivotal in a much later storyline. Almost a decade after the wedding, the Ramsay and Robinson families had once again been feuding and to resolve the conflict Helen Daniels (Anne Haddy) brought out the tape of the wedding to show both families in happier times. The families resolved their feud, and a relieved Helen would drift off to sleep — and peacefully passed away — marking Haddy’s departure from the show after 14 years.

Though the famous couple have yet to be seen again in Ramsay Street the series has brought us two of their offspring in recent years — son Daniel (Tim Phillipps) and daughter Madison (Sarah Ellen).

Source: TV Week, 27 June 1987

Permanent link to this article: http://televisionau.com/2017/07/scott-and-charlenes-30th-wedding-anniversary.html

Jul 01 2017

Receivers called in to Network Ten

Receivers have been called in to Network Ten, two weeks after the company was placed in voluntary administration.

PPB Advisory has advised that Christopher Hill, Phil Carter and David McEvoy have been appointed as Receivers and Managers to Ten Network Holdings.

The company says that it will be business as usual at Ten while the process of selling the network continues.

ABC reports that a number of expressions of interest have been made to buy Ten, including a joint bid from Lachlan Murdoch and WIN Corporation owner Bruce Gordon.

Both Murdoch and Gordon had invested heavily in Ten in recent years, however current media laws prevent them taking a controlling stake in the network.

It is the second time that receivers have been called in to Ten. In 1990 the network went into receivership and embarked on a brutal cost cutting regime after a period of high spending and falling ratings following the stock market crash of 1987.

Source: ABC, Australian Financial Review


Permanent link to this article: http://televisionau.com/2017/07/receivers-called-in-to-network-ten.html

Jun 30 2017

You Can’t See Round Corners — and a star is born

YouTube: Classic Australian TV

This week marks 50 years since the debut of the Sydney-based drama series You Can’t See Round Corners.

The 26-part series was an adaptation of the novel written by Jon Cleary. Its leading actor was Ken Shorter playing the part of Frankie, a draft dodger who made his living as an SP bookie.

The show marked the TV acting debut for a young star from Brisbane, 19-year-old Rowena Wallace.

Wallace had previous appeared on local TV in Brisbane including featuring in the long-running variety show Theatre Royal.

Among You Can’t See Round Corners other stars were Carmen Duncan, Slim de Grey, Derani Scarr, Judith Fisher and Lyndall Barbour.

You Can’t See Round Corners debuted on Sydney’s ATN7 on Wednesday 28 June 1967 at 8.00pm, leading into the popular comedy series The Mavis Bramston Show. The show’s debut aided by a two-page newspaper advertisement in that day’s Sydney Morning Herald:

Melbourne’s HSV7 followed the next night, though gave the show a 9.00pm start.

The series created controversy and attracted the ire of the broadcasting authorities — in particular over one scene in the opening episode where a kissing scene between Frankie and Margie (Wallace) saw Shorter slip his hand up Wallace’s skirt. It was an unscripted move that caught Wallace by surprise, meaning that her shocked reaction was quite real.

The Broadcasting Control Board dictated that the offending portion of the scene be cut after its Sydney airing.

Not only was the scene cut, but it became a no-go topic in subsequent press interviews. “I’m sorry,” Wallace told TV Times. “But I’m not allowed to talk about that scene at all.”

Having made her first major break in TV, what ambitions did the young actress hold for her career? “I’d like to do another TV series. I’d love to make a film. Probably I’ll end up as a waitress in the Cross.”

Source: IMDB, Wikipedia. TV Times, 28 June 1967, 9 August 1967.





Permanent link to this article: http://televisionau.com/2017/06/you-cant-see-round-corners-and-a-star-is-born.html

Jun 26 2017

Remembering Listener In, TV Scene

It is 30 years ago this week that Melbourne’s TV Scene ceased publication after 62 years.

Listener In, August 1935

It began as a radio magazine, Listener In, in 1925. By 1937 it had converted to a newspaper format.

With television arriving in 1956, the Listener In showed it was adapting with the times… by adding “TV” to the title.  As part of the Herald and Weekly Times (HWT) group, Listener In-TV had a natural affinity to the company’s new television station, HSV7, but was not to ignore Melbourne’s other TV channels, though they may not have always been given the same prominence in coverage.

Listener In-TV would continue to breathlessly cover the local and national showbiz industry and all the celebrity news — with the headlines often dominated by Melbourne’s showbiz elite. People like Graham Kennedy, Bert and Patti Newton, Don Lane, Bill Collins, Mary Hardy, Denise Drysdale and Ernie Sigley were rarely far from the front page.

By 1976 the name had been changed to Scene and the cover pages were now in full colour, with limited colour on the inside pages.

Being a newspaper format Scene inevitably found the going tough up against the glossy, though more expensive, TV Week.  An attempt to revamp Scene as TV Scene, with a glossy cover but maintaining the newspaper format, in the mid-1980s failed to achieve any significant growth.

tvscene_0002While TV Week was hitting circulation highs of 800,000 nationally during the 1980s, TV Scene with its more conservative and ageing readership was declining — a situation not helped by the growing trend of newspapers publishing their own weekly TV listings.

By 1987, weekly sales of TV Scene had fallen to around 60,000.  The media takeover frenzy that engulfed various radio, television and print media assets at the time saw TV Scene move from HWT to the ownership of Southdown Press, publishers of TV Week.  Southdown had endeavoured to maintain TV Scene and made budget cuts where possible but found it was unsustainable.

The day after the edition dated 27 June 1987 hit the newsstands, Southdown Press made the decision to wind up the 62-year-old publication.  TV Scene’s remaining full-time staff were transferred to TV Week and the title was given a farewell with a two-page pictorial in the centre pages of The Sun newspaper at the end of the week.

Below are just a handful of the covers to have graced Listener In-TV and TV Scene over its long history:






TV Scene’s final edition, 27 June 1987

Permanent link to this article: http://televisionau.com/2017/06/remembering-listener-in-tv-scene.html

Jun 25 2017

Australia goes live to Our World

YouTube: watvhistory

Only weeks after Australia was seeing Expo 67 live from Canada, the nation was once again linked to the Northern Hemisphere for a satellite television event.

Our World was a two-hour real-time snapshot of a day in the life of 14 countries. Featuring live reports, beamed to the control centre at BBC in London before being broadcast across the world, with the help of four international satellites and various microwave and cable links, Our World was a television first.  It was estimated that 400 to 700 million viewers watched the program across 24 countries. (This number could have been as high as 30, except that the Soviet Union and a group of Eastern Bloc countries withdrew their participation in the program a week before going to air)

Australia was the only Southern Hemisphere nation to take part in the program, with three segments featured.

The first featured ABC reporter Brian King bringing the world the sight of a Melbourne tram departing from the depot to start its working day. It was just past 5.00am on a cold Monday morning — 26 June 1967 — but this seemingly pedestrian view of Australiana was selected by Our World‘s British producers as a stark reminder to viewers in the Northern Hemisphere that while they were watching TV in a warm summer’s Sunday afternoon or evening, it was a dark and cold Monday morning down under.

The segment was also to be of an education to American viewers that Australia is a migrants’ country, too, as the tram conductress featured was from Europe.

The other two segments from Australia highlighted the country’s scientific endeavours. ABC journalist Eric Hunter was in Canberra to report from the Canberra phytotron, a laboratory in which plants can be grown under a wide range of controlled climatic conditions; and it was then off to Parkes, to the giant radio telescope (pictured below) to track a deep space object.

Hosting the Australian broadcast of Our World was James Dibble from the ABC studios in Sydney, accompanied by commentators John West, David Hawkes and Margaret Throsby, who would provide English commentary for parts of the program being presented in foreign languages.

By the end of the program, as well as Australia, viewers had been taken to Japan, Mexico, Italy, Austria, Denmark, the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Spain, France, Sweden, Tunisia and West Germany. The two-hour event came to an end with a live cross to a recording studio in London, where The Beatles were recording their single All You Need Is Love.

Our World was produced in black-and-white although footage of the Beatles’ recording session was later colourised.

More than 200 people were involved in the Australian component of the program, representing ABC, Postmaster General, the Overseas Telecommunications Commission and NASA. It was estimated that globally as many as 10,000 were involved in the making of Our World.


Source: TV Week, 17 June 1967. TV Times, 21 June 1967.  The Age, 22 June 1967. Sydney Morning Herald, 27 June 1967. Wikipedia.



Permanent link to this article: http://televisionau.com/2017/06/australia-goes-live-to-our-world.html

Jun 18 2017

When Temptation came to Katamatite

YouTube: Australian Television Archive

tonybarberdotkilgourIt’s not often that the small Victorian town of Katamatite makes news, but in September 1973 it was the most famous town in Australia.

The reason for its sudden fame was a woman called Dot Kilgour, a mother of three who operated the town’s single-pump petrol station with her husband Harry.

Kilgour had been a champion on the Seven Network quiz show Great Temptation — winning a prize pool worth $25,000, including a $3000 diamond, furniture worth $2000, a car, a $2400 boat, a mink coat and $8000 cash — after answering correctly 65 out of 71 questions.

It was a big day for the town (population: 365 at the time) when Great Temptation host Tony Barber visited the Kilgours to deliver Dot’s prizes.

Barber, a TV Week Gold Logie winner earlier the year, was welcomed at the Kilgours’ with a home-cooked casserole before going out to meet the various townsfolk and to sign autographs.

He described Kilgour as a “pressure player” and “super cool”, though she remained modest. “I don’t think I’m a quiz champion, rather someone who has struck it lucky,” she told Listener In-TV. “I think I won because I’m a great reader. Everything from toilet tissues to the ads and encyclopedias. Harry wrote to Great Temptation last year saying I could answer all the questions and to give me a go. They did.”

And what about the show’s host? “Tony? He’s a bright, outgoing sort of fellow. I’ve been watching Tony for years — ducking backwards and forwards from the kitchen sink to see his show on the telly.”

So what did Dot plan to do with her winnings? “I don’t know what we’ll do with the money,” she said. “We have to paint our house. Some of the prizes I’ll have to sell. The mink coat, for example. I’m not a fur coat-minded person. So you can see we’re just normal country working class people.”

And Katamatite has probably never rated much of a mention anywhere ever since.


Source: Listener In-TV, 29 September 1973.



Permanent link to this article: http://televisionau.com/2017/06/when-temptation-came-to-katamatite.html

Jun 17 2017

Government confirms the axe to Community TV broadcasting

Community television is set to go off the air at the end of this month.

Melbourne’s C31 has issued a statement to say that the government, namely the Department of Communications and Communications Minister Senator Mitch Fifield, has denied the sector, which also includes channels in Adelaide and Perth, any extension beyond the current end of June deadline to go off air.

The sector was initially given a 12-month reprieve from switching off at the end of 2015, and then a further six-month extension at the end of 2016 — to allow the operators time to migrate to an online platform.

Already, Sydney’s TVS and Brisbane’s 31 Digital have exited the airwaves. The latter has since migrated to QLD Online.

The government has yet, still, to outline what actual plans it has for the precious one-channel of broadcast spectrum that the community operators occupied in each city — or indeed why it has felt the need to evict community television from the airwaves in what is still considered to be a brief time frame.

C31’s statement from General Manager Matthew Field follows:

Unfortunately after a three-year battle and two extensions of our transmitter licence we have today received a letter from Minister Fifield confirming his intention to switch off our free-to-air signal on June 30 this year.

As many of you know, we have fought long and hard to convince Minister Fifield and the Department of Communications that our access to spectrum should be aligned to our broadcast licence, awarded by the ACMA until June 2019, based on this organisation’s financial strength and demonstrable commitment to being open access and supporting media diversity. The reality is that the spectrum we currently occupy is valuable and there is no doubt that in the future demand for spectrum will be driven by the data and digital economy, but we have not been able to establish why there is such a rushed determination to kick us off air in the absence of any planned alternative use of our spectrum before 2019. In the context of the explosion of shopping and racing channels on free-to-air TV, the instability of Network Ten, and concerns around the lack of diverse Australian voices in mainstream media, it is particularly puzzling that Community TV should be so readily kicked off free-to-air.

Despite the frustration caused by the decision, C31 has been hard at work on the transition. We have been developing our digital platforms, and building our capacity to support diverse groups of content creators to produce content that is optimised for online distribution. We will maintain our linear stream channel beyond July 1. This channel is accessible on our suite of apps for web, mobile, tablets, Apple TVs and Android-enabled Smart TVs, and we are pleased to report that audiences are on the rise.

If you have not downloaded our apps, get around us! We encourage all producers to contact us to find out how we can support you to keep producing content, whether it is destined for the linear broadcast channel, for Video on Demand (VOD), or for social media platforms. Facebook Live video is now pulling in extraordinary audiences and C31 staff members are now YouTube Certified. We are excited by the potential to connect niche CTV content with global social media audiences.

In support of a sustainable business model, we have launched a production unit offering live webcasting and production services to cultural events and festivals, local sports organisations and councils. This unit is powered by our internship and volunteer programs; 30 young media hopefuls from diverse backgrounds have been offered paid employment on C31 productions in the past 12 months alone.

We are developing a social enterprise unit – Community Builder – that aims to support the NFP and NGO sector to create digital content that is optimised for online audiences. We have also developed a digital offering for our small business community that supports local business owners to capitalise on social media as a marketing platform.

Despite the challenges of the last few years, I’m confident that C31 is evolving into a digital media organisation that will retain the values of access, participation and diversity, and that we can continue to support the next generation of content creators for many years to come.

Stick with us.

C31 has been broadcasting since October 1994, initially under a temporary broadcasting licence. It was given a permanent licence in 2004 but this did not include access to digital spectrum.

It was not until 2009 that access to digital broadcast was permitted by the then Labor government, using spectrum reserved for datacasting that had not been utilised. Even then it was only on a temporary basis, which the current government has now ceased to extend further.



Permanent link to this article: http://televisionau.com/2017/06/government-confirms-the-axe-to-community-tv-broadcasting.html

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