Jan 19 2017

TV At 60: Viewing’s fine on GTV9

In his book Compulsive Viewing, Gerald Stone wrote that Australian television “started first in Sydney, but best in Melbourne.”

He was no doubt referring to GTV9, which actually considered itself the underdog when it was the third channel to launch in Melbourne. It would go on to become one of the biggest successes in Australian television, with a reputation described as “Hollywood on the Yarra”.

Although investors in GTV’s parent company, General Television Corporation Pty Ltd,  included a consortium of newspaper publishers, radio stations and theatre companies, the new channel was launching after rival HSV7, which had the resources of the mighty Herald and Weekly Times (HWT) media empire behind it, and ABV2, from Australia’s national broadcaster, ABC.

But GTV9, despite its modest estimation, went aggressively into the market — even before it had officially debuted. The owners spent big, while HWT ended up taking a more cautious approach to television and ran HSV like a corner store — only investing once it made a profit and paying its talent modestly. HWT also sought to protect its existing media — newspapers The Sun and The Herald and radio station 3DB. It was this contrast in approach between the two commercial channels that saw GTV take the lead and dominate for years to come.

GTV was the first station in Melbourne to conduct a trial program broadcast. On Thursday 27 September 1956, Royal Melbourne Show Day, 3DB radio announcer Geoff Corke became the first person to be seen on Melbourne television. He introduced a small array of short films from a temporary studio set up at GTV’s transmitter site on Mount Dandenong. The programs included a John Wayne film and a Terry Toon cartoon.

“The viewing’s fine on GTV Channel 9,” Corke announced.

Geoff Corke

The Melbourne Olympic Games were ready to begin in November, and while GTV9 was yet to be officially opened it had struck up a sponsorship deal with petrol company Ampol to present all-day broadcasts of Olympic Games events for the duration of competition.

Nine’s aggressive take on Olympics coverage was in contrast to ABC and Seven, which were juggling Games coverage around regular programming. The Ampol deal also saw TV sets installed at service stations across both Melbourne and Sydney to allow customers to view the Olympic Games coverage. (Sydney viewers, however, had to wait for film footage to be rushed up from Melbourne for delayed screening)

Nine also scored a coup with its coverage by signing up legendary American athlete Jesse Owens to its commentary team. Owens, visiting Australia as an official representative of President Eisenhower, joined what was already an impressive team that included sports commentators Eric Welch, Tony Charlton and Bert Bryant. Geoff Corke was also enlisted to join Nine’s commentary team.

After the Games, GTV continued to present transmissions of test patterns, music, films and some outside broadcasts in the lead up to its January launch. On Christmas Eve the channel presented a live telecast of Carols By Candlelight, an event that would become a Nine tradition more than 20 years later.

The building that housed GTV for over 50 years was a converted factory building. The property, purchased by GTV for £150,000, was originally a piano factory at the turn of the 20th century and was later a Heinz soup factory. GTV was also astute enough to purchase a property that had a scope for expansion — something that various overseas stations had not envisaged when starting up.

Keeping the original building facade, GTV constructed two large studios (including one that allowed for “cooking and homecraft demonstrations”) and kept the generously-sized cafeteria that Heinz had in place for its staff.

GTV’s conversion of the building saw the site dubbed “Television City” and would later also be home to radio station 3AK.

The original architectural impression of the GTV9 development

Nine’s official opening was to be a lavish and regal affair. On Saturday night, 19 January 1957, GTV9’s schedule started with a half-hour of celebrity interviews presented by John McMahon. The interviews were a prelude to the main event, a two-hour variety special that saw Victorian governor Sir Dallas Brooks enter Studio One by chauffeur-driven limousine before making his opening night speech in front of a packed studio audience of 400.

Radio broadcaster Terry Dear hosted the variety show which included performances by Toni Lamond and husband Frank Sheldon, ventriloquist Ron Blaskett, singer Ray Dickson with a children’s choir, indigenous performer Harold Blair, animals from Bullen’s Circus and Lou Toppano‘s 23-piece orchestra. Bob and Dolly Dyer, whose national Pick A Box show was a hit on radio and was to be adapted for TV, also made a special appearance.

One popular radio star that was also to make the transition to television was Clifford Nicholls Whitta. “Nicky”, as he was known to many, presented a daily program on 3UZ with a young sidekick, Graham Kennedy. After 30 years in radio, Nicky was destined for a career in television, being announced as a host of a planned children’s program for GTV9 early in September, 1956. Just days after the announcement, Nicky died suddenly at the age of 51 from a heart attack. Nicky’s successor at 3UZ, Happy Hammond, was to also take on the role of host of children’s show The Happy Show when it debuted during GTV’s first week of transmission.

And it was inevitable that Kennedy would also make his way to television. His appearance on an early GTV9 telethon in 1957 caught the attention of producer Norm Spencer, who was casting for his new nighttime variety show. Kennedy, then only 23 years old, was appointed host of In Melbourne Tonight.

In Melbourne Tonight

The show, which debuted on 6 May 1957 and screened five nights a week, became a hit with viewers and firmly established GTV as the leader in television variety with its mix of song and dance numbers, comedy skits and Kennedy’s ruthless mocking of the show’s sponsors. IMT also gave birth to one of TV’s greatest on-screen partnerships, when Bert Newton came across from HSV7 in 1959 and was paired up with Kennedy to present a commercial. From that time on they became longtime professional partners, not just on IMT but on later stints in both TV and radio, and friends in real life until Kennedy’s death in 2005.

IMT grew so big that it ended up having a studio made specifically for it. Studio 9 was built in 1964 as a multi-purpose studio capable of handling large scale productions. It housed IMT and hosted all sorts of major productions including New Faces, The Graham Kennedy Show, The Don Lane Show, The Ernie Sigley Show, Hey Hey It’s Saturday, The Paul Hogan Show, Family Feud, Sale Of The Century, The Daryl Somers Show, Tonight With Bert Newton, Blankety Blanks, All Together Now, The Price Is Right, The Footy Show, Burgo’s Catch Phrase, Don’t Forget Your Toothbrush, Starstuck, Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, Temptation, Bert’s Family Feud and Millionaire Hot Seat.

The building at 22 Bendigo Street, Richmond, the piano factory that became a soup factory and then a TV station, was sold off in 2010. GTV9’s official send-off from the building was the special Lights, Camera, Party! – Television City Celebrates, from the original Studio One that presented the official opening back in January 1957. The building facade remains but the site, including Studio 9, has been redeveloped into residential apartments, although there are links to the site’s rich TV heritage. One of the streets that runs through the estate now is called Kennedy Avenue.

Source: Broadcasting And Television, 27 January 1956, 7 September 1956, 5 October 1956, 30 November 1956. The Age, 10 September 1956, 27 September 1956, 22 November 1956, 21 January 1957. Compulsive Viewing: The Inside Story Of Packer’s Nine Network, 2000.




Permanent link to this article: http://televisionau.com/2017/01/tv-at-60-viewings-fine-on-gtv9.html

Jan 07 2017

Retro Month returns to Rage

The annual tradition that is Rage‘s Retro Month kicks off again this weekend.

As has happened every January for many years now, Retro Month delves into the ABC archive of music and pop culture.

The first Saturday night instalment, which actually kicks of 12.05am Sunday 8 January, features five episodes of Countdown:

COUNTDOWN February 24th, 1980 (228: Darryl Cotton)
COUNTDOWN May 1st, 1983 (368: Lene Lovich)
LENE LOVICH It’s You, Only You (Stiff Records)
COUNTDOWN November 8th, 1981 (309: Russell Hitchcock)

AIR SUPPLY The Power Of Love (Arista)

COUNTDOWN April 6th, 1986 (503: The Venetians)
COUNTDOWN April 5th, 1981 (279: James Freud)

JAMES FREUD One Fine Day (Mushroom)

This year is actually Rage‘s 30th year on air. The show began back in April 1987.

Rage Retro Month. Every Saturday night/Sunday morning during January, ABC.

Source: Rage




Permanent link to this article: http://televisionau.com/2017/01/retro-month-returns-to-rage.html

Jan 01 2017

New Year, New Classic TV Guides

TCN9, Australia’s first TV station, was launched on Sunday, 16 September 1956. The station’s first week of programs feature in the latest additions to Classic TV Guides.

TCN9’s first week of programming was a limited affair.

The period from the station’s opening night in September through to the end of October was seen largely as a test transmission phase as station technicians were still grappling with the new technology. Therefore programming hours were kept to a minimum until such time as the station made its official launch in late October and as TCN9’s sister station in Melbourne, HSV7, was to debut in November — enabling some of the big ticket overseas programs that both channels had purchased to debut at around the same time.




Permanent link to this article: http://televisionau.com/2017/01/new-year-new-classic-tv-guides.html

Dec 31 2016

2016: We remember…

Brian Johns

Lionel Williams

Lois Ramsey

Sonia Borg

Don Battye

Jon English

Bruce Mansfield

Reg Grundy

Oscar Whitbread

Paul Cox

Vivean Gray

Ian Hill

Ken Sparkes

Norman May

Max Walker

Rebecca Wilson

Ross Higgins

Bob Francis

Peter Sumner

Anne Deveson

Bob Horsfall




Permanent link to this article: http://televisionau.com/2016/12/2016-we-remember.html

Dec 31 2016

TV At 60: Where was the party?

This year marked the 60th anniversary of Australian television… although the three networks to reach the milestone — ABC, Seven and Nine — all failed to do anything significant to mark this diamond anniversary.

In the past the networks, particularly Seven and Nine, would have pulled all stops to promote the past achievements of themselves and the industry.

This year the respective milestones passed with some trivial acknowledgement — perhaps as a footnote at the end of a news bulletin or airing a couple of oft-repeated classic station IDs pulled from YouTube.

The on-screen celebration was largely left to morning TV shows Today, which presented a series of segments of the anniversary, and Studio 10, which to its credit devoted an entire three-and-a-half hour episode to pay tribute.

Other than that the commercial sector’s only considerable “celebration” of its birthday was to host a corporate do in Canberra to launch its campaign to lobby the government for more licence fee cuts.

And even then the event was held a month after the date regarded as the birthday of Australian television — 16 September.

ABC’s 60th anniversary was marked by a mere alteration to its on-screen watermark which saw the ABC logo accompanied by the caption “60 years of TV”. Even considering the era of diminished budgets it’s an extremely underwhelming acknowledgement for a broadcaster that has much to be proud of over 60 years.

Perhaps the industry is now reluctant to draw widespread attention to its increasing age in contrast to youngsters like Netflix. Maybe the industry feels that millennial viewers don’t need to be reminded that the networks they are watching now date back to when their grandparents were toddlers.

Maybe it’s because the industry no longer has high profile identities who have had a lifelong connection to TV’s heritage. Names like Packer, Gyngell, Grundy, Crawford, Kennedy and Newton who had such a long connection to the industry from its earliest days are now no longer with us or have moved on.

So there was no significant “celebration” for the viewers — the ones that have supported the industry and kept it in good health for six decades. The viewers that have paid the taxes and bought advertisers’ products that have kept these airwaves going. At a time when viewers are being told “Australia needs free TV” , the industry might have thought to demonstrate or better remind us exactly why this is and to better acknowledge those people, programs and events that have made it so.

Meanwhile, this website presented its list of the Top 60 shows from the past 60 years and a look back at the early days of those first TV stations launched in 1956 — TCN9, HSV7, ABN2, ABV2 and ATN7

This year also marked some other significant milestones — 50 years since the launch of SES8, Mount Gambier, and FNQ10, Cairns, and the 40th anniversary of what was originally RTS5A, Riverland.

Play School celebrated its 50th, and The Young Doctors and The Sullivans were both remembered for their 40th anniversaries.

As Waleed Aly (pictured) collected the Gold Logie, we looked back at the TV Week Logie Awards from 50, 25 and 10 years ago.

The year also marked some significant changes in the TV landscape — as WIN and Southern Cross swapped their affiliate partners after almost 30 years, while new channel 7flix launched, ABC3 changed to ABC Me, and SBS2 became SBS Viceland.

Happy New Year to you all and best wishes for the year ahead!




Permanent link to this article: http://televisionau.com/2016/12/tv-at-60-where-was-the-party.html

Dec 25 2016

Neighbours’ Christmas fairytale

Television.AU wishes everyone a very Merry Christmas!

This year’s Christmas flashback comes from 30 years ago — 1986.

Neighbours was at the end of its second series (and its first series at Network Ten) and instead of doing the usual soapie trick of going out with a string of cliffhangers, the show instead ended the year with a fairytale.

The episode, which happened to be the show’s 400th, went to air on 11 December. It marked the culmination of a brewing feud between Shane Ramsay (Peter O’Brien) and Mike Young (Guy Pearce) over the affections of Jane Harris (Annie Jones).

When Clive Gibbons (Geoff Paine) makes a light-hearted suggestion that the two fight each other in a boxing match, he didn’t quite expect them to take the offer so literally.

And so approaches the battle — and the whole street is divided in the lead up to the big bout — though did anyone think to ask poor Jane what she wanted?

Clive, in a bid to minimise the damage he inadvertently triggered, agrees to be referee for the clash. However, he ended up being the victim as he is knocked out by a stray fist in the battle.

So while Clive is unconscious on the floor he has a dream about the various residents of Ramsay Street in fairytale characters — including Jim (Alan Dale) as a wizard, Madge (Anne Charleston) as Little Bo Beep, Scott (Jason Donovan) as a tin soldier, Charlene (Kylie Minogue) as a doll, and Helen (Anne Haddy) is the fairy godmother.

Daphne and Des (Elaine Smith and Paul Keane), expecting their first baby, appear as a bride and groom, telling Santa (Paine) their wish for a healthy baby.

“The cast take on characters who are totally over the top,” Neighbours produced Phil East told TV Week at the time. “Because the show is basically light and fun we had the opportunity to do this fantasy and we talked about what we could do to round out the year. It will be a very gentle, happy ending of the year. It will still be quite a peak without having someone at death’s door.”

Following the fairytale 400th episode, with the series entering its third year on air a number of cast members were slated to be moving on. O’Brien, Paine,  Kylie Flinker (the original Lucy Robinson) and Gloria Ajenstat (Susan Cole) were all set to be written out from TV’s famous neighbourhood.

The year ahead also saw the wedding of Scott and Charlene — one of the show’s all-time defining moments — and Kylie Minogue on the verge of branching out to a recording career.

Source: TV Week, 29 November 1986. TV Scene, 6 December 1986.


Permanent link to this article: http://televisionau.com/2016/12/neighbours-christmas-fairytale.html

Dec 24 2016

Studio 10 repeats 60 years tribute

Studio 10 will be presenting a re-run of its special episode commemorating 60 years of Australian television.

While the Seven, Nine and ABC networks have all but swept their respective 60th birthdays under the carpet with barely a mention, Studio 10 put together a three-and-a-half hour tribute to Australian television, remembering many of the famous faces and programs that have graced our screens across various networks.

The program originally went to air on 16 September, the day of the 60th anniversary of the launch of Australia’s first TV station — TCN9 in Sydney.

Hosts Sarah Harris, Joe Hildebrand, Jessica Rowe, Denise Drysdale and Ita Buttrose were joined by special guests including Tony Barber, John Burgess, Greg Evans, Jamie Dunn and Agro, Holly Brisley, Rove McManus, Paula Duncan, Lynda Stoner, Maggie Kirkpatrick, Don Burke, Graeme Blundell and John Mangos.

The show also reunited Studio 10 presenter Jonathan Coleman with former TV and radio colleague Ian ‘Dano’ Rogerson.

If you need something to watch while recovering from Christmas Day, this is something to tune in for, for either the first or second time.

Studio 10: 60 Years Of Television. Monday 26 December, 8.30am. Network Ten.




Permanent link to this article: http://televisionau.com/2016/12/studio-10-repeats-60-years-tribute.html

Dec 24 2016

WIN celebrates The Sullivans

A bit of nostalgia for viewers in regional WIN Television territory on Christmas night.

WIN will be broadcasting a half-hour special, The Sullivans: A Walk Down Memory Lane, to commemorate 40 years since the series made its debut.

The program promises “a walk down memory lane with some of the stars. Lorraine Bayly, Andrew McFarlane and Steven Tandy reminisce about producing this iconic show”.

(Tandy pictured with co-stars Richard Morgan and Jamie Higgins in 1978)

Crawfords Australia, which produced The Sullivans for the Nine Network from 1976 to 1983, is now owned by WIN, which has been releasing The Sullivans and various other Crawford titles on DVD.

The Sullivans made its debut on 15 November 1976 in Sydney and Melbourne. It was a ratings hit for Nine and was sold to over 30 countries.

The series also collected a string of TV Week Logies, including Best New Drama in 1977 and Most Popular Drama in 1978, 1979 and 1980.

The 1114th and final episode aired in 1983.

The Sullivans: A Walk Down Memory Lane. Sunday 25 December, 6.30pm. WIN.


Permanent link to this article: http://televisionau.com/2016/12/win-celebrates-the-sullivans.html

Dec 23 2016

Obituary: Bob Horsfall

Bob Horsfall, an entertainer from the early days of Australian television, has died at the age of 90.

From a career that began as a child performer at the Tivoli Theatre in the 1930s, Horsfall went in to radio — working at stations including 3KZ, 3AW, 3UZ and 2UE.

He later made the transition to television, initially appearing in early variety shows like In Melbourne Tonight, BP Super Show, The Happy Show, Sunnyside Up and Time For Terry. He also co-hosted a weekly variety show, Take It Easy, with Joy Fountain.

Horsfall also appeared in numerous TV dramas. His list of credits included Bellbird, Division 4, Homicide, Tandarra, Matlock Police, Skyways, Young Ramsay, Prisoner, The Magistrate, The Flying Doctors, Blue Heelers and Neighbours.

In more recent years, he continued to be involved in radio as a presenter on Melbourne community radio station Golden Days Radio.

He was awarded an Order of Australia Medal in 2011 for service to the Australian entertainment industry.

Source: Golden Days Radio, IMDB, Radioinfo



Permanent link to this article: http://televisionau.com/2016/12/obituary-bob-horsfall.html

Dec 13 2016

Obituary: Anne Deveson

Anne Deveson, journalist, broadcaster and writer, has died at the age of 86 from Alzheimer’s disease.

Deveson, born in Malaya, started her career at the Kensington News in London. This was followed by hosting a BBC radio program and scripting a TV documentary on Albania.

After migrating to Australia with husband, ABC broadcaster Ellis Blain, she scored some minor work at ABC, doing things like writing recipes for Woman’s World. A chance meeting with producer Peter Westerway saw Deveson end up working on ATN7‘s Seven Days current affairs program and University Of The Air.

YouTube: kurvapicsa

Her profile was boosted with a daily radio program and twice-weekly newspaper column.

She also had a stint as a ‘beauty’ on the panel show Beauty And The Beast (pictured) and presented a series of television commercials for Omo laundry detergent:

YouTube: Conniptions886

In later years Deveson was appointed to the Royal Commission into Human Relationships and a director of the Australian Film, Television and Radio School.

She later became an accomplished author. Her book Tell Me I’m Here, based on her son’s struggle with schizophrenia, won the 1992 Human Rights Award for non-fiction.

Deveson was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2014. Her death on Monday came just three days after the passing of her daughter, writer Georgia Blain, from brain cancer at the age of 52.

Source: TV Times, 15 July 1970. Forty Years Of Television: The Story Of ATN7, 1996. ABC, Wikipedia.



Permanent link to this article: http://televisionau.com/2016/12/obituary-anne-deveson.html

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