Seven’s Motel promised daytime sizzle

Brenda Senders, Noel Trevarthen, Walter Sullivan, John Faasen

The Seven Network‘s bold — and third — attempt to produce a daytime soap opera was met with comparisons to popular overseas dramas Peyton Place and Coronation Street.

With a generous budget and a cast list of 16, Motel was a serious attempt to crack the daytime market as an alternative to cheaper game and chat shows. It came some years after Seven’s earlier attempts at producing a daytime serial — the short-lived Autumn Affair (1958-59) and The Story Of Peter Grey (1961)  — and only months after ABC had settled in with its rural drama Bellbird.

YouTube: Classic Australian TV

Motel was a half-hour weekday series produced at the studios of ATN7 in Sydney. It told the story of the comings and goings of the Greenfields Motel, a fictional motel located somewhere between Sydney and Canberra. Despite the country location, the proximity to the two cities gave the show some licence to pursue characters in politics and to reveal some scandal. TV Week‘s preview of the series promised “scorching stuff” and “scenes guaranteed to rattle the censor and shock the viewers”. Columnist Ann Gillison summed it up: “All in, Motel caters, as every serial should, for our delight in gossip and scandal and our fascination with how “the others” live and, as any serial must, provide regular escapist distraction.”

In light of what was to come with sexy prime time soaps in the 1970s, Motel was probably quite tame although at the time the benchmark for Aussie serials had been set with Bellbird, so the bar for controversy was pretty low.

Jill Forster and Noel Trevarthen

The motel in the series was run by middle-aged couple Hal and Mary Gillian (Walter Sullivan and Brenda Senders). Their eldest son Rod (New Zealand actor Noel Trevarthen) ran an advertising agency but was somewhat dependent on his wife, Gaye (Jill Forster), the daughter of a wealthy businessman (Tony Bazell). Gaye was the typical soapie schemer who was frequently unfaithful to her husband.

The Gillians’ eldest daughter Liz (Gae Anderson) was secretary to a government minister, Paul Drennan (Brian James), and was also his mistress.

Harold Hopkins and Maggie Gray

The younger Gillian son, Chris (Gregory Ross), was the rebellious teenager, mixing with the local gang led by Bruce Jackson (Harold Hopkins). Somewhat more stable was the second Gillian daughter, Sue (Janne Walmsley), married to the local chemist (played by Jack Thompson in his first TV acting role).

Other characters were motel employees Maria (Margot Reid) and Janie (Maggie Gray), motel owner Alec Evans (John Faasen) and church minister Reverend Larcombe (Ross Higgins).

Margot Reid and Gregory Ross

But the show’s stand out was the local matriarch Bunty Creighton, played by 80-year Enid Lorimer, making her Australian TV debut. English-born Lorimer was an actress in Australian radio serials as far back as the 1920s. In the early 1950s, with television soon to come to Australia, she went back to her native England to learn television and stayed for over 10 years before returning to Australia in time for her 80th birthday.

Bunty was described as “acid-tongued, straight-shooting, opinionated, nosy and everything that goes to make up a character we will love, dislike and respect”. She was wealthy, sharp-witted and manipulative. Very much the typical soap opera nasty and in some respects compared to cantankerous Ena Sharples (Violet Carson) from Coronation Street.

Enid Lorimer

Despite production being based in Sydney, Motel had its debut in Melbourne — appearing first on HSV7 on 13 May 1968 in tandem with another new Australian show, Marriage Confidential, which presented re-enactments of marriage counselling sessions loosely based on real-life cases. Motel was scheduled for 12.30pm to avoid any clash with Nine’s US soapie Days Of Our Lives. Motel then debuted in Sydney two weeks later and Brisbane in June. It was also picked up by some regional stations but despite its growing coverage it never really caught on with the viewers and was quietly dropped after 132 episodes.

Some of the actors certainly went on to greater things. Jack Thompson went on to a hugely successful career, particularly in movies, both in Australia and overseas.

Noel Trevarthen, Jill Forster, Greg Ross, Brian James, Enid Lorimer, Ross Higgins and Harold Hopkins all continued to appear in later TV series and productions.

The Seven Network had two other attempts to have an Australian-made daytime drama series. Until Tomorrow, starring Hazel Phillips, Babette Stephens and Barry Otto, was produced in Brisbane for the Reg Grundy Organisation but had only a short life in 1975, and The Power The Passion was produced at HSV7 in Melbourne for a brief run in 1989.

It seems Seven finally got the hint and has not pursued the ambition of a daytime series ever since.

Source: TV Week, 1 June 1968, 8 June 1968, 15 June 1968, 22 June 1968. Super Aussie Soaps




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Behind The News celebrating 50 years

ABC‘s children’s current affairs program Behind The News is approaching its 50th birthday.

It was long thought that Behind The News began in 1969, until it was realised that it actually began under a different title, Current Affairs, in June 1968. The first program was hosted by Peter Sumner.

YouTube: Behind The News

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Behind The News, on 5 June ABC News will be offering Australian children to opportunity to be part of the news. Each metropolitan ABC newsroom will host a BTN rookie reporter who will file a story relevant to children. The story will feature on the ABC News website and be broadcast during the 7.00pm news.

Children will also be hosting guest spots on ABC Local Radio, presenting a weather bulletin on ABC News Breakfast, and a full week of news bulletins on many of the ABC Radio Afternoons programs, all around the country.

There will be special programs on ABC ME, starting on Sunday 3 June at 9.00am, when the BTN hosts appear in a special News To Me program. On the 50th anniversary date, 5 June, ABC ME will air an anniversary edition of BTN at 10.00am, a special kids version of Q&A at 4.30pm, hosted by BTN’s Amelia Moseley (pictured) and featuring children on the panel and in the audience, and the first episode of BTN will also screen at 7.00pm.

ABC will present a half-hour documentary looking back at the history of BTN to air on 5 June at 6.00pm, followed by an encore of the Q&A special at 6.30pm.

For online audiences, there will be special features showcasing BTN’s rich archive, as well as a series of short-form video features to mark the anniversary.

To round out the celebrations, BTN is hosting a party at ABC Adelaide, where local children, the BTN team and alumni, and other ABC luminaries will mark this milestone.

Source: ABC


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Obituary: Charles Slade

Former television journalist and newsreader Charles Slade has passed away.

After a successful career in aviation, Slade made the move to media in the early 1980s. He started at Melbourne’s Fox FM before joining Network Ten‘s Good Morning Australia and Eyewitness News in Melbourne.

YouTube: Rewind The Cassette

After leaving Ten he moved to ABC to host its weekly Sports Arena program.

He joined National Nine News in 1994 and stayed for ten years as a senior reporter. Among his accolades at Nine was sharing a TV Week Logie Award in 2001 for most outstanding news coverage of the World Economic Forum protests in Melbourne.

Source: Nine News, The Age, Wikipedia


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Obituary: Cathy Godbold

Former television actress Cathy Godbold has died at the age of 43 after a ten-year battle with cancer.

The daughter of former TV and radio presenter Rosemary Margan, Godbold was was making headlines before she was even born as news of her mother’s pregnancy made the magazines. She was then pictured in TV magazine features with her mother from a very young age.

As a teenager she studied at the Victorian College of the Arts. Her first TV acting role was in the children’s drama anthology More Winners, later followed by the Nine Network series Chances.

She later played leukaemia patient Meg Bowman in Home And Away.

The experience from researching and playing that role led to Godbold taking an active role in fundraising for cancer research, including organising a warehouse party for teenagers to raise money for a children’s cancer support charity.  “I want to do more and more.  I want to help find a cure,” she told TV Week in 1993.

She played a starring role in the Seven Network sitcom Newlyweds. Other TV credits included Hey Dad, Frontline (as herself), Neighbours, Blue Heelers and The Saddle Club.

She was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2007 and gave up acting but returned to the screen to portray her mother in the Graham Kennedy biopic The King.

Source: IMDB, Seven News. TV Week, 5 June 1976, 28 August 1993.

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Bert Newton and Anne Wills in Emmys speech

Bert Newton and Adelaide personality Anne Wills were surprise mentions at this year’s Daytime Emmy Awards, held earlier this week at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium in California.

Days Of Our Lives stars Bill Hayes and Susan Seaforth Hayes, who have featured in the series on and off for almost 50 years and married both on and off screen, were honoured at the Daytime Emmys with Lifetime Achievement Awards.

In their acceptance speech they acknowledged the support of various daytime TV hosts in their home country, and also Australian friends Bert Newton and Anne Wills.

The Days Of Our Lives stars were popular guests at the TV Week Logie Awards (pictured) in 1977, hosted by Newton. They were later guests on Newton’s morning radio show and also toured Australia, including a visit to Adelaide where multi Logie winner Wills had interviewed them and hosted fan events.

YouTube: Classic Australian TV

YouTube: Victoria Harris

Days Of Our Lives, now in its 53rd year in production, is broadcast in Australia on the Arena channel on Foxtel and in regional areas on free-to-air on WIN Eleven.

Source: Wikipedia. TV Week, 9 April 1977.

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Taking commercial TV out back

It’s hard to believe now, but there was a time when swathes of the country — mostly outback regions — were largely oblivious to commercial television that the more populated areas of the country had taken for granted for years.

While the rest of us might have been raving about the latest soaps and sitcoms, movie or mini-series blockbusters and watching commercial news and current affairs, viewers in outback and remote areas might have been lucky to have just had access to ABC.

Things started to change in the mid-1980s with the launch of the AUSSAT satellites, allowing ABC and commercial television services to cover essentially anywhere not covered by terrestrial (antenna) television.

The first remote commercial television service (RCTS) was GWN in Western Australia in 1986, followed by Imparja covering Northern Territory and South Australia in January 1988.

Queensland’s RCTS commenced thirty years ago this week, when QSTV debuted at 7.00am on Sunday 24 April 1988 and was officially opened that evening.

QSTV’s first week of programming (Click to enlarge)
Source: The Sunday Mail / Scene On TV

QSTV was owned by Telecasters North Queensland, operator of Townsville-based NQTV. While QSTV’s program guide largely mirrored that of NQTV, there were some opt-outs for programs specific to remote areas.

With access to content from all three commercial networks, programs to appear on QSTV’s first week of broadcasting included 60 Minutes, Neighbours, Sale Of The Century, A Country Practice, Midday, National Nine News, A Current Affair, Today, Sunday, The Curiosity Show, Beyond 2000, Hey Hey It’s Saturday, Sons And Daughters, mini-series The Last Bastion, Sydney rugby league and the official opening of World Expo 88.

In the 1990s as NQTV became QTV and then Ten Queensland as it aligned with the Ten Network, QSTV and its new sister station ITQ8 in Mount Isa followed suit and became known as Ten Satellite.

By the end of the decade, Telecasters had shifted Ten Satellite to become a Seven Network outlet, Seven Central, as it prepared to aggregate with the Central Australian satellite footprint covered by Imparja, focusing on Seven Network programming while Imparja affiliated with Nine and Ten.

Now owned by Southern Cross Austereo, the station is now known as Southern Cross Television and is available via the VAST platform to areas in all states (except Western Australia) that don’t have access to terrestrial television. Being an affiliate of the Seven Network it also carries secondary channels 7Two and 7Mate.

Since 2010, Southern Cross and Nine affiliate Imparja have jointly operated Ten Central, providing viewers of the VAST platform in the central and eastern states with access to a dedicated Network Ten signal.

Source: The Sunday Mail / Scene On TV, 24 April 1988. Wikipedia

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Classic TV Guides: Hinch chases Skase

Christopher Skase was the Melbourne journalist turned corporate high flyer in the 1980s. His billion dollar corporation was built around lavish hotel resorts and a growing media empire.

His purchase of the east coast Seven Network stations in 1987 suddenly elevated him to one of the most powerful media men in the country and he spent up big to boost Seven’s profile.

But the economic boom of the 1980s was soon over, Skase’s Qintex group was in ruins and he owed millions.

He fled the country amid criminal charges and was soon found to be hiding out in Spain to avoid the authorities.

In 1993, Network Ten current affairs host Derryn Hinch — a former high-profile signing of Skase’s at Seven six years earlier — gained exclusive access to interview Skase in Spain. The result was a two-hour special, The Skase Mirage, taking its name from Skase’s former luxury hotel chain.

The broadcast of The Skase Mirage, 25 years ago, is among the latest additions to Classic TV Guides.


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Obituary: Darrell Eastlake

Former Nine Network sports commentator Darrell Eastlake has died at the age of 75.

His media career started in the 1960s, doing surf reports for Sydney radio station 2UW and later worked at 2GO on the Central Coast.

He then moved into television, as a rugby league commentator for NBN3, Newcastle, before joining Nine for its Commonwealth Games coverage from Brisbane in 1982.

His rambunctious style and booming voice was unmistakable while co-hosting Wide World Of Sports and commentating rugby league and State Of Origin, Commonwealth Games, Winter Olympics, weightlifting and motor racing.

He got himself banned from the commentating booth at the 1990 Commonwealth Games in Auckland for his over enthusiastic style.

He retired from broadcasting in 2005 and in 2010 was diagnosed with  Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and emphysema.

Darrell Eastlake is survived by his wife, Julie.

Source: Nine News, ABC, Wikipedia



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Obituary: Ron Blaskett

Ron Blaskett, one of the first performers on Melbourne television, has died at the age of 96.

Blaskett was already established as a ventriloquist in the Melbourne theatre circuit when he appeared on of GTV9‘s first test transmissions in 1956 and official opening in January 1957. He had imported the doll that would become “Gerry Gee” (named after the TV station’s call-sign) from the US for £200.

Blaskett and Gerry Gee became regulars on GTV9’s first children’s show, The Happy Show (later The Tarax Show), and with them were a whole family of fellow dolls — some performed by Blaskett’s wife, Merle.

Gerry Gee inspired an early range of merchandise and was also to appear on In Melbourne Tonight, in commercials and even a series of movie shorts. Gerry Gee also “wrote” a weekly column in early editions of TV Week and was later depicted in a regular series of comic strips in the magazine, drawn by Ernie Carroll (who later created Ossie Ostrich).

Blaskett also took Gerry Gee interstate, including performances on Perth’s Channel Niners Club.

He continued to appear on TV throughout the Seventies on shows including The Ernie Sigley Show, Young Talent Time and a short-lived game show, All Star Sweepstakes.

Blaskett officially retired in the 1990s but continued to perform with Gerry Gee in retirement villages and nursing homes until he finally retired the puppet in 2012.

Source: The Weekly Review, WA TV History, TV Tonight

TV-Radio Week, 5 December 1957

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Seven, Foxtel in $1.2b cricket rights deal

Two weeks ago the Nine Network had announced that it had committed $300 million to a five-year deal with Tennis Australia — taking the game from the Seven Network, which had broadcast events such as the Australian Open for decades.

At the time it was unclear what the outlook was for Nine’s future in cricket. Nine had dominated cricket coverage since the 1970s, when its owner Kerry Packer created his rogue contest World Series Cricket, but the Tennis Australia deal meant it had just signed up to a new summer sport. However Nine still went in, with Network Ten, to bid for the upcoming cricket rights package.

As it turns out, Cricket Australia has instead opted to award the next broadcast rights package to Foxtel, which lodged a bid with Seven West Media (the Seven Network).

The deal, worth just under $1.2 billion for six years, will see Seven have coverage of all Test matches involving Australia, 43 Big Bash League matches, including finals, as well as women’s international matches involving Australia and 23 ‘’key’’ Women’s Big Bash League games.

Foxtel will have all One Day International matches, all International T20 matches, all Test matches involving Australia, all Big Bash League games (16 exclusive to Foxtel),  13 domestic one day matches and the domestic Sheffield Shield final. Foxtel will also have 23 Women’s Big Bash League games and shared rights to stream cricket on mobile devices with Cricket Australia.

Seven and Foxtel will each have their own commentary teams, with reports suggesting that both may pick up some of Nine’s commentators.

While Seven and Foxtel appear to be winners in the deal, some cricket fans may see themselves as the losers as some matches previously on free-to-air and supposedly protected on the anti-siphoning list will now be behind a Foxtel “paywall”.

The other loser in the deal is Network Ten, which has built up Big Bash League over the last five years to be its premier sports brand over summer. Ten CEO Paul Anderson said in a statement: ““We are disappointed that our bid for the cricket television rights was rejected.  Network Ten turned the Big Bash League into the television phenomenon it is today and one of the most popular sports in Australia, a sport that all Australians were able enjoy for free. We had planned to extend that innovation to other forms of the game.”

Cricket Australia CEO James Sutherland has acknowledged the contributions made by both Nine and Ten:  “Our thanks go to Channel Nine, who for more than 40 years has broadcast international cricket at a world-renowned standard – and in so doing has done more to promote our sport than any organisation in Australian cricket history. Our sincere thanks also to Network Ten for their role in taking the Big Bash League to a new level, and for so willingly providing a platform to launch and grow the Women’s Big Bash League. As a startup League, the BBL is a phenomenal success story. Over the last five years Ten has made an extraordinary contribution to the league and its growth in bringing new fans to cricket.”

“We have nothing but gratitude and respect for Nine and Ten – and sincerely thank them for their contribution to our sport.

“We’re very excited about what the future holds with both Fox Sports and Seven West Media.”

Source: Cricket Australia, Sydney Morning Herald


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