Burke’s Backyard began as a radio program on Sydney’s 2UE and in September 1987 made the move to television with a Saturday afternoon timeslot which subsequently earned ratings high enough to justify a move to prime time – so it was not long before the program was shifted to Friday nights, just the right time to attract all those budding gardeners ready to tackle the weekend.
The move to prime-time in 1988 paid immediate dividends, and generated many thousands of letters sent in from viewers each week. The success of the program led to a magazine spin-off, and the program continued through the ’90s giving Nine strong Friday night ratings.
But by 2004, Nine decided that the show was “too old” and not sexy enough for the 21st century and let the program out to pasture, though Burke’s spin-off program Backyard Blitz, hosted by Jamie Durie, continued for two more years before it too was considered a bit old-hat.
However, Nine’s axing of the programs came back to bite them this year when rival Seven signed up Durie to host his own new show Australia’s Best Backyards. Nine tried to spoil Seven’s new catch with two-year-old, though unscreened, episodes of Backyard Blitz. The two shows have fought it out against each other, but both kept strong ratings – confirming the star-power of Jamie Durie, who has also captured the eye of one Oprah Winfrey who featured him on her show earlier this year.
Now as the supply of Backyard Blitz episodes has dried up, and as Nine’s creative cupboard is looking somewhat bare, they’ve decided that Burke’s Backyard was not such a bad show after all. Three years after axing it, they’ve given it a reprisal for a one-off special to up against Burke’s former colleague now at Seven – but if it rates, Burke and his backyard buddies could be back in a regular timeslot.
Burke’s Backyard Spring Special, Sunday 23 September, 6.30pm on Nine*
* Melbourne. Other areas check local guides/affiliates.