Aug 08 2017

Obituary: Ty Hardin

American actor Ty Hardin has died at the age of 87.

Born Orison Whipple Hungerford Jnr in New York City, Hardin starred in early American series such as Cheyenne, 77 Sunset Strip and Bronco. But the actor was also to have a leading role in Australia.

Hardin was cast in the role of charter boat captain Moss Andrews in the adventure series Riptide. His casting in the series was hoped to increase the show’s value on the international market.

Produced in colour for the Seven Network between 1967 and 1969, Riptide was filmed on location in Sydney and North Queensland. Hardin saw it as an opportunity to settle in Australia after leaving Hollywood and having worked in Europe for four years. “I went to Europe because I felt I would have more freedom to create and continue my acting career,” he told TV Times in 1969. “I have the same feeling in Australia.”

Riptide was a decent performer in the ratings but failed to gain positive critical reviews. Because of its high cost — reported to be $2 million over 26 episodes — and lack of international interest (although it was picked up in Germany, re-titled SOS Charterboot!), it was not renewed for a second series.

Hardin then returned to making movies overseas.

Riptide was barely seen again on Australian television until a relatively recent re-run as daytime filler on Seven’s new channel 7mate.

YouTube: Classic Australian TV

Source: Wikipedia, IMDB, Classic Australian Television. TV Times, 5 February 1969, 12 March 1969.


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Aug 03 2017

Laurie Oakes announces retirement

After more than 50 years in journalism — and most of those covering politics from the Canberra Press Gallery — Nine Network political editor Laurie Oakes has announced his retirement.

The 73-year-old, pinching the tagline from the famous 1972 federal election campaign, says “It’s time”.

His last day with Nine News will be 18 August, just a few days after his 74th birthday. His retirement ends a career that began back in 1965 as a state rounds reporter for the Daily Mirror newspaper in Sydney.

He was only 25 when he was appointed bureau chief in Canberra for Melbourne’s The Sun News-Pictorial newspaper (predecessor to the Herald Sun).

His television career started as a political commentator for Willesee At Seven. In 1979 he joined the Ten Network, where he broke one of his biggest stories — the leaked papers revealing the 1980 Federal Budget days before it was to be tabled in Parliament by then treasurer John Howard.

He left Ten after five years to join the Nine Network, starting there in time for its coverage of the 1984 federal election.

At Nine his weekly political interviews for current affairs program Sunday would lead the agenda for the week ahead.

Oakes’ journalistic accolades include three Walkley Awards and in 2011 he was inducted into the TV Week Logie Awards Hall of Fame.

Source: 9News, Platinum Speakers




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Aug 03 2017

Prime7 to launch 7Flix

Regional network Prime7 will be launching a local broadcast of the Seven Network‘s 7Flix channel.

The movies and entertainment channel will be broadcast across Prime7 in Northern NSW, Southern NSW, Regional Victoria, ACT and the Gold Coast from Sunday 3 September.

7Flix will be available on Channel 66, broadcasting in MPEG4 format.

The new channel will have no effect on the existing local broadcasts of Prime7, 7Two, 7mate, and iShopTV, although some re-scanning of sets may be required.

7Flix has been in operation on Seven in the capital cities since February last year.

Source: Prime7


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Jul 31 2017

Obituary: Les Murray

Former SBS sports presenter Les Murray has passed away at the age of 71.

Born in Hungary as László Ürge, he came with his family to Australia in the late 1950s as refugees fleeing the Russian occupation.

In the early 1970s he became a journalist and later commentated the Philips Soccer League for the 0-10 Network.

When SBS was establishing its television service in 1980, Murray was initially hired as a translator and subtitler of the channel’s Hungarian programs. Just days before the channel was to go to air, a chance meeting with an executive saw Murray chosen to co-host the live coverage of the Philips Soccer League grand final from Canberra.

From that point on he became the face of football for SBS, fronting the network’s ongoing football coverage including World Soccer, Toyota World Sports, On The Ball, The World Game and eight World Cups.

He was made a Member of the Order of Australia in 2006 for services to football in Australia.

Being a member of a rock group, The Rubber Band, in the 1970s, Murray revisited his musical interest on SBS with a performance on the 2010 special Eurovision A To Z. He sung the 1958 Eurovision Song Contest winner Nel blu dipinto di blu — better known as Volare.

He retired from SBS in 2014, the same year he was inducted into the Football Federation of Australia Hall Of Fame.

SBS managing director Michael Ebeid has paid tribute in a statement:  “No one better embodied what SBS represents than Les Murray. From humble refugee origins, he became one of Australia’s most recognised and loved sporting identities. Not just a football icon, but a great Australian story and an inspiration to many, to say that his contribution to SBS and to football was enormous, doesn’t do it justice. This is a devastating loss for all of us at SBS. Our thoughts are with his family and all who loved him.”

Tributes for Murray have also come from sports and media personalities as well as Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Federal Opposition Leader Bill Shorten.

Shorten has suggested that Murray receive a state funeral.

Les Murray is survived by partner Maria and daughters Tania and Natalie.

Source: SBS, The Age, Wikipedia





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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:



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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.


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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.




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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

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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


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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.





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