Judi Farr in Queen’s Birthday Honours

Veteran Australian actor Judi Farr has been recognised in this year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours List for “significant service to the performing arts as an actor”.

With a career across film, stage and television, Farr came to fame as Rita Stiller in the 1960s sitcom My Name’s McGooley, What’s Yours? (pictured above with co-stars Gordon Chater and John Meillon)

She reprised the character in the spin-off series Rita And Wally, in 1968.

Later television credits included The Link Men, Division Four, Matlock Police, The Fourth Wish and Number 96 (guest starring with Mike Dorsey, pictured below)

Her next major TV role was as Thelma Bullpitt (pictured) in Kingswood Country, starring from 1980 to 1982.

More recent TV credits include All Saints, Grass Roots, Please Like Me, CrashBurn and A Place To Call Home.

Other television identities recognised in this year’s honours list include:

Network Ten showbiz reporter and Studio 10 co-host Angela Bishop — “For service to entertainment journalism”.

Seven Network presenter Mark Beretta — “For service to the community through charitable organisations”.

Nine Network reporter Simon Bouda — “For significant service to the television and print media, and to the community”.

Source: Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. Listener In-TV, 10 June 1967.  TV Week, 21 December 1974. TV Times, 12 April 1980. 

Permanent link to this article: https://televisionau.com/2021/06/judi-farr-in-queens-birthday-honours.html

Obituary: Peter Sharp

Peter Sharp, prominent television and football identity in Tasmania, has died peacefully at the age of 78.

Born in Tasmania, Sharp’s early career was in Melbourne — as a sports commentator and reporter at ATV0 in the  1960s and ’70s.

He was soon to return to Tasmania, where he appeared as a presenter and commentator on TVT6 (later to become TAS TV and WIN) in Hobart. He hosted the local World Of Sport and also appeared on the daytime program WIN Today.

His many years covering Tasmanian football, which also included The Sunday Tasmanian newspaper and radio 7HO, led to him being inducted into the Tasmanian Football Hall Of Fame in 2010.

YouTube: Brent Costelloe

Source: Tasmanian Football Hall Of Fame, WIN News

Permanent link to this article: https://televisionau.com/2021/06/obituary-peter-sharp.html

Obituary: John Gregg

John Gregg, veteran actor on film, stage and television, has died at the age of 82.

Born in Tasmania, Gregg was set to take over running the family farm but instead wound up scoring an audition at the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA) in Hobart.

He had a season with the Melbourne Theatre Company and in 1964, made his television debut in an episode of Consider Your Verdict.

Later that year, he starred in ABC‘s production of the Shakespeare play Othello.

Judith Arthy and John Gregg in Othello

Further television credits included Australian Playhouse, Wandjina!, The Adventures Of The Seaspray, Hunter, Riptide and Dynasty.

He had an ongoing role in the ABC drama Contrabandits in 1967-68, and the lead role of Jeff Mallow in the 1969 series Delta.


He appear on various British television series during the 1970s, returning in Australia towards the end of the decade. He had a guest role in Chopper Squad before playing the lead role of radio talkback host Steve Black in The Oracle.

He continued to alternate between the UK and Australia, with further local credits including A Country Practice, Bodyline, Homicide Squad, Tusitala, Captain James Cook, Rafferty’s Rules, Cluedo, GP, Heartbreak High, Grass Roots, Home And Away, Rake, Crownies, Power Games: The Packer-Murdoch Story, House Of Bond and Operation Buffalo.

Gregg was also a prolific commercial voiceover artist and recorded five novels for ABC radio.

He was a passionate member and ambassador for the Sydney Swans AFL team.

John Gregg is survived by wife Jane, four children and eight grandchildren as well as stepchildren and their respective families.

Source: TV Tonight, Sydney Swans, IMDB, EM Voices. TV Times, 18 November 1964, 12 November 1969

Permanent link to this article: https://televisionau.com/2021/06/obituary-john-gregg.html

Obituary: Mary Rossi

Mary Rossi, one of the pioneers of daytime TV in Australia, has died at the age of 95.

A celebration of her life was held in Sydney on Monday.

Rossi was the first host of ABC‘s Woman’s World program that aired in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Beginning during the first week of ABC television in November 1956, Woman’s World was one of the first programs on Australian television aimed at the housewife audience, covering a broad range of topics and interview subjects.

Rossi hosted the show from Sydney and soon alternated hosting on different days with other presenters including Gwen Plumb in Sydney and Joy Wren, Jean Battersby and Nance Donkin in Melbourne.

YouTube: ABC News (Australia)

A mother of five when Woman’s World began, Rossi challenged the view that women should retire from professional life when they have children. It was a topic that raised itself every time she would add to the Rossi clan — ten children in all!

In 1960, she was asked by TV Times: “Why do you conduct a women’s session when you have a home, a husband and (then) six young children to look after?” She responded: “I’m doing this job because I love the feeling, the self-satisfaction of doing a job well. That’s corny, but I happen to mean it.”

She also reinforced the importance of the family unit. “One of the most important, rarely-mentioned functions of a married woman’s life is helping her husband and family meet recurring crises. And where can you turn for human comfort and advice if there is no solid, family structure? There are organisations of course: the church, and other similar institutions, and these are important. But they don’t have the personal warmth and nearness of your own family.”

By 1970, Rossi had stepped away from television and her professional life embarked on another great love — travel — establishing the tour company Mary Rossi Travel, which continues to operate today.

In 1975, she was named NSW Mother of the Year, and in 1979 awarded an Order of the British Empire (OBE).

Mary Rossi is survived by one brother, nine of her ten children (including former TV journalist Emma Rossi, pictured), 34 grandchildren and 40 great-grandchildren. Her husband of 63 years, Theo, died in 2010.

Source: TV Times, 15 December 1960. ABC Weekly, 3 November 1956. TV Week, 9 April 1994. Mary Rossi Travel, Sydney Morning Herald

Permanent link to this article: https://televisionau.com/2021/05/obituary-mary-rossi.html

WIN to axe local news and jobs

Regional network WIN has announced plans to axe local news services across regional Queensland and Victoria in favour of statewide “regional” news bulletins.

At the same time, WIN is expected to maintain region-specific bulletins in Canberra and Wollongong and combine the remaining Southern NSW regions (Orange, Dubbo, Wagga Wagga, Griffith) to a single bulletin.

The move is to take effect when WIN, currently a Network Ten affiliate, switches to a Nine Network affiliation in those markets from 1 July.

WIN already provides a statewide bulletin in Tasmania but years ago axed its local news service in its regional markets in South Australia and Western Australia.

As many as 19 journalist and camera operator roles are set to be lost in Victoria alone, according to ABC.

WIN chief executive Andrew Lancaster said that efforts will be made to redeploy staff within the organisation.

The axing of local news comes after the Nine Network has already announced that it will cease to provide a local news service to its regional partner, Southern Cross Austereo, when its affiliation swaps to WIN on 1 July.

It is not clear what level of local news will be provided by Southern Cross Austereo in the regional Queensland, Victoria and Southern NSW/ACT markets after 1 July, when it is expected to reconnect as an affiliate to Ten.

Source: ABC News

Permanent link to this article: https://televisionau.com/2021/05/win-to-axe-local-news-and-jobs.html

Obituary: Lorrae Desmond

Australian showbusiness legend Lorrae Desmond, known by many as Shirley Gilroy in A Country Practice, has died at age 91.

News of her passing was circulated on social media by former colleagues, including former A Country Practice co-stars Shane Withington and Wendy Strehlow.

Born Beryl Hunt in Mittagong, NSW, she had early ambitions for a showbiz career. Her career began in the United Kingdom as a recording star. She then became a regular performer in the UK, featuring in theatre, cabaret, pantomime, television and radio.

On her return to Australia in the early 1960s, Desmond presented her own musical variety show on ABC, The Lorrae Desmond Show. The show’s popularity led her to be the first female, and first ABC personality, to win a TV Week Gold Logie, in 1962, with the show winning a Logie for television variety in 1963.

She also starred in two Noel Coward plays, Red Peppers and Family Album, adapted for television by ABC in 1962.

She went on to perform for Australian troops in Vietnam, the Middle East, Malaysia, Singapore, Kenya and Somalia in the late 1960s. On television she starred in The Jack Benny Show In Australia and and made guest appearances on Entertaining With Kerr and dramas Homicide and Riptide.

YouTube: GaelB100

In the 1970s she played Marion Carlton in Number 96 and appeared in Shannon’s Mob and The Outsiders.

By the end of the decade, Desmond scored an ongoing role as bookshop owner Molly Sparks in the Ten Network series Arcade (pictured above with co-star Peggy Toppano). The series was to be short-lived but it led to her being cast in a new Seven Network series, A Country Practice. Desmond was one of the show’s longest-serving actors, playing the part of Shirley Gilroy (née Dean) for over ten years. In 1984, she won a TV Week Logie Award for Best Supporting Actress In A Series.

In later years she guest starred in Home And Away. One of her last television appearances was on stage at the TV Week Logie Awards in 2017.

Earlier this year she was awarded a Member (AM) in the General Division of the Order of Australia in the 2021 Australia Day Honours List. Her honour was in recognition of “significant service to the performing arts as an actor, entertainer and singer”.

Source: IMDB, Wikipedia, The Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia. TV Times, 1 August 1962, 21 November 1962.


Permanent link to this article: https://televisionau.com/2021/05/obituary-lorrae-desmond.html

Classic TV Guides: Homicide Squad


In May 1981, the Seven Network and Crawford Productions had announced plans to produce a new Sydney-based crime drama, The Squad, with a telemovie pilot soon to go into production. It was heralded as the first Sydney-based series from the Melbourne-based Crawford empire, which had several successful cop dramas under its belt by this stage.

Leading the cast of The Squad was John Gregg (Contrabandits, Delta, The Oracle), Frank Gallacher (Against The Wind, The Last Outlaw, Water Under The Bridge, Skyways), Ken Goodlet (The Long Arm, Bluey, Cop Shop, The Last Outlaw), Louise Howitt (Young Ramsay), Roger Ward (Number 96) and NIDA graduate Andrew Clarke.

It seems that Seven wasn’t all that impressed with the pilot, eventually re-named Homicide Squad, that resulted. ATN7 in Sydney waited to broadcast it after the end of the 1981 ratings season in November. HSV7 in Melbourne held on even longer, belatedly airing it during the May school holidays in 1982 — another non-ratings period at the time.

The Age‘s TV critic Brian Courtis was brutal in his review of Homicide Squad, stating that it “does for television drama what Sale Of The Century does for the arts”.

TV Week movie critic Ivan Hutchinson was a little more charitable, labelling it an “interesting thriller” and that “viewers should not necessarily be discouraged by the fact that the planned series failed to eventuate. Decisions about the future of series are not always made on the grounds of quality.” He still only scored it one-star out of a possible four.

The Melbourne broadcast of Homicide Squad is among the latest addition of Classic TV Guides:

Source: TV Week, 2 May 1981, 15 May 1982. The Age, 18 May 1982.




Permanent link to this article: https://televisionau.com/2021/05/classic-tv-guides-homicide-squad.html

Obituary: Russell Goodrick

Former television newsreader Russell Goodrick has died after a short illness.

His sons Tom and Rodney issued a statement on Facebook, stating that Goodrick had fallen ill to severe form of pancreatitis in January. Despite a recovery from surgery, he was soon admitted back to hospital.

Goodrick’s media career began at Sydney radio station 2GB in 1964. He then worked in London, including as a DJ at Harrods’ “Way In Boutique”, before moving into television at Harlech TV in Wales.

On his return to Australia, he became a reporter and newsreader at MTN9, Griffith, then GMV6, Shepparton, before joining TCN9, Sydney, in 1971.

YouTube: MRGTV

He moved to Perth in 1974 for a brief stint at TVW7, before joining STW9. At Nine he became the station’s chief newsreader for six years, winning a TV Week Logie Award for Most Popular Male Personality In Western Australia in 1984.

In 1985 he launched MRG International as an independent marketing, promotions and public relations company. The company grew to incorporate television production in 1996, and launching MRGTV in 2009.

YouTube: MRGTV

Source: Nine News, Facebook, MRGTV, MRGTV


Permanent link to this article: https://televisionau.com/2021/05/obituary-russell-goodrick.html

Obituary: Frank Warrick

Frank Warrick, veteran Brisbane television presenter, has died at the age of 76.

He was surrounded by family when he died early Tuesday morning, following a five-year battle with dementia.

His career started in radio in Toowoomba in 1963. He then became a familiar face with Brisbane viewers, from the time he started at BTQ7 in 1976 as a reporter and newsreader. He had a brief stint as newsreader at QTQ9 before returning to Seven in 1986.

He went on to anchor the Brisbane bulletin of Seven Nightly News with Simone Semmens in 1988, then with Kay McGrath from 1989 through to his retirement in 2001. During this time he also presented and produced documentaries for Frank Warrick’s World Around Us on Seven, and became a national presenter as host of Million Dollar Chance Of A Lifetime.

In 1994 he was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia in the Queen’s Birthday Honours, for service to the media, to conservation and to the community.

YouTube: Dan Martin

After retirement he made a brief return to television in 2002, at National Nine News, and then back again in 2007 as Nine’s weather presenter.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk paid tribute to Warrick earlier today in Queensland Parliament: “Frank was a welcome guest in thousands of Queensland homes for many decades as a newsreader and as a journalist. His love for this state was on show in a documentary series called The World Around Us, especially the part he loved best, Queensland.

“Our sympathies of this house go to Frank’s wife, Lyn, and their family.”

YouTube: bashuppark

Source: Brisbane Times, Brisbane Times, Seven News, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. TV Week, 11 August 1984


Permanent link to this article: https://televisionau.com/2021/05/obituary-frank-warrick.html

Big Brother at 20

Big Brother may not have been the first of the reality genre but it was the first to give rise to saturation programming — pioneering the dominance of reality formats which now represent the flagship of each commercial network’s schedule.

The Big Brother format, where contestants would be ‘locked away’ from society with every movement recorded and influenced by the leader ‘Big Brother’, and would be voted off one-by-one by the viewing audience, was born in the Netherlands in the late 1990s. Its success led to the format being franchised, with as many as 70 different versions around the world.

With the concept being so readily adopted by viewers, particularly in the younger demographics, it seemed to be a perfect fit for Australia’s Ten Network. Ten adopted the Big Brother format after it had been successfully employed by the United Kingdom’s Channel 4, a commercial network with a similar focus towards unconventional programming and youth appeal.

The premiere of the first series of the Australian Big Brother went to air on Tuesday 24 April 2001 – with host Gretel Killeen (pictured) introducing Australia to its first batch of Big Brother housemates: Ben, Blair, Sara-Marie, Christina, Peter, Jemma, Johnnie, Lisa, Gordon, Todd, Sharna and Andy. The contestants were selected from more than 14,000 applications.

(click to enlarge)

Over the next eighty-five days, while locked away in the Big Brother house situated at the Dreamworld theme park on the Gold Coast, the housemates would be challenged with physical tasks, managing a limited budget, sharing bedrooms and a bathroom and maintain a civil existence with a group of strangers, of varying personality types and backgrounds, all while under the watchful eye of ‘Big Brother’ and millions of Australians. As well as the weeknight half-hour summaries, featuring events of the 24 hours in the Big Brother house, there was a Saturday night highlights episode and the Thursday night ‘adults only’ Big Brother Uncut. The weekly highlight was the Sunday night eviction shows, played out in front of 1500 screaming fans at the Dreamworld auditorium. After hyping up the crowd and presenting various highlights of those short-listed for eviction, Killeen would eventually announce for which housemate “it’s time to go”, before they’d be hurried out of the isolation of the Big Brother house and onto the stage to be interviewed by Killeen.

Later seasons would expand the show’s coverage to a Friday night games featuring the housemates, and a late night live program hosted by Mike Goldman and featuring live crosses to the house.

The eventual winner of the first Big Brother series was Sydney-based Ben Williams (pictured with Killeen), who took the show’s $250,000 prize and embarked on a campaign of charity work. Series runner-up Blair McDonough went on to become an actor in Neighbours and later Winners And Losers. The series’ second runner-up, the raucous but likeable Sara-Marie Fedele from Perth, became a minor celebrity phenomenon with a release of a CD, a book, and appearances in other Network Ten programs such as Totally Wild. She later re-emerged as a contestant on Celebrity Big Brother and the Seven Network‘s Dancing With The Stars.

Network Ten produced a total of eight seasons of Big Brother, proving to be an instant headline-seeker, whether deliberate or otherwise:

  • The evicted housemate (Merlin Luck, pictured) who refused to talk or co-operate with host Killeen as a political protest,
  • The two male housemates disqualified from the show for an alleged ‘turkey-slapping’ incident (and consequently, adding that phrase to the mainstream vernacular)
  • The ongoing public scorn, including from former prime minister John Howard, over ‘adults only’ content being shown in prime-time. (The ‘AO’ version was then rested the following year)
  • The former housemate arrested in Queensland for alleged indecent behaviour
  • An evicted contestant allowed to return after it was revealed a voting bungle led to the wrong contestant being evicted
  • Producers criticised for forcing a housemate to relive the trauma of a miscarriage while looking after a baby doll as a task
  • The housemate whose father had passed away while she was in the house, and producers being criticised for not notifying her, despite them following the wishes of the family
  • The Mexican government lodging a complaint after a Friday Night Live task had contestants hurling liquid-filled balloons at the Mexican flag, which had been placed upside down

After seven seasons, Killeen was replaced by radio hosts Kyle Sandilands and Jackie O, a move which did little to secure the show’s future. Ten let the franchise go at the end of season eight.

In a surprise move, the Nine Network then revived Big Brother in 2012, adopting a less controversial “family friendly” format. Hosted by Sonia Kruger, it lasted three years on Nine.

Last year, the Seven Network revived the franchise again but adopting a different production model where the entire series is pre-recorded before going to air. Kruger has again taken on the role of host.

Seven’s second series of Big Brother debuts on 26 April 2021.

Source: TV Week, 21 April 2001, 16 June 2001.

[This post is a revision of From Big Brother to big bother, posted in 2008]

Permanent link to this article: https://televisionau.com/2021/04/big-brother-at-20.html