Arcade: Going from hero to zero

By the turn of the ’80s it was the unofficial benchmark for each commercial network to have two successful soapie dramas in the schedule. Seven had Cop Shop and Skyways, and Nine had The Sullivans and The Young Doctors. The then 0-10 Network had the popular Prisoner and teen drama The Restless Years. For some reason, the third ranked network pumped up to $3 million into risking another drama.

In the middle of 1979, the network had been considering a project titled Centaur, with a big business and horse racing theme. The project fell through when the network’s Melbourne channel, ATV0, backed out prior to the pilot going into production.

Pal Cleary, director of programming at TEN10 in Sydney, then recalled another concept for a series set in a shopping centre. He raised the idea with TEN10 general manager Ian Kennon and ATV0 executives Wilf Barker and Mike Lattin, all of which enthusiastically embraced the idea. Early storyline plans were sketched on pieces of paper napkin but had rather salacious themes, before the eager executives realised that shock tactics were not going to work. Audiences had moved on from the titillating days of Number 96 and The Box.

Despite wanting to move away from the Number 96 template, the executives secured the services of former Number 96 producer Bill Harmon, creator and story editor David Sale and scriptwriter Johnny Whyte to develop their new idea as lighter drama and comic fare for an early evening timeslot.

More than 1500 actors were auditioned across the country for the cast of 20, as TEN10’s Studio A was turned into a replica shopping mall, including shopfronts, shiny floors and real-life merchandise as props. A snappy disco-styled theme tune was composed by Rick Perjanik and sung by Doug Parkinson.

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With the network pushing for a mid-January launch, production commenced in the last week of November, bypassing the making of a pilot.

When production finally commenced, the Arcade shopfronts included a newsagent, delicatessen, sports shop, record bar, gymnasium, gift shop and a pinball parlour. The cast included some familiar faces: Lorrae Desmond, Peggy Toppano, Mike Dorsey, Syd Heylen, Aileen Britton, Alan Finney and Danny Adcock.

Aileen Britton, Syd Heylen

Filling out the rest of the cast were Sinan Leong, Raymond Nock, Lucy Taylor, Patrick Ward, Olga Tamara, Anne Semler, Jeremy Kewley, Garth Meade, Maggie Stuart, Bill Charlton, Coral Kelly, Greg Bepper and Christine Harris.

With the soon-to-be-renamed Network Ten enthusiastically talking up the new show as being the huge hit for the 1980s, but declining to offer anything in the form of preview episodes, a willing media was still relaying every development ahead of the show’s launch. It was also well reported that it was set to take on early evening stalwarts Willesee At Seven and The Sullivans.

Arcade made its grand opening across the network on Sunday 20 January 1980 with a 90-minute episode before settling into a regular half-hour weeknight timeslot. Viewers were introduced to the mix of characters that populated the shopping centre, many of which the usual soapie stereotypes, both comically over-the-top and otherwise, but there were some commendable nods to diverse representation. The characters included a Chinese-Australian family running the delicatessen, and one that used a wheelchair (though played by an able-bodied actor).

Despite its massive pre-launch publicity and reporting and elaborate 90-minute debut, viewers did not seem that interested in the promise of tales from a suburban shopping mall. Audience surveys did not bode well for Ten’s new show, and rival network Nine stirred the pot by issuing a press release to trumpet its summer cricket coverage but included some of the less flattering results for Arcade.

Sinan Leong

While some of the show’s stars were bravely quoted in press articles promising that the show needed time to settle in, the network was about to pounce as its expensive gamble had gone from hero to zero.

Arcade was axed at the end of February, after only six weeks, though its axing was too late to undo some prominent magazine coverage that was already in print, centred around previewing an upcoming wedding in the show that was now never to see the light of day.

Sinan Leong, Adrian Bernotti

The expensive set that filled Studio A was dismantled and dumped outside Ten’s studios as an invitation to passers by for free fire wood.

Network management, while conceding that attempting to make Arcade in-house was a mistake, tried to throw the scriptwriters under the bus for Arcade‘s failure. But Sale in his autobiography Number 96, Mavis Bramston And Me, decried that the show’s biggest flaw was that it was a constantly moving target in development, with episode structure, storylines and even menial details relating to the use of certain props all up for interference and debate by network executives.

Mike Dorsey, Christine Harris

If a positive legacy could be derived from Arcade, it was that two of its cast — Lorrae Desmond and Syd Heylen — were spotted by future A Country Practice producer James Davern, who cast them both for ongoing roles in his new rural drama that launched in 1981.

Peggy Toppano, Lorrae Desmond

Source: TV Week, 10 November 1979, 19 January 1980. TV Guide, 8 December 1979, 5 January 1980. TV Times, 1 March 1980.  The Australian Women’s Weekly TV World, 4 April 1981. Super Aussie Soaps. Number 96, Mavis Bramston And Me.

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Obituary: Grant Goldman

Grant Goldman, voice over announcer and radio presenter, has died at the age of 69.

He had been diagnosed with terminal cancer in 2017.

Starting his career at the age of 14, Goldman was a distinctive and familiar voice on radio, working at numerous radio stations including 2UE, 2WS, 2DAY, 2GB, 4IP, 3UZ and 5AD. He also worked in television. His credits included Stairway To The Stars and Jukebox Jury for Seven and It’s A Small World for Ten. He also hosted the first episode of Countdown in November, 1974 — one of the first colour programs produced for ABC, and worked as a voice over announcer for the Ten Network.

YouTube: For The Love Of Broadcast

He once made a guest appearance as a panellist on Big Brother spin-off Friday Night Games, co-hosted by his son Mike Goldman.

In Sydney, Goldman provided voice announcements for City Rail and State Rail as well as Sydney Football stadium, Stadium Australia, Sydney Cricket Ground and Brookvale Oval.

Goldman had most recently been a breakfast announcer at Sydney radio station 2SM, with his program broadcast across the Super Radio Network.

Grant Goldman is survived by his wife, six children and three grandchildren.

Source: Radio Info, 2HD, 2GB

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Obituary: Tom Long

Actor Tom Long, best known from the original Seachange series and the film The Dish, has died at the age of 51.

Long was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 2012. Last year he took part in an immunotherapy medical trial in Seattle last April, with 17 other patients. He was declared cancer free after several months.

His wife Rebecca Fleming told Nine newspapers that Long had died from encephalitis: “Over the seven years that Tom’s had cancer he’s fought hard and he’s tried all the different therapies as they’ve come out. The Car T-cell therapy that he took part in last year was the last hope for him. He achieved remission and he was so grateful.”

Born in the United States to Australian parents, Long grew up in country Victoria and studied at the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA). His first TV credits included GP and The Leaving Of Liverpool, and his first major TV role was in the short-lived Network Ten soap Echo Point in 1995 (pictured with co-star Rebecca Murphy).

He then starred as court clerk Angus Kabiri in the top-rating ABC series Seachange in the late ’90s.

He played the lead role of notorious bank robber Brenden Abbott in the telemovie The Postcard Bandit in 2003.

He also starred in Young Lions, Blackjack, East Of Everything, Joanne Lees: Murder In The Outback, Two Twisted and Woodley.

Source: The Curb, Sydney Morning Herald, Sydney Morning Herald, IMDB, 10daily



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Happy New Year from the Young Talent Team

Happy New Year (1972) from the cast of Young Talent Time. Pictured clockwise from bottom left: Julie Ryles, Greg Mills, Debbie Byrne, Phillip Gould, Anne Hawker, Johnny Young, Johnny Hawker, Rod Kirkham, Vikki Broughton, Jamie Redfern and Jane Scali.

Source: TV Week, 1 January 1972

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2019: We remember…

Darius Perkins

Annalise Braakensiek

Jimmy Hannan

Carmen Duncan

Billy J Smith

Mike Willesee

Geoff Harvey

Michael Williamson

Bill Collins

Bryan Marshall

Richard Carter

Bruce Webster

Ben Unwin

Paul Cronin

Reg Watson

Patrick Ward

Roger Cardwell

Anne Phelan

Clive James

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Back to the Millennium

New Year’s Eve television in Australia is usually a fairly low-rent mix of re-runs or B-grade filler not fit for broadcast during the high-pressure ratings season.

But the global excitement over the year ticking over from 1999 to 2000, twenty years ago, saw some gallant efforts to secure the nation’s viewers on the big night.

ABC was one of the worldwide consortium of 60 broadcasters to partake in 2000 Today, a 28-hour television event covering New Year’s midnight celebrations from around the world and capturing the first dawn breaking for the year 2000. The broadcast kicked off at 8.30pm AEDST, as Tonga, Kiribati and New Zealand were among the first cities to cross the 2000 dateline, and continued through to Samoa’s New Year approximately 24 hours later.

2000 Today was estimated to have reached a global audience of 800  million viewers.

The Nine Network countered 2000 Today with Millennium Live, involving a competing network of international broadcasters and anticipating a global audience of over two billion. Nine hit a snag at the last moment when the host organisation for the broadcast, Millennium Television Network, collapsed just days before the big event — leaving Nine to scramble together access to alternative satellite links to be able to maintain its 20+ hour telecast. Among its local presenters on Millennium Live were Eddie McGuire, Tracy Grimshaw, Rove McManus, Catriona Rowntree, Kim Watkins, Richard Wilkins and Helen Dalley.

Seven in Melbourne devoted New Year’s Eve to a telecast of the special AFL match, Ansett Australia Cup: The Millennium Match, live from the MCG, while Seven in Sydney and Brisbane broadcast the Clive James special A Night Of 1000 Years from the UK. (Melbourne got the Clive James special the following night)

Seven then followed with the special The Turn Of The Century: Rock The Millennium — A Celebration Of Song, then broadcast music videos overnight with AUS: Australia’s Ultimate Songs, counting down the greatest 100 Australian songs of the century.

The Ten Network as usual took a lower-profile approach to festivities, with a music video special Funk The Millennium, hosted by Sami Lukis from 10.30pm through to 3.00am.

SBS ran with its traditional New Year’s Eve screening of the German comedy Dinner For One, followed by documentaries, and the Italian film  Allegro Non Troppo going past midnight.

Looking back at 2019, Television.AU remembered the 60th anniversary of the TV Week Awards (which became what we now know as the TV Week Logie Awards), Operation Kangaroo and the launch of television in Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth.

We looked back at the 1965 award-winning ABC special Birth, documenting the birth of the daughter of ABC producer Jim White.

Division 4 turned 50. It was 50 years since Graham Kennedy hosted his last In Melbourne Tonight, and since the world watched the Apollo 11 moon landing.

Prisoner turned 40, and it was also 40 years since the first test broadcasts for what we now know as SBS, and the launch of ABC’s Nationwide.

It was 30 years since the Seven Network’s ill-fated daytime ventures The Bert Newton Show and The Power, The Passion. It was also 30 years since the first Media Watch on ABC, and the Ten Network’s drastic relaunch as 10 TV Australia.

It was 20 years since we said goodbye to Eleven AM after 24 years on air.

We also once again looked back at the TV Week Logie Awards of 50, 25 and 10 years ago.

During the year we added 44 classic TV listings to the Classic TV Guides archive.

Next year marks some significant anniversaries, including 60 years of television in Tasmania and 40 years since the official launch of SBS and the relaunch of the 0-10 Network as Network Ten.

And Television.AU marks its 20th anniversary.

Happy New Year and best wishes for the year ahead!

Source: Wikipedia, Wikipedia. Sydney Morning Herald, 30 December 1999.


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50 years since the last Kennedy IMT

When Graham Kennedy announced his resignation from hosting Nine‘s In Melbourne Tonight at the end of 1969, it was of no great surprise. Kennedy, at 35, had been working in radio and then television for almost half of his life. In Melbourne Tonight alone had been running for 12 years, although at this stage Kennedy was down to hosting only two shows out of its five a week. He had decided secretly almost a year earlier it was time to go but was happy to keep everyone guessing for much of the year.

There was heaps of media speculation over his future at Nine into 1970. Kennedy’s manager Harry M Miller was said to have been in discussion with rival network Seven. There were also rumoured negotiations with Reg Ansett, proprietor of ATV0, Melbourne, on behalf of the 0-10 Network, and even reports that Kennedy and Miller were looking to set up their own independent production company.

By November it became official that Kennedy would indeed finish up at Nine, effective 31 December, with his last In Melbourne Tonight to be on 23 December. Meanwhile, Nine had been signing up names to take over Kennedy’s spot as host of IMT. Jimmy Hannan, who had left Nine five years earlier, had returned to the network as one of Kennedy’s successors.

Bert Newton, Stuart Wagstaff, Ugly Dave Gray and former Sydney Tonight host Don Lane were also locked in to host the new-look IMT in 1970, with each host taking on a different night.

A goodbye kiss from IMT barrel girl Honnie Van den Bosch

The final Kennedy-hosted IMT aired on 23 December 1969. The episode was largely in the typical format of the show, with little reference to it being Kennedy’s last.  That was until newsreader Eric Pearce appeared on screen to present Kennedy with a replica of the crown worn by King Henry IV. The replica had reportedly been worn by John Gielgud and Sir Laurence Olivier in Shakespearean films and by Robert Taylor in the movie Knights Of The Round Table. 

Eric Pearce crowns “the King”

Being crowned with the replica was symbolic of Kennedy’s famed title of “the King of Television”. After a tribute speech given by Pearce, Kennedy responded: “I’ve started to feel as though I’ve just passed away.”

Kennedy waves goodbye surrounded by the cast of his last IMT

He then gave a fond farewell to his many viewers: “I wish there was some way I could get through that glass and kiss you all.”

Journalists were discouraged and press photographers were not allowed in at all to witness the final show. TV Times did the best it could by taking pictures of the TV screen as the show went to air for its coverage of the occasion (above). Although the freshly-crowned Kennedy managed to sneak past the “blockade” and give a wave to photographers waiting outside (pictured, right).

In Melbourne Tonight did not fare well in its new format although it did survive long enough to mark its 3000th episode in October 1970. The show was eventually reduced to only two nights a week — those hosted by Stuart Wagstaff and Ugly Dave Gray — before being axed in March 1971.

Source: TV Times, 22 October 1969,  7 January 1970.

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Classic TV Guides: Pardon, Miss Westcott

Pardon, Miss Westcott! was billed as Australia’s first locally-written musical production for television.

Pardon, Miss Westcott was set in the Rum Rebellion days of the early 1800s and told the story of Elizabeth Westcott, the daughter of an English inn-keeper deported to Sydney for a trivial crime. Playing the lead role was Wendy Blacklock, who had returned to Australia after working in the United Kingdom.

On her way to Sydney, Westcott attracts the romantic interest of army officer Richard Soames (played by stage and television performer Michael Cole).

After serving her sentence, Westcott opens a tavern and becomes a hit on the Sydney social scene, including crashing a party at Government House.

Also featured in the play were actors Nigel Lovell, Queenie Ashton, Chris Christensen, Nat Levison and Michael Walshe.

Blacklock later became well known to television audiences in the 1970s as dizzy housewife Edie “Mummy” MacDonald in Number 96.

Pardon, Miss Westcott was written by Peter Benjamin and Peter Stannard, co-writers of the Australian stage hit Lola Montez, and performed live to air from the studios of ATN7, Sydney at a cost of £5000. The performance was recorded for delayed broadcast on GTV9, Melbourne, in December 1959.

The Melbourne screening of Pardon, Miss Westcott! is among the latest additions to Classic TV Guides:

Source: IMDB. TV Times, 18 December 1959

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Ten News Perth signs Monika Kos, farewells Narelda Jacobs

Two weeks ago Monika Kos signed off from hosting Seven‘s Today Tonight in Perth after 22 years, as the current affairs show came to end after 25 years.

Network Ten has now announced that Kos will take over as principal anchor for Ten News First in Perth from next month.

The move comes as Ten’s current Perth newsreader Narelda Jacobs takes on a national TV profile as a panellist on Studio 10, based in Sydney.

In a statement issued by Ten, Kos said: “Narelda has been the face of 10 News First Perth for over a decade and I’m proud that she has been given this opportunity on Studio 10 to showcase her talent to the rest of Australia. As a fellow West Australian, it’s an honour to be filling her seat and to be entrusted with such an important role.

“I look forward to immersing myself in a newsroom that’s as enthusiastic and passionate about reporting issues that matter to Perth as I am. Whether reporting on local, interstate or international events, it will be a privilege to be part of a team that delivers them to you first. It’s a new chapter for me and I cannot wait to join the team.”

Jacobs, who has been fronting the 5.00pm news for Ten in Perth since 2008, presents her last bulletin this Friday 13 December.

Kos will join sports presenter Tim Gossage and weather presenter Michael Shultz at Ten from a date to be confirmed in January.

The signing of Kos is another high-profile news get for Ten. In recent years the network has recruited Lisa Wilkinson for The Project, and Jennifer Keyte and Chris Bath for Ten News First.

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Adelaide newsreader John Riddell signs off

Adelaide newsreader John Riddell has presented his last Seven News bulletin before going into retirement.

It marks the end of 30 years at Seven News in Adelaide for Riddell, and a career spanning 45 years.

He started at Messenger Newspapers in Adelaide before working in radio at 5DN and the Macquarie Radio Network. He made his TV debut at TVW7, Perth, before joining NWS9 in Adelaide in 1981.

He moved to Seven News in 1990 and since 2005 has read the 6.00pm news with Jane Doyle.

Source: Seven News, Adelaide Now


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