TV in the ‘70s
As the 1970s come to a close, TV Times takes a look back at some of the names, programs and events that helped shape the decade that was.
1970: The Long Arm, axed after a short run on the 0-10 Network. Don Lane’s Tonight show is given the boot, as is Showcase, a year after Rod McLennan takes over as host. Bert Newton hosts The Acid Test for Nine, and a sitcom, Mrs Finnegan, draws an indifferent response on Seven. ABC launches a drama series, Dynasty, and a panel show, Would You Believe?, with Carmen Duncan and Jacki Weaver. New quiz show, Temptation, hosted by Tony Barber. Noel Ferrier hosts Australia A To Z on ABC.
1971: Networks now obliged to increase Australian-made programming by 50 per cent and must each screen six hours each month of first-run Australian drama or comedy. Matlock Police begins on the 0-10 Network, and The Godfathers starts on Nine. In Melbourne Tonight is cancelled after 14 years. Pick A Box comes to an end after 23 years on radio and television, and a new show, Money Makers, is launched with Philip Brady (pictured). Hey Hey It’s Saturday begins on GTV9. Johnny Young launches Young Talent Time and the acclaimed US children’s show Sesame Street begins on ABC. Cash-Harmon Productions present the 0-10 Network with a pilot for a new adults-only drama, Number 96. Mike Willesee launches A Current Affair on Nine. Television begins in Darwin.
1972: The Nine Network launches a private detective drama, The Spoiler, with Bruce Barry, while Rod Mullinar stars as Ryan for the Seven Network. New Zealander James Laurenson appears as half-caste Aboriginal detective Napoleon Bonaparte in the Seven Network series, Boney. Number 96 (pictured) makes its debut, and some of the opening episode is censored from viewing in Melbourne after being shown in Sydney the night before. ABC launches a new comedy show, The Aunty Jack Show. The Government announces that Australia will convert to colour television in 1975.
1973: The Mike Walsh Show makes its debut and marks a new standard for daytime television. Certain Women and Seven Little Australians begin on ABC, and Bert Newton hosts a variety series for the national broadcaster. The Price Is Right with Garry Meadows begins on the 0-10 Network.
1974: Crawford Productions launches The Box for the 0-10 Network. The Seven Network launches a variety show, JC At 8.30, to combat Number 96, but is taken off-air after 10 shows. Reg Grundy’s first soap opera, Class Of ‘74, debuts on Seven. Peter Wherrett presents the first series of motoring program Torque for ABC. Gordon Chater and Gwen Plumb star in an ABC comedy, Mac And Merle (pictured). The gold rush of the 1850s is recreated in the ABC series, Rush, starring John Waters. A new pop music show, Countdown, is launched on ABC. All networks are given the go-ahead to broadcast test colour transmissions. The Nine Network launches a telethon to raise relief funds after Cyclone Tracy wipes out Darwin.
1975: All networks convert to full-scale colour transmission on 1 March. Cash-Harmon follows up Number 96 with an early-evening series for Nine, The Unisexers, which is taken off the air after three weeks. Graham Kennedy (pictured) is banned from appearing on live TV after his suspect “crow call”. Mike Willesee hosts This Is Your Life for the Seven Network and Garry Meadows hosts a game show, High Rollers. Don Lane returns to Australia to launch The Don Lane Show on Nine. An end of an era as Crawford cop shows Division 4 and Homicide are both cancelled.
1976: The 0-10 Network adapts the British program It’s A Knockout as Almost Anything Goes. A new sitcom, The Bluestone Boys, makes light of life in prison. The Nine Network launches two new early-evening series, The Young Doctors and The Sullivans. The Young Doctors is axed after a few weeks on air but given a reprieve following public reaction. TV Times, in association with the Seven Network, present the first Sammy Awards. The Ernie Sigley Show is abruptly axed following an off-air outburst by the show’s host directed at Kerry Packer and producer Peter Faiman.
1977: Number 96 and The Box are both cancelled by the 0-10 Network. Bellbird comes to an end on ABC after ten years, and Homicide winds up on Seven after 12 years. Graham Kennedy returns to TV as host of Blankety Blanks. The Naked Vicar Show is launched on ABC, and Benny Hill makes a series of specials in Australia for the 0-10 Network. The Seven Network launches Glenview High and Cop Shop, and 0-10 launches The Restless Years. Tony Barber (pictured) returns to TV as host of Family Feud. The US mini-series Roots attracts high ratings.
1978: ABC debuts quiz show Mastermind and a light-hearted panel show, Micro Macro (pictured). The Seven Network screens its landmark mini-series Against The Wind. A Current Affair is axed by the Nine Network, and Monday Conference winds up on ABC. The comedy series Tickled Pink begins on ABC. The 0-10 Network launches The Steve Raymond Show in response to losing The Mike Walsh Show to Nine.
1979: ABC re-launches its afternoon children’s programming block as ARVO. Peter Luck presents documentary series This Fabulous Century for Seven. Airport drama comes to Seven with Skyways, and the 0-10 Network’s Prisoner becomes a hit. Nationwide marks a new era of current affairs for ABC, replacing This Day Tonight. The Nine Network takes a costly gamble with its new current affairs show, 60 Minutes. New dramas The Oracle, Golden Soak and Twenty Good Years air on ABC. New requirements for local children’s TV programming lead to new shows Simon Townsend’s Wonder World and Shirl’s Neighbourhood. Hey Hey It’s Saturday returns to TV after the ill-fated The Daryl And Ossie Show on the 0-10 Network. The Special Broadcasting Service presents a series of multicultural programs on ABC.
Young Doc’s sidetrack
The Young Doctors star Eric Oldfield has turned his talents to pop music. The former star of The Godfathers and one-time Cleo centrefold (pictured) has recorded Girls On The Beach, to be released by the Grundy Organisation. Grundy’s publicity manager Felicity Goscombe defends the song as being purely commercial: “Why not? He’s good looking, has a good voice and is such a change from the ‘uglies’. We’re trying to bring back some entertainment to the music business – and a lot of glamour.”
Voyage to Greece along Yarra
The producers of the 0-10 Network’s weekly Greek variety show, Grecian Scene, have produced a Melbourne-based Christmas special for national distribution in Greece. Grecian Scene co-host Olga Davis described the show as “a typical party, with Greek food and wines, music, songs and dancers. A traditional Greek Christmas celebration with an Australian background.” The special, filmed on board a paddle-steamer cruising the Yarra River, aired in Melbourne last week. “The Greek TV station bought the show for its national network. They seemed to think it a good idea, to show people some part of the life their relatives live in Australia,” Davis told TV Times.
In re-creating Sydney Town, circa-1788, for the upcoming mini-series The Timeless Land, a great deal of research and design went into constructing cottages, barns and buildings of the period, including an impressive two-storey Government House – but had it not been for modern-day plastic the reconstructed town could never have happened. The cottages have timber frames, with sheets of clear plastic moulded into the shape of timber logs and wooden roof shingles. Supervising designer George Liddle told TV Times, “We wouldn’t have had a hope of being able to afford to build the town if it hadn’t been for vacuum-formed plastic sheeting. Each of these sheets costs $2, which means we were able to build a cottage for around $500, instead of at least four times the price for timber, and four times quicker – a great economy.” The reconstructed town is situated on a private properly in Kellyville, outside of Sydney, which the producers have rented. Apart from offering the perfect scenery the property has a large dam, which is being used as a Sydney Harbour backdrop. The Timeless Land, starring Michael Craig, Angela Punch McGregor (pictured) and Nicola Paget and a supporting cast including Noel Trevarthen, Rod Mullinar, Peter Cousens, David Gulpilil, Anna Volska, Patrick Dickson and Arnhem Land tribesman Charles Yunupingu, is expected to go to air on ABC around mid-1980.
Actress Kerry Armstrong (pictured) has left Prisoner and taken up the role of another country girl, the niece of Fay (Kris McQuade) in Skyways: “I don’t know why I always get cast as a country girl – maybe it’s because of my big leg muscles. I got them from dancing school.” After she’s finished on Skyways, Armstrong will be appearing in the upcoming mini-series Water Under The Bridge, now in production for the 0-10 Network.
Young Talent Time cast member Bobby Dreissen is recovering from injuries after a hit-run incident in Melbourne. The 13-year-old was riding a bicycle when he was hit by a car. “I was frightened more than anything else. I hadn’t a clue what was happening at the time – one minute I was pedalling along, the next I’m rolling about on the street in agony.” Despite injuries to his back and hands, Dreissen continued to meet his commitments to Young Talent Time, performing the day after the incident.
Helen Morse is tipped to win the lead female role in the upcoming mini-series A Town Like Alice.
Peggy Toppano and Lorrae Desmond, who play two sisters who run a bookstore in the new series Arcade, are finding work positively absorbing. “Sometimes I get so engrossed in all the fascinating books on the set that I have to drag myself away to rehearse my lines,” Toppano told TV Times.
Viewpoint: Letters to the Editor:
”I just cannot resist commenting on Tracey Yesberg’s letter (Viewpoint, 24 November 1979) regarding So You Want To Be A Centrefold. Anyone with such narrow views was under no obligation to watch, but naturally curiosity wins again. I am also female, and also watched, as I am the lone female in our family and I was curious. I agree it was trash but something different for all the wide-eyed men. I personally admire the models for having the guts to be so uninhibited in front of the TV cameras, and, anyway, there are far more important morals in today’s corrupt society to worry about, and nude models are certainly not one of them.” J. Lewy, NSW.
“I would like to see some of Gracie Fields’ movies on TV. They’ve done festivals of movies to honour stars like John Wayne and Elvis Presley, so why not Gracie? I am 71, and used to live near Gracie in Rochdale, Lancashire. As a matter of fact I sing some of her songs as a member of the Country Women’s Association concert party in Wollongong, NSW.” B. Lindop, NSW.
What’s On (December 29-January 4):
HSV7’s coverage of the Australian Open tennis, live from Kooyong, Melbourne, continues from Saturday through to Wednesday. From Thursday, attention shifts to Hobart for the Australian Hardcourt Championships.
New Year’s Eve includes ATV0’s coverage of the Festival of Sydney – New Year’s Eve Concert from the Sydney Opera House, hosted by Rolf Harris and including appearances by John St Peeters, Marcia Hines, Jon English, The Angels and the Combined Pipe Band of Sydney. The 5-and-a-half hour telecast includes Sydney’s spectacular New Year’s Eve fireworks to signal the arrival of the new year and the new decade.
HSV7 farewells 1979 with overseas specials Dick Clark And A Cast Of Thousands and Elton John At Wembley, before New Year’s greetings at midnight. At 12.02am, Lee Simon presents a special New Year edition of Nightmoves. Meanwhile, GTV9 presents the Concert Of The Decade, featuring highlights from the recent 2SM/Moove Festival from the steps of the Sydney Opera House. Highlights from the day’s cricket between Australia and the West Indies airs at 10.00pm, with the 1970 movie Song Of Norway at midnight.
ABC’s New Year’s Eve starts with the People’s Command Performance, from Caesar’s Palace, Las Vegas, featuring Joan Rivers, Chubby Checker, Vincent Price, Rod Stewart, Jerry Lewis and Lainie Kazan. At 9.40pm, Gregory Peck and Ann-Margret present A Holiday Tribute To The Radio City Music Hall, followed at 11.10pm with New Year’s Rocking Eve, a concert featuring Blondie, Village People and Barry Manilow. Then, at 12.40am, a concert special from Elton John that was recorded on Christmas Eve, 1974.
On New Year’s Day, HSV7 crosses to Perth at 6.00pm for the annual Perth Cup and GTV9 has more cricket from 4.00pm. Later in the evening, ABC presents the Edinburgh Military Tattoo 1979, and ATV0 presents a re-run of the British mini-series, Elizabeth R.
Wednesday night’s Faces Of The Eighties features politician Simon Crean, who, at the age of 30, is one of the rising stars of the Labor movement.
Sunday night movies: The Taming Of The Shrew (HSV7), My Father’s House (GTV9), A New Leaf (ATV0). After the movie, ATV0 repeats the two-hour special Thanks For The Memory, a roundup of the news and events of the 1970s, originally aired last month.
Source: TV Times (Melbourne edition), 29 December 1979. ABC/ACP