SPECIAL: Today after 45 years Days Of Our Lives departs Australian television as the longest running continuous drama on our screens.
To mark the occasion Television.AU joins with TV Tonight in this special joint post, to recognise enduring television programs that have survived the volatile world of television (excluding News / Sport).
DK: David Knox, tvtonight.com.au
AB: Andrew Bayley, televisionau.com
Special: Australian TV History Timeline Pt 1
Home And Away, Seven
DK: Buoyed by the success of Neighbours on TEN, Seven launched a new primetime drama about a foster family running a caravan park in the fictional town of Summer Bay. The Seven-produced concept worked, with viewers in Australia and the UK falling for soapie storylines against the backdrop of a surf beach, school and local diner. Summer Bay has featured a parade of Aussie stars including Melissa George, Kate Ritchie, Julian McMahon, Dannii Minogue, Ryan Kwanten, Simon Baker, Guy Pearce, Craig McLachlan, Chris Hemsworth, Isla Fisher, Georgie Parker and more. Ray ‘Flamin’ Meagher is now the longest-serving actor in a continuous role on Australian TV with a Gold Logie (pictured) to show for it. Still bringing in the ratings at 7:00 each weeknight, Home And Away now has more Logies than any other TV show in Australian history.
AB: Starting as a studio-based interview and discussion program, ABC’s Compass has explored matters relating to religion, faith, ethics and spirituality. Initially hosted by Angela Pearman on Sunday afternoons, the program later developed into a primetime documentary format. Christina Koutsoukos took over as host in 1989, followed in 1998 by veteran journalist Geraldine Doogue.
Media Watch, ABC
DK: Stuff-ups, beat-ups and barneys, the ABC’s long-running commentary show has become the nation’s media watchdog. A string of hosts, including Stuart Littlemore (pictured), Paul Barry, David Marr, Monica Attard and Jonathan Holmes, have sought to keep the bastards honest, whether they be print, radio, television, internet or even the ABC itself (including when controversial ABC general manager Jonathon Shier “rested” the show in 2000). Along the way there has been stories on Cash for Comment, ACA’s Paxton kids saga, Today Tonight’s ‘Chase for Skase’, fake Pauline Hanson photos, typos and almost anything involving Alan Jones or the Illawarra Mercury. As they say in the industry, “everybody loves it, until they’re on it.”
Gardening Australia, ABC
DK: Amiable host Peter Cundall hosted this gardening show from 1989-2008, but he had hosted gardening TV since 1969. With his passion for all things horticultural, he would show us “how to” garden and answer viewer questions in his inimitable style. After finally signing off with his trademark “that’s your bloomin’ lot” he was replaced briefly by Stephen Ryan and thereafter Costa Georgiadis.
Saturday Disney, Seven
AB: Seven’s long-running connection to Disney led to it adopting the Saturday Disney franchise – presenting a mix of studio segments and Disney cartoons – in 1990. The show’s original three hosts were Sofie Formica, James Sherry and Jeniene Mapp. Presenters to have featured over the past 23 years include Lisa Barry, Melanie Symons, Mark Buhaj, Sara Groen, Shelley Craft and current-day hosts Shae Brewster, Candice Dixon and Nathan Morgan. The program is now split between Seven’s main channel and digital channel 7TWO.
DK: Based on Nightline with Ted Koppel, ABC’s interview-based show was first hosted by Kerry O’Brien from Parliament House Canberra and pioneered the use of multi-satellite interviews in which a single topic was discussed at length by several people. Interviews with a brusk Paul Keating as PM are the stuff of legend. It later relocated to Sydney under Maxine McKew prior to her entry into politics. Other hosts have included Tony Jones, Virginia Trioli, Leigh Sales, Ali Moore and Emma Alberici.
Australia’s Funniest Home Video Show, Nine
AB: The program that people either love or love to hate. The legendary Graham Kennedy (pictured) got the ball rolling as the show’s first host in 1990. He was followed by Jacki MacDonald, Lisa Patrick, Jo-Beth Taylor, Catriona Rowntree, Kim Kilbey, Toni Pearen and now Shelley Craft. Over 20 years since its debut Australia’s Funniest Home Videos (the ‘Show’ has been dropped from the title) is a firm fixture on Nine’s Saturday night schedule.
The Simpsons, Ten
DK: What began as sketches in The Tracey Ullman Show became a show in its own right on Australian TV in 1991 but was cited as a bad cartoon for kids by some critics because Homer was such a poor father figure. The concept of a dysfunctional father in an adult animated series was still hard to grasp. Across the decades it has lampooned American society from every conceivable angle, sometimes causing controversy in other countries for its stereotyping –including Australia– in Bart vs Australia. TEN even found cause to edit a same-sex smooch in its early years. But The Simpsons has given us many laughs and more than a few new words into the English language. Now in its 24th season it remains the longest-running scripted American primetime series.
DK: Perfectly fulfilling the ABC Charter to cover rural stories, Landline presents stories ranging across agri-politics and economics , business and product innovation, animal and crop science, regional infrastructure, climate and lifestyle with current host Pip Courtney. Amazingly, the show has not budged from its original timeslot of midday Sundays – an achievement in itself.
Foreign Correspondent, ABC
AB: Former 60 Minutes reporter and Today co-host George Negus (pictured) went back to the ABC where his TV career started to host Foreign Correspondent, providing serious international current affairs initially on Saturday night. The program has been widely recognised both in Australia and overseas for its coverage of international affairs.
Totally Wild, Ten
AB: Totally Wild is Network Ten’s most successful children’s program. Beginning back in 1992 the series has covered topics relating to flora and fauna, the environment, sport and recreation. Presenter Ranger Stacey (Stacey Thomson) has been with the program since day one.
AB: Australia’s longest-running travel series was hosted by Jeff Watson, David Reyne, Anna McMahon and Rebecca Harris when it debuted in 1992. For over 20 years the program has taken viewers to a wide range of local and international travel destinations. Although the program was tipped to be axed last year it continues to appear on Nine on Saturday afternoons.
Meet The Press, Ten
AB: Noting the critical success of Nine’s Sunday and possibly inspired by SBS’ Face The Press, Network Ten launched Meet The Press in 1992 as a late-night discussion program after the Sunday night movie. The program, initially hosted by David Johnston (pictured), then shifted to Sunday mornings where, like with Sunday, its political interviews would set the news agenda for the days ahead. Hosted by Paul Bongiorno for 16 years it has continued largely unchanged in format for most of its life until it was revamped this year in being produced in co-operation with News Limited and expanding to a one-hour format.
The Footy Show, Nine
DK: It began as an AFL Grand Final edition of The Sunday Footy Show but by 1994 it was a show in its own right with Eddie McGuire, Sam Newman and Trevor Marmalade. A mix of sports news, team reviews and variety, the show arguably owed a debt to Nine’s Bendigo Street history of live entertainment, with Sam Newman as the court jester in the same studio where Graham Kennedy had hosted In Melbourne Tonight. But Newman has also courted controversy with sexist comments against women and mocking journalist Caroline Wilson. Garry Lyon and James Brayshaw joined as joint hosts in 2006. Meanwhile, the NRL Footy Show also began in 1994 with Paul Vautin, ‘Sterlo’ (Peter Sterling), and ‘Blocker’ (Steve Roach) followed by Paul ‘Chief’ Harragon in 2001 and Matthew Johns in 2003. Despite its ratings trailing its AFL counterpart by a country mile, the NRL Footy Show has edged in front with more Logie wins.
Sydney Weekender, Seven
DK: For nineteen years Mike Whitney has criss-crossed the state of New South Wales visiting travel spots and telling us about weekenders in Seven’s long running travel and leisure show. Together with his team of presenters, he’s uncovered more B&Bs, caravan parks, restaurants and adventure activities to last a lifetime.
Songs Of Praise, ABC
AB: Beginning on the BBC as far back as 1961, it was 1994 before Songs Of Praise made its debut in Australia. The weekly program of Christian hymns as sung by congregations across the United Kingdom had to recently fend off moves to expand into a multi-faith format, with the BBC’s head of religion, a Muslim, making it clear that the program will continue as a Christian-based format.
Today Tonight, Seven
DK: Seven’s nightly public affairs show emerged from Real Life, hosted by Stan Grant until 1994. State-based editions were born in 1995 with various hosts including Jill Singer, Neil Mercer, Peter Luck, Melissa Doyle, Carolyn Tucker, Leigh McClusky and Yvette Mooney. From 1997 – 2006 Naomi Robson hosted the Melbourne edition which was broadcast into Sydney and Brisbane from 2002 / 2003 respectively. Anna Coren hosted from 2006 and Matt White from 2008. Despite criticism of its mostly-tabloid tales, and the odd run in with ACMA, the show has continued to pull an audience, with local editions in Adelaide and Perth ensuring its national numbers have regularly defeated A Current Affair. This year Seven has installed Helen Kapalos (pictured) as host of its Melbourne and Sydney editions with Sharyn Ghidella in Brisbane.
Better Homes and Gardens, Seven
AB: Noni Hazlehurst and John Jarratt (pictured) initially hosted the TV spin-off of magazine Better Homes And Gardens, presenting a cheerful mix of stories relating to home improvements, gardening, pets, home maintenance and cooking. The program has since moved from Tuesday nights to Fridays where its viewer popularity has become seemingly unbreakable.
Australian Story, ABC
AB: Since its debut in 1996 Australian Story has covered the often-unique stories of a diverse range of Australians from their own perspective. Some of the people to feature on Australian Story have been household names, others less so but with stories just as captivating. The program has been widely acclaimed with a number of Walkley and industry-voted Logie awards to its credit.
South Park, SBS
AB: While The Simpsons had been a pop culture hit, South Park put a perverse twist on the genre, tackling just about every pop culture and social taboo with the subtlety of a cannon. The crudely-animated characters of Denver, Colorado, were a hit for US cable channel Comedy Central and gave SBS here among its highest ever ratings for an ongoing series, leading its formation of a Monday night comedy schedule.
AB: One of Australia’s most successful showbiz exports, Hi-5 burst onto screens in a splash of colour in 1999 – giving kids show stalwarts like Play School a run for their money. Created by Helena Harris and Posie Graeme-Evans, Hi-5 featured a cast of perky performers – Kathleen, Charli, Tim, Kellie and Nathan made up the original line-up — just right for a pre-school audience. The lively mix of pop-like tunes with lots of colour and movement made the show a hit with a new generation of youngsters, spawning a huge list of spin-off merchandise, concerts and a recent movie release.
AB: There have been various versions of Postcards in production across Australia, but the Victorian version, first launched in 1999, continues to this day covering tourist and retail attractions from across the state. The show’s initial host Geoff Cox was eventually poached by rival Seven for a similar series, Coxy’s Big Break. Current presenters are Rebecca Judd, Shane Crawford, Glen Moriarty, Lauren Phillips and Brodie Harper.