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.