In the 1960s, Bobby Limb was one of Australia’s most popular entertainers and TV personalities, winning the TV Week Gold Logie in 1964. His variety show The Mobil-Limb Show was one of Australia’s first “national” variety shows and his later production, Bobby Limb’s Sound Of Music was a long-running and multi award-winning series for the Nine Network and later the 0-10 Network.
He was also a partner in production company NLT with Jack Neary and Les Tinker. The company had produced adventure drama The Rovers, game show Australia’s Celebrity Game and courtroom drama series The Unloved.
By 1970, after 30 years in showbusiness, Limb took a gamble in taking on his first serious acting role in a pilot for a police drama, 26 Hill Street, he was producing for 0-10. “I’ve done variety, comedy and musical all my professional life, but I’ve never done anything at all straight,” he told TV Times in May 1970. “Always, in the past, in the kind of thing I’ve been doing, it’s been eyes-and-teeth work, and ‘Howdy folks!’ with the big, wide grin.”
He described 26 Hill Street as having a “family kind of warmth” without a reliance on violence. “Violence is something we’ll keep right out of it.” Co-starring with Limb in the pilot were Keith Lee, Mike Dorsey, Lynda Keane, Serge Lazareff, James Condon and Amanda Irving.
Irving’s role called for a glimpse at nudity, with her character Cindy appearing in a bathroom scene and partially covered in soap suds as she lures Sergeant Briggs (Lee) in with the promise to give him information on a criminal case. “I think nudity can be very good in a drama, provided it is done properly,” Limb told TV Week. “I think the scene was very successful”.
The pilot seemingly was well received. TV Week critic Jerry Fetherston was impressed but said the show was not without needing some improvements. He was complimentary, however, at Limb’s performance as widower police sergeant Hatton.
Fetherston suggested that although the pilot showed promise, it may have been a victim of unfortunate timing. The 0-10 Network had struggled with its police drama The Long Arm and in finding a replacement was to choose between a proposal from Crawford Productions — Matlock Police — and Limb’s 26 Hill Street. It seemed a fairly obvious choice. Crawford had a reliable track record, having already delivered successful police dramas to the Seven and Nine networks, while Limb’s was a risky proposal given his lack of experience in producing and acting in a police drama. There was also uncertainty around how viewers might accept the variety host’s new role as a police sargeant.
But while 26 Hill Street‘s fate was soon sealed, with the network going ahead with Matlock Police, Fetherston implored 0-10 that it could do worse than encourage Limb’s acting chops. Again, that was not to be, and with Limb’s conventional variety style falling out of favour with a new generation of viewers, his profile on television waned after the axing of Sounds Of The Seventies (the re-named Sound Of Music).
Over the following years he went on to panellist roles in telethons, game shows and talent quest New Faces, and he and wife, performer Dawn Lake appeared together in various Christmas specials.
Source: TV Week, 25 April 1970, 8 August 1970, 14 August 1971. TV Times, 27 May 1970