The Wicked City: ill-fated 1880s drama

Jill Forster, Robin Ramsay

In 1971, the Seven Network had bold plans for a new “provocative and bawdy” series set in Melbourne in the 1880s.

The network had a proposal titled Man Of Property, starring Robin Ramsay, formerly of Bellbird, in the lead role of a strait-laced English doctor living in Melbourne at the end of the gold rush period. The doctor ends up inheriting a share of property from one of his patients. What he soon discovers is that the property is actually a brothel and music hall and is part-owned by a man who “has his fingers in every pie but with a lovable disposition”.

Ramsay was reportedly not the first choice for the role, with former The Mavis Bramston Show star Barry Creyton declining due to work commitments in London.

Graham Rouse was cast as the other owner of the property, and Bob Hornery was cast to play a dodgy solicitor who tries almost everything to get his hand on the doctor’s inheritance.

Michele Fawdon, Graham Rouse

The brothel madam, Rosa, was played by Jill Forster, previously seen in the serial Motel, with a then-unknown Abigail and Michele Fawdon also in featured roles. “Rosa is very warm and sympathetic,” Forster told TV Times. “I adored playing her and the clothes… those late 1880s were a very elegant period.”

Robin Ramsay, Jill Forster, Abigail

Although it was set in Melbourne, the pilot — later re-titled The Wicked City — was filmed at the studios of ATN7, Sydney, and produced in colour, possibly with an eye on the international market as Australian television was still black-and-white. With elaborate sets and attention to detail in depicting the spoils of the gold rush period, including lavish costumes (such as Forster’s Victorian-era dresses each weighing around 15 kilograms) and making the most of colour, The Wicked City was claimed to be one of the most expensive pilots ever made in Australia.

But despite the big claims about the project, based on scripts by Peter Yeldham and produced by Rod Kinnear, any plans to develop it into a series appeared to vanish, with the pilot sitting on the shelf at Seven for over a year. It wasn’t until 14 September 1973 that HSV7 aired the pilot in Melbourne, with ATN7, Sydney, and CTC7, Canberra, following later. It was speculated in press reports that the program was seen as “too ambitious” to proceed with a series.

After The Wicked City, Ramsay went on to appearances in This Love Affair, Behind The Legend and the movie version of The Box. Forster went on to star in another unsuccessful pilot, The Lady And The Law for ABC, before ongoing roles in Number 96, The Box, The Restless Years, Prisoner and Seachange.

Fawdon went on to be cast as Mabel in the 1972 pilot to Snake Gully With Dad And Dave. She later starred in 1975 soap The Unisexers, had guest roles in Cop Shop and Young Ramsay and played an award-winning performance in the 1979 film Cathy’s Child.

Abigail, whose only prior TV work before making The Wicked City had been a couple of guest appearances in Delta and some commercials, went on to national fame as the sexy Bev Houghton in the top-rating Number 96. Her days in Number 96 had come and gone by the time The Wicked City had even gone to air, perhaps indicating that Seven only belatedly broadcast the pilot to cash in on her fame from the popular soap. She went on to roles in Alvin Purple, This Love Affair, Class Of ’75, The Young Doctors, Sons And Daughters and Chances.

Source: TV Times, 11 September 1971, 25 September 1971, 30 October 1971, 8 September 1973. TV Week, 11 September 1971. The Age, 13 September 1973.



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On This Day — 14 September

14 September 1961: Bobby Limb (The Mobil-Limb Show)

14 September 1963: Bobby Limb (Bobby Limb’s Sound Of Music)

14 September 1991: Penny Cook (GP)

14 September 1996: Isla Fisher and Martin Henderson (Home And Away)

14 September 2002: Christie Hayes and Kate Garven (Home And Away)

14 September 1971: The Seven Network celebrates 15 years of Australian television with Nostalgia Unlimited.

14 September 1973: Melbourne’s HSV7 screens The Wicked City, a pilot for a proposed series, starring Robin Ramsay, Jill Forster, Graham Rouse, Michele Fawdon and Abigail. The big-budget production, filmed in Sydney but set in Melbourne in the 1880s, did not proceed to a series.

14 September 1975: Mike Willesee hosts Seven’s new series This Is Your Life. Based on an overseas format, the show surprises and pays tribute to high-profile Australians. Willesee was later replaced by Digby Wolfe, then Roger Climpson.

14 September 1978: ATV0, Melbourne, presents the first episode of comedy series The Tea Ladies, starring Pat McDonald (Number 96) and Sue Jones (The Truckies) as tea ladies working in Parliament House, Canberra.

14 September 1982: Includes the premiere of NBC mini-series Marco Polo.

14 September 1983: The Nine Network’s talent quest New Faces presents a special 20th anniversary show.

14 September 2000: On the eve of the opening ceremony of the Sydney Olympic Games, Seven screens the two-hour special The Winner Is Sydney, featuring Australian athletes and high-profile celebrities, including Paul Hogan, Bryan Brown, Jack Thompson, Nicole Kidman, Derryn Hinch, Wendy Harmer and Andrew Denton, as they share their hopes and ambitions on what the Games will mean to Sydney and Australia.


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On This Day — 13 September

13 September 1975: Ken James (The Box)

13 September 1986: Alyce Platt (Sale Of The Century)

13 September 1997: Brett Climo and Lisa McCune (Blue Heelers)

13 September 2003: Jenni Baird and Martin Lynes (All Saints)

13 September 2008: Jack Campbell and Virginia Gay (All Saints)

13 September 1966: GTV9 celebrates ten years of Australian television with the special, Ten Years Of Television — Or, We’re Getting Sentimental About Us, produced at TCN9, Sydney. The program aired on TCN three days later.

13 September 1978: Stuart Wagstaff hosts the debut of ATV0‘s new talent quest series, Showcase, reviving the former 1960s and 1973-74 format of the same name. Leading the 36-piece orchestra is producer Hector Crawford, and judging the acts are Robert Helpmann, Margaret Schofield, Roger Savage and Kenn Brodziak —Showcase, the X-Factor of the ’60s [2015]

13 September 1988: ABC debuts the two-part mini-series The Four Minute Mile, starring Richard Huw, Nique Needles, Michael York, Tracy Mann, Lewis Fitz-Gerald, Chuck Faulkner, John O’May and Charles ‘Bud’ Tingwell.

13 September 1989: ABC screens the telemovie Becca, starring Gary Sweet, Lynette Curran, Dafydd Emyr, Dafydd Hywel, and Beth Roberts in the title role. The telemovie told the story of a forbidden love set in Australia’s early European settlement.

13 September 1990: Maggie Tabberer and Richard Zachariah present ABC’s new lifestyle series, The Home Show.

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On This Day — 12 September

12 September 1959: Shirlene Clancy, Geoff Hiscock, John D’Arcy (The Teenage Hour)

12 September 1981: Bill Stalker (Cop Shop)

12 September 1992: Sophie Lee (Sex)

12 September 1998: Swimmer Susie O’Neill and Ray Martin (Midday)

12 September 2009: Esther Anderson and Luke Jacobz (Home And Away)

12 September 1971: Nine in Sydney and Melbourne presents Quest Of Quests, hosted by Bert Newton with former Miss World Ann Sidney, announcing Australia’s representatives for the upcoming Miss World, Miss Universe, Miss International, Miss Teen International and Queen Of The Pacific pageants.

12 September 1977: John Waters, Gerard Kennedy, John Frawley and Sean Scully star in The Trial Of Ned Kelly, a dramatisation of the trial of the 19th century bushranger. The ABC telemovie is narrated by actor and writer Alan Hopgood.

12 September 1984: Nine screens the special Cut That Out, hosted by Peter Sumner, Graeme Blundell, Victoria Nicolls and Brian Bury, billed as Australia’s first bloopers show.

12 September 1990:ABC debuts drama series Embassy, tracing the story of Australian Embassy staff in strife-torn Ragaan, a fictional Islamic, South East Asian country.  The series stars Bryan Marshall, Janet Andrewartha, Alan Fletcher, Nina Landis, Frankie J Holden, Gerard Maguire, Nicki Wendt, Joseph Spano and Anthony Wong.

12 September 2010: Network Ten launches the first series of Junior MasterChef Australia, featuring host/judges Gary Mehigan, George Calombaris, Matt Preston and Anna Gare.

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On This Day — 11 September

11 September 1971: Terence Donovan (Division 4) and Sue Donovan (Matlock Police)

11 September 1971: Ted Hamilton (Division 4)

11 September 1976: Graeme Blundell (Alvin Purple)

11 September 1976: Jon English (Number 96)

11 September 1993: Dieter Brummer and Melissa George (Home And Away)

11 September 1999: Sigrid Thornton (Seachange)

11 September 2004: Wil Traval and Tammy MacIntosh (All Saints)

11 September 2010: John Howard and Rebecca Gibney (Packed To The Rafters)

11 September 1967: ABC debuts its new children’s series, Adventure Island, starring Nancy Cato, Liz Harris, Ernie Bourne, Brian Crossley, Marion Edward and Colin McEwen.

11 September 1978: The Seven Network‘s historical mini-series Against The Wind, set in Australia’s early colonial era, makes its debut on ATN7 in Sydney, with the Seven stations in Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide following the next night.  On the same night, in Melbourne, The Daryl And Ossie Show debuts on ATV0 as a half-hour variety/game-show format with Daryl Somers and Ossie Ostrich having made the move from hosting Nine‘s Hey Hey It’s Saturday the previous year.

11 September 1995: Kerri-Anne Kennerley returns to TV with a new weekday afternoon chat show, Monday To Friday, on Ten.

11 September 2001: A date forever marked in history as “9/11”, with terrorist attacks occurring in the morning in the United States. In Australia, where it was late night as events unfolded, regular programming was overtaken by continuous news coverage, mostly via relaying broadcast news from the US and the BBC in the UK. First to break the news in Australia was newsreader Sandra Sully during the Ten Late News bulletin.

11 September 2002: All networks present some level of special programming and extended news coverage during the week to commemorate the first anniversary of 9/11, but on the day itself, Seven screens the documentary 9/11 from French filmmakers, brothers Gédéon and Jules Naudet, who were in New York filming a documentary about firefighters and happened to capture vision of the first plane to hit the World Trade Centre. The documentary proceeds to cover events, emergency response and reaction around the city on the day. The Seven and Nine networks cross to rolling coverage overnight of commemorative ceremonies from the US, including from Ground Zero in New York.

11 September 2005: Colin Friels, Marta Dusseldorp and David Field lead the cast in the Network Ten telemovie BlackJack: In The Money.

11 September 2006: With the 50th anniversary of Australian television approaching, Nine‘s Mike Munro hosts a repeat screening of the 2005 special 50 Years 50 Shows, counting down the 50 greatest shows of Australian television.

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On This Day — 10 September

10 September 1977: Ray Burgess (Flashez)

10 September 1983: Kim Lewis and Ian Rawlings (Sons And Daughters)

10 September 1988: Kylie Mole (Maryanne Fahey, The Comedy Company) and Greg Evans (Perfect Match)

10 September 2001: Madeleine West, Blair McDonough, Carla Bonner (Neighbours)

10 September 2005: Paul O’Brien and Jodi Gordon (Home And Away)

10 September 1968: The Brisbane debut of the Seven Network variety show A Guy Called Athol, with Athol Guy, formerly of the singing group The Seekers. A Guy Called Athol debuted in Sydney and Melbourne in August.

10 September 1978: Sunday night’s movies are Great Scout And Cathouse Thursday (1976), Cruise Into Terror (1978) and Kill Me If You Can (1977).

10 September 1988: First day of transmission for Brisbane’s TVQ10, following its switch overnight from TVQ0 — When Brisbane came across to Ten [2008]

10 September 1989: In the all-important 7.30pm Sunday timeslot: That’s Dancin’ (ABC), Australia’s Most Wanted (Seven), 60 Minutes (Nine) and The Comedy Company (Ten).

10 September 1993: In the 2000th episode of Neighbours (Ten), a surprise birthday celebration for Helen Daniels (Anne Haddy) sees the return of Lucy (Melissa Bell) and Paul (Stefan Dennis) to Ramsay Street.

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On This Day — 9 September

9 September 1972: Terence Donovan (Division 4)

9 September 1978: Gerard Kennedy, Mary Larkin, Jon English (Against The Wind)

9 September 1978: Gerard Kennedy, Jon English, Mary Larkin (Against The Wind)

9 September 1989: Steve Vizard and Magda Szubanski (Fast Forward)

9 September 2000: Holly Valance, Madeleine West, Daniel MacPherson (Neighbours)

9 September 2006: Kate Ritchie and Chris Sadrinna (Home And Away)

9 September 1975: Former This Day Tonight host Bill Peach launches his ABC travel series, Peach’s Australia.

9 September 1988: TVQ0’s last day of transmission before conversion to TVQ10. The switch from Channel 0 to 10 happened just after midnight, while its sister station, Vision TV in the neighbouring Darling Downs region, made a reciprocal switch from Channel 10 to 0 at the same time — When Brisbane came across to Ten [2008]

9 September 1992: Noni Hazlehurst (pictured), John Hargreaves, Deborra-Lee Furness and Ray Barrett star in the ABC telemovie Waiting, based around a surrogate mother-to-be and the gathering of friends in the lead up to the birth of the baby.

9 September 1993: Bruce McAvaney hosts Seven‘s new sports-magazine program Seasons.

9 September 2001: John Howard, Anne Tenney, Caitlin McDougall, Abe Forsythe, Michala Banas, Bree Walters, Clayton Watson and Scott Major star in Seven‘s new drama series Always Greener.

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On This Day — 8 September

8 September 1973: Sheila Kennelly and Gordon McDougall (Number 96)

8 September 1973: Mike Walsh (The Mike Walsh Show)

8 September 1984: Jacki MacDonald, Ossie Ostrich, Daryl Somers (Hey Hey It’s Saturday)

8 September 1990: Mat Stevenson and Emily Symons (Home And Away)

8 September 2001: Erik Thomson and Georgie Parker (All Saints)

8 September 2007: Amy Mathews and Paul O’Brien (Home And Away)

8 September 1980: ATV10 presents the 1980 Truth-CUB Cazaly Awards for the year in VFL football. The event is hosted by sports presenter Phil Gibbs live from the Southern Cross Hotel in Melbourne.

8 September 1990: Ten wipes out its usual overnight schedule of B-grade re-runs and movies and from tonight replaces that with Ten Newswatch, a direct telecast of news coverage from US network CNN with emphasis on the escalating situation in the Middle East.

8 September 1992: Nine debuts sitcom My Two Wives, starring Peter Fisher, Linda Newton, Morna Seres, Kym Valentine and Brett Blewett.

8 September 1993: Nine screens the pilot to the 1950s drama Snowy, depicting the post-war period and events around the Snowy Mountain hydro power project. The regular series commenced weekly screening from the following night.

8 September 1994: Rob Guest and Sigrid Thornton host the Australian Fashion Awards (Seven) from the Sydney Town Hall.

8 September 2009: Comedian and actor Magda Szubanski hosts the debut of Ten‘s new series The Spearman Experiment, presenting a countdown and analysis of various moments and events around pop culture.


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On This Day — 7 September

7 September 1974: Gerard Kennedy (Rush)

7 September 1991: Toni Pearen and Melissa Tkautz (E Street)

7 September 2002: Dan Paris and Kym Valentine (Neighbours)

7 September 1963: RTQ7, Rockhampton, is officially opened.

7 September 1964: AMV4, Albury, is officially opened — Prime Albury turns 50 [2014]

7 September 1975: ABC debuts the historical drama Ben Hall, a joint production between ABC, BBC and 20th Century Fox. The 13-part series was estimated to cost $2 million and starred British actors Jon Finch and Evin Crowley with Vincent Ball, Brian Blain, Ruth Cracknell, Elizabeth Alexander, John Orcsik, Alister Smart and Diana McLean.

7 September 1977: Jimmy Hannan hosts Quest Of Quests, from the National Gallery in Melbourne and telecast on the Nine Network, to select Australia’s representatives into the Miss World, Miss Young International, Miss International and Miss Asia pageants.  Western Australian Jaye Hopewell, 20, was selected as Miss World Australia.

7 September 1981: Game show The Price Is Right is revived after almost a decade off-air — this time re-named The New Price Is Right and hosted by Ian Turpie.

7 September 1992: ABC begins its coverage of the Paralympic Games from Spain, with a nightly half-hour package of highlights at 6.00pm.

7 September 1994: Brandon Burke and Dina Panozzo (pictured) star in the debut of sitcom Wedlocked (Seven).

7 September 1997: The series return of SBS documentary series Australian Biography profiles former federal politician Tom Uren.

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On This Day — 6 September

6 September 1975: Jon Finch (Ben Hall)

6 September 1997: Julian McMahon (Profiler) and Tasma Walton (Blue Heelers)

6 September 2003: Lisa Chappell and Aaron Jeffery (McLeod’s Daughters)

6 September 2008: Todd Lasance, Jessica Tovey, Luke Jacobz (Home And Away)

6 September 1976: ATV0’s evening variety show Ernie, hosted by Ernie Sigley, begins a week of shows presented live from Hong Kong.

6 September 1997: ABC, Seven, Nine and Ten networks override scheduled prime time programming to broadcast the funeral of Diana Princess Of Wales, live from London.

6 September 2008: Adam Hills, Louise Sauvage and Karen Tighe host ABC1‘s coverage of the Opening Ceremony of the 2008 Paralympic Games from Beijing. Daily coverage of the Paralympics continues on both ABC1 and ABC2 channels.


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