The Footy Show vanishes with a whimper

Nine‘s Melbourne-based The Footy Show made a quiet exit this week, ending a 25-year run without the on-air talent even knowing until after the curtain had fallen. Even considering it’s been on death row for a while, Nine’s eventual decision to axe the revamped show after disastrous ratings this year barely acknowledged that it was for many years one of the network’s flagship brands.

“I want to thank the current hosts, Anthony Lehmann, Neroli Meadows, Dylan Alcott, Brendan Fevola and Shane Crawford, the former hosts of The Footy Show, and the hard working crew for their great contribution,” said Nine’s Melbourne Managing Director, Matt Scriven, in a press release quietly sent out at 10.30pm on Thursday night after the show had signed off for the week. No opportunity for the current hosts to say goodbye, or even any opportunity to acknowledge or farewell the many that had hosted it beforehand.

For years, The Footy Show with Eddie McGuire (pictured), Sam Newman and Trevor Marmalade dominated Thursday night TV in Melbourne. Others to have hosted or been panel regulars on the show included Garry Lyon, Billy Brownless, James Brayshaw, Dermott Brereton, Rebecca Maddern, Craig Hutchison, Dave Hughes and Shane Crawford.

It followed on the tradition of the former Seven program League Teams, with Lou Richards, Jack Dyer and Bob Davis announcing the teams for the upcoming weekend of football with a side serving of comedy.

It was also a natural spin-off from the Sunday morning Footy Show, which in turn had elements of the old World Of Sport footy panels.

The Footy Show won a string of Logie Awards for Most Popular Sports Program, and its Sydney-based NRL version of the same title (axed last year) was likewise well awarded in the same category over the years.

There were many end-of-season concert spectaculars, and live shows from overseas including two from London.

Although the latest revamp of the show was getting ratings that would make SBS blush, at its peak it was getting ratings in Melbourne alone that would be the envy of national shows these days. Its success was ironic in that for most of its 25 year run its host network did not have broadcast rights to AFL.

Even though the show was deemed well past its prime, with each Sam Newman-led offence (and there were plenty) seemingly failing to acknowledge that some of the elements that made it hit in the ’90s were no longer so appealing in the 2010s, it is somewhat disingenuous of Nine to let the show go after 25 years by barely acknowledging its longevity and contribution to the network’s success in earlier times and to not give it a chance to have a proper send off.


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SBS bringing movies back home

SBS has announced plans to launch a new 24-hour-a-day movie channel from 1 July.

The new channel will broadcast in high definition. SBS will become the only Australian network to have three high-definition channels, with SBS on Channel 30, SBS Viceland on 31 and the new channel on 32.

The new channel marks a significant boost in LOTE (Languages Other Than English) content on SBS which has been lacking for some time. Lobby groups Save Our SBS recently submitted a proposal to the SBS Board to create a new channel based predominantly on LOTE content.

Save Our SBS President Steve Aujard said: “In our submission, we referred to studies that showed that the two most desired program types in peak viewing are foreign language movies (subtitled) scoring 77%, and foreign language TV series (subtitled) scoring 58%. Clearly SBS have focused on the international movie aspect in their new channel.

“Years ago SBS was known for its movies in a variety of languages. Audiences loved that. It dominated primetime viewing and separated SBS from other media.”

In a statement issued Monday, SBS managing director James Taylor said: “Movies provide people with the opportunity to escape to worlds outside of our own, with stories that entertain and inspire us, make us think, laugh and even cry. International cinema does this in a truly unique way, and has been an important part of SBS’s offering for decades, giving Australians the opportunity to delve into cultures through cinematic masterpieces captivating audiences around the world.

“People come to SBS for content they don’t find anywhere else. SBS World Movies has a proud tradition of showcasing the best international films, reflecting the diversity of global cinema, and we’re excited to further evolve this offering and make it available to all Australians for free this July.”

The new channel will broadcast more than 700 films each year, with international titles including recent award winning and critically acclaimed films such as Amanda (France), The 12th Man (Norway), Just A Breath Away (France), Ash is the Purest White (China), Aligarth (India), Girl (Belgium) and Killing of a Sacred Deer (UK).

For over 20 years, SBS presented the World Movies channel on pay-TV. This was wound up in 2018.

SBS also has an extensive catalogue of international movies already available at SBS On Demand.

Source: SBS, Save Our SBS

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Your Money channel to close

Your Money, the joint venture channel between Nine Network and Sky News Australia, is to cease transmission on 17 May.

The closure of the channel, which launched only last October and replaced Sky News Business, comes after the recent demise of the joint venture’s stand alone website, with online content now being published on News Corp properties.

Your Money, with Sky News Australia’s ownership by News Corp, became an awkward partnership after the merger of Nine and News Corp rival Fairfax late last year. The channel was operated largely by Sky News but had free-to-air spectrum via Nine and revenue was split between them.

It is not clear yet what will replace the Your Money channel on either Foxtel (channel 601) or Nine (channel 95) platforms. Staff at Your Money will potentially be redeployed within Nine or News Corp businesses.

Source: Australian Financial Review, Mumbrella

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David Anderson appointed ABC MD

ABC has announced the formal appointment of David Anderson to the position of Managing Director.

He had been acting in the role since September last year, following the departure of Michelle Guthrie from the position.

In a media statement issued Friday, ABC Chair Ita Buttrose welcomed Anderson to the role: “Mr Anderson is an exceptional media professional with strong content, digital and strategic experience.

“The ABC Board resolved unanimously to appoint David Anderson following a national and international search that produced many impressive candidates.

“With almost 30 years of service, David’s knowledge of the ABC is unsurpassed. He has a deep understanding of audience needs and the Board is confident he has the skills and ability to respond to the challenges of a changing media environment.

“We believe he is the right person to lead the Corporation at this time. David already enjoys the trust and confidence of the ABC leadership team and staff and he is ideally placed to continue to provide strong leadership and direction.”

Anderson is appointed to the role for five years and has ultimate responsibility for all editorial content from the broadcaster.

Prior to taking on the managing director role last year, Anderson was the Director, Entertainment & Specialist, responsible for all ABC radio music networks (Triple j, Double J, Classic, Country and Jazz), podcasts and specialist radio content (Radio National) as well as broadcast television networks (ABCTV, ABC Kids, ABC Comedy, ABC ME) and on-demand products and services (iview, ABC Listen, ABC Kids Listen, ABC Kids), and network websites and apps.

Source: ABC


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Obituary: Michael Williamson

Michael Williamson, sporting commentator and TV compere of the 1960s and 1970s, has died at the age of 90.

Williamson had worked at radio stations 3AK and 3AW before joining HSV7, Melbourne, in the late 1950s. He was one of the channel’s first football commentators and also hosted the weekly panel show Football Inquest.

His most defining moment came at the 1970 VFL Grand Final, when Carlton star Alex Jesaulenko took the mark of the century over Collingwood’s Graeme Jenkin: “Jesaulenko, you beauty!”

YouTube: Vaxman80

Williamson also covered other sports, including the Australian Open tennis.

As well as his work in the sports genre, Williamson also co-hosted the long running variety show Penthouse Club with comedienne Mary Hardy.

Starting in 1970, The Penthouse Club featured variety interspersed with regular crosses to the harness racing “trots” around Melbourne and, from 1973, the weekly Tattslotto draw.

Williamson left The Penthouse Club in 1977 but reprised his role when ATV10 picked up the format in 1980 and relaunched it as The Saturday Night Show with Annette Allison.

YouTube: kylegalley

Source: The Age, Yahoo


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1979: SBS television makes its debut

It was on 24 October 1980 — United Nations Day — that Bruce Gyngell (pictured above) announced, “Good evening, and welcome to multicultural television”, as he launched Channel 0/28. We now know it as SBS television.

But it was 40 years ago this week that SBS made its first television appearance. The new Special Broadcasting Service had taken effect from 1 January 1978 and taken over the running of multicultural radio stations in Sydney and Melbourne. It was also charged with fulfilling Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser‘s 1977 election promise to set up a multicultural television service.

SBS made its television debut via 13 three-hour program blocks broadcast on ABC in Sydney and Melbourne on Sunday mornings. The first went to air on Sunday 29 April 1979 and programs aired weekly until 22 July.

SBS had outsourced the presentation and packaging of its first series of test transmissions to Australian Community TV Pty Ltd in a contract worth $90,000, with SBS spending $320,000 on sourcing foreign programming. The head of SBS television administration, Bill Watson, defended the awarding of the contract on the basis that the fledgling SBS did not have the necessary infrastructure, staffing or facilities to put together the programs. Australian Community TV was part of a consortium of production companies that had previous experience in producing television content for the Federal Government.

Executive producer of the series was Rowan Ayers, a former BBC executive who had recently been with the Nine Network. Ayers described the upcoming SBS programs as “not meant only for migrant groups. We hope that all Australians will find it interesting as well and will learn about the different ethnic groups in this country. We’ll have program material from places such as Korea and Thailand as well as Greece, Italy, Germany, Turkey, France — and just about everywhere else.”

Special Broadcasting Service Test Transmission. Broadcast via ABN2 Sydney/ABV2 Melbourne, Sunday 29 April 1979
8am Introduction in various languages (pictured) / Fatti And Fattacci (Italian) / Prime Minister’s Message
8.30 Another Viewpoint (English) / Sports (English)
9am Film (Turkish) / Ethnic Magazine (English)
9.30 Teacher In The Sky / Greek Singing
10am Melbourne’s National Gallery
10.30 Music And Radio (French documentary with English commentary) / Discussion / Korean Ballet
11am Close
Source: The Age, 26 April 1979

Programming was very much of an experimental nature among the first test transmissions. Short programs or segments sourced overseas were interspersed with locally-made segments and features. A considerable amount of airtime in the opening weeks would be in English while the broadcaster determined the ongoing nature of its program mix.

The Sunday morning timeslot also restricted programming to a “G” rating classification, precluding the possibility of many feature films and drama series being included.

Ahead of the test program launch, SBS chairman Dr Grisha Sklovsky was expecting that the experimental nature of SBS television programs would attract criticism, but hoped that it would be constructive: “We will not do right by the extremist views. We must strike a balance which pleases the majority but also fits our pocket money.”

The Age Green Guide, 26 April 1979

The first batch of test programs gathered a mixed response. The Age Green Guide gave it a positive review: “Whatever the preconceived ideas of what an ethnic television program should be like, the package presented by the Special Broadcasting Service proved easy on the eye, entertaining and educational despite obvious shortcomings of an opening edition… It served to demonstrate the potential of an ethnic television service pointing to the exciting, rich veins that can be tapped to provide viewing enrichment.”

In contrast, the Federal Opposition spokesperson on ethnic affairs, Dr Moss Cass, declared the opening three hour broadcast as “piecemeal and unco-ordinated”, and said that to say “hello” in different languages and feature a schedule predominantly in English did not justify the name “ethnic television”.

YouTube: TelevisionAU

There was also criticism in Canberra, the nation’s capital, that the SBS programs were not going to be broadcast in Canberra, even though the relay of the signal from Sydney to Melbourne would pass through the city and that it has a considerable multicultural population. The Government defended its decision to only broadcast via ABC in Sydney and Melbourne on the basis that the two largest cities represented the largest multicultural populations. It was also established that a full-time multicultural service planned to commence in 1980 would initially only be committed to those cities. Any further roll-out of permanent multicultural television would depend on funding and planning of broadcast frequencies.

As at April 1979, it was already proposed that a permanent multicultural service would broadcast on Channel 28 in Sydney and Melbourne — utilising the newly-available UHF band. (It was later arranged that the new service would also be granted a temporary licence to simulcast on Channel 0 in both cities, while viewers became accustomed to accessing the UHF band)

A second round of test broadcasts for SBS was broadcast on ABC, again on Sunday mornings, from February to May 1980. The second series presented a more sophisticated schedule — and even a new name, “MTV2” — with certain programs and languages being given regular timeslots each week. There was a greater presence of titles from Italy, Greece and the former Yugoslavia, with programs in Spanish, Turkish, Maltese and Arabic also featured in set timeslots but less frequently. A BBC series, On We Go, presented lessons in English, and an Australian series, I’m An Australian Too, profiled the lives of young Australians of multicultural backgrounds.

Some of the foreign titles to appear in the second test transmission series went on to feature in the early stages of Channel 0/28’s permanent service when it commenced in October 1980.

The final instalment of “MTV2” included the program Song For Melbourne, featuring Greek twins, Melbourne-based singers Tassos and Christos Ioannides, performing songs based on their Greek heritage and their new home town. The program also featured other creative and well-known Greek identities living in Melbourne. Produced by Eric Fullilove (pictured), Song For Melbourne went on to win a Sammy Award for Best TV Documentary.

Source: TV Times, 21 April 1979. The Age, 26 April 1979, 3 May 1979, 7 February 1980, 1 May 1980. The Canberra Times, 10 April 1979, 1 May 1979, 17 May 1979, 18 October 1980.


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Royal Children’s Hospital Good Friday Appeal — the first telethon

Acknowledging donations in 1960: Geoff Hiscock, tennis star Alex Olmedo, Brenda Marshall and Jocelyn Terry (Picture: B&T)

This Good Friday marks the 60th all-day telethon for Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital Good Friday Appeal.

Although Melbourne’s HSV7 first took part in the Appeal in 1957, just a few months after its debut, its initial involvement was limited to short on-air segments during the afternoon and late evening. In 1958 it had no scheduled telecast of the appeal at all, and in 1959 its coverage of the appeal included only three hours in the afternoon.

Vi Greenhalf hands over a cheque from the Miss Summer Festival Quest for £44,500 to 3DB’s Geoff McComas. (Picture: B&T)

The 1960 appeal saw HSV7 present its first all-day telethon, in co-operation with its sister radio station 3DB, which had been an appeal partner since 1942.

For Good Friday, HSV7 set up its outside broadcast van alongside the 3DB studios and broadcast much of the appeal activity from the radio station studios throughout the day.

The telecast started at 7.00am, with HSV7 and 3DB personalities acknowledging donations and providing “appropriate Easter entertainment”. Meanwhile, opposition channel GTV9 was not on the air until 5.00pm. National broadcaster ABC had a live telecast of Divine Service from Trinity College Chapel in the morning, but was then off-air until 3.00pm.  Apart from some breaks for news and evening programs, HSV7 stayed with the appeal through to midnight.

HSV7. Friday 15 April 1960
7am Royal Children’s Hospital Good Friday Appeal
6.15pm The Mickey Mouse Club
6.45 News. Geoff Raymond
7pm Bonanza
8pm Royal Children’s Hospital Good Friday Appeal
9pm The Lineup
10pm The Lawless Years
10.30 Royal Children’s Hospital Good Friday Appeal
12am Close

The addition of the all-day telethon gave the Appeal a huge boost to its final tally — £236,089 5s 7d ($472,178) — beating the previous record set in 1956 by £49,122. However, it would be a decade before the record total would be beaten again ($503,857 in 1970).

This year, the appeal hopes to top last year’s record total of $18,043,251.

Royal Children’s Hospital Good Friday Appeal. Friday 19 April from 5.30am in Sunrise and The Morning Show, then live from the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre from 12pm. Seven Melbourne, Prime7 regional Victoria, 7Plus.

Source: The Age, 18 April 1957, 3 April 1958, 26 March 1959. TV Times, 14 April 1960. Broadcasting & Television, 21 April 1960. Royal Children’s Hospital Good Friday Appeal


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Obituary: Geoff Harvey

Geoff Harvey, the composer who wrote the soundtrack to some of Australia’s most popular shows, has died at the age of 83.

Born in the United Kingdom he came to Australia after World War II and produced records for EMI.

He joined Sydney’s TCN9 in the early 1960s. He worked on variety shows like Bandstand, The Sound Of Music and The Tonight Show.

But it was his work on The Mike Walsh Show and its successor Midday that made him a household name in the 1970s through to the 1990s.

As Nine‘s musical director he composed the signature tune to various Nine programs but his most famous was the theme to The Sullivans.

YouTube: CaptainSiCo

He worked on The Don Lane Show and the TV Week Logie Awards. For almost twenty years he was the musical director for Carols By Candlelight.

Nine Network CEO Hugh Marks has paid tribute to Harvey: “Geoff Harvey was a man of enormous talent as a musician and an entertainer. He was funny and generous, entertaining Australians as the musical director of choice on so many of our programs across the decades, alongside the likes of Kerri-Anne Kennerley, Don Lane, Ray Martin and Mike Walsh. As musical director at Nine he was the composer of memorable themes for A Current Affair and Today Show. Our condolences go out to his family and close friends at this sad time.”

Harvey was recently on a tour of Australia doing a show called Senior Moments and earlier this year he reunited with former Midday host Kerri-Anne Kennerley on Studio 10:

YouTube: Studio 10

One tribute that Harvey may not have noticed receiving during his career was that in the Nineties sketch comedy show Big Girl’s Blouse, where “celebrity choreographer” Coralee Hollow (Gina Riley) and her husband Ross (Magda Szubanski) had their pet dogs named Geoff and Harvey:

YouTube: FastForwardAU

Source: 10daily, Daily Telegraph, Wikipedia, Nine Network

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Seven’s battle for high noon

In the 1980s one of the Nine Network‘s many strengths was its early afternoons. The Mike Walsh Show, which became Midday with Ray Martin, followed by US soaps Days Of Our Lives and The Young And The Restless constantly beat anything thrown at them by rival commercial networks Seven and Ten.

When Christopher Skase took over the Seven Network in 1987, it was apparent he was prepared to spend up big to rebuild the struggling network, in particular at HSV7 in his former home town of Melbourne. HSV had essentially been gutted by the network’s previous management, with virtually all local production apart from news wiped out and having suffered the loss of the lucrative rights to football.

Revamping Seven was a battle Skase was prepared to take up on many fronts — news, sport, current affairs — but Seven also wanted to take on Nine’s afternoons with two productions to be made at Seven Melbourne.

The network had signed up TV veteran Bert Newton (pictured) to host a variety show to go up against Midday. It was to be Newton’s return to television after three years in the TV wilderness, and it was 30 years since he publicly resigned from Seven to go to Nine.

Supplementing the daily one-hour The Bert Newton Show would be a lavish new daytime soap, The Power, The Passion.  The series was to tap in to the general ’80s vibe of big business, big stories and big frocks to combat the glossy US soaps on Nine. Experienced producer Oscar Whitbread was on board and the series had been created by soap veteran Bevan Lee, whose earlier credits included Sons And Daughters and Home And Away.

The cast of The Power The Passion included the usual mix of older and younger faces. Familiar names like Kevin Miles (Dynasty, Carson’s Law), George Mallaby (Homicide, The Box, Cop Shop, Prisoner), Alan Cassell (Special Squad), Olivia Hamnett (Rush, Prisoner), Jill Forster (Motel, Number 96, The Box), Jane Clifton (Prisoner), Ian Rawlings (Sons And Daughters), Jacqui Gordon (Prisoner), Daniel Roberts (Sons And Daughters) and Lucinda Cowden (Neighbours) were being joined by newcomers including former model Julian McMahon making his acting debut.

YouTube: plainsvideo

The lead premise in the opening episode, aired Monday 20 March 1989, featured wealthy businessman Gordon Byrne (Miles) returning home after several years in the US, to be reunited with his daughters, Anna (Suzy Cato), Ellen (Hamnett) and Kathryn (Tracey Tainsh), his extended family, and to his long-time housekeeper Sarah (Forster).

The three daughters all despise their father, and it’s clear that housekeeper Sarah has a score to settle as well. What follows is the usual soapie fare of romance, corruption, betrayal, infidelity, greed, substance abuse and split personalities — all told with the long stares and the subtlety of ’80s high fashion, which alone was said to have been worth around $1.5 million over the course of a year.

YouTube: Oz TV VHS Nostalgia

Despite the big budgets and promotion, and Newton having a lighthearted chat with Nine rival Ray Martin during the TV Week Logie Awards the week before his debut, neither The Bert Newton Show nor The Power The Passion proved to be any match for Nine’s Midday. While Midday continued getting ratings at the mid-teens level, Seven’s new double was lucky to be rating twos or threes.

YouTube: oztvheritage

Seven tried to fix the poor ratings by extending The Bert Newton Show from 60 to 90 minutes, to match the length of Midday, but bumped The Power The Passion to late nights. The changes weren’t to revive either show’s fortunes and both barely saw out the end of the year.

Newton enjoyed better fortunes when he joined the Ten Network in 1992, staying there for 14 years as host of Good Morning Australia.

However, The Power The Passion proved the final nail in the coffin of Seven’s repeated attempts to get a home grown daytime soap off the ground. The Power The Passion came after earlier efforts Autumn Affair (1958-59), The Story Of Peter Grey (1961), Motel (1968) and Until Tomorrow (1975). But one of its new talents, Julian McMahon (pictured), clearly went on to much greater things.

Source: TV Week, 25 March 1989. Sunday Sun TV Extra, 19 March 1989. The Age, 20 March 1989. Aussie Soap Archive. Super Aussie Soaps.

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50th anniversary of Division 4

Division 4 was one of the trifecta of police dramas from Crawford Productions that came to define Australian television drama in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

The series was born after Crawfords and the Nine Network were in a conundrum over what to do with its popular spy drama, Hunter. The show’s lead actor Tony Ward had resigned and producers were unclear whether to re-cast the title character or even promote Kragg (Gerard Kennedy), a former rival of Hunter, to the lead. Eventually they decided to let the show come to an end while Crawfords developed a new series for the network.

The new proposal was titled Saints And Sinners but eventually became Division 4 as a starring vehicle for Kennedy.  Division 4 centred around a police station in the fictional Melbourne suburb of Yarra Central. Kennedy led the cast as Senior Detective Frank Banner. The initial cast line-up also included Chuck Faulkner, a former policeman and a news presenter in the very early days of television, Frank Taylor, Terence Donovan, Ted Hamilton (a former TV variety star making his acting debut) and Adelaide actress Patricia Smith.

Unlike its Seven Network counterpart Homicide, Division 4 would take a broader look at crime in suburbia — including murders, assaults, prostitution, vandalism, theft, drugs, abortions, pornography and blackmail. But like Homicide, many of the stories depicted were inspired by real life cases, and Victoria Police were involved in a consultancy capacity.

Division 4 debuted on GTV9, Melbourne, on 11 March 1969, and on TCN9, Sydney, on 15 April 1969.

Reviews of early episodes were largely positive and, ironically, sometimes at the expense of the five-year-old Homicide. Paul Edwards for TV Week wrote: “Nine’s new morale-booster could very easily establish itself as the best series Australia has ever produced… much to the chagrin of the people at the rival Seven Network.”

“From the opening “teaser” — which immediately established characters and conflicts — the show never let up. We had swearing, drinking, extra-marital sex, crime, corruption, an assortment of sleazy molls and all sorts of goodies. If this standard can be continued, Division 4 looks set to move straight into division one.”

YouTube: CrawfordsAustralia

In contrast, Gordon Williams at TV Times was not so impressed after the first few episodes: “Division 4, which began effectively on GTV9, soon degenerated in too-broad scripting and a kind or amorality in a subsequent showing, a trend that, it is to be hoped, will not be followed by Homicide.”

Ratings were good, and eventually GTV9 increased the show’s output to two episodes a week. Gerard Kennedy, who won a TV Week Logie in 1969 for his role in Hunter, went on to win five Logies for his work in Division 4 — including the Gold Logie for most popular television personality for two years in a row. During much of Division 4‘s run, Kennedy was often on the cover of TV Week.

Patricia Smith won a Logie Award for Best Actress in 1972, and Division 4 won Logies for Best Drama Series in 1970 and 1972.

Despite its ongoing popularity — even after six years it was still in the top three rated programs — the Nine Network put the axe to Division 4 early in 1975. The network claimed that the series was squeezed out of the network’s $10 million production budget already taken up by new projects including The Unisexers, The Last Of The Australians, Luke’s Kingdom, Shannon’s Mob and the return of The Graham Kennedy Show.

Gerard Kennedy, who was already planning to leave the show, made his final appearance in episode 299, with John Stanton replacing him for the 300th and final episode. Stanton’s character, Detective Tom Morgan, was intended to be ongoing but the show’s axing brought that to an abrupt end.

The axing of Division 4 marked the start of an alarming trend. By the end of the year, Crawford Productions’ two other cop dramas, Homicide and Matlock Police, were also axed by their respective networks.

In 2016, Studio 10 reunited three of the show’s cast to talk about the long-running series:

YouTube: Studio 10











Source: TV Week, 29 March 1969, 12 July 1969, 24 October 1970, 14 August 1971, 26 February 1972, 4 August 1973, 25 January 1975.  TV Times, 9 April 1969, 8 February 1975. Classic Australian Television.

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