Tribute to Aussie Game Shows

Bruce Gyngell

In 1956 the first game show to appear on Australian television was TCN9’s Name That Tune, hosted by Bruce Gyngell. Since then, many thousands of hours of game shows have graced our screens across all networks, as well as community TV and pay TV. Some shows were popular and long-lasting — like Sale Of The Century and Wheel Of Fortune — while others like The Price Is Right would just keep bouncing back.

Some were award winners and while many were (and still are) local franchises of international formats, a few were also franchised overseas. And there were some less successful efforts, like The Daryl And Ossie Show, Catch Us If You Can, The Love Game (a dud rival to Perfect Match), Family Double Dare, and The Master, which was axed after just one episode.

Blankety Blanks: Barry Creyton, Belinda Giblin, Stuart Wagstaff, Graham Kennedy, Jon English, Ugly Dave Gray, Noeline Brown

Wheel Of Fortune: Ernie Sigley, Adriana Xenides

The National Film and Sound Archive has curated a collection of game shows clips dating back to Name That Tune and including Pick-A-Box, Give It A Go, Concentration, The Marriage Game, Australia’s Celebrity Game, It Could Be You, Musical Cashbox, Blankety Blanks, Wheel Of Fortune, Sale Of The Century, Perfect Match, The Price Is Right, It’s A Knockout, Supermarket Sweep, RocKwiz and a community TV game show, 31 Questions.

Sale Of The Century

The collection can be seen at the National Film and Sound Archive website.


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Classic TV Guides: Hard Copy

While other current affairs shows may have skirted around describing themselves as ‘tabloid’, Hard Copy went into it unashamedly with its mix of sensationalist stories, loud music and over-the-top headlines.

The Australian version of Hard Copy, debuting on Network Ten on 19 September 1991, was a franchise of the American show of the same name. It was hosted by Gordon Elliott (pictured), a former co-host of Good Morning Australia who had made a name for himself on American television in shows like A Current Affair and Good Day New York, both for Fox. He hosted the Australian Hard Copy from a studio in Los Angeles, commuting each week from New York where he continued his local TV commitments there.

At the time of its Australian debut, Elliott described Hard Copy to TV Week: “It brings the extraordinary lives of ordinary people to the public. The stories are wonderful melodramas. It’s real-life soap opera and I think the viewers will love it.”

YouTube: the news is

Producing Hard Copy was former News Limited journalist and Good Morning Australia producer Peter Brennan, who’d been producing the American A Current Affair for three years, inspired by the original Mike Willesee current affairs shows in Australia but, as Elliott put it, “gave it more punch”.

Brennan was then put in charge of the American Hard Copy, successfully boosting its ratings, and then leading the Australian spin-off.

YouTube: the news is

As well as featuring international stories, Ten’s Hard Copy also had its own team of locally-based reporters: Richard Willis, Iain Gillespie, Jane Hansen and Meni Caroutas.

Hard Copy continued on Ten for just two years, coming to an end after 88 episodes.

The debut of Hard Copy is among the latest addition of Classic TV Guides:

Source: TV Week, 21 September 1991.

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TV Week Logies cancelled… again

For the second year in a row the TV Week Logie Awards have been cancelled.

This year’s ceremony was scheduled to take place in Queensland in November but Are Media, publisher of TV Week, has decided that the continued unsettled situation with various COVID restrictions and border closures has made planning the event untenable.

“We are disappointed to have to cancel this year’s TV Week Logie Awards, after charging ahead with plans to return for a bigger than ever event on the Gold Coast this November,” Group Publisher Fiona Connolly said in a statement from Are Media. “But we will return to Queensland mid-2022 and promise the TV Week Logie Awards will bring an overdue and deserved night of glamour, celebration and recognition of Australia’s outstanding television industry.”

It is unclear why Are Media has resisted maintaining continuity with the awards via virtual means twice now when other major awards ceremonies, including the Academy Awards, have been able to do so amid the pandemic.

A date for the 2022 TV Week Logie Awards is to be confirmed.

Source: Now To Love

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Brides Of Christ turns 30

It is 30 years ago since the mini-series Brides Of Christ debuted on ABC.

The six-part series, set in a Sydney convent in the 1960s, starred Josephine Byrnes, Lisa Hensley, Kym Wilson, Naomi Watts, Michelle Pettigrove, Pippa Grandison, Beth Champion, Sandy Gore as Mother Ambrose (pictured right) and Brenda Fricker as Sister Agnes.

Also featured in the series are Simon Burke, Russell Crowe, Harold Hopkins, Michael Craig, Paul Williams, Damon Herriman, Joy Hruby, Philip Quast, Melissa Thomas, Caroline Gillmer, Melissa Jaffer, Anne Tenney, Louise Pajo, Syd Conabere, Russell Newman, Pat Bishop, Genevieve Mooy and Michael Winchester.

Debuting on 4 September 1991 and screening twice a week over three weeks, each episode focused on a different character as they are caught up in the clash between the traditional disciplines and values of the church and the social upheaval in the wider community.

Produced at a cost of $6.2 million and in partnership with Channel 4 in the United Kingdom and RTÉ in Ireland, Brides Of Christ was a ratings hit for ABC — earning the network its highest ratings ever for a drama series. It was also broadcast on the A&E cable network in the United States.

The series collected five TV Week Logie awards the following year — including two awards for Josephine Byrnes (Most Popular Actress In A Telemovie Or Mini-Series and Most Outstanding Actress On Australian TV), Most Popular New Talent for Kym Wilson, Most Popular Telemovie Or Mini-Series and Most Outstanding Telemovie Or Mini-Series.

The series also won AFI (now AACTA) awards for Best Mini Series or Telefeature, Best Achievement in Direction in a Television Drama, Best Screenplay in a Television Drama and Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Television Drama (Lisa Hensley).

ABC re-run the series in November 1992, and Network Ten screened it again over three nights in October 1993, before it returned to ABC for another run in January 1997. It was released on DVD and was more recently available on ABC iView.

Source: AACTA, IMDB, Wikipedia. TV Week, 31 August 1991, 7 September 1991, 14 September 1991, 21 September 1991, 21 March 1992, 14 November 1992, 23 October 1993.

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Obituary: Wynn Roberts

Actor Wynn Roberts, known from series including Prisoner, Neighbours and Law Of The Land, has died at his NSW home. He was 97.

A prominent actor in Melbourne’s theatre and radio scene and sometimes credited as Wyn Roberts, he appeared in many early TV plays, including Symphonie Pastorale, Heart Attack, Uncle Martino, Macbeth (in 1960 and 1965), Hedda Gabler, Burst Of Summer, A Man For All Seasons, The Physicists, Romanoff and Juliet, Manhaul, Flight Into Danger and Moby Dick: Rehearsed.

He also starred in a number of plays performed as part of ABC‘s Australian Playhouse series of 1966.

Wynn Roberts (top left) in The Physicists

He appeared in TV series Consider Your Verdict, Barley Charlie, Contrabandits, Delta, Homicide, Behind The Legend, Skyways, Cop Shop, Special Squad, All The Way, Rafferty’s Rules, A Country Practice, The Flying Doctors, Police Rescue, Embassy, Bony, Big Sky, Law Of The Land and Wildside.

Moby Dick: Rehearsed

In 1964, he was one of the cast of This Is It!, the variety-comedy special broadcast on the opening night of Melbourne channel ATV0. Years later he returned to the same studios for guest appearances in Prisoner, Holiday Island and Carson’s Law. He also appeared in Neighbours as Frank Darcy, an eye-patch wearing artist from the Bungle Bungles who had a brief dalliance with Helen Daniels (Anne Haddy).

TV mini-series credits included The Dunera Boys, Sword Of Honour, Waterfront, Whose Baby, The Petrov Affair, Always Afternoon, Spit MacPhee, Snowy and The Farm.

Source: Sydney Morning Herald, IMDB, Perfect Blend. TV Times, 5 January 1961, 3 June 1964, 19 May 1965.


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BBC celebrates Neighbours milestone

As Neighbours approaches its 35th anniversary on British television, BBC Radio 2 earlier this week hosted a three-hour tribute to the soap that at its peak was watched by over 20 million British viewers.

The Brits were familiar with Aussie soaps, with earlier titles like The Young Doctors, The Sullivans, Sons And Daughters, A Country Practice and Prisoner all playing to loyal audiences. In October 1986, BBC1 debuted Neighbours as part of its new daytime line-up. By 1988, an evening re-run was added to the schedule and became a hit, bumping local soaps Coronation Street and EastEnders from the top of the ratings.

Although BBC no longer airs the soap — it moved across to rival Channel 5 in 2008 — BBC radio presenter Scott Mills pays an affectionate tribute to the soap, recalling some of the show’s most memorable moments, and hosts an on-air reunion of former Neighbours cast members Anne Charleston, Ian Smith, Jason Donovan and Kylie Minogue. The special features interviews with Stefan Dennis, Delta Goodrem, Geoff Paine, Alan Fletcher and Jackie Woodburne. There are also trivia quizzes, some of the songs released by various Neighbours cast and Barry Crocker, who performed the original Neighbours theme, leads a nationwide sing-a-long of the classic theme song.

Happy Birthday Neighbours With Scott Mills can be heard at the BBC Sounds website.

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Seven announces Hey Hey 50th special

The Seven Network has confirmed plans to host a once-off special Hey Hey We’re 50 — celebrating 50 years since the debut of Hey Hey It’s Saturday — to go to air later this year.

In a statement issued by Seven, the show’s host and producer Daryl Somers said: “Trawling back through the vast archive has been almost as much fun as doing the show in the first place, so I hope we can offer a few laughs, not only to the die hard Hey Hey fans but to all Australians, as we desperately need a touch of levity at this time.”

Hey Hey It’s Saturday, which ran on the Nine Network, began as a Saturday morning kids’ cartoon show in October 1971, initially screening only in Melbourne. Its move to prime time in February 1984 led it to become one of Nine’s most successful brands of the ’80s and ’90s, eventually coming to an end in November 1999.

The show made a popular return with two top-rating reunion specials in 2009, which triggered an international media storm as a result of a blackface act in the mock talent quest segment, Red Faces. Suddenly, Hey Hey It’s Saturday and Australia as a whole was widely condemned by some high-profile commentators around the world, while reaction in Australia ranged from outrage to cries of political correctness gone mad.

Earlier this year, the emergence of vintage footage from the show racially mocking performer Kamahl — a regular guest on Hey Hey It’s Saturday — similarly triggered widespread reaction and a public apology to Kamahl from Somers.

Hey Hey It’s Saturday last appeared in a series in 2010 and was one of the last productions to come out of Nine’s heritage studios in Richmond.

Somers was the show’s host for its entire run, later taking over as producer, and for many years was accompanied by Ossie Ostrich (courtesy of Ernie Carroll), Jacki MacDonald, John Blackman, Red Symons, Molly Meldrum and Wilbur Wilde. Other presenters included Denise Drysdale, Melissa Hannan, Jo Beth Taylor, Livinia Nixon and Penne Dennison.

Hey Hey We’re 50 will be produced by Somers Carroll for the Seven Network.



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Obituary: Ernie Sigley

Ernie Sigley, Gold Logie winner and legend of Australian radio and television, has died at the age of 82.

He had been living with Alzheimer’s disease for five years.

His career began when still a teenager, working as a turntable operator and announcer at 3DB in the 1950s. He became one of the first hosts on Melbourne television, presenting the pop music show Teenage Mailbag on HSV7 from 1957.

He worked overseas at the BBC and Radio Luxembourg before returning to Australia in 1963, but was unable to get work in his home city of Melbourne. A planned meeting with GTV9 went nowhere when the manager he was to meet with didn’t show up. After that snub, he ended up in Adelaide at ADS7, appearing on a children’s show and The Sunnyside Show. He then switched channels when NWS9 offered him a role as booth announcer and commercial presenter. When Adelaide Tonight host Lionel Williams went overseas, Sigley became his replacement. He ended up hosting Adelaide Tonight for almost a decade. His popularity in Adelaide saw him collect a number of TV Week Logies for South Australia.

In 1973, while still hosting Adelaide Tonight during the week, he was also commuting to Sydney to host TCN9‘s Saturday night variety show, Club 9.

He returned to Melbourne in 1974, and for two years he hosted the national The Ernie Sigley Show with Denise Drysdale. The show was a ratings hit and the pair collected Gold Logies in 1975.

His association with Nine came to an abrupt end early in 1976, after an off-air outburst saw Kerry Packer fly down to Melbourne to sack him in person. He emerged soon after as the host of a variety show, Ernie, from ATV0, screening five nights a week. By the end of the year, Ernie had presented a week of episodes from each of Hong Kong and New Zealand.

In 1978 he was back at HSV7, replacing Mike Williamson as co-host of The Penthouse Club, working alongside Mary Hardy. He continued with the show, which became Saturday Night Live, until it was axed at the end of 1979.

He made some brief forays into acting, including an ABC children’s series, Sam’s Luck, in 1980 and the movie Dead Man’s Float. He was then host of Wheel Of Fortune, produced in Adelaide for the Seven Network, working with Adriana Xenides from 1981 to 1984.

Other hosting credits included Thursday Night Live (for BTV6, Ballarat), The Ernie Sigley Show (again), Pot Luck, In Melbourne Today and In Sydney Today — the latter two re-uniting him with Drysdale on screen and which later combined to become Ernie And Denise.

Sigley also continued to work in Melbourne radio for many years, including a return to 3DB in the 1980s, then 3UZ, 3AK and over a decade in the afternoon shift at 3AW.

He retired from radio in 2008 but continued to perform, including a tour with Drysdale. The pair appeared together on the morning chat show The Circle in 2010.

Sigley is survived by his wife of 47 years, Glenys, and children Matthew, Guy, David and Emma.

Source: 3AW, The Age. TV Radio Guide, 9 May 1965, 22 February 1975. TV Guide, 5 July 1980. TV Week, 15 March 1975, 13 November 1982. TV Times, 12 May 1973.

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TV At 60: Four Corners

YouTube: ABC News In-depth

Since its modest beginning 60 years ago, Four Corners has become one of our most important outlets of journalism. It also stands as the longest-running series on Australian television.

On Saturday, 19 August 1961, Sydney’s ABN2 broadcast the first edition of what would become a current affairs flagship, inspired by the successful BBC series Panorama.

At a time when the term ‘current affairs’ was yet to be coined, TV Week first described Four Corners as a “television newspaper”:

“Interviewer-compere, Michael Charlton, gives a round-up of the “world this week” using film, live interviews and phone calls from the news centres of the world. Four Corners is divided into three main segments: ‘The World at Large’, ‘Arts and Entertainment’ and ‘The Local Scene’. It’s this final segment which will use the American-styled ‘open end’ type of interview which could, in theory, on a ‘hot’ topic, run all night.”


That first edition, produced by Bob Raymond with a staff of six and a budget of £480, featured an interview with American astronaut Scott Carpenter. This was followed by a report on the anniversary of the Japanese surrender in 1945, Charlton’s report on the recent federal Budget, and an interview with swimmer John Konrads. The program also included an interview with American harmonica player Larry Adler, who presented a live performance.

(click to enlarge)

With no convenient direct connection between cities, copies of the episode had to be dispatched to other cities for local broadcast the following week. Soon after, each episode would be taped in Sydney on Fridays and then sent overnight to other cities to allow the program to go to air “simultaneously” in all states on Saturday nights.

Even in its earliest days the program was having an impact in bringing issues to the mainstream. Just a few weeks after its debut, Four Corners presented an extended report on the deplorable conditions faced by those living at the Aboriginal reserve at Box Ridge, near the NSW town of Casino. It was a report that presented to many in mainstream Australia their first real insight into the treatment of Aboriginal people, and caused a public furore. It certainly would not be the last time that a Four Corners report would trigger widespread reaction. In the decades that have followed, Four Corners has uncovered cases of corruption, abuse and injustice with compelling detail.

In recent years, investigations of people smuggling networks, cruel practices in the greyhound industry, the use of shackles and spithoods on juveniles in detention, the appalling practices of the banking industry and the revelations of a toxic political culture in Canberra have shaped the national conversation.

By the end of 1962, the Four Corners crew had travelled to every state in Australia and around the world, including visits to Hong Kong, India, New Guinea, Russia, Poland, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia and Ireland to gather reports for the program . In the case of Russia, it was the first time an Australian television crew had been allowed into the then Soviet Union. In 1963, Charlton secured a US State Department scholarship to study television and current affairs in the United States, followed by a 12-month secondment to work for BBC’s Panorama program, while also filing reports to be sent back to Australia for Four Corners.

Despite its modest beginnings it did not take long for Four Corners to clock up its first accolades. In 1962 the show won a TV Week Logie for Best News Feature Program, and in 1963 host Charlton won the Gold Logie for the Most Popular Television Personality in Australia.

TV Times, 15 August 1962

In 1992, Four Corners became the first television program to be inducted into the TV Week Logie Awards’ Hall of Fame. Since then, only four other programs have had the same recognition – Neighbours (2005), Play School (2006), Home And Away (2015) and 60 Minutes (2018).

Over 60 years, Four Corners has collected 23 Logies and 62 Walkley awards.

Some of Australia’s most well known and respected journalists have worked at Four Corners over its 50 years history – including Gerald Lyons, Mike Willesee (pictured), Caroline Jones, Robert Moore, Peter Couchman, Paul Lyneham, Andrew Olle, Neil Mercer, Richard Carleton, Chris Masters, Peter Luck, Ray Martin, Jeff McMullen, Mary Delahunty, Stuart Littlemore, Charles Wooley, Jenny Brockie, David Marr, Kerry O’Brien, Paul Barry, Ross Coulthart, Liz Jackson and Sarah Ferguson.

Four Corners will celebrate its 60th anniversary with a special, Four Corners: Fearless And Forensic For 60 Years. As well, a special collection of extended highlights from each decade, and selected programs, will be showcased on ABC iView and the Four Corners website.

A series of ABC News online articles will delve behind the scenes into the controversies and taboo topics that have defined the program along with “from the vault” special moments on social media.

Four Corners: Fearless And Forensic For 60 Years, is on ABC at 8.30pm, Monday 16 August 2021 and on ABC iView.

Source: 50 Years – Aunty’s Jubilee, Tim Bowden and Wendy Borchers, 2006. TV Week, 19 August 1961, 5 January 1963, 30 March 1963, 10 August 1963. TV Times, 19 August 1961, 15 August 1962. Australian Screen, Four Corners.

[This is a revision of a post that was published in 2011]

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Obituary: Reg Gorman

Reg Gorman, the actor best known as Jack Fletcher, the barman in The Sullivans, has died a few days after his 89th birthday. The actor had been battling cancer.

His granddaughter, actress Olivia Deeble, posted the news to social media on Thursday.

With a background in theatre and vaudeville, Gorman made guest appearances in early television dramas Whiplash and Consider Your Verdict.

He went on to appear in Homicide (pictured above), Contrabandits, Skippy The Bush Kangaroo, I’ve Married A Bachelor, Riptide, The Rovers, Woodinda Animal Doctor and Barrier Reef before his first regular TV role in the sitcom Mrs Finnegan in 1970.

After appearances in Boney, Division 4, Our Man In The Company, Matlock Police, The Bluestone Boys, Bluey and Rush, Gorman scored his next ongoing role as Jack Fletcher in The Sullivans. He stayed with the popular drama for its entire six-year run.

He continued to appear in many Australian series in the decades to follow, including I Can Jump Puddles, The Henderson Kids, Prisoner, A Country Practice, The Man From Snowy River, The Wayne Manifesto, Neighbours, Something In The Air and as Harry Patterson in the children’s comedy series Fergus McPhail.

Among his last credited roles are guest appearances in ABC comedies Problems, Woodley and Get Krackin’.

Reg Gorman and wife Judith Roberts in 1971

Reg Gorman is survived by wife, actress Judith Roberts, three children, including actresses Kate and Charmaine Gorman, and granddaughter Olivia Deeble.

Source: IMDB, Olivia Deeble. TV Times, 24 March 1971. TV Week, 19 January 1980

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