Television.AU turns 20!

This website normally commemorates the anniversaries of others.

This time, it’s our birthday. Today, Television.AU turns 20!

The site was born out of an observation that, even then, there were plenty of websites out there tracing the history and development of television overseas — but there was very little for Australia.

We began on 14 February 2000 as a single, static HTML page hosted on a freebie server ( It wasn’t long before more pages and articles were added, and the first Classic TV Guides published.

In May 2001, a companion mailing list was started up in Yahoo! Groups. The list grew to 170 members. (Technically, it’s still active but has not had any activity for many years)

In February 2007, a companion blog was established — Talking Television.AU — providing an updating timeline of posts and articles and covering key news stories, particularly those with a historical bent.

While we don’t profess to holding a video archive, a YouTube channel with a handful of videos (usually to support articles for this site) was added in 2008.

We joined Twitter in 2009.

In June 2012, the static website and blog were amalgamated into the one platform. Following some minor tweaks, it became the site that appears today.

Now, as well as the static pages from the legacy website, we have over 1700 blog posts and more than 600 Classic TV Guides. Amongst other things, there have been week-to-week reviews of TV Times magazines from 1978 and 1979, and TV Week from 1990 to 1996. We’ve charted the history of all the major networks and many of the regional ones, covered various TV Week Logie Awards presentations, recalled key events such as the launch of colour TV, pay TV and aggregation, and traced the conversion to digital TV. We’ve taken a look at some of the shows we’ve all loved, some that you may have forgotten, and some that the networks wish they could forget — and paid tribute to some of the talented people from both sides of the camera.

Here are some happy snapshots of the website from years gone by…





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Obituary: Ron Haddrick

Actor Ron Haddrick, star of Australian stage, film and television, has died at the age of 90.

Born in Adelaide in 1929, his career began at the Tivoli Theatre in Adelaide in the 1940s. He was then successful in joining the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre (now the Royal Shakespeare Company) and worked overseas with names like Laurence Olivier, Vivien Leigh, John Gielgud, Peggy Ashcroft and Michael Redgrave.

He returned to Australia in 1959 and went on to work for nearly every major theatre company. He also starred in radio dramas, movies and television. One of his first TV roles was as Adam Suisse in the children’s science-fiction series The Stranger — which only recently has been released on ABC iView, more than 50 years since it was last broadcast.

Other television credits included Divorce Court, Contrabandits, The Godfathers, Matlock Police, Homicide, The Lost Islands, A Country Practice, Mother And Son, Home And Away, Water Rats, All Saints, Cloudstreet and Rake.

In 2012 he received the Equity Lifetime Achievement Award and in 2013 he was awarded a Member of the Order of Australia medal.

Source: Medium, IMDB, It’s An Honour, Sydney Theatre Company

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TV Week announces Logie date, voting changes

TV Week has announced that the 62nd annual TV Week Logie Awards will take place at The Star Gold Coast on 28 June.

It is the third year that the Gold Coast has hosted TV’s “night of nights”.

The Nine Network will be host broadcaster of the awards for the 25th consecutive year, with the proceedings broadcast on Nine and 9Now.

And for the first time in the Awards’ 62-year history, the public will not get a say in who makes the list of nominations for the categories based on popularity.

Networks, plus Foxtel and streaming providers, will submit a short list of candidates for each publicly-voted category. The names and titles will then be ranked according to ratings and social media data, and judged by a panel of experts. The final list of nominees will then be open to a five-week public vote, similar to recent custom.

In some ways it streamlines the voting process compared to recent years but at the same time it takes the democratic nature of the determination of nominees based on popularity out of the viewers’ reach. This is a criticism that TV Week in the past has laid on rival past awards like the People’s Choice Awards that only allowed the public to vote from a set list of candidates, although including social media engagement and ratings data does give viewers an indirect influence over selection of nominees.

The TV Week Logie Awards will also launch a new category this year — Most Popular Australian Actor Or Actress In An International Program — to recognise the achievements of Australian actors who have made it big in cracking the overseas market.

The change to the popular-voted categories will not apply to the Outstanding categories which have traditionally been judged by a panel appointed by TV Week.

Source: The Age, TV Tonight, TV Week



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Jo Palmer resigns from Seven Tasmania

Seven Tasmania newsreader Jo Palmer has announced that she is stepping down as newsreader for Nightly News Seven Tasmania. 

The 1993 Miss Australia started in television as host of The Good Life In Tasmania for what was then Southern Cross Network.

In September 1996, she moved to Southern Cross Network News as a reporter in the Hobart newsroom and weekend newsreader. In 2002 she became the station’s weeknight news presenter.

In 2018, Southern Cross Network News re-branded to Nightly News Seven Tasmania and continues to be one of the state’s most watched programs.

As well as her TV appearances, Palmer is also a sought after master of ceremonies and writes a weekly newspaper column in The Examiner.

Southern Cross Austereo news director Grant Wilson said: “Jo has been the consummate professional as Tasmania’s favourite news reader. She has also been an amazing mentor to aspiring journalists and has been instrumental in helping team members fulfil their career goals, with many finding employment in metro markets. The chemistry between veteran weather presenter Peter Murphy and Jo has been a must see for many of the station’s viewers over the 18 years they have worked together. We will miss Jo and wish her all the best in her future endeavours.”

Commenting on her departure, Palmer said: “It is with deep sadness that I have decided to leave my position with the company. Local news has been such a huge part of my life; sharing with our community the stories that have broken our hearts, lifted our spirits, kept us safe and informed, made us proud of who we are and where we live. The news room has been my second home, and the news team my second family. I will miss our team so dearly but I know this is the right decision for me personally and for my family.”

Palmer will present her last news bulletin on Friday. A replacement is to be announced.

YouTube: Nightly News 7 Tasmania

Source: Southern Cross Austereo. The Advocate.

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’60s sci-fi The Stranger now online

The Stranger was billed as Australia’s first science-fiction television series when it debuted on ABC in April 1964. Twelve half-hour episodes were produced over two series, screening on Sunday nights.

The Stranger tells the story of three children who decide to investigate a mysterious arrival at their school — Adam Suisse (Ron Haddrick, pictured), who claims loss of memory.

The children later discover that Adam is an alien.

The series presented a massive logistical exercise in production, with filming taking place at various locations around Sydney and surrounding areas adapted to accommodate the various settings.  There was also location filming at Parliament House in Canberra and at the Parkes radio telescope. “Forty sets were required, as well as the exterior filming and we spent four months in planning the whole production,” producer Storry Walton told TV Times at the time of the show’s debut.

Walton also said some assistance was required in designing realistic sets such as spacecraft. “I feel children know quite a bit about such things, so we had to have something that looked scientifically correct, and was feasible aerodynamically,” Walton said. “It was so extraordinarily complicated that we went to outside experts for advice. Our script was also vetted by the CSIRO.”

Chips Rafferty, Janice Dinnen

The Stranger also starred Nigel Lovell, Jessica Noad, Reg Livermore, Owen Weingott, Kit Taylor, Reg Evans, John Faasen, Max Phipps and Chips Rafferty playing the role of the Australian Prime Minister. The three children at the centre of the story are played by Janice Dinnen, Bill Levis and Michael Thomas.

Produced in black and white, the series has not been broadcast for 50 years.

In what hopefully will lead to more classic ABC series coming out of the vaults to a new generation of viewers, ABC has remastered the series, with episodes now being released on ABC iview and on ABC’s YouTube channel.

YouTube: ABC TV & iview

Source: ABC, IMDB. TV Times, 8 April 1964, 16 June 1965. TV Week, 19 June 1965.



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Ratings 2019: The final scorecard

OzTAM, the official ratings ‘umpire’, has released its final reports for the calendar year 2019.

The reports include consolidated audience figures for the Top 20 programs, Top 20 multi-channel programs, the most time-shifted programs and where each free-to-air network and channel ended the year. Plus there are rankings for the Top 20 Subscription TV programs and time-shifted programs.

Free-to-air reports cover Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth. Subscription TV reports are national.

Nine Network ended the year on 29.1% (up 2.1 from 2018), taking over top position, followed by Seven Network (28.8%, down 1.8), Network Ten (17.1%, down 0.4), ABC (16.9%, down 0.2) and SBS (8.1%, up 0.2). (6pm-12mn, 5 cities, Consolidated 28-days)

At individual channel level:

Nine (20.1%, up 1.5)
Seven (19.2%, down 1.4)
ABC (12.0%, down 0.1)
Ten (11.5%, down 0.8)
SBS (5.2%, down 0.4)
7mate (3.7%, down 0.3)
9GO (3.5%, down 0.1)
9Gem (3.4%, up 0.7) and 10 Bold (3.4%, up 0.5)
7Two (3.3%, down 0.4)
ABC Kids/ABC Comedy (2.8%, =)
10 Peach (2.2%, =)
7flix (2.1%, down 0.1) and 9Life (2.1%, =)
ABC News (1.4%, =)
SBS Viceland (1.3%, up 0.1)
SBS Food (1.0%, up 0.1)
SBS World Movies (0.9%, debut)
ABC Me (0.7%, down 0.1)
7 Food (0.6%, down 0.2) Ceased 28 December 2019
NITV (0.2%, no change)

During the year, SBS launched World Movies and Seven closed 7 Food Network. 9Gem and 7mate switched to High Definition, while ABC added its terrestrial radio networks to its television platform.

Channels not included in the survey include the now defunct Your Money, shopping channels  TVSN, Spree and OpenShop, racing channel and community TV stations C31, WTV and 44 Adelaide.

Top 20 programs on Free-to-Air for the year 1 January to 31 December 2019 (Consolidated. 5 cities, Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth):

The AFL Grand Final topped the year followed by NRL State Of Origin – Match 1. Ten’s top ranking was the Melbourne Cup (race) in 18th place.

Apart from sport the list is filled out by reality shows — Married At First Sight, The Block, Lego Masters, The Masked Singer and Australian Ninja Warrior.

	TITLE	                                             NET   TOT	        SYD	MEL	  BNE	  ADE	  PER
1	SEVEN'S AFL: GRAND FINAL: RICHMOND V GWS	     Seven 2,219,000	377,000	1,002,000 319,000 234,000 286,000
2	STATE OF ORIGIN RUGBY LEAGUE QLD V NSW 1ST -MATCH    Nine  2,192,000	950,000	278,000	  751,000 91,000  121,000
3	MARRIED AT FIRST SIGHT -FINALE	                     Nine  2,110,000	650,000	678,000	  400,000 166,000 216,000
4	STATE OF ORIGIN RUGBY LEAGUE NSW V QLD 3RD -MATCH    Nine  2,020,000	886,000	252,000	  672,000 85,000  126,000
5	THE BLOCK -WINNER ANNOUNCED	                     Nine  2,006,000	522,000	721,000	  421,000 170,000 172,000
6	SEVEN'S AFL: GRAND FINAL: PRESENTATIONS	             Seven 2,005,000	260,000	981,000	  298,000 209,000 256,000
7	STATE OF ORIGIN RUGBY LEAGUE NSW V QLD 2ND -MATCH    Nine  1,989,000	856,000	246,000	  641,000 72,000  174,000
8	MARRIED AT FIRST SIGHT -THE FINAL DINNER PARTY	     Nine  1,974,000	611,000	603,000	  384,000 181,000 195,000
9	NRL GRAND FINAL DAY -MATCH	                     Nine  1,868,000	833,000	320,000	  535,000 87,000  93,000
10	LEGO MASTERS -WINNER ANNOUNCED	                     Nine  1,852,000	512,000	628,000	  344,000 160,000 207,000
11	LEGO MASTERS -LAUNCH	                             Nine  1,624,000	455,000	526,000	  322,000 134,000 188,000
12	SEVEN'S AFL: GRAND FINAL: ON THE GROUND	             Seven 1,621,000	258,000	829,000	  180,000 148,000 207,000
13	THE BLOCK -GRAND FINAL	                             Nine  1,592,000	403,000	577,000	  330,000 124,000 158,000
14	2019 AUSTRALIAN OPEN -MEN'S FINAL	             Nine  1,592,000	476,000	625,000	  266,000 117,000 108,000
15	LEGO MASTERS -FINALE	                             Nine  1,554,000	434,000	523,000	  276,000 135,000 186,000
16	MARRIED AT FIRST SIGHT -SUN	                     Nine  1,529,000	460,000	496,000	  297,000 125,000 151,000
17	MARRIED AT FIRST SIGHT -WED	                     Nine  1,455,000	430,000	470,000	  283,000 122,000 150,000
18	2019 MELBOURNE CUP CARNIVAL: MELBOURNE CUP-RACE	     10	   1,441,000	303,000	712,000	  206,000 96,000  124,000
19	THE MASKED SINGER AUSTRALIA - THE FINAL REVEAL	     10	   1,439,000	350,000	482,000	  285,000 145,000 177,000
20	AUSTRALIAN NINJA WARRIOR -WINNER ANNOUNCED	     Nine  1,431,000	430,000	454,000	  275,000 116,000 156,000

Top 20 programs on the Free-to-Air digital multi-channels (Consolidated. 5 cities, Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth):

Nine’s decision to broadcast mid-year Ashes and the ICC Cricket World Cup on 9Gem saw the channel dominate the Top 20. The only two entries not belonging to 9Gem were Day 7 of Wimbledon (7Two) and Australia Votes (ABC News)

        TITLE                                                CH    TOT      SYD     MEL     BNE     ADE    PER
1       MID-YEAR ASHES: FOURTH TEST -ENG V AUS -SESSION 1-D5 9Gem  810,000  199,000 325,000 108,000 86,000 92,000
2       MID-YEAR ASHES: FIRST TEST -ENG V AUS -SESSION 1 -D5 9Gem  767,000  164,000 312,000 123,000 81,000 88,000
3       MID-YEAR ASHES: THIRD TEST -ENG V AUS -SESSION 1 -D4 9Gem  698,000  179,000 263,000 112,000 71,000 72,000
4       MID-YEAR ASHES: FIRST TEST -ENG V AUS -SESSION 2 -D5 9Gem  673,000  129,000 268,000 88,000  76,000 112,000
5       MID-YEAR ASHES: FOURTH TEST -ENG V AUS -SESSION 1-D1 9Gem  625,000  151,000 239,000 105,000 56,000 74,000
6       MID-YEAR ASHES: SECOND TEST -ENG V AUS -SESSION 1-D5 9Gem  610,000  131,000 240,000 102,000 66,000 70,000
7       MID-YEAR ASHES: FIFTH TEST -ENG V AUS -SESSION 1 -D4 9Gem  594,000  134,000 240,000 97,000  49,000 74,000
8       MID-YEAR ASHES: FIRST TEST -ENG V AUS -LUNCH -D5     9Gem  578,000  123,000 243,000 78,000  61,000 73,000
9       MID-YEAR ASHES: FOURTH TEST -ENG V AUS -LUNCH -D5    9Gem  572,000  129,000 231,000 70,000  70,000 72,000
10      MID-YEAR ASHES: FIRST TEST -ENG V AUS -SESSION 1 -D4 9Gem  568,000  148,000 223,000 85,000  56,000 56,000
11      MID-YEAR ASHES: THIRD TEST -ENG V AUS -SESSION 2 -D4 9Gem  520,000  94,000  191,000 59,000  67,000 109,000
12      ICC CRICKET WORLD CUP 2019 AUS V ENG -S1             9Gem  510,000  119,000 184,000 75,000  63,000 69,000
13      MID-YEAR ASHES: FOURTH TEST -ENG V AUS -LUNCH -D1    9Gem  457,000  93,000  209,000 59,000  34,000 62,000
14      MID-YEAR ASHES: FOURTH TEST -ENG V AUS -SESSION 2-D5 9Gem  456,000  81,000  175,000 46,000  67,000 87,000
15      MID-YEAR ASHES: THIRD TEST -ENG V AUS -LUNCH -D4     9Gem  443,000  104,000 179,000 64,000  52,000 44,000
16      MID-YEAR ASHES: FIRST TEST -ENG V AUS -LUNCH -D4     9Gem  421,000  95,000  166,000 52,000  50,000 58,000
17      MID-YEAR ASHES: FIRST TEST -ENG V AUS -SESSION 2 -D4 9Gem  397,000  91,000  128,000 55,000  42,000 81,000
18      WIMBLEDON 2019-DAY 7                                 7TWO  384,000  86,000  111,000 82,000  53,000 52,000
19      ICC CRICKET WORLD CUP 2019 AUS V PAK -S1             9Gem  382,000  89,000  140,000 57,000  56,000 40,000
20      AUSTRALIA VOTES: ELECTION NIGHT LIVE-EV              ABCNWS363,000  87,000  123,000 75,000  48,000 30,000

Top 20 Time-Shifted Free-to-Air Programs (Time Shift to 28 Days, Consolidated 28 Day % Increase on Overnight):

A mixed bag of overseas dramas (including The Handmaid’s Tale, Years And Years, The Good Doctor, Killing Eve, Mrs Wilson), ABC locally-made hits Bluey, Utopia and Old People’s Home For 4 Year Olds and Nine’s Lego Masters.

        TITLE                               CH/NET   TIMESHIFT TO 28 DAYS % INCREASE ON OVERNIGHT
1       BLUEY-EV                            ABC      420,000              275.7%
2       LEGO MASTERS -WINNER ANNOUNCED      Nine     371,000              25.1%
3       THE LION KING                       Nine     369,000              73.0%
4       UTOPIA-EV                           ABC      343,000              57.4%
5       THE GOOD DOCTOR-TUE                 Seven    304,000              54.9%
6       LEGO MASTERS -FINALE                Nine     300,000              24.0%
7       LEGO MASTERS -MON                   Nine     298,000              28.4%
8       THE HANDMAID'S TALE                 SBS      297,000              159.5%
9       MRS WILSON-LE                       ABC      269,000              72.4%
10      LEGO MASTERS -LAUNCH                Nine     252,000              18.4%
11      THE HUNTING                         SBS      244,000              105.7%
12      KILLING EVE-EV                      ABC      243,000              97.4%
13      YEARS AND YEARS                     SBS      240,000              191.3%
14      BLUEY-EV                            ABCKIDS  234,000              188.2%
15      LEGO MASTERS -TUE                   Nine     227,000              21.7%
16      MANHUNT                             Seven    226,000              40.3%
17      THE GOOD DOCTOR                     Seven    217,000              44.6%
18      LEGO MASTERS -SUN                   Nine     215,000              19.4%
19      THE GOOD DOCTOR-THU                 Seven    208,000              48.3%
20      OLD PEOPLE'S HOME FOR 4 YEAR OLDS-E ABC      199,000              33.4%

Top 20 Subscription TV Programs (national):

Again dominated by sports coverage, with the only non-sports placing going to Game Of Thrones.

        TITLE                                         CH                  TOT
2       LIVE: AFL PF#2 RICHMOND V GEELONG             FOX FOOTY           473,000
3       LIVE: ODI AUS V IND GAME 1                    FOX CRICKET         422,000
4       LIVE: ODI AUS V IND GAME 2                    FOX CRICKET         418,000
5       LIVE: AFL PF#1 COLLINGWOOD V GWS              FOX FOOTY           413,000
6       LIVE: NRL PF#2 ROOSTERS V STORM               FOX LEAGUE          379,000
7       LIVE: RWC: FINAL ENG V RSA                    FOX SPORTS 503      375,000
8       LIVE: NRL PF#1 RAIDERS V RABBITOHS            FOX LEAGUE          372,000
9       LIVE: WORLD CUP: AUSTRALIA V ENGLAND          FOX CRICKET         361,000
12      LIVE: NRL STORM V SHARKS                      FOX LEAGUE          353,000
13      GAME OF THRONES                               FOX SHOWCASE        347,000
14      LIVE: AFL QF#1 GEELONG V COLLINGWOOD          FOX FOOTY           344,000
15      LIVE: NRL RABBITOHS V STORM                   FOX LEAGUE          342,000
16      LIVE: NRL STORM V BRONCOS                     FOX LEAGUE          341,000
17      LIVE: NRL STORM V EELS                        FOX LEAGUE          337,000
18      LIVE: NRL EF#1 EELS V BRONCOS                 FOX LEAGUE          336,000
19      LIVE: NRL SF#2 STORM V EELS                   FOX LEAGUE          334,000
20      LIVE: MOTORSPORT: SUPERCARS THE GRID          FOX SPORTS 506      333,000

Top 20 Time-Shifted Subscription TV Programs (national) (Time Shift to 28 Days, Consolidated 28 Day % Increase on Overnight)

Dominated by movies, Chernobyl, Game Of Thrones, Gogglebox Australia and Mr Inbetween.

        TITLE                               CH/NET               TIMESHIFT TO 28 DAYS % INCREASE ON OVERNIGHT
1       INSTANT FAMILY                      Movies Premiere      179,000              319.1%
2       CHERNOBYL                           FOX SHOWCASE         154,000              2531.4%
3       INCREDIBLES 2                       Foxtel Movies Disney*145,000              292.1%
4       INCREDIBLES 2                       Foxtel Movies Disney*136,000              1052.9%
5       GAME OF THRONES                     FOX SHOWCASE         131,000              868.0%
6       DEADPOOL 2                          Movies Premiere      131,000              203.5%
7       ANT-MAN AND THE WASP                Movies Premiere      130,000              236.0%
8       AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR              Movies Premiere      126,000              317.0%
9       THE MULE                            Movies Premiere      120,000              176.0%
10      JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM      Movies Premiere      118,000              218.4%
11      GAME OF THRONES                     BoxSets              113,000              538.1%
12      AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR              Movies Premiere      112,000              177.5%
13      SKYSCRAPER                          Movies Premiere      107,000              194.3%
14      GOGGLEBOX AUSTRALIA                 Lifestyle Channel    106,000              63.3%
15      GAME OF THRONES                     FOX SHOWCASE         104,000              549.9%
16      INCREDIBLES 2                       Foxtel Movies Disney*102,000              1064.2%
17      GOGGLEBOX AUSTRALIA                 Lifestyle Channel    101,000              65.4%
18      MR INBETWEEN                        FOX SHOWCASE         101,000              2942.1%
19      GOGGLEBOX AUSTRALIA                 Lifestyle Channel    100,000              59.5%
20      GAME OF THRONES                     FOX SHOWCASE         99,000               494.6%

* ceased 6 November 2019

Data © OzTAM Pty Limited 2020. The Data may not be reproduced, published or communicated (electronically or in hard copy) in whole or in part, without the prior written consent of OzTAM.

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30 years since Tonight Live began

Thirty years ago, the Seven Network and lawyer-turned-comedian Steve Vizard gave the 10.30pm timeslot a shake-up with their new variety show, Tonight Live With Steve Vizard.

Vizard had been part of the team involved in the late-night sketch comedy series The Eleventh Hour, made for HSV7, Melbourne, in 1985. While many of his fellow cast members went on to form The Comedy Company for Ten, Vizard went back to his legal career — until Seven made him an offer to come back to form a new comedy show. That show became the sketch comedy series Fast Forward, with Vizard as producer, writer and co-star, that became a hit for Seven in 1989.

Seven then approached him for its next project, a five-night-a-week late night variety show to replace the more sedate Newsworld with Clive Robertson.

Heavily borrowed from The Late Show With David Letterman in the US, the new show called Tonight Live debuted on 29 January 1990 and delivered five nights a week of late night variety, interviews, comedy and lots of studio and outside broadcast stunts. Any overseas or visiting artist or performer would inevitably end up as a guest on Tonight Live.

Boosting Seven’s late night ratings, the show was some welcome light relief for the network, which at the time of Tonight Live‘s launch had just gone into receivership — a fact frequently quipped by Vizard on the show.

Tonight Live turned Melbourne newsreader Jennifer Keyte into a national star as she presented the news headlines at the top of the show. When Keyte left, Vizard replaced her with a reporter, Naomi Robson, who had only just joined the network and had barely any on-air experience but was suddenly fronting the news on national prime time television. Robson went on to be a Seven Network presenter for more than a decade.

There were numerous guest hosts over the show’s four year run, while comedian Richard Stubbs became the show’s resident Friday night host.

Vizard went on to win a TV Week Gold Logie in 1991 for Most Popular Personality on Australian Television.

In 2018, Vizard and Keyte (now chief newsreader for Ten in Melbourne) were reunited on the set of Studio 10 to talk about Tonight Live:

YouTube: Studio 10

Source: TV Week, 27 January 1990.

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Kay McGrath signs off last bulletin

Brisbane newsreader Kay McGrath has signed off from her last Seven News bulletin on Sunday night, ending more than 30 years at the Seven newsdesk in Brisbane.

Originally from New Zealand, McGrath travelled the world before settling in Queensland in the late 1970s, scoring a job at the Gold Coast Bulletin newspaper followed by a reporting role at Eyewitness News for TVQ0 (now Ten) in Brisbane.

By 1984 she was promoted to read the evening Eyewitness News bulletin alongside Des McWilliam (pictured)

When TVQ0 owner Christopher Skase sold the channel and bought the Seven Network in 1987, he convinced McGrath to move to Sydney to front Seven’s new national breakfast program, TVAM.

Her stint at TVAM lasted only a few months. “It just didn’t work out as successfully as I’d hoped,” she told TV Week at the time. “I found I was really missing Brisbane. Look what I missed out on, the Fitzgerald Inquiry and Expo, a journalist’s dream.” She returned to Brisbane early in 1989 to read Seven Nightly News with Frank Warrick — a partnership that continued for 13 years before his retirement.

McGrath was then partnered with former ABC newsreader Rod Young, leading to another long-running on-air partnership — first on weeknights, then on weekends.

Young now reads the Seven News Gold Coast bulletin and McGrath continued with the weekend news.

YouTube: 7NEWS Australia

In December it was announced that McGrath would step back from the news desk to focus on special reporting for Seven News. She will also appear on Seven’s revamped Queensland Weekender program.

Seven News paid tribute to McGrath’s 40 years in news on Brisbane television with a special report, followed by a tearful farewell.

Katrina Blowers will replace McGrath as Seven News‘ weekend presenter in Brisbane.

Source: Stellar, Sunrise. TV Week, 11 August 1984, 11 February 1989.

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TV names in Australia Day Honours List

Nine Network newsreader Peter Overton (pictured), veteran performer Noeline Brown, transgender actor and activist Georgie Stone and TV presenter Johanna Griggs are among television identities to feature in this year’s Australia Day Honours List:

Officer in the General Division of the Order of Australia (AO):

Ian Healy (AO) — “For distinguished service to cricket at the national and international level as a player, to the broadcast media, and to the community”. Healy was a cricket commentator for the Nine Network for 20 years, and currently with Fox Sports.

Keith Urban (AO) — “For distinguished service to the performing arts as a singer and songwriter, and to charitable organisations”. Urban was a judge on The Voice Australia in 2012 and American Idol from 2013 to 2016.

Hugo Weaving (AO) — “For distinguished service to the performing arts as an actor, and as a mentor of young writers, directors and film makers.” Television credits include Bodyline, Melba, The Dirtwater Dynasty, Bangkok Hilton, Bordertown and Seven Types of Ambiguity.

Member in the General Division of the Order of Australia (AM):

Paul Field (AM) — “For significant service to the arts, particularly to children’s entertainment, and as a supporter of charitable endeavours.” Field is managing director of the children’s entertainment group The Wiggles, producing 14 TV series and 42 videos.

Johanna Griggs (AM) — “For significant service to community health, to television, and to sport.” Griggs has been a host and sports commentator for the Seven Network for over 25 years, covering Olympic Games, Commonwealth Games, Australian Open and Melbourne Cup broadcasts. Hosting credits include Sportsworld (with Bruce McAvaney, pictured), Better Homes And Gardens and House Rules.

Dr Gael Jennings (AM) — “For significant service to science, and to the broadcast media.” Jennings is a former reporter for ABC News, The 7.30 Report, Quantum and Catalyst and presenter on SBS program Insight. She also appears as a commentator on ABC News Breakfast.

Rachael Maza (AM) — “For significant service to the performing arts as an artistic director.” Maza’s TV acting credits include A Country Practice, Heartland, Seachange, Marshall Law, Rush, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, Winners And Losers, Wentworth and The Secret Daughter.

Paul Mercurio (AM) — “For significant service to the performing arts, particularly to dance.” Mercurio has been a judge on Dancing With The Stars in both Australia and New Zealand. Acting credits include Water Rats, Heartbreak High, The Day Of The Roses, Pig’s Breakfast, All Saints, Kick, Blue Heelers, City Homicide and Neighbours.

Heather Mitchell (AM) — “For significant service to the performing arts, and to the community.” Television credits include Bodyline, Seven Deadly Sins, A Country Practice, GP, Spellbinder (pictured), The Day Of The Roses, The Society Murders, All Saints, Power Games: The Packer-Murdoch Story, Da Kath & Kim Code, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries and A Place To Call Home.

Peter Overton (AM) — “For significant service to the broadcast media, and to the community.” Formerly a reporter for 60 Minutes, Overton went on to become a reporter and presenter for Nine News. He has been chief newsreader for Nine News, Sydney, since 2009.

Robert Penfold (AM) — “For significant service to the broadcast media, and to journalism.” Penfold has been a journalist since the 1970s, including over 30 years in foreign correspondent roles for the Nine Network.

Carol “Carlotta” Spencer (AM) — “For significant service to the performing arts, and to the LGBTIQ community. ” Carlotta is a member of the legendary revue Les Girls. She appeared in ’70s soap Number 96 (pictured) and as a panellist on daytime programs Beauty And The Beast and, more recently, Studio 10.

Medal of the Order of Australia in the General Division (OAM):

Darryl Brohman (OAM) — “For service to rugby league.” Brohman is a former host of The Footy Show (NRL).

Noeline Brown (OAM) — “For service to the performing arts as an actor and entertainer. ” Television credits include Homicide, The Mavis Bramston Show, My Name’s McGooley What’s Yours, The Fourth Wish, The Naked Vicar Show, Blankety Blanks, Daily At Dawn, Kingswood Country, Dancing With The Stars and Stop Laughing… This Is Serious.

John Cootes (OAM) — “For service to the community, particularly to social welfare organisations.” Cootes was a former presenter on Eyewitness News and Saturday Night Live in Sydney in the 1970s and early 1980s.

Maude Davey (OAM) — “For service to the performing arts, particularly as an artistic director.” Television credits include Summer Heights High, The Slap, Tangle, Offspring, Sisters and Bad Mothers.

Mary Kenneally (OAM) — “For service to the performing arts.” Kenneally appeared in 1980s comedy shows Ratbags and Australia You’re Standing In It.

John Lo Piccolo (OAM) — “For service to the performing arts.” A child performer in the 1960s, Lo Piccolo became better known as pop star John St Peeters (pictured) in the 1970s, winning a TV Week King Of Pop Award for Most Popular New Talent. He appeared on Countdown and Sounds and hosted his own variety show, The John St Peeters Show, on SBS. He also recorded the theme song to Simon Townsend’s Wonder World.

John McCoy (OAM) — “For service to the broadcast media, and to the community.” McCoy is a former sports commentator for the Nine Network and Fox Sports.

Eric Scott (OAM) — “For service to the performing arts in Queensland. ” Journalist, author and playwright Scott was head writer for TV Week from 1970 to 1976.

Katrina Sedgwick (OAM) — “For service to performing, screen, and visual arts administration.” Currently the Director and CEO of the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI), Sedgwick is a former actor with credits including A Country Practice and E Street, and board member of the Australian Film Television and Radio School, Australian Children’s Television Foundation and chair of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation Arts Council.

Georgie Stone (OAM) — “For service to the trans and gender diverse community. ” A former Victorian Young Australian Of The Year, transgender activist Stone appeared in the ABC Me series Advice To My 12-Year-Old Self. She has more recently starred as a transgender student in Neighbours and its online spin-off Erinsborough High.

Kate Torney (OAM) — “For service to the broadcast media, and to the cultural sector. ” Torney was Director of News for ABC from 2009 to 2015 and founding executive producer of Insiders and Offsiders.

Jane Turner (OAM) — “For service to the performing arts as a writer, actor and comedian.” Television acting credits include Prisoner, The D-Generation, Fast Forward, Full Frontal, Bligh, Big Girl’s Blouse, Something Stupid, Open Slather and Rake. She is co-creator (with Gina Riley, pictured) and cast member of Kath & Kim, including Da Kath & Kim Code and movie Kath & Kimderella.

Source: Governor-General Of The Commonwealth Of Australia


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Arcade: Going from hero to zero

By the turn of the ’80s it was the unofficial benchmark for each commercial network to have two successful soapie dramas in the schedule. Seven had Cop Shop and Skyways, and Nine had The Sullivans and The Young Doctors. The then 0-10 Network had the popular Prisoner and teen drama The Restless Years. For some reason, the third ranked network pumped up to $3 million into risking another drama.

In the middle of 1979, the network had been considering a project titled Centaur, with a big business and horse racing theme. The project fell through when the network’s Melbourne channel, ATV0, backed out prior to the pilot going into production.

Pal Cleary, director of programming at TEN10 in Sydney, then recalled another concept for a series set in a shopping centre. He raised the idea with TEN10 general manager Ian Kennon and ATV0 executives Wilf Barker and Mike Lattin, all of which enthusiastically embraced the idea. Early storyline plans were sketched on pieces of paper napkin but had rather salacious themes, before the eager executives realised that shock tactics were not going to work. Audiences had moved on from the titillating days of Number 96 and The Box.

Despite wanting to move away from the Number 96 template, the executives secured the services of former Number 96 producer Bill Harmon, creator and story editor David Sale and scriptwriter Johnny Whyte to develop their new idea as lighter drama and comic fare for an early evening timeslot.

More than 1500 actors were auditioned across the country for the cast of 20, as TEN10’s Studio A was turned into a replica shopping mall, including shopfronts, shiny floors and real-life merchandise as props. A snappy disco-styled theme tune was composed by Rick Perjanik and sung by Doug Parkinson.

YouTube: DPWW1

With the network pushing for a mid-January launch, production commenced in the last week of November, bypassing the making of a pilot.

When production finally commenced, the Arcade shopfronts included a newsagent, delicatessen, sports shop, record bar, gymnasium, gift shop and a pinball parlour. The cast included some familiar faces: Lorrae Desmond, Peggy Toppano, Mike Dorsey, Syd Heylen, Aileen Britton, Alan Finney and Danny Adcock.

Aileen Britton, Syd Heylen

Filling out the rest of the cast were Sinan Leong, Raymond Nock, Lucy Taylor, Patrick Ward, Olga Tamara, Anne Semler, Jeremy Kewley, Garth Meade, Maggie Stuart, Bill Charlton, Coral Kelly, Greg Bepper and Christine Harris.

With the soon-to-be-renamed Network Ten enthusiastically talking up the new show as being the huge hit for the 1980s, but declining to offer anything in the form of preview episodes, a willing media was still relaying every development ahead of the show’s launch. It was also well reported that it was set to take on early evening stalwarts Willesee At Seven and The Sullivans.

Arcade made its grand opening across the network on Sunday 20 January 1980 with a 90-minute episode before settling into a regular half-hour weeknight timeslot. Viewers were introduced to the mix of characters that populated the shopping centre, many of which the usual soapie stereotypes, both comically over-the-top and otherwise, but there were some commendable nods to diverse representation. The characters included a Chinese-Australian family running the delicatessen, and one that used a wheelchair (though played by an able-bodied actor).

Despite its massive pre-launch publicity and reporting and elaborate 90-minute debut, viewers did not seem that interested in the promise of tales from a suburban shopping mall. Audience surveys did not bode well for Ten’s new show, and rival network Nine stirred the pot by issuing a press release to trumpet its summer cricket coverage but included some of the less flattering results for Arcade.

Sinan Leong

While some of the show’s stars were bravely quoted in press articles promising that the show needed time to settle in, the network was about to pounce as its expensive gamble had gone from hero to zero.

Arcade was axed at the end of February, after only six weeks, though its axing was too late to undo some prominent magazine coverage that was already in print, centred around previewing an upcoming wedding in the show that was now never to see the light of day.

Sinan Leong, Adrian Bernotti

The expensive set that filled Studio A was dismantled and dumped outside Ten’s studios as an invitation to passers by for free fire wood.

Network management, while conceding that attempting to make Arcade in-house was a mistake, tried to throw the scriptwriters under the bus for Arcade‘s failure. But Sale in his autobiography Number 96, Mavis Bramston And Me, decried that the show’s biggest flaw was that it was a constantly moving target in development, with episode structure, storylines and even menial details relating to the use of certain props all up for interference and debate by network executives.

Mike Dorsey, Christine Harris

If a positive legacy could be derived from Arcade, it was that two of its cast — Lorrae Desmond and Syd Heylen — were spotted by future A Country Practice producer James Davern, who cast them both for ongoing roles in his new rural drama that launched in 1981.

Peggy Toppano, Lorrae Desmond

Source: TV Week, 10 November 1979, 19 January 1980. TV Guide, 8 December 1979, 5 January 1980. TV Times, 1 March 1980.  The Australian Women’s Weekly TV World, 4 April 1981. Super Aussie Soaps. Number 96, Mavis Bramston And Me.

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