Classic TV Guides: Homicide Squad


In May 1981, the Seven Network and Crawford Productions had announced plans to produce a new Sydney-based crime drama, The Squad, with a telemovie pilot soon to go into production. It was heralded as the first Sydney-based series from the Melbourne-based Crawford empire, which had several successful cop dramas under its belt by this stage.

Leading the cast of The Squad was John Gregg (Contrabandits, Delta, The Oracle), Frank Gallacher (Against The Wind, The Last Outlaw, Water Under The Bridge, Skyways), Ken Goodlet (The Long Arm, Bluey, Cop Shop, The Last Outlaw), Louise Howitt (Young Ramsay), Roger Ward (Number 96) and NIDA graduate Andrew Clarke.

It seems that Seven wasn’t all that impressed with the pilot, eventually re-named Homicide Squad, that resulted. ATN7 in Sydney waited to broadcast it after the end of the 1981 ratings season in November. HSV7 in Melbourne held on even longer, belatedly airing it during the May school holidays in 1982 — another non-ratings period at the time.

The Age‘s TV critic Brian Courtis was brutal in his review of Homicide Squad, stating that it “does for television drama what Sale Of The Century does for the arts”.

TV Week movie critic Ivan Hutchinson was a little more charitable, labelling it an “interesting thriller” and that “viewers should not necessarily be discouraged by the fact that the planned series failed to eventuate. Decisions about the future of series are not always made on the grounds of quality.” He still only scored it one-star out of a possible four.

The Melbourne broadcast of Homicide Squad is among the latest addition of Classic TV Guides:

Source: TV Week, 2 May 1981, 15 May 1982. The Age, 18 May 1982.




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Obituary: Russell Goodrick

Former television newsreader Russell Goodrick has died after a short illness.

His sons Tom and Rodney issued a statement on Facebook, stating that Goodrick had fallen ill to severe form of pancreatitis in January. Despite a recovery from surgery, he was soon admitted back to hospital.

Goodrick’s media career began at Sydney radio station 2GB in 1964. He then worked in London, including as a DJ at Harrods’ “Way In Boutique”, before moving into television at Harlech TV in Wales.

On his return to Australia, he became a reporter and newsreader at MTN9, Griffith, then GMV6, Shepparton, before joining TCN9, Sydney, in 1971.

YouTube: MRGTV

He moved to Perth in 1974 for a brief stint at TVW7, before joining STW9. At Nine he became the station’s chief newsreader for six years, winning a TV Week Logie Award for Most Popular Male Personality In Western Australia in 1984.

In 1985 he launched MRG International as an independent marketing, promotions and public relations company. The company grew to incorporate television production in 1996, and launching MRGTV in 2009.

YouTube: MRGTV

Source: Nine News, Facebook, MRGTV, MRGTV


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Obituary: Frank Warrick

Frank Warrick, veteran Brisbane television presenter, has died at the age of 76.

He was surrounded by family when he died early Tuesday morning, following a five-year battle with dementia.

His career started in radio in Toowoomba in 1963. He then became a familiar face with Brisbane viewers, from the time he started at BTQ7 in 1976 as a reporter and newsreader. He had a brief stint as newsreader at QTQ9 before returning to Seven in 1986.

He went on to anchor the Brisbane bulletin of Seven Nightly News with Simone Semmens in 1988, then with Kay McGrath from 1989 through to his retirement in 2001. During this time he also presented and produced documentaries for Frank Warrick’s World Around Us on Seven, and became a national presenter as host of Million Dollar Chance Of A Lifetime.

In 1994 he was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia in the Queen’s Birthday Honours, for service to the media, to conservation and to the community.

YouTube: Dan Martin

After retirement he made a brief return to television in 2002, at National Nine News, and then back again in 2007 as Nine’s weather presenter.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk paid tribute to Warrick earlier today in Queensland Parliament: “Frank was a welcome guest in thousands of Queensland homes for many decades as a newsreader and as a journalist. His love for this state was on show in a documentary series called The World Around Us, especially the part he loved best, Queensland.

“Our sympathies of this house go to Frank’s wife, Lyn, and their family.”

YouTube: bashuppark

Source: Brisbane Times, Brisbane Times, Seven News, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. TV Week, 11 August 1984


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Big Brother at 20

Big Brother may not have been the first of the reality genre but it was the first to give rise to saturation programming — pioneering the dominance of reality formats which now represent the flagship of each commercial network’s schedule.

The Big Brother format, where contestants would be ‘locked away’ from society with every movement recorded and influenced by the leader ‘Big Brother’, and would be voted off one-by-one by the viewing audience, was born in the Netherlands in the late 1990s. Its success led to the format being franchised, with as many as 70 different versions around the world.

With the concept being so readily adopted by viewers, particularly in the younger demographics, it seemed to be a perfect fit for Australia’s Ten Network. Ten adopted the Big Brother format after it had been successfully employed by the United Kingdom’s Channel 4, a commercial network with a similar focus towards unconventional programming and youth appeal.

The premiere of the first series of the Australian Big Brother went to air on Tuesday 24 April 2001 – with host Gretel Killeen (pictured) introducing Australia to its first batch of Big Brother housemates: Ben, Blair, Sara-Marie, Christina, Peter, Jemma, Johnnie, Lisa, Gordon, Todd, Sharna and Andy. The contestants were selected from more than 14,000 applications.

(click to enlarge)

Over the next eighty-five days, while locked away in the Big Brother house situated at the Dreamworld theme park on the Gold Coast, the housemates would be challenged with physical tasks, managing a limited budget, sharing bedrooms and a bathroom and maintain a civil existence with a group of strangers, of varying personality types and backgrounds, all while under the watchful eye of ‘Big Brother’ and millions of Australians. As well as the weeknight half-hour summaries, featuring events of the 24 hours in the Big Brother house, there was a Saturday night highlights episode and the Thursday night ‘adults only’ Big Brother Uncut. The weekly highlight was the Sunday night eviction shows, played out in front of 1500 screaming fans at the Dreamworld auditorium. After hyping up the crowd and presenting various highlights of those short-listed for eviction, Killeen would eventually announce for which housemate “it’s time to go”, before they’d be hurried out of the isolation of the Big Brother house and onto the stage to be interviewed by Killeen.

Later seasons would expand the show’s coverage to a Friday night games featuring the housemates, and a late night live program hosted by Mike Goldman and featuring live crosses to the house.

The eventual winner of the first Big Brother series was Sydney-based Ben Williams (pictured with Killeen), who took the show’s $250,000 prize and embarked on a campaign of charity work. Series runner-up Blair McDonough went on to become an actor in Neighbours and later Winners And Losers. The series’ second runner-up, the raucous but likeable Sara-Marie Fedele from Perth, became a minor celebrity phenomenon with a release of a CD, a book, and appearances in other Network Ten programs such as Totally Wild. She later re-emerged as a contestant on Celebrity Big Brother and the Seven Network‘s Dancing With The Stars.

Network Ten produced a total of eight seasons of Big Brother, proving to be an instant headline-seeker, whether deliberate or otherwise:

  • The evicted housemate (Merlin Luck, pictured) who refused to talk or co-operate with host Killeen as a political protest,
  • The two male housemates disqualified from the show for an alleged ‘turkey-slapping’ incident (and consequently, adding that phrase to the mainstream vernacular)
  • The ongoing public scorn, including from former prime minister John Howard, over ‘adults only’ content being shown in prime-time. (The ‘AO’ version was then rested the following year)
  • The former housemate arrested in Queensland for alleged indecent behaviour
  • An evicted contestant allowed to return after it was revealed a voting bungle led to the wrong contestant being evicted
  • Producers criticised for forcing a housemate to relive the trauma of a miscarriage while looking after a baby doll as a task
  • The housemate whose father had passed away while she was in the house, and producers being criticised for not notifying her, despite them following the wishes of the family
  • The Mexican government lodging a complaint after a Friday Night Live task had contestants hurling liquid-filled balloons at the Mexican flag, which had been placed upside down

After seven seasons, Killeen was replaced by radio hosts Kyle Sandilands and Jackie O, a move which did little to secure the show’s future. Ten let the franchise go at the end of season eight.

In a surprise move, the Nine Network then revived Big Brother in 2012, adopting a less controversial “family friendly” format. Hosted by Sonia Kruger, it lasted three years on Nine.

Last year, the Seven Network revived the franchise again but adopting a different production model where the entire series is pre-recorded before going to air. Kruger has again taken on the role of host.

Seven’s second series of Big Brother debuts on 26 April 2021.

Source: TV Week, 21 April 2001, 16 June 2001.

[This post is a revision of From Big Brother to big bother, posted in 2008]

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Young Talent Time at 50

1971: The first YTT line-up
(Absent: Philip Gould)

It was camp, it was cheesy and it wasn’t overly original. But from its first episode, airing on 24 April 1971, Young Talent Time managed to strike a chord with kids and families across Australia. Its success was a welcome pay off for Melbourne’s ATV0, which up until then was struggling to find something to put up against Saturday night football replays on the other three channels.

The program was devised by pop star, songwriter and TV and radio presenter Johnny Young and business partner, recording industry executive Kevin Lewis. Their company Lewis-Young Productions sold the concept to ATV0. It was soon picked up by the wider 0-10 Network and regional stations across Australia.

The first episode aired on 24 April 1971 at 7.00pm, featuring Young as host and his first Young Talent Team: Jane Scali, Debbie Byrne, Vicki Broughton, Philip Gould, Rod Kirkham and Jamie Redfern. The cast of six came from an audition of over 100 hopefuls.

Debbie Byrne Pin-Up, 1974

The new show drew comparisons with a similar show, Seven‘s Brian And The Juniors, that had ended a year earlier. And indeed, four of the YTT cast — Scali, Byrne, Broughton and Redfern — had previously appeared on Brian And The Juniors. But Young claimed that YTT was of a more contemporary nature that its predecessor. “When (Young Talent Time) first started, people thought it would be like Brian And The Juniors,” he told TV Week in July 1971. “But Brian And The Juniors had that Shirley Temple look about it. All the little girls were so sweet and coy. Young Talent Time isn’t like that at all.”

TV Week Pin-Up, 1972

Over its 18-year run, YTT featured 40 team members. Among its most famous alumni are Tina Arena, Dannii Minogue, Sally Boyden and Debra Byrne. But its first break-out star was Jamie Redfern. By the end of YTT‘s first year, Redfern had a record deal and had released a top-selling album and charting singles. At the TV Week King Of Pop Awards in October 1971, he won the award for Outstanding Newcomer. It was at the awards that he gained the attention of visiting guest star Liberace, who then took Redfern on tour across the US.

YTT: circa 1975

By 1972, the show won a TV Week Logie Award for Best Australian Musical/Variety Show. It went on to win the same category for three consecutive years, from 1974 to 1976, and a special award for sustained excellence in 1982. The show also became a goldmine through record sales and merchandising.

YTT continued through the 1980s, embracing bigger production numbers and the glamour of ’80s TV variety. Plans to franchise the format to the US culminated in a short-run series The New Generation, featuring some of the YTT cast and broadcast on American cable television. But back home, ratings were on the decline by the end of the decade, the culmination of the decision by the Nine Network to slot Hey Hey It’s Saturday in direct competition with YTT in 1985. In 1988, YTT shifted from Saturday to Friday nights but it was to no avail.

YTT made its final appearance in December 1988 before Network Ten quietly pulled the pin over the summer break. The show continued to air in “best of” repeat episodes for the first few months of 1989.

1978: Celebrating 7 Years

More than a decade after its demise, in 2001 former team member John Bowles interviewed many of the show’s former cast for a nostalgic special, Young Talent Time Tells All. And in 2011, A Current Affair assembled Young and various team members for a special interview coinciding with the show’s 40th anniversary.

YouTube: Tony Pirpiris

Nostalgia for YTT continued with Network Ten launching a 21st century revival of the series, with former Australian Idol contestant Rob Mills taking over the role of host and featuring a new team of young performers. The new show struggled to rate and was not renewed beyond its first season.

1984: The 600th Episode

To celebrate the show’s 50th anniversary, Johnny Young and members of the Young Talent Team will gather for a live streaming event on 1 May 2021, presented by Epicentre TV. Tickets for the two-hour event, at $14.95, are now on sale.

The Young Talent Team, 1986

Source: TV Week, 31 July 1971, 20 March 1976, 15 September 1984, 18 October 1986. TV Times, 21 April 1971, 29 January 1972. Wikipedia. Epicentre TV

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TV Week announces Logies return

The TV Week Logie Awards, cancelled last year amidst the pandemic, will be back later this year.

In a statement issued earlier today, Are Media (publisher of TV Week) has confirmed that the 62nd annual awards presentation will take place on 28 November 2021 at The Star Gold Coast.

TV Week editor Amber Giles said: “TV Week is thrilled to have landed on a date we know we can deliver a spectacular show on. After spending way too much time on the couch in stretchy pants over the past 12 months, it’s important to us and our partners that we come together at a time when we can all frock up and be in the same room. We can’t wait to head back to The Star Gold Coast to celebrate and honour the best in Australian TV in the style for which we’re famous.

“On November 28, we look forward to seeing on the red carpet all those who have kept us entertained and informed during trying times.”

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk welcomed the awards’ long-awaited return: “We’ve made Queensland the home of the Logies and I look forward to welcoming back the television industry for a week of events that we’ve worked with organisers to build around the awards night.”

The 62nd TV Week Logie Awards will be telecast on the Nine Network and streamed through 9Now.


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Classic TV Guides: Meet Prince Philip

In March 1971, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, toured Australia as part of the golden jubilee celebration for the Royal Australian Air Force.

The half-hour special Meet Prince Philip, was telecast live from Adelaide with the Prince interviewed by reporters from each of the four networks.

Seven and Nine followed up the interview with a documentary, Now Or Never, narrated by Prince Philip.

Meet Prince Philip is among the latest addition of Classic TV Guides:




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WIN returns to Nine affiliation

The Nine Network and regional operator WIN are to become affiliate partners again in a new deal announced earlier today.

From 1 July 2021, WIN will again become a Nine Network affiliate. This reverses the changeover in 2016 which saw WIN aligned to Network Ten and Southern Cross Austereo connect with Nine for program supply to the regional operators.

The new deal with Nine, set for a minimum seven-year term, will see WIN pay a significant share of advertising revenue, around 50 per cent, for access to Nine’s programming and channel suite for its regional markets including Tasmania, regional Western Australia, Victoria, Queensland and Southern NSW/ACT. The deal also allows for airtime on WIN’s radio and television to promote Nine’s media assets such as Stan and its network of radio stations.

WIN will also provide a sales representation service for Nine in Northern NSW and Darwin for a period of time.

Southern Cross Austereo (SCA), which carries the Nine Network programming and channels to its markets in Victoria, Southern NSW/ACT and Queensland, has little option but to negotiate a new deal now to reconnect with the Ten network for program supply in those markets.

Nine News, which as part of Nine’s current agreement with SCA produces regional news services for broadcast in the aligned SCA markets, has subsequently announced that with the change to affiliation partners it will cease the regional news service from 30 June 2021. When Nine launched the regional bulletins in 2017 it setup news gathering and production for bulletins covering 15 SCA regions across Victoria, Southern NSW/ACT and Queensland.

Nine is expecting to redeploy around 20 staff affected by ceasing these services

WIN currently provides local 6.00pm news services to its markets in Victoria, Southern NSW/ACT, Queensland and Tasmania. These are expected to continue with the switch back to Nine but may change to the 5.30pm timeslot to accommodate the relay of Nine’s capital city news bulletins at 6.00pm.

Source: Nine, ABC, Southern Cross Austereo


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Samantha Armytage farewells Sunrise

After eight years as co-host of Sunrise, Samantha Armytage today gave a tearful farewell as she presented her last show.

She announced her decision to leave the show on Monday: “The time has come for the sun to set on my time at Sunrise. I have always been brave and fearless in my career and this decision is no different.

“I want to take a break and find some peace and calm. I go out of this job at a time of my own choosing and on top of the ratings, which not many people on television can say they do.

“I cannot thank you all enough for having me in your lounge rooms all these years.”

Her final show included highlights of her years on Sunrise, including the serious and not-so-serious moments. There were well wishes from politicians and celebrities, and a video call from her sister and niece, who are in lockdown in London. She was also joined on set by her husband, Richard Lavender, whom she married just recently.

In her farewell messages, thanking production staff, reporters, make up artists and fellow colleagues, Armytage also gave a parting shot in response to some of the negative press she has received in recent times: “I do want to say that I never fully understood some of the scrutiny and the snarkiness and bullying from some aspect of the media but today we move on from that because there is a new chapter starting.”

Armytage joined Seven in 2003, after working at WIN and Sky News in Canberra, as reporter and news presenter. In 2007 she replaced Lisa Wilkinson as co-host of Weekend Sunrise, after Wilkinson left to go to the Nine Network, and was appointed co-host of Sunrise in 2013.

Future plans for Armytage, who remains at Seven, remain unannounced. Likewise, her replacement at Sunrise is also yet to be known.

Source: 7News, Wikipedia.




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Matlock Police: TV’s country cops


Grigor Taylor, Michael Pate, Paul Cronin, Vic Gordon

With the disappointment of The Long Arm behind it, in 1971, Melbourne’s ATV0 continued to pursue options for a police drama to rival Homicide and Division 4.

While The Long Arm was produced in-house, the station reached out to Crawford Productions — producers of Homicide and Division 4 — to develop a police drama series for them.

Crawford Productions came back with Matlock Police, a weekly drama centred around the fictional country town of Matlock. With a reported cost of $24,000 per episode — in 1971 dollars — the series took a different viewpoint to its popular rivals which were largely focused on stories based in the city.

Assembled to lead the cast of Matlock Police was Michael Pate, Vic Gordon, Grigor Taylor, and Paul Cronin as motorcycle cop Gary Hogan.

(click to enlarge)

In the first episode, broadcast on ATV0 on 25 February 1971, the town matriarch, Grace Falconer (Sheila Florance) is brutally attacked and robbed. Meanwhile, a group of hippies are in town and become involved when a local girl’s horse is shot, and a couple of hunters are caught trespassing and shooting on private property.

YouTube: robbie czajka

The opening episode also featured the hippies in a nude swimming scene. Nudity was not to be a regular feature of the series, and its appearance in the first episode attracted later criticism from Crawfords’ managing director Hector Crawford. “The nude bathing scene in the first program overstepped the bounds,” Crawford conceded to TV Times shortly after. He did, however, defend criticism about any violence depicted in the series. “The purpose was to achieve a great degree of realism,” he said. “Our writers spent time studying various large rural communities so they could reflect the right attitudes and I believe in this they succeeded. Even if children did see the program, the violence in cartoons far exceeds that in Matlock Police. I think Tarzan is terrifying.”

Despite Crawford protesting the nudity from the first episode, two years later nudity was to become a trademark on two fellow 0-10 Network dramas — Number 96 and The Box. Crawford, who also produced The Box, then had Matlock Police have a glimpse at nudity again in its 100th episode, with three couples shown to be swimming and frolicking on a riverbank. The same episode also promised a love scene between a couple played by Ross D Wyllie and Lynda Keane. Despite the hype leading up to its broadcast, the end product was largely inoffensive and was allowed to be broadcast in the show’s regular 7.30pm timeslot.

Ron Thomas, Sue O’Keefe, Clive Davies, Jannie Brown

As Matlock Police progressed through the early ’70s, Grigor Taylor was to leave the show, replaced by Tom Richards (pictured, below). Michael Pate also eventually left and was replaced by Peter Gwynne. As with the other police dramas, Matlock Police also featured a steady stream of guest stars over its 200+ episodes, representing a who’s who of the acting fraternity at the time.

The series also gained international attention, of sorts, when an accountant from the real life English town of Matlock found about the show after a chance meeting in France with Australian actress Queenie Ashton, who had appeared in various guest roles in Matlock Police. The local newspaper then researched the town’s fictional namesake and reported on the similarities between the two.

By 1975, police dramas were losing favour with the networks. Nine had axed Division 4 after six years. And just as Hector Crawford was hoping to sell Matlock Police on the overseas market, by mid-1975 Matlock Police was axed by the 0-10 Network, with Seven to axe Homicide shortly after that. Crawford announced that production of Matlock Police would wind up in September but a backlog of episodes would see it airing through much of 1976.

The popularity of the show’s motorcycle cop Gary Hogan, played by Paul Cronin, saw that character lead a spin-off series, Solo One. The 13-episode drama saw Hogan relocated to the real-life town of Emerald, and the series taking on a more family-friendly tone than its predecessor. “There are no murders, sex scenes or violence. It’s the first Australian adventure series for a long time that is honest-to-goodness family entertainment, and I think it’s a credit to Crawfords,” Cronin told TV Times. The Seven Network ended up picking up Solo One but eventual plans for any renewal of the series were stalled when Cronin instead took up a lead role in the upcoming series The Sullivans.

Matlock Police continued to appear in re-runs until well into the 1980s, and in 2015 it was released on DVD.

Source: Listener In-TV, 20 February 1971. TV Week, 26 February 1972, 8 July 1972, 14 April 1973, 19 April 1975. TV Times, 14 April 1971, 29 January 1972, 12 July 1975, 22 November 1975. TV Eye — Classic Australian TV. IMDB

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