Seven wins 2014

7_2000sThe television ratings have ended for another year. While Seven has claimed the main prize, it is a contest where Nine and Ten also find something to celebrate.

Nine claims it has won the contest for the advertiser-friendly younger demographics and for the 6.00pm news battle.

Ten, which just scraped ahead of ABC after being beaten by them last year, claims to again be #1 in daytime (9am-6pm) as well as recording the best prime time growth of all networks in the 25-54 age group.

Seven has claimed victory in prime time (6pm-12mn) for the period from 9 February to 29 November (excluding the two weeks surrounding Easter) — the official survey periods declared by ratings agency OzTAM, covering the capital city markets of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth.

Seven’s network share of 30.4% (down slightly from 2013) is followed by Nine (29.2%), Ten (17.9%), ABC (17.4%) and SBS (5.2%).

Broken down to individual channels — Seven (21.8%) defeated Nine (21.2%), followed by ABC1 (12.7%), Ten (11.9%), 7TWO and GO! (4.6% each), SBS One (4.1%), 7mate (4.0%), GEM (3.4%), One and Eleven (3.0% each), ABC2 (2.7%), ABC News 24 (1.1%), ABC3 and SBS2 (0.9% each) and NITV (0.1%).

(These figures are based on preliminary results and may vary slightly when delayed viewing for the last survey week is added but is unlikely to change the finishing order.)

mykitchenrules_0002Seven continued to have success with My Kitchen Rules (“The Winner Announced”, pictured, watched by 2.712 million across 5 cities) and even House Rules, which started on shaky ground in 2013, ended its second series on a high (with “The Winner Announced” scoring 2.07m). Further down the list was the winner’s announcement for The X Factor (1.419m) — while The Big Adventure and The Amazing Race: Australia Versus New Zealand showed that reality formats, as adventurous as they might be, do not necessarily always translate into ratings gold. Even Dancing With The Stars, which concluded its 14th series last week, has had some of the shine taken off its ratings mirror ball (grand final: 1.063m).

The AFL Grand Final (2.828m) topped Seven’s list of sports coverage, followed by the Melbourne Cup (the race watched by 2.184m), the Men’s Final of the Australian Open (1.687m) and Bathurst 1000 (1.357m)..

Among the list of regular series titles, Seven had success with A Place To Call Home (1.154m) — though this was not enough to save the show from the axe, only to have it picked up by Foxtel for 2015 — and overseas shows Downton Abbey, The Blacklist and Revenge. Winners And Losers was bumped around the schedule but surprisingly managed a series average of just over 1 million viewers.

inxsnevertearusapartTelemovie The Killing Field (1.405m) drew a strong audience and is to be followed up with a spin-off series, Winter, in 2015. But the network’s biggest drama hit was the mini-series INXS: Never Tear Us Apart (Part One: 2.243m) which kick-started Seven’s ratings season back in February.

Sunrise continues its dominance in the breakfast timeslot, and Sunday Night (1.805m) has beaten 60 Minutes (1.722m), though the two shows were rarely directly up against each other.

9_logo_2009_0001Nine’s year was topped by The Block: Glasshouse‘s “Winner Announced” (2.687m) followed by the NRL Grand Final (2.621m) and NRL State Of Origin (Match 2: 2.6m).

The series return of The Voice (2.229m) rated well but figures dipped for the show’s grand final (1.663m). The TV Week Logie Awards suffered a ratings blow (992k) up against an episode of My Kitchen Rules (2m), not helped by the awards telecast’s usual custom of being delayed and edited and still managing to almost stretch to almost midnight on a Sunday night.

lovechildNew drama series Love Child (1.466m) was a ratings hit, while the Underbelly franchise that wasn’t, Fat Tony And Co (1.214m) still fared admirably. Just scraping above the one million viewers mark was House Husbands (1.06m).

The hastily-rescheduled telemovie Schapelle, shifted to capitalise on the Bali prisoner’s release on parole, didn’t fare as well (1.153m) up against the INXS series on Seven.

Hamish And Andy’s Gap Year South America (1.142m) might have been the last in the Gap Year series but showed that the pair still command a strong following.

Nine News (1.114m) claimed victory in the 6.00pm news battle, taking over from Seven News (1.087m), although the latter still commands a strong lead in Adelaide and Perth.

ten_2013Ten’s year started well with the Big Bash League and Winter Olympics and then with the XX Commonwealth Games in July-August. The Commonwealth Games in particular provided more pleasing results compared to the previous Games of 2010. The Australian FIA Formula One World Championship also delivered high ratings (race: 1.36m) in its simulcast between Ten and One.

MasterChef Australia was on the comeback trail after a disappointing 2013, and did so with pleasing results (“Winner Announced”: 1.749m). Ten didn’t have much luck, however, with other reality titles — with the revival of So You Think You Can Dance bombing in the ratings. The Biggest Loser also struggled in comparison to previous years but is set for a revamp in 2015.

The Bachelor worked itself up to a strong finale (“The Final Decision”: 1.44m) and the theatrics of the post-series affairs between bachelor Blake Garvey and some of the female contestants led to the show continuing to spark publicity well after it had wrapped up for the year. Subsequent appearances of Garvey and female contestants on Ten’s The Project saw that show reach its highest numbers since expanding to a one-hour format.

Just over a million viewers tuned in to see Michael Parkinson‘s interview with Ian Thorpe. US comedy Modern Family hit a ratings high with its Australian episode (1.2m) and the year’s final episode of Have You Been Paying Attention? scored a series high of 641k.

partytricksTen’s drama slate was headed by Offspring (final: 1.15m), and it is still unclear if it will be back in 2015, while the murder mystery Secrets And Lies failed to gain much interest despite the concept being picked up for an adaptation by US television. The political-themed Party Tricks (602k), headed by Asher Keddie and Rodger Corser (pictured), struggled despite promising reviews.

The long-awaited return of Puberty Blues (637k) and Wonderland (580k) were unable to maintain strong numbers, while long-running series Neighbours (soon to celebrate its 30th anniversary) is still plugging away over on Eleven. Its numbers often struggle to pass the 300k mark but still tops Eleven’s program rankings.

Probably the biggest surprise for many was the relative success of the mid-year launch of game show Family Feud. Possibly helped by Ten’s programming tactic of simulcasting it across all three of its channels each night, Family Feud has found a stable following (602k).

thelivingroomAnother show to be something of a quiet achiever for Ten has been The Living Room. The lifestyle-entertainment show (550k, and “The Hot List” special: 641k) managed to grow its audience despite the competition of Friday night sports coverage on other networks and Seven’s perennial favourite Better Homes And Gardens.

ABC’s year was topped by British dramas Doc Martin (1.242m) and Death In Paradise (1.173m) and the Australian series The Doctor Blake Mysteries (1.054m).

The two episodes of the recent Countdown tribute, Countdown: Do Yourself A Favour, scored 965k and 919k.

For SBS their biggest rating for the year came from the FIFA World Cup, including the Chile v Australia match scoring 1.74m viewers.

As of yesterday (Sunday) networks go into summer non-ratings mode, though viewing data is still collected by OzTAM and reported to networks over the non-ratings period.

The 2015 ratings year begins on 8 February and continues through to 28 November, with a two-week break over the Easter period.

Seven wins 20132012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007

Data © OzTAM Pty Limited 2014. The Data may not be reproduced, published or communicated (electronically or in hard copy) without the prior written consent of OzTAM.





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Graeme Goodings leaves Seven Adelaide

graemegoodings_0001Veteran Adelaide newsreader Graeme Goodings has left Seven News.

He tweeted the news of his departure from Seven earlier today.

AdelaideNow reports that Goodings, Seven’s weekend news presenter, was offered a “reduced capacity” role but instead opted to resign.

He had been with the station since 1980 when it was SAS10. He was the main newsreader for SAS10’s Eyewitness News when the station made the switch to Seven in 1987.

In 2004 he stood down when he was diagnosed with cancer. After months of treatment he returned to Seven to read the weekend news. He has recently celebrated being cancer free for ten years.

Prior to working at SAS10/7 Goodings had worked at TNT9 in Launceston and in radio at 7LA Launceston, 5DN Adelaide and 3AW in Melbourne.

Source: AdelaideNow, Seven News, Graeme Goodings




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ABC to cut 400 staff

ourABCOn the eve of the 2013 election, then opposition leader Tony Abbott succinctly promised “no cuts to the ABC or SBS”.

ABC staffers today learned that 400 jobs will go amid a restructure that will see television production wound down in the smaller capital cities.

The corporation is also embarking on a program of 40 efficiency measures to absorb some of the $200 million being cut from funding over the next four years, on top of the $120 million that was announced in May. This includes the sale of some properties, such as Lanceley Place in Sydney and some regional outposts, and possible amalgamation of some purchasing activities with SBS.

There will also be a change to foreign bureau arrangements, including setting up a Beirut post but restructuring or closing others.

In a statement issued today, ABC managing director Mark Scott said:

“We anticipate that more than 400 people – close to 10 per cent of our ongoing workforce – face potential redundancy as we adjust our activities over coming months.”

“We regard the changes as vital to securing the long-term health of the organisation but I acknowledge that is no comfort to those who will lose their positions.”

The key changes for the television platform include the axing of the state-based Friday editions of 7.30, the closure of non-news production from Adelaide and the winding down of non-news production from the other smaller capitals.

Lateline is being shifted from ABC to ABC News 24, while sports coverage across ABC television is to be reviewed with a focus on national sporting events, and the fleet of outside broadcast vans is to be rationalised.

Two new divisions will be created to enhance regional and online coverage.

Mr Scott will be visiting ABC branches in each state and territory over the coming days to brief staff on any changes and to answer questions.

Today’s announcement from the ABC come as public rallies have been held around the country to protest cuts to the national broadcaster following Mr Abbott’s prior pledge to not make any cuts to ABC or SBS.

Source: ABC


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1994: November 26-December 2

tvweek_261194Cover: Tim Allen (Home Improvement)

Paul raises interest in money
Paul Clitheroe‘s Money program has been a ratings hit for Nine — but nobody was expecting much when the program was first proposed. Images of fawn-suited accountants, whiteboards and endless figures had the network’s creative heads cringing. But Money went on to be a ratings hit, and host Clitheroe attributes much of its success to the colourful, creative anecdotes used to illustrate the various case studies discussed in the program. He also has to admit that a lot of that creativity is not his. “I don’t have a creative bone in my body,” he told TV Week. “I’m a banker, for heaven’s sake. I’m not meant to be creative. I thought when Nine first rang me up that I would be standing in a blue suit and using a whiteboard. That certainly hasn’t been the case. I would have to say that, nine times out of 10, a story on Money would come from my knowledge of the subject, but the anecdotes come from my producer and the rest of the team.” Critics of the show say that Money must have a short life, that there are only so many finance stories to go around. “We will never run out of topics,” Clitheroe insists. “The economy is constantly changing, and with that there are always new things happening.”

alistairmacdougallAlistair’s American acting bonanza
Former Home And Away star Alistair MacDougall (pictured) moved to Los Angeles more than a year ago but has suddenly had the dilemma of choosing between two TV roles offered to him on the same day — a role in the spin-off series from last year’s Bonanza telemovie and another in a new series, Search And Rescue. Production schedules of both projects meant he couldn’t agree to both, but he had only been on a holding contract for Bonanza. With both Bonanza and Search And Rescue coming under the NBC network, MacDougall was able to be released from the Bonanza contract for the Search And Rescue role. His only regret is that in Bonanza he would have been working with Leonard Nimoy. “I would have been working with Spock!,” he said.


  • The British obsession with Neighbours continues, with Chris Lowe of the pop group Pet Shop Boys insisting on a walk-on role for him during the group’s Australian tour. Actors Equity rules prevented him for any major appearance, so he was only to appear in one scene driving through Ramsay Street in a sports car.
  • Michael Craig has denied rumours that he is leaving GP for an extended holiday in the UK. “I am contracted to GP through to October, 1995, and what happens after that is not up to me,” he told TV Week.
  • brianwenzelstuartwagstaffharrycooperWho are this bunch of unlikely performers giving their tribute to the hit film The Adventures Of Priscilla Queen Of The Desert? None other than Brian Wenzel (formerly of A Country Practice), Stuart Wagstaff and Talk To The AnimalsDr Harry Cooper — performing at the recent Telethon for Perth’s TVW7, which raised more than $2 million.

TV’s Top 20 (Week Commencing 6 November): 

Rank Program Network Day(s) Viewers
1 Movie: The Bodyguard Nine Sun 2146000
2 Just Kidding Nine Tue 2037000
3 National Nine News Nine Sun 1950000
4 60 Minutes Nine Sun 1790000
5 Australia’s Funniest Home Video Show Nine Tue 1763000
6 Home Improvement Seven Sun 1732000
7 World’s Greatest TV Commercials Seven Sun 1730000
8 Money Nine Wed 1716000
9 Fast Forward’s Funniest TV Send Ups Seven Wed 1708000
10 A Current Affair Nine M-F 1689000
11 Home Improvement Seven Wed 1682000
12 Our House Nine Wed 1680000
13 National Nine News Nine Sat 1620000
14 National Nine News Nine M-F 1545000
15 Lois & Clark The New Adventures Of Superman Seven Mon 1522000
16 Halifax fp Nine Wed 1516000
17 Hey Hey It’s Saturday Nine Sat 1514000
18 Getaway Nine Thu 1497000
19 Sale Of The Century Nine M-F 1428000
20 SeaQuest DSV Ten Sun 1407000

Lawrie Masterson: The View From Here

“I don’t recall another Australian state premier ever being asked on television whether he is “a half-caste Melanesian bastard”. That happened to Don Dunstan. Nor do I recall an Australian state premier — former or currently in office — being asked on television whether he is homosexual. That happens to Don Dunstan in A Life. You’ll have to watch the program if you don’t remember Dunstan’s answer to the first question, which was asked some years ago, or are fascinated about his response to the second. It is put to him by George Negus during an engrossing hour of television. No matter what your political persuasions, it is impossible not to regard Dunstan as one of the most interesting politicians of the modern era.”

Program Highlights (Melbourne, November 26-December 2):

The non-ratings season means that a lot of titles are taken out of circulation for the summer, leaving viewers with delightfully few highlights during the week and plenty of re-runs.

kylieminogue_0001Saturday: The First Test (10.50am, Nine) continues from the Gabba, Brisbane, through until Tuesday. Kylie Minogue (pictured) makes a guest appearance in the last Hey Hey It’s Saturday (6.30pm, Nine) for the year. The Hollywood movie classic Gone With The Wind (8.30pm, Seven) runs for four-and-a-half hours.

Sunday: Current affairs program Meet The Press (11am, Ten) presents its last show for the year. Sunday night movies are Down And Out In Beverly Hills (repeat, Seven), The Colour Purple (repeat, Nine) and Always (repeat, Ten). Sunday Stereo Special (8.30pm, ABC) presents the Australian Opera production of Cavalleria Rusticana.

Monday: US sitcoms Major Dad (6.30pm, Ten) and Step By Step (7pm, Seven) begin as summer replacements for Neighbours and Home And Away respectively. Arts program Review (10pm, ABC) presents its last show for the year.

Wednesday: Russell Crowe hosts the special Nescafe Big Break (7.30pm, Ten), profiling the eight young Australians being awarded $20,000 grants to pursue their talent and ambitions. The Elle McFeast (Libbi Gorr) special Sex, Guys And Videotape (8.30pm, ABC) is given a re-run. In the movie-length series final of Heartbreak High (8.30pm, Ten), Nick (Alex Dimitriades) refuses to believe his relationship with Jodie (Abi Tucker) is over; Rivers (Scott Major) is the prime suspect when Deloraine’s (Stephen O’Rourke) office is broken into; and Rose (Katherine Halliday) goes into labour in the school’s science lab. In the return of interview series A Life (9.30pm, ABC), George Negus interviews former South Australian premier Don Dunstan.

Thursday: Sandy Roberts hosts live coverage of the Greg Norman Holden Classic (12pm, Seven) from Royal Melbourne; which continues through until Sunday. Getaway (7.30pm, Nine) and Beyond 2000 (7.30pm, Ten) present ‘best of’ stories from the year.

Friday: The One-Day International, Australia v Zimbabwe, is live from Perth (4.30pm-6pm, 7pm-8.15pm and 8.45pm-11.30pm, Nine). In the series final of The Great Outdoors (7.30pm, Seven), Ann Maree Biggar visits Glen Innes and discovers Australia’s very own Stonehenge — The Standing Stones; Frankie J Holden flies a stunt kite; Bridget Adams experiences the thrill of Jet Sprint Racing; and Neil Crompton road tests the Jaguar XJS.

Source: TV Week (Melbourne edition), incorporating TV Times and TV Guide. 26 November 1994. Southdown Press




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On TV: 18 November 1964, Melbourne

raymondwestwellAn ambitious local production of Shakespeare’s Othello (starring Raymond Westwell, pictured) was the highlight of ABC station ABV2‘s program schedule in Melbourne on Wednesday 18 November 1964, as reported in both TV Week and TV Times..

Television that day didn’t kick off until late morning — with the first program of the day being For The Juniors, a schools program on ABV2 at 11.05am. It was a 20-minute program, and ABV would not resume until the next schools program at 1.25pm.

HSV7 and GTV9 both started their day at 11.30am with brief news updates, then it was over to English series Interpol Calling on Seven and American series The Case Of The Dangerous Robin on Nine.

Lunchtime movies started at 12.30pm on both Seven and Nine — with the 1941 film The Great Lie, starring Bette Davis, on Seven and Man With The Gun, with Robert Mitchum and Angie Dickinson in one of her earliest roles, on Nine. After the movies, Seven went onto series Hawaiian Eye, while Nine competed with game shows It Could Be You (with Tommy Hanlon Jnr) and Take The Hint (with Frank Wilson). Corinne Kerby hosted ABV2’s afternoon magazine show Matinee.

Seven’s afternoon variety show Time For Terry followed at 3.00pm.

The new kid on the TV block, ATV0 started its broadcast day at 3.30pm with a documentary film before Romper Room for the pre-schoolers. Then it was the battle of the after school shows — Video Village and The Happy Show on Seven, The Tarax Show on Nine and The Children’s Show (Nancy Cato and Michael Boddy) on ATV0. ABC’s after school line-up included Andy Pandy and Wonderbox.

The evening started with Texas Rangers on Seven, Bomba The Jungle Boy on Nine and Invisible Man on 0, while ABV2 debuted Canadian adventure series Forest Rangers.

Jimmy Hannan presented his Top Pop Of The Day at 6.25pm on Nine — and it was a three-way battle for news at 6.30, with Brian Naylor reading the news on Seven, Eric Pearce on Nine and Brian Wright and John Royle on 0.

At 7.00pm, Seven’s quiz show Coles £3000 Question (with Roland Strong) was up against US comedies My Three Sons on Nine and Grindl on 0, while ABC had its news at 7.00pm.

ABC’s post-news line-up includes English comedy The Marriage Lines, followed by the 5-minute Export Action then Gerald LyonsPeople ’64.

On the commercial channels, the evening continued with new sitcom The Addams Family on Nine, up against Zorro on Seven and Burke’s Law on 0. Seven’s midweek movie at 8.00pm was Mrs Miniver, the 1942 film starring Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon.

ATV0 had only been operating three months but had just overhauled its 8.30pm timeslot in response to dragging ratings. From early in November the station had changed its schedule to have a movie every night of the week at 8.30pm. The film on this particular evening was Misfits, starring Clark Gable, Marilyn Monroe, Montgomery Clift and Eli Wallach.


abv2_othelloABC’s 2-hour-and-20-minute broadcast of Shakespeare’s Othello featured English actor/director Raymond Westwell in the title role, joined by co-stars Keith Lee, John Gregg, Judith Arthy, Frances McDonald (pictured with Westwell), Terry Norris, Kenric Hudson, Don Crosby and Joan MacArthur. Westwall had played other characters in Othello in overseas productions but this was his first time playing the lead role in a full-scale presentation of the play. The performance was produced by Patrick Barton and was taped at the ABV2 studios in Ripponlea over four days, utilising four large-scale sets. While it was not the first Shakespeare play to be staged by ABC, the production had encountered some challenges — such as make-up artists unable to obtain in Australia the special make-up to give Westwell just the right complexion to play Othello as an Arab. They later found four colours which, when blended, produced the right shade.

Wardrobe supervisor Keith Clark also remarked it was the largest costume job he had ever done, explaining that he had to make quilted sleeves and pad and quilt all the trousers and some improvisation was needed for other costumes. “We made one set of armour out of felt and leather,” he told TV Week.

ABV2’s production of Othello was later seen on ABC stations in other states — with the program airing in New South Wales and the ACT the following February.

Meanwhile, Joff Ellen was the main guest star on Graham Kennedy‘s In Melbourne Tonight at 9.30pm, while 0 had US variety show The Steve Allen Show at 10.00pm and Seven had British variety show Big Night Out at 10.25pm.

After IMT, Eric Pearce was back to read the late news, then Zane Grey Theatre (including an appearance by Australian-born actor Michael Pate) and Seven’s quiz show Answer Please (hosted by Geoff Raymond) battled for late night viewers. Neill Phillipson presented a late news summary on ATV0 before it signed off for the night at 11.25pm.

Source: TV Week, 14 November 1964. TV Times, 18 November 1964. Sydney Morning Herald, 3 February 1965.









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1994: November 19-25

tvweek_191194Talk To The Animals in Africa
While filming for Talk To The Animals in Africa, reporter Steve Oemcke was convinced he was going to die when an elephant charged at him. He was using a video camera to tape the crew bravely filming the elephants at close range: “I was filming this elephant, then swinging to film the crew, then back to the elephant. All of a sudden, I realised the elephant was looking right at me! The crew was now filming something else. His ears were right out, and he was stamping the ground. Then he started running towards me. I thought, ‘It’s going to kill me’.” The elephant suddenly pulled up, allowing Oemcke time to run back to the vehicle and jump in. Fellow reporter Kelly Pummeroy (pictured) also had a close call with a rhinoceros that has a 24-hour bodyguard. During filming, the rhino suddenly charged at the camera crew: “The cameraman ran one side of the tree and the sound recordist ran the other. I was standing there with a handful of lucerne, and I didn’t know what to do… so I offered the lucerne to him to try to calm him down. Apparently that was a very stupid thing to do, and I was lucky he didn’t go for me.” She at least looks a little more relaxed while posing for TV Week‘s cover photo at Melbourne’s Werribee Zoo, but noted the large rhino behind her: “You will tell me if he moves towards me — at all — won’t you?”

Soap wedding hoax!
This year’s final episode of Neighbours for the year will reveal that the wedding of Mark Gottlieb (Bruce Samazan) and Annalise Hartman (Kimberley Davies) is not meant to be. A Network Ten source confirmed that “they don’t even walk down the aisle, let alone say ‘I do’.” The last minute drama comes as Mark decides he wants to become a priest. Samazan’s contract to Neighbours allows him two months off to travel to the UK, so this storyline allows his character some time away from Ramsay Street.

dalestephensThe force is with Dale
Actress Dale Stevens (pictured) is accustomed to playing crooks, but now she’s on the right side of the law as trainee detective Rose Egan in Blue Heelers. In researching for the role, Stevens spent time at a real police station. “It was great to hear from the sergeant there how much the Victorian police like Blue Heelers, and that they appreciate the attention to detail in the show,” she told TV Week. After working and studying in London, Melbourne-born Stevens went to New Zealand to work in films and appear in drama series Shortland Street — but one of her favourite roles was here in Australia, in Col’n Carpenter… as Col’n’s transvestite brother. “It was a real hoot, and I was amazed at how much I looked the part — in fact it was frightening!”


  • The Home And Away wedding between Shane (Dieter Brummer) and Angel (Melissa George) is not expected to appear on screen until next April, but TV Week has heard of a twist to the story. Angel is set to be involved in a car accident, leaving her unable to walk. But in true soapie style, she will get up out of the wheelchair on her wedding day just in time to walk down the aisle.
  • andrewblackmanWith A Country Practice now axed (again!), Andrew Blackman (pictured) who plays Dr Harry Morrison is now set for a role in The Feds for the Nine Network.
  • Former Home And Away star Mat Stevenson will soon be seen in a guest role in Blue Heelers, playing the part of an assault victim. The case becomes complicated when the attacker, to be played by Terry Serio, is found out to be HIV positive.
  • Rumour is that Andrew Denton won’t be back on the Seven Network in the new year. Ratings for his late night program Denton haven’t been brilliant.

TV’s Top 20 (Week Commencing 30 October): 

Rank Program Network Day(s) Viewers
1 Movie: Crocodile Dundee 2 Nine Sun 2499000
2 Just Kidding Nine Tue 2201000
3 Australia’s Funniest Home Video Show Nine Tue 1909000
4 Getaway Nine Thu 1842000
5 Burke’s Backyard Nine Fri 1818000
6 Our House Nine Wed 1746000
7 A Current Affair Nine M-Th 1730000
8 Money Nine Wed 1718000
9 National Nine News Nine M-F 1657000
10 Home Improvement Seven Wed 1639000
11 60 Minutes Nine Sun 1625000
12 Lois & Clark The New Adventures Of Superman Seven Mon 1619000
13 Fast Forward’s Funniest TV Send Ups Seven Wed 1584000
14 Home Improvement Seven Sun 1578000
15 Movie: The Witches Seven Fri 1537000
16 Sale Of The Century Nine M-Th 1534000
17 ABBA Revival Nine Mon 1508000
18 The World’s Greatest TV Commercials Nine Sun 1507000
19 Blossom Seven Thu 1497000
20 Full Frontal Seven Thu 1488000

Lawrie Masterson: The View From Here

bertanddon“There’s no doubt that the Very Latest Rage on television is nostalgia. In recent weeks we have revisited that redoubtable old cop show Homicide (Seven); we’ve remembered what it used to be like in the days of live variety with The Very Best Of The Don Lane Show (Nine); and with the Countdown 20th anniversary tribute show (ABC), we’ve recalled the days before Molly wore a hat, when he was just plain Ian. The Countdown special had more publicity than the rest of them put together, but, inexplicably, did not generate the public response the ABC — and I agreed with them — had expected. Even Network Ten, which is the young whippersnapper of the commercial networks in comparative terms, is getting into nostalgia. When Melbourne’s ATV10 (formerly ATV0) chalked up its 30th anniversary in August, it was allowed to pass with what amounted to only cursory recognition. Sydney’s TEN10 turns 30 next April and, with nostalgia running rampant in the ratings, it will be interesting to see what happens then.”

Program Highlights (Melbourne, November 19-25):
Saturday: In the final (ever) episode of A Country Practice (5.30pm, Ten), Esme Watson (Joyce Jacobs) suffers a stroke and the prognosis is not good; Harry (Andrew Blackman) attempts to fight for and win Jess (Jane Hall) back; and Danny (Vince Colosimo) and Claire (Claudia Black) finally get engaged.

Sunday: In Banjo Paterson’s Man From Snowy River (6.30pm, Nine), everyone is excited that the railway is coming to Paterson’s Ridge, except Kathleen (Wendy Hughes), because it run through her property. Sunday night movies are The Last Of The Mohicans (Seven) and The Heartbreak Kid (Ten), with three-part mini-series Scarlett making its debut (Nine).

abigailjoehashamMonday: Model Rachel Hunter hosts Weddings (7.30pm, Nine), providing a close-up look at three couples as they plan their big day. In the year’s final episode of Healthy Wealthy And Wise (7.30pm, Ten), Jim Brown looks at the most popular sport in Australia — lawn bowls; Iain Hewitson makes a summer recipe using pears; Lyn Talbot looks at the benefits of massage; and Peter Wherrett explains why car enthusiasts are having Austin Healys restored. The classic ’70s Aussie drama Number 96 is remembered in the special Number 96: They Said It Wouldn’t Last (8.30pm, Ten), originally produced in 1976 to commemorate the show’s 1000th episode — featuring segments hosted by Abigail (pictured with Joe Hasham), Elaine Lee, James Elliott, Elisabeth Kirkby, Johnny Lockwood, Philippa Baker and Bettina Welch.

Weddings. YouTube: Vaxman80

Tuesday: In Neighbours (6.30pm, Ten), with the kids away, Karl (Alan Fletcher) and Susan (Jackie Woodburne) try to have a second honeymoon. In the series final of Blue Heelers (7.30pm, Seven), Maggie’s (Lisa McCune) hopes of being made trainee detective take a nosedive when she finds out that PJ (Martin Sacks) promised he will give Constable Rose Egan (Dale Stevens) a trial go.

Wednesday: In Home And Away (7pm, Seven), the children are forced to make a decision between Christmas with Pippa (Debra Lawrance) or Michael (Dennis Coard).

Thursday: Getaway (7.30pm, Nine) presents its Top Five special — naming Australia’s top five beaches, bushwalks, camping sites, caravan parks, islands and romantic holidays. Full Frontal (8.30pm, Seven) and Denton (10.30pm, Seven) present their last shows for the year. The Best Of The Footy Show ’94 (9.30pm, Nine) takes a look back at some of the highlights from The Footy Show during the year.

Friday: The First Test, Australia versus England, begins in Brisbane (10.50am, Nine). Neighbours (6.30pm, Ten) and Home And Away (7pm, Seven) present their last episodes for the year. Man O Man (7.30pm, Seven) presents a Footballers’ Special for its final show for 1994 — including a cast of Aussie Rules, Rugby League and Soccer stars.

Source: TV Week (Melbourne edition), incorporating TV Times and TV Guide. 19 November 1994. Southdown Press




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Top 10 Aussie TV Themes

thesullivansA little while ago an American TV blog, Comfort TV, ran a series of articles listing its favourite TV themes of each decade from the 1950s to 1980s. Many were of shows very familiar to Australian audiences, such as The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Happy Days, The Love Boat, Cheers, Moonlighting, Twin Peaks and Highway To Heaven.

So while Australian TV doesn’t have quite the same breadth of material to tap into, we’ve managed to scrape together a list of ten Australian TV themes that stand out (and that are available on YouTube). Some of them are original compositions, while others are adapted from other sources — but hopefully all trigger a few memories.

So, here they are, in no particular order.

YouTube: SouthWestFilmsOnline

Seven National News. The signature tune that introduced Seven National News on HSV7 Melbourne for almost 20 years was titled Industry Today by UK composer Sam Fonteyn. The theme music was also used by HSV7’s sister radio station 3DB in the 1970s.

YouTube: zerokomma

National Nine News. Adapted from the musical score of the 1967 film Cool Hand Luke, this theme was used by the American ABC network and since the 1970s by Nine in Australia. It has been updated and reworked a number of times but forty years later this theme still introduces Nine News each night.

YouTube: mikey2509

The Sullivans. Composed by Nine’s Geoff Harvey for Two Way Mirror, a sexy soap that had been proposed by Nine in 1975 to combat the then top-rating Number 96 and The Box. Two Way Mirror never eventuated and a slightly modified version of the theme tune became immortalised by the much more sedate The Sullivans.

YouTube: PrisonerCellBlockH95

Prisoner. The song On The Inside, composed by Allan Caswell and sung by Lynne Hamilton, became a chart-topper when it was released following the debut of Prisoner in 1979.

YouTube: Conniptions886

Arcade. A series that launched with outstanding credentials — coming from the creative brains and network behind the former hit show Number 96 and boasting a decent cast — but in the end became Australian TV’s most infamous flop. Even though it was now 1980, Arcade‘s ’70s-style disco tune, composed by Mike Perjanik and sung by Doug Parkinson, was catchy enough.

YouTube: Navigator

Kath And Kim. The theme song that introduces those foxy morons from Fountain Lakes is an adaptation of the song The Joker, co-written by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley for the 1960s musical The Roar Of The Greasepaint — The Smell Of The Crowd. For Kath And Kim, The Joker is sung by series co-creator and co-star Gina Riley.

YouTube: tomchristmas

Division 4. Most of the shows to have come out of Crawford Productions have come with standout theme tunes. This one for Nine‘s Division 4 was taken from a British composition which had also been used in some American programs at the time.

YouTube: NeighboursOfficial

Neighbours. At one point this song was probably better known by Australians than the national anthem. Composed by Tony Hatch and written by Jackie Trent, the Neighbours theme has had many updates and revisions over 30 years, making it one of Australia’s longest serving theme songs, but the most recognised rendition would be the original, sung by Barry Crocker.

YouTube: Todd’s Retro TV World

Glenview High. The Seven Network‘s return to the schoolroom two years after the demise of Class Of ’75 was accompanied by a disco-inspired theme tune to appeal to its teenage demographic. Like the Arcade theme that followed a few years later, it was composed by prolific TV and film composer Mike Perjanik — whose other works included the themes to The Restless Years, Chopper Squad, Hey Dad!, Kingswood Country, A Country Practice and Home And Away.

YouTube: The Cathode Ray Choob

The Lost Islands. The 1976 children’s adventure series was a co-production between the 0-10 Network and Paramount Pictures. The series drew a lukewarm response in Australia but sold well overseas. The theme song, composed and sung by Michael Caufield, and opening titles have a Gilligan’s Island feel about them as they describe the premise of the series — that five young crew members of a ship are lost at sea and find themselves at a mysterious island.

Do you agree with this list… or are there others worthy of mention? Share your comments below.





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The Mavis Bramston Show’s 50th anniversary

mavisIt was 50 years ago today that the legendary comedy show The Mavis Bramston Show first appeared on our screens.

Before its debut, Executive Producer Michael Plant described the show as “unlike anything ever done in television before”, promising topical comedy, sketches and send-ups. The show’s chief writer David Sale, in his recent book Number 96, Mavis Bramston And Me, said, “After eight years of inoffensive entertainment, The Mavis Bramston Show finally shook Australian television free from the confining corsets of 1950s respectability. This was the new kid on the block — cheeky, vulgar, always irreverent and constantly demanding attention.”

mavisbramstonThe concept for the show had been devised by Carol Raye, having seen the popular comedy show That Was The Week That Was in the UK. Raye assembled Gordon Chater and Barry Creyton as cast members — but finding a compatible female lead was proving difficult, so Raye stepped in and an invincible ensemble was born. They would be joined by a cast of performers including June Salter, Ron Frazer, Johnny Lockwood, Hazel Phillips, Barbara Angell, Ronnie Stevens, Penny Ramsay and Bryan Davies.

memory04There was no such person as Mavis Bramston but rather she was a send up of the cultural phenomenon of importing overseas “stars” to appear in Australian productions, particularly on stage. Initially played by Noeline Brown but more famously by Maggie Dence (pictured), Mavis would appear in the show’s opening titles in an almost regal manner stepping off the plane upon her “arrival”. (Brown would later return to the series but as part of the ensemble rather than playing the part of Mavis)

The Mavis Bramston Show was originally commissioned by Sydney’s ATN7 for six weeks — making its debut on Wednesday 11 November 1964 at 9.00pm. Within weeks of its debut it was among Sydney’s most popular programs, and was soon picked up by CTC7 in Canberra. Following its debut in Canberra, local TV critic John Howard dared to describe it as “the most important program in the whole history of Australian television”.

YouTube: Conniptions886

The show’s immediate success led to one episode screening in Melbourne just before Christmas as a precursor to HSV7 picking up the series from February 1965 — though its arrival in Melbourne was seen to be a thorn in the side of HSV. TV Times reported at the time that while GTV9 had the popular In Melbourne Tonight, there were attempts to get a satire-based series up and running at rival HSV7 but any such projects were snubbed by management, claiming that Melburnians “wouldn’t be interested” in satire. The arrival of The Ray Taylor Show at new channel ATV0 and the popularity of Mavis in Melbourne soon showed that HSV had misjudged its viewers and had to concede that its Sydney partner had claimed a place in television history.

Before too long, Mavis with its political send ups, social satire and double entendres that outraged as well as entertained was being seen in capital cities and regional areas around the country — making it the first Australian TV comedy show to gain a strong foothold nationally — ending the year as the most popular program on Australian TV (beaten only by the Sunday night movie timeslot).

The show won a TV Week Logie Award in 1965 for Best New Show, and again in 1966 for Best Live Show. Gordon Chater won the Gold Logie for Most Popular TV Personality in 1966, with Carol Raye winning Best Female Personality.

By 1968 the original ensemble had moved on to other ventures and David Sale, promoted to the role of Executive Producer following the sudden death of Michael Plant, had handed over to writer Johnny Whyte. Subsequently, ratings had dropped and Seven had shifted Mavis to a later timeslot. In September, ATN7 had axed The Mavis Bramston Show amid plans to cancel a raft of programs including The Gordon Chater Show, sitcom Rita And Wally and daytime soapie Motel.

Despite the huge impact that Mavis had on Australian popular culture it has barely appeared on screen since it faded away in 1968. Some of the show’s former cast returned for a one-off special in April 1971, but screenings of the original Mavis on TV have been largely limited only to footage in later clip shows.

David Sale went on to be the creative force behind another groundbreaking series, Number 96. Carol Raye appeared frequently in Number 96, while both Raye and Barry Creyton were regular panellists on Graham Kennedy‘s Blankety Blanks in the late 1970s.

Most of the original episodes of The Mavis Bramston Show now reside at the National Film and Sound Archive but have never been released on DVD.

Source: Number 96, Mavis Bramston And Me, David Sale. Australian Television Information Archive. Australian TV: The First 25 Years, Peter Beilby, 1981. Sydney Morning Herald, 8 November 1964. The Canberra Times, 4 December 1964. TV Times, 16 December 1964. TV Times, 10 February 1965. TV Times, 3 March 1965. TV Times, 25 September 1968. TV Times, 14 April 1971.




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1994: November 12-18

tvweek_121194Cover: Melissa George (Home And Away)

Sundae too far away!
Those who have seen the film The Adventures Of Priscilla: Queen Of The Desert may have seen Ken Radley as the vile redneck drunk in Coober Pedy intent on doing something “something villainous” to Guy Pearce‘s befrocked character. What most may not realise is that Radley portrays a much different role in television… and one you’d never see… as he is sometimes hidden beneath the pyjamas of B1 in the children’s series Bananas In Pyjamas. “Basically, actors love doing varied roles and I feel very fortunate to have done so many,” he told TV Week. “Bananas is wonderful because it’s all play. There’s not a lot of subtext there. For a lot of kids it’s their first introduction to slapstick stuff.” Radley has also appeared in a variety of different roles in series including GP, The Harp In The South, A Country Practice and Home And Away.

timferguson_0001Would you vote for this man?
Comedy trio The Doug Anthony Allstars are calling it quits and one of its stars has political ambitions. Tim Ferguson (pictured) yearns to be a senator in Canberra. He has some political credentials — his father is a former producer of ABC current affairs program This Day Tonight, who led the national capital’s press gallery in the early Eighties. “I’d like to become a real problem for many people — certainly politicians,” he told TV Week. “I think it would be good to give them a real headache by getting into parliament.” Ferguson will also be back on TV screens as part of a new World Series Debating special to screen this week.

ericbana_0001Eric’s ethnic accent
Full Frontal star Eric Bana has brought a close friend into his repertoire of characters. Eddie (pictured), a middle-aged man with a heavy European accent and a somewhat different view of the world, has been with Bana since he was a child. “When I was 10 or 12 I just made up this voice to use on my CB radio — that’s how Eddie was born,” Bana told TV Week. “I was actually a little embarrassed about bringing the character to Full Frontal, because I’ve been so close to him for so long. It was like bringing my teddy bear to work. Eddie is the sort of guy who could walk through the mardi gras and not realise it was gay. He would just see it as a coincidence that there were so many men together. I suppose there is a little bit of my mother’s father in the character… just a couple of traits.”


  • A proposal for a new drama series, Harbourside, has sparked interest from two networks. The series, about a squad of detectives assigned to combat organised crime, is a project from new production company Midlothian Film And Television.
  • Cathy Godbold (Newlyweds) and David Dixon (Home And Away) are two names being mentioned as possible cast members for a new medical drama being developed by the Seven Network. Meanwhile, Jeremy Sims (Chances) and Adrian Lee (E Street) are being touted as possible additions to Home And Away as producers look to add a resident nasty into Summer Bay.
  • The addition of Zoe Carides to the cast of GP is hoped to give the show a younger image. Carides will play the part of Dr Sonja Kapec, described by a GP insider as “very cheeky with a good sense of fun. She will also have a sound sense of who she is, as well as being highly opinionated”.

TV’s Top 20 (Week Commencing 23 October): 

Rank Program Network Day(s) Viewers
1 Movie: Strictly Ballroom Seven Sun 2487000
2 Just Kidding Nine Tue 2136000
3 The World’s Greatest TV Commercials Seven Sun 1878000
4 Australia’s Funniest Home Video Show Nine Tue 1857000
5 Getaway Nine Thu 1810000
6 Home Improvement Seven Sun 1807000
7 Money Nine Wed 1802000
8 Our House Nine Wed 1800000
9 Movie: Lethal Weapon 3 Nine Sun 1717000
10 Special: Re-Bjorn — ABBA ’94 Seven Sat 1707000
11 A Current Affair Nine M-F 1677000
12 Masters Of Illusion Seven Wed 1673000
13 Home Improvement Seven Wed 1657000
14 Burke’s Backyard Nine Fri 1638000
15 Movie: Tango And Cash Nine Mon 1603000
16 National Nine News Nine M-F 1585000
17 60 Minutes Nine Sun 1542000
18 National Nine News Nine Sat 1513000
19 National Nine News Nine Sun 1510000
20 Sale Of The Century Nine M-F 1508000

Lawrie Masterson: The View From Here

 “Twenty years after the event, you would have thought those of us fortunate enough to have been involved in one way or another — or just present — would have had our blankets over our knees and been quietly nodding off in front of the television by six o’clock on a Sunday evening. So, when the granny of the gurus, Ian ‘Molly’ Meldrum, invited a few of his closest friends to the Circus nightclub in Melbourne to watch the ABC‘s 20th anniversary tribute to Countdown, those of us still able to travel went along. The ranks are thinning, mind you — only about 600 or so turned up. All the talk afterwards revolved around whether or not the impact and success enjoyed by Countdown could be achieved anew. Frankly, I don’t know, but there is certainly no doubting the music industry’s longing for such a potent promotional vehicle, and there’s even less doubt about the ABC being the only network able to provide it.”

Program Highlights (Melbourne, November 12-18):
Saturday: The Australian Grand Prix Trials (12pm, Nine) begin the weekend’s coverage of the 10th Australian Grand Prix to be staged in Adelaide. In A Country Practice (5.30pm, Ten), Harry’s (Andrew Blackman) love life is thrown into chaos when his ex-wife returns to Wandin Valley only to discover a great deal of unresolved anger and a surprising amount of passion. Heartbreak High stars Alex Dimitriades and Abi Tucker are guest hosts of Eat Carpet (11.05pm, SBS), the eclectic mix of short films from around the world.

Sunday: Ken Sutcliffe and Jacky Stewart host live coverage of the Australian Grand Prix (11am, Nine) from Adelaide, including the Celebrity Race, Touring Cars and the Grand Prix. Sunday night movies are Thelma And Louise (repeat, Seven), Forever Young (Nine) and Point Break (repeat, Ten).

darylsomers_0004Monday: James Sherry is back with a new series of children’s game show Amazing (4.30pm, Seven). Daryl Somers (pictured) hosts the special Hey Hey By Request No.2 (7.30pm, Nine), featuring more of the most requested segments to have appeared on Hey Hey It’s Saturday, including a 1970s send-up of police show Division 4. Four Corners (8.30pm, ABC) presents its last show for the year 1994.

Tuesday: In Blue Heelers (7.30pm, Seven), a two car collision on the edge of town appears to be routine, until it is discovered that Tom’s wife, Nell, is one of the fatalities; and Tom (John Wood) suspects that the teenage occupants of the other car were over the legal drinking limit. The Investigators (8pm, ABC) and Foreign Correspondent (9.30pm, ABC) both present their final shows for the year.

Wednesday: In Home And Away (7pm, Seven), Shane (Dieter Brummer) and Angel (Melissa George) excitedly look forward to a traditional white wedding. The latest installment of World Series Debating (8.30pm, ABC) debates the topic ‘That Lawyers Have Lost Their Appeal’.

Thursday: Beyond 2000 (7.30pm, Ten) presents its Technology Grand Final — showing innovation and imagination from schools around the country; and looks at the ‘information super-highway’, where it’s taking us and when will we get there. In the series final of Janus (8.30pm, ABC), Peter Faithful’s (Simon Westaway) evidence against Steve Hennessey (Leon Teague) and Darren Mack (Nique Needles) is extremely incriminating.

Friday: In Neighbours (6.30pm, Ten), Mark (Bruce Samazan) is upset about finding Annalise (Kimberley Davies) in a compromising position with a male stripper.

Source: TV Week (Melbourne edition), incorporating TV Times and TV Guide. 12 November 1994. Southdown Press




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Countdown turns 40

countdownCountdown, the show that epitomised the pop music scene in Australia for over a decade, made its debut 40 years ago today.

Produced at ABC‘s Melbourne studios, Countdown was initially commissioned for six half-hour and two one-hour programs to air on Friday evenings in November and December 1974. The new show was six months in planning and was the creation of producers Michael Shrimpton and Rob Weekes, joined by talent co-ordinator Ian ‘Molly’ Meldrum, who described his role to TV Times: “I have to sort out what I think will be a balanced line-up of artists with songs in the charts and then go to producer Rob Weekes, who either agrees or disagrees. Depending on his reaction we then start thrashing out the little details, such as how we are going to present each act.”

mollymeldrum_0002Meldrum was a music journalist, born in country Victoria, who’d had a stint working in London and when back in Australia appeared on pop music programs Kommotion and Uptight and had been a writer for magazine Go-Set (where the ‘Molly’ nickname was bestowed on him). At the time of Countdown‘s launch he was also a presenter (pictured) on a children’s program, Anything Can Happen, from Melbourne’s HSV7. While he was initially not intended to appear on camera on Countdown, Meldrum was later persuaded to present a news/review segment on the show. His enthusiasm, knowledge and rapport with performers, both Australian and overseas, made him the show’s ultimate trademark and an industry legend. His words “do yourself a favour”, as much as ABC could not be seen to be endorsing a commercial act, could instantly make a song a hit.

While the Eurovision Song Contest is referred to as the show that launched Swedish supergroup ABBA, they were almost destined to become something of a one-hit wonder after the initial buzz of their Eurovision win had died down. It was Meldrum’s insistence on playing the film clip of another ABBA song, Mamma Mia, that led to it being released as a single, only in Australia, and its chart-topping success sparked the attention of record companies overseas and hence triggering the group’s massive success.

debbiebyrne_0001Countdown‘s launch came just as Australian pop music was entering a new phase — with groups like Sherbet, Skyhooks and Hush hitting the scene along with performers including Debbie Byrne (pictured), Linda George and William Shakespeare — and Australian TV was moving into colour. Debuting in the dying days of black-and-white television in Australia, Countdown was broadcast in colour as part of ABC’s allowed quota of colour transmission ahead of C-Day, 1 March 1975.

The show’s format was unashamedly Top 40 based, with a mix of studio performances and music video clips, which were a rarity at the time. Every week the show was hosted by a guest presenter — initially employing radio announcers (Grant Goldman, then from Melbourne’s 3UZ, hosted the first show) but later changed to pop stars — not that they were any more eloquent.

hushThe show proved an instant hit with viewers and ABC management, who set about renewing Countdown for a 44-week run in 1975 well before the eight episodes had been completed. Countdown also had the support of the industry, with pop star manager Kevin Lewis crediting the ABC’s initiative. “We’ve needed a show like this for a long time and the ABC is really doing a great job to promote Australian talent,” he told TV Week in December 1974. But not everyone was in full support, with press reports suggesting that some pop artists were critical of the performance fees being offered to appear on Countdown, leading Meldrum to defend the show: “All artists appearing on Countdown are paid well above equity rates, which is a lot more than they receive on other TV programs. The ABC is spending a great deal of money to make the show a success and to give Australian talent the exposure it needs.”

TV Times critic FC Kennedy observed that one of Countdown‘s strengths was to involve studio audiences in the program, with eager teenagers crowding around the stage and dancing, and often screaming, to their pop favourites — a theme similar to the early days of the long-running Bandstand — and implored producer Rob Weekes not to take Countdown down the same path as Bandstand eventually did, which was to dissuade its young studio audience from dancing or wearing casual attire and soon ushered them out of camera shot altogether:

Bandstand ceased to be what it was originally — a lively studio-party for teenagers, and became another Australian “variety” show, with predictable results. So my advice to producer Weekes is to continue booking popular entertainers who have been made popular by the younger generation, turn thumbs down on any suggestion the production numbers, dancers, resident choruses or elaborate scenery be introduced and set his face firmly against any changes in format. Let the kids dance, scream or do anything else that doesn’t violate the Police Offences Act — or whatever code of behaviour applies to Melbourne, the city in which Countdown is produced. Producing a teenage show aimed exclusively at teenagers may be a revolutionary idea in Australia, but at least it is worth a try.”

shirleystrachanTV Times readers seemed to agree. “Countdown is the show all us neglected teenagers need,” wrote one reader from Maryborough, Queensland. “Now there is Countdown. We have only seen the first show but cannot wait for the next. It is making us all wish we had colour TV,” wrote another from Broken Hill, NSW.

Countdown ended its 1974 season with two one-hour shows a Christmas special, with Skyhooks’ Graeme ‘Shirley’ Strachan (pictured) making his hosting debut, and a New Year’s edition hosted by Sherbet’s Daryl Braithwaite.

Such was Countdown‘s immediate impact from its eight-week debut that its return for 1975 was scheduled to be the first program to be broadcast on ABC upon the official start of colour television in Australia, appearing just after 12.00am on Saturday, 1 March, with frequent TV Week King Of Pop winner Johnny Farnham hosting the show. The show then settled into its regular Sunday night 6.00pm timeslot with a repeat the following Saturday.

Broadcasting in prime time across ABC’s network of transmitters covering much of the Australian population, Countdown gave music acts an exposure not matched by any other medium, including commercial television. The show was also without a great deal of competition from commercial television — with Seven’s Saturday morning Sound Unlimited (later Sounds) being the only significant rival. The show featured not just any Australian act but also anyone visiting from overseas would inevitably end up performing to the Countdown crowds at Studio 31 at ABC’s Ripponlea studios in Melbourne.

mollymeldrumIn November 1977, to promote a Queen’s Jubilee Fund album that had just been released, Countdown featured a guest appearance by Prince Charles — leading a physically nervous Molly to make reference to seeing the Prince’s “mum” when in London recently, to which Prince Charles coolly replied, “you mean Her Majesty The Queen”. The gaffe was edited out before going to air but inevitably became part of the show’s folklore.

In 1980, Countdown partnered with TV Week to present the inaugural Countdown TV Week Rock Awards, replacing the now defunct TV Week King Of Pop Awards. TV Week exited the partnership after two years but Countdown continued to present the annual awards to recognise the achievements of the music industry.

tvweek_260480Countdown continued through to the 1980s but inevitably as the decade went on the show’s influence and popularity was waning. Listening habits were changing and music videos were becoming increasingly available via other programs. The breaking point came in 1987 with Countdown and Sounds competing with a slew of new arrivals — Video Hits (Ten), Night Shift (Ten), MTV (Nine) and Rage (ABC). The situation led Countdown to pursue a new format, dubbed Countdown Pirate TV or CDP TV, which wiped out much of what made Countdown what it was and reduced it to a show that paled in comparison to its former self and to its new rivals. Although some elements of the ‘classic’ Countdown were reinstated after a few weeks, it seemed the damage was done and ABC ended up axing the program in June of that year.

countdown_0004But just as Countdown came onto the scene with a bang in 1974, it was destined to go out just as loudly. Neighbours star Kylie Minogue, hitting the charts with her debut single Locomotion, hosted the last show. Then the 1987 presentation of the Countdown Music And Video Awards, held at the Sydney Entertainment Centre on 19 July, served as Countdown‘s swansong. Gavin Wood, the show’s longtime booth announcer who had been let go in the CDP revamp, returned for the big finale. John Farnham’s career had come full circle and just as he was part of Countdown in its earliest days as Johnny Farnham, he was there again as a chart-topper as the show bowed out. And Molly Meldrum gave the show’s finale its ultimate punchline — by removing his trademark cowboy hat to reveal a bald head.

Despite the show being cancelled, ABC was not about to let the Countdown name disappear. In 1989, ABC hired Meldrum as a consultant for a new weeknight program, Countdown Revolution, that ran for two years.

Every January, Rage devotes its Saturday night playlists to retro music programs from the ABC vaults, such as GTK, Hit Scene, Rock Arena and Countdown — or at least those that have survived the many purges that were inflicted on the ABC archives in the 1970s and 1980s. Sadly, huge swathes of programs have been lost forever in the name of re-using videotape.

Later this month, both Meldrum and Countdown are to be inducted into the ARIA (Australian Recording Industry Association) Hall Of Fame. It will be the first time that a non-musician and a TV program are to be recognised with the honour. Meldrum was also inducted into the TV Week Logie Awards Hall Of Fame in 2012.

mollymeldrum_0004ABC will be paying tribute to Countdown for its 40th anniversary with a two-part special, Countdown: Do Yourself A Favour, debuting Sunday 16 November at 7.40pm. Hosted by Julia Zemiro and including a guest appearance by HRH Prince Charles as he recalls and emulates part of that awkward interview with Molly from back in 1977!


 YouTube: ABC

Source: TV Week, 30 November 1974. TV Week, 7 December 1974. TV Times, 7 December 1974. TV Times, 3 December 1977. TV Times, 30 June 1979. The Sun News-Pictorial, 26 June 1987 Countdown Annual, 1987. TV Week, 22 October 1994. Glad All Over: The Countdown Years 1974-1987, Peter Wilmoth, 1993.



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