A Country Practice was a television serial drama that ran on the Seven Network for 1,058 episodes at 7.30 pm Monday and Tuesday nights, from 18 November 1981 to 22 November 1993. 

Production was filmed both at ATN-7 at Epping, Sydney and on locations at Pitt Town and Oakville on the outskirts of Northwest Sydney. Several of the regular cast members became highly popular celebrities through their roles in the series. It also featured a number of native Australian animals adding to its enduring appeal both domestically and internationally. After the series was cancelled by the Seven Network in 1993 a reworked version of the series ran briefly on Network Ten and filmed on location at Emerald in Victoria, airing in 1994. 

The series followed the workings of a small hospital in the fictional rural country town of Wandin Valley as well as its connected medical clinic, the town’s veterinary surgery, RSL club/pub and local police station. The show’s storylines focused on the staff, and regular patients of the hospital and general practice, their families, and other residents of the town. Through its weekly guest actors, who appeared in the series portrayed differing characters, it explored various social and medical problems. The series examined such topical issues as youth unemployment, suicide, drug addiction, and terminal illness, as well as Aborigines and their importance in modern Australian society. Apart from its regular rotating cast, mainly among the younger personnel, A Country Practice also had a cast of semi-regulars who would make appearances as the storylines permitted. One of the more popular and frequent characters from its inception included the valley’s corrupt town councillor Alfred Muldoon (Brian Moll). 

The program as well would also showcase a number of animal stars and Australian native wildlife, most famously Fatso the wombat. Fatso was played throughout the series by three separate wombats, Fatso (1981–1986) replaced due to temperament issues with the cast, George (1986–1990) replaced due to early signs of wombat mange (a marsupial viral disease), and Garth (1990 through series end).  Originally “belonged” to Dr Simon Bowen but Shirley and Frank Gilroy took him in when Simon and Vicky moved to the U. S.

Iconic storylines over its lengthy 12-year run included the wedding of Dr. Simon Bowen, to local vet Vicki Dean, in 1983, and the later wedding of Dr. Terence Elliot to Matron Rosemary Prior amidst the series’ bushfire scenes that marked the final episodes. The death of nurse Donna Manning in a car crash, the off-screen death of longtime resident Shirley Gilroy in a plane crash, as well as the final undoing of town councillor Alfred Muldoon, which were highly watched. 

The highest rating episode however featured the death of beloved farmer Molly Jones from leukemia in 1985. After being diagnosed, receiving treatment and battling the terminal illness, Molly retires to her garden, watching her husband nurse Brenden and young daughter Chloe flying a kite and passes away peacefully as the screen fades to black. Molly’s death storyline was originally written for an 11-week script, but producers realized that her death was proposed in a week the ratings were not being monitored, hence the storyline lasted 13 weeks and an extra two episodes.

In 1994 the series briefly returned for 30 more episodes with Robyn Sinclair and James Davern as Executive Producers on the Ten Network but with wholesale changes made to the format and the location change from New South Wales to Victoria and the only original cast members to return were Esme Watson (Joyce Jacobs) and Matron Margaret “Maggie” Sloan (Joan Sydney) the show never really stood a chance, it went to just one episode per week, before being cancelled altogether.

Over A Country Practice 13 year run the show became renowned for its long list of guest cameos, totalling over 1000 stars.  Some actors became more prominent during the series runs, and were classified as semi-regulars, appearing as the storyline permitted, such as Baz Luhrmann, Smokey Dawson, John Meillon, Sir Robert Helpmann, Nicole Kidman, Paul Kelly, Toni Collette, Delta Goodrem, Peter Phelps and Simon Baker. At the program’s height even the then Prime Minister of Australia, Bob Hawke, appeared as himself.

When filming finished in 1994, A Country Practice was the longest running Australian drama. At its height the show attracted 8–10 million viewers weekly, when the population of the time was a mere 15 million, and was eventually sold to 48 countries.  A Country Practice is also the third most successful television program in the history of the Logie Awards, after Home and Away (1st) and Neighbours (2nd), having won 29 awards during its twelve years of production.

James Davern creator, writer and original executive producer of A Country Practice was inducted into the Logie Hall of Fame in 1991 and was honoured as an Order of Australia recipient in 2014.  A Country Practice was ranked 14th in the 50 Years 50 Shows poll in 2005. Read more

Acropolis Now is a cult Australian television sitcom set in a fictional Greek cafe in Fitzroy, Melbourne. The title of the show being a play on the film Apocalypse Now. Its brand of cross-cultural humour still resonates today in such shows as Pizza and Here Come The Habibs.

The show was produced by Crawford Productions and ran for 63 episodes from 1989 to 1992, airing on the Seven Network. It was created by Nick Giannopoulos, George Kapiniaris and Simon Palomares, who also starred in the series. They were already quite well known for their comedy stage show, Wogs out of Work.  Each episode was 20 minutes in length and was filmed in front of a live audience. Although the Acropolis cafè/hotel was filmed at HSV-7 Studios the exterior is still standing and looks almost identical to the show, being located at 251 Brunswick Street, and corner of Greeves St, Fitzroy, Melbourne, Victoria Australia.

The premise of the show is based around Jim’s father Kostas “Con” Stefanidis (Warren Mitchell) asking Jim to run the family business, the Acropolis café, when he suddenly leaves Australia to return to his homeland of Greece. The series centres on the activities of the cafe staff.  Greek Jim Stefanidis (Giannopoulos), is the immature owner and his best friend, Spaniard Ricky Martinez (Palomares) is the sensible manager (seasons 1-2 only). Memo (Kapiniaris) is the traditional Greek waiter, while Liz is the liberated Australian waitress. Skip is the naïve new cook from the bush and Manolis is the stubborn cook from the old cafe. ‘Hilarity’ prevails from the clash of cultures and beliefs.

Jim’s hairdresser cousin Effie, played by Mary Coustas, became a hugely popular and enduring character during the run of the show. Coustas later reprised the role for several TV specials and series including Effie, Just Quietly, an SBS comedy/interview show, and Greeks on the Roof, a short-lived Greek Australian version of the British talk Show The Kumars at No. 42.  Although the show itself did not win any awards, Mary Coustas won the 1993 Logie for Most Popular Comedy Performer for her role as Effie.

With the ethnic popularity of the show, Acropolis Now helped popularise the term “skippy” or “skip” to refer to Anglo Celtic Australians and others of European but non-Mediterranean descent. This term (inspired by the iconic 60’s TV series Skippy The Bush Kangaroo) became popular with Mediterranean-Australians, and to a lesser extent non-Mediterranean people, especially in Melbourne.

ABBA: The Movie is a documentary cult film about the Swedish pop group ABBA’s Australian tour in 1977. Directed by Lasse Hallström, who directed most of the group’s videos.  Its release coincided with the release of ABBA: The Album, the group’s fifth studio album, and features many songs from that album as well as many of their earlier hits, and one, “Get on the Carousel”, unavailable anywhere else.

The film has a very thin plot which is no more than a vehicle to link together the concert footage. Hallström indicated that the film’s script and plot concept was conceived on the plane on the way to Australia.

The plot centres around the adventures of Ashley Wallace (Robert Hughes), a DJ on a Sydney Radio station. Ashley normally presents a through-the-night country and western-themed show. In spite of this, he is sent by his boss (Bruce Barry) to get an interview with the ABBA.  Ashley, who has never done an interview before, singularly fails, mainly because he has forgotten to pack his press card, and is also unable to buy a concert tickets. Armed with his trusty reel to reel tape recorder, Ashley is forced to follow the group all over Australia.  From Sydney to Perth, Adelaide, and Melbourne, Ashley experiencing repeated run-ins with the group’s bodyguard (Tom Oliver).

During filming, the members of ABBA were not told of the storyline involving a journalist Ashley (Robert Hughes) seeking an interview. ABBA believed that the reporter was a real newsman trying to get a scoop.

Eventually, Ashley has a lucky chance encounter with the group’s manager, in the foyer of The Old Melbourne Motor Inn, 17 Flemington Rd, North Melbourne, where ABBA was staying.

The manager agrees to arrange an interview. But Ashley sleeps in and misses the appointed interview time. Just as Ashley has given up, a miracle occurs: he steps into an elevator and finds himself face-to-face with ABBA. They agree to give him an interview there and then in room 604, and he leaves Melbourne just in time to meet the deadline for the radio show to go out on-air.

He puts together the final edit in the back of a taxi on the way back from the airport, as ABBA depart Australia for Europe. With only minutes to go, Ashley makes it back to the radio station where, having set the tape up on the studio’s playback machine, he relaxes at his control desk to listen as the interview is broadcast.

The production shoot went for six weeks and encompassed ABBA’s 1977 Australian tour and included their live concerts, press conferences, private downtime, public receptions, meeting fans and traveling time. Mostly filmed in Australia, however additional filming was done during the of Summer 1977 in ABBA’s home country of Sweden after their concert tour of Australia had been completed. This filming included “The Name Of The Game” dream sequence and filming on streets in Sweden, doubling, ironically, for the streets of Melbourne and Sydney. Actors Tom Oliver and Robert Hughes had to fly to Sweden for these shoot. Noticeably different from Australia are the street signs and the traffic flowing on the right hand side.

Most of the concert footage used for this film came from their five Perth concerts in Western Australia. This was because the concert venue there, the Perth Entertainment Centre, was the only indoors stadium on the tour, and the conditions there were best suited for acoustic recording and would not be affected by any bad weather elements.  In these screens Agnatha Fältskog was frequently filmed above the neck in close-ups due to disguise the fact that she was pregnant at the time.  There is a brief scene shot at the Parmelia Hotel in Perth where a photographer asks for a smile, ABBA at the time was surrounded by various International stars that happened to be in Perth at that time of filming. They include Gerry and the Pacemakers, The Searchers, The Dubliners, Alice Cooper, Stephane Grappelli and British actor Robin Nedwell.  

The film had three simultaneous World Premieres all held in Australia on 14 December 1977, in Paramatta and Sydney New South Wales and Melbourne, Victoria.  At the time of this film’s theatrical release, Stig Anderson said ABBA’s enormous popularity in Australia, where this concert movie was filmed: “Australia is still the biggest market in the world for ABBA. People in the music industry all over the world have been stunned with what has happened here.”  The film was also released Scandinavia and several Eastern Blotic Nations, including the Soviet Union where it was screened at two movie houses in Moscow.

In 2003, The Swedish Film Institute restored the film to its original soundtrack after the original stereo sound had been lost for years. The film was premiered in its new version on the 2nd of December 2003, at Stockholm’s Film House with Bjorn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson attending. Bjorn said of this film: “They wanted us to make a film in Australia, but quite honestly I don’t think that films with pop stars work very well. Of course The Beatles are an exception and Tommy (1975) was a big hit but there have been lots of other pop films that have sunk without trace. Seeing the film came as a bit of a shock. It’s hard to recognize yourself up there on a giant screen in Panavision. But then we’ve had many moments when it has been hard to accept the things that have been happening to us.”

A theatrical re-release of the film occurred across Europe during July and August 2008 in the UK, Ireland, The Netherlands, Norway, Germany, and Austria.

2018 has been a big year for the team at Twisted History!

And we could not have done it without our customers who come week in and week out to our range of tours across Victoria.

In November we were extremely proud to take away the bronze award for Cultural Tourism in the Victorian RACV Tourism Awards.

We continued to be accredited for the third year, one of only 2 “ghost” tour companies in Australia.  This means we maintain a business standard that allows as to use the national tick.

2019 will see the introduction of at least one new tour with the Castlemaine Cemetery tour beginning in mid January with our miner Andrew O’Reilly and schoolteacher, Miss Myrtle!

We have already locked in a range of dates for our haunted hotel tours, with negotiations continuing with a couple more.

Our murder tours will see Chinatown take on a more “ghostly” focus and will see the introduction of a new guide.  Carlton and Melbourne tours will continue as required.

Geelong Gaol will be back with a ghost tour and an investigtion tour tomorrow night (26/12).  We have a new longer investigation planned for later in the first half of the year.  We will also be expecting some special interstate guests around Easter – now to find a cool location to investigate near Geelong!

Besides all this, with our newly vamped website up and running, we are hoping to bring back our regular blog – not daily unfortunately as we have been too busy!  But we will have some new content up in the new year!

But thats enough from me for now!

So the team at Twisted History would like to wish each and every one of you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.  We hope to see you somewhere on a tour in 2019!

Ossie Ostrich is an Australian television character, firstly on the Tarax Show, and then on the long-running program Hey Hey It’s Saturday which started as a Saturday morning cartoon show for children in 1971. In 1984, he also hosted an after-school children’s show called The Ossie Ostrich Video Show, with co-host Jacki MacDonald. In October 2009, Ossie appeared on the second Hey Hey It’s Saturday reunion special and made regular appearances during the show’s 2010 revival series.

Producer Ernie Carroll, an experienced comedy writer who had worked for Graham Kennedy’s In Melbourne Tonight, resurrected a puppet used for an earlier GTV-9 children’s program “packed away in a dusty suitcase in the GTV props bay.”

Typically, Ossie would provide the comic foil to Somers’ straight man. Daryl Somers sometimes retaliated by calling Ossie names like ‘Fiberglass Head’, but he also had more affectionate names, like his ‘pink, feathered beakie’. The comic skill of Somers and Carroll was instrumental in leading to the wider appeal of the show and its move to a prime time spot on Saturday evening.

Ossie wasn’t a part of Hey Hey It’s Saturday for the entirety of its 28-year run – he replaced footballer Peter McKenna as co-host after the show’s first eight weeks, and his retirement in 1994 was arguably a key factor in the demise of the show – but he was one of the most recognisable puppets in Australia for more than two decades.

Over time, Ossie’s head had to be replaced due to mishaps. Lipstick marks from over-amorous admirers were very difficult to remove. Other members of Ossie’s family were represented using the same puppet with different accessories. The Ossie Ostrich puppet is now on display at the National Film and Sound Archive in Canberra.

On the Tarax Show, Ossie’s theme song was “Here comes Ossie Ostrich”. This was also occasionally heard on Hey Hey.

 

Plucka Duck is a character on the popular Australian television program Hey Hey It’s Saturday. The character “presented” a segment on the show, along with Daryl Somers, which was a self-titled segment of Plucka Duck. Plucka was on the show until the show ended in 1999. In 2009, Plucka returned to the show when it returned to the screens as “Reunion Specials”. In 2010, the show returned as a series, with Plucka appearing in every episode. According to an interview given by John Blackman in 2009, Plucka was originally played by Mark McGahan, but was replaced by “Sim” for the reunion specials. “Sim” appears to refer to Simon Lefebvre. Also, Plucka Duck had its own show, Plucka’s Place. This show aired in 1997, with Livinia Nixon and Daniel Kowalski as co-hosts. The show lasted one season. In 2005, Plucka appeared with Daryl Somers at Carols by Candlelight. In 2008, Plucka made a long awaited return to television. Plucka (along with Dickie Knee and Daryl Somers) did a skit at the Logies. In early 2016, Plucka Duck appeared in an ad campaign for KFC riding a skateboard down a mountainous road in New Zealand.

 

Happy 50th Birthday Play School

In 1973 Little Ted from Play School disappeared from set and was last seen on his way to Hong Kong in the arms of an ex-production assistant. Sad to say for Big Ted, Humpty and Jemima he has never been found. For Little Ted a new stand in was found and made to look old.

 

Around the World with Gerry Gee was the idea by director Denzil Howson and Ron Blasket ventriloquist in 1962. The idea was to film a show around Gerry Gee travel adventure around the would filming in Singapore, Italy and England.

Denzil Howson got sponsorship assistance of Air India, the Australian Department of Trade, and Tarax, which financed a six-week world trip to produce this series.

On our later arrival in London, Customs at Heathrow insisted on me opening one of my cases. It was the one containing Gerry Gee and soon the whole Customs hall was in uproar as Ron Bladkett brought him out talking.

Gerry was filmed in London at all the famous locations and with Cornel Wilde (the film star) at Pinewood Studios.

The Adventures of Gerry Gee was the idea by director Denzil Howson to give the children’s audience a more realistic feel of Gerry being a living moving boy. In these story lines Gerry was seen driving Puffing Billy Steam Train, flying a real aeroplane and other clever story line.

This was accomplished by using a boy, John Field a 9 year old boy wearing a face mask of Gerry and dressed the same as Gerry in all the long shots, cutting these with close-ups of the real Gerry Gee puppet.

One of the most popular story lines was “Pimpernel Gee”, in which Gerry played the part of the French Scarlet Pimpernel, based on the book by Baroness Orczy. Gerry wore a coiffured wig and velvet frock clothes of the period and had available a coach and horse which we used to simulate the saving of the French aristocrats from the guillotine.

Fans of Baroness Orczy’s series will recall the English lord, Sir Percy Blakeney (who was made out to be a thick, foppish English aristocrat, but was in reality the Scarlet Pimpernel), whisking away people to the sanctuary of England from the French Revolution. The story was originally made on film with Leslie Howard, Merle Oberon and Raymond Massey as the villain, “Citizen Chauvelin”, a part played by Frank Rich in our version. Gerry, acting as the English lord Sir Percy, was a riot. Raising the monocle to the eye and reciting the famous lines:

They seek him here
They seek him there
Those Frenchmen seek him everywhere
Is he in heaven?
Or is he in hell?
That damned elusive Pimpernel!

Denzil Howson wrote, directed and produced all of these films and they were a success due to his effort and talent.

In October 1991, Denzil Howson and Ron Blaskett were called into channel 9, because lost film archives of The Adventures of Gerry Gee was found. The footage had been missing for 25 years.

On this day …….. 1st of July 1959

“Mr Squiggle and Friends” was a long-running children’s television series on Australia’s ABC. It featured a marionette with a large pencil for its nose. Mr Squiggle regularly flew to Earth from his residence at 93 Crater Crescent, The Moon on his spaceship named Rocket. In each episode, Mr Squiggle would create imaginative and creative drawings from squiggles sent in to the programme by children from across Australia, accompanied by their letters. The concept of Mr Squiggle was created by puppeteer, cartoonist and illustrator Norman Hetherington. Mr Squiggle first appeared on the Children’s TV Club on ABC TV, but developed into a regular series of short, five minute slots, with occasional longer special programmes. Hetherington manipulated the marionette from overhead: drawings were usually completed upside-down, so would remain largely unrecognisable until Mr Squiggle called out “Upside down! Upside down!” and the sketch was turned around. Scripts were largely written by Hetherington’s wife Margaret. A female helper assisted Mr Squiggle each time, variously Miss Gina, Miss Pat, Miss Jane, Roxanne and Rebecca. Other characters included the grouchy Blackboard; Bill the Steam Shovel; and Gus the Snail, who sported a TV for a shell, then a flower pot. The first Mr Squiggle episode appeared on the 1st of July 1959, and the show continued to run for forty years. The final episode, which was produced in 1996, was aired on the 9th of July 1999.

 

Solo One was an Australian television series made by Crawford Productions for the Seven Network and premiered on the 18th of June 1976. There were 13 half-hour episodes. The series was a spin-off from the police show Matlock Police with Paul Cronin reprising his role as Sen. Const. Senior Constable Gary Hogan is the officer in charge. In fact, he’s the entire staff of Emerald Police Station. In this Victorian country town, in the Dandnong Rangers, Snr. Constable Gary Hogan becomes involved in the good times and bad that the people of any town go through. He’s sympathetic, but can rough it with the best of them. If there’s a problem in town, just call for Solo One. The show used the original Emerald police residence and police cells – 15 Kilvington st, Emerald. (Both are still standing 2016)

Hating Alison Ashley is a 2005 Australian comedy film based upon the 1984 novel of the same name produced by Elizabeth Howatt-Jackman and directed by Geoff Bennett. It was filmed in Kinglake West,Victoria, Australia and Docklands Studios Melbourne.The film stars Saskia Burmeister, as Erica “Yuk” Yurken, an adolescent brunette who fantasises about a better life and stardom; and Delta Goodrem as her school rival Alison Ashley. At school, Erica is not very popular. She sits alone in class, but when Alison arrives, it all changes. Erica at first is desperate to be Alison’s friend but soon changes her mind, and they then become rivals. However, when a school camp comes up, Erica realises Alison doesn’t have the perfect life as she imagined. Erica house was filmed at 46 Leslie Street Richmond.