Against the Wind is a 1978 historical drama television mini-series based on the British rule of Ireland and the transportation of convicts to New South Wales. The  production was the most challenging historical series to be produced for television in Australian at the time.

The show was produced by Crawford Productions and Pegasus Productions and ran for 13 episodes, first airing on the 12th of September to the 31st of October 1978, on the HSV7 Seven Network. The series was the idea of Bronwyn Binns, who had grown up in President Road, Kellyville, New South Wales, where she had found old convict remnants on the family property. Kellyville is not far from the site of the colonial Vinegar Hill uprising also known as the Castle Hill convict rebellion. 

“As a child one heard stories of the convict days and the Castle Hill Rebellion’, Bronwyn Binns recalls. ‘I used to play among some old stone ruins near an orchard, where an iron ring was set in a crumbling wall. I now believe that this was all that remained of the Castle Hill prison farm”. She remembers her father working on their house at Kellyville and discovering some very old brickwork. On one of the bricks was the mark of a broad arrow. “During my research for ‘Against the Wind’, I discovered that the original house on the site had been visited by the Castle Hill rebels the night of the uprising”, she said.

Bronwyn worked as a researcher at Crawford Productions in Melbourne and had developed the project over a number of months,  Bronwyn teamed up with Crawford’s colleague Ian Jones and presented it to Channel Seven, who agreed to finance a series. The series was directed by George Miller and Simon Wincer. 

Set in Australia’s colonial era between 1798–1812, the series follows the life of Mary Mulvane (Mary Larkin), a daughter of an Irish school master. At 18, Mary is transported to New South Wales for a term of seven years after attempting to take back her family’s milk cow which had been seized by the British “in lieu of tithes” to the local proctor. Mary endures the trial of a convict sea journey to New South Wales and years of service as a convict before her emancipation and life as a free citizen. During the journey out she makes a lifelong friend of fellow Irish convict, Polly McNamara (Kerry McGuire), and in the course of the series we see their friendship continue, Polly’s relationship and life with taverner Will Price (Frank Gallacher) develop, and Mary’s relationship with Jonathon Garrett (Jon English) a fellow convict grow, leading to eventual marriage when both have served their term. Together they face the difficulties of establishing a farm and a young family in the new country, and must deal with the tyranny of the corrupt military running the colony.

The series was filmed at Old Sydney Town near Gosford, and at Belgrave Heights, Warrandyte, Colac, Geelong and Emu Bottom homestead at Sunbury.  It had a budget of over a million dollars. The series was a large ratings success, being the second most popular show on Australia in 1978, being seen by 2,174,000 people in four cities and was the first major Australian TV production to be broadcast in the United States market.

Further success was at the 1979 Logie Awards where Jon English won the “Best New Talent” for his role in the miniseries as “Jonathan Garrett”. 

A soundtrack for the series was released by Polydor Records, and the song Six Ribbons written by Jon English was released as a single. Six Ribbons entered the Kent Music Report on the 5th of December 1978, before peaking at number 5 on the Australian charts in 1979. The song peaked at number 1 in Norway and 10 in Sweden in December 1981.

Channel Seven released a remarkable 70-page book relating to Against the Wind, comprising historical background notes, character biographies, and the detailed storylines with drawings of props and costumes.

visit www.twistedhistory.net.au

 

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.

Gerry Gee would only talk if he is positioned on the ventriloquist’s Ron Blaskett right hand. Ron, who describes himself as the `straight man’, said: “It seems my brain just can’t carry on a conversation with Gerry if he’s on my left hand. It’s not a problem with the likes of Adolphus, only Gerry.” Ventriloquism, he says, is an art interpreted differently by each performer. “Some guys do clever things with their voice and the doll is adjunct to their talents, others develop a comedian as a figure. Me … I developed a comedy character acceptable to people. I can make people laugh without offending anyone and therefore, can appeal to all age groups. It has worked well for me,” Ron said.

 

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.

 

Gerry Gee, was a ventriloquist Doll who was brought to life in 1956 by Ron Blaskett, for GTV9’s (channel 9) first live test broadcast from Mt Dandenong, Melbourne Victoria. Gerry was imported from the US at a cost £200 and was named after the station. Ron, wife Merle Blaskett also a ventriloquist and Gerry are the only survivors of the test broadcast (2016). The comedy duo became household names as rich a one as any Aussie entertainer, on radio and TV, on The Tarax Show, IMT (In Melbourne Tonight) and Young Talent Time. And the act travelled the world, playing to millions at the 1975 Toronto Expo, cyclone victims in Darwin and Diggers in Vietnam. Gerry Gee and Ron Blaskett retired together after career of 56 years, Aussie TV’s first and foremost ventriloquist duo.

 

The latex mask worn by John Field as Gerry Gee’s stand in now in the collection at Museum Victoria, Carlton. The mask was fashioned to resemble Gerry with a narrow slit to breath though and two eyes holes. “It was not a fun thing to wear, and would get hot and sweaty, hearing was difficult and worst of all I had difficulty seeing much except what was straight in front of me” Fields stated.

 

John Field was born in 1949 and grew up at 48 Belgrave Road, East Malvern next door to Denzil Howsons Assistant Programme Manager at GTV9 (Tarax Show). At the age of 9 years old (1959) and in Grade 4, John Field started working as a human stand in for Gerry Gee in a new TV series “The Adventures of Gerry Gee”. Wearing a latex mask to resemble Gerry Gee, Fields was filmed at long distance for action shots. The 5 min episode began on the Tarax Show in 1959 and quickly became a regular and popular segment running for three years. John Field also played Gerry Gee in the 1960 Melbourne Moomba Parade with King Corky.

 

On This Day – April 7, 1912

Minnie Kinsley, married, was charged at the Fitzroy Court to-day with having her premises in such a state as to be a nuisance.

Charles James Eassie (sanitary inspector) stated that the house rented by Mrs. Kingsley contained eight rooms, a kitchen, and a bathroom, and 19 people were living there. The rent paid by the woman was 11/ a week, and she received 33/ from the occupants weekly.

The house was in a filthy condition, and was covered with vermin of every description. The clothing, bedding and furniture were also infested with vermin. There were too many people in the house.

Witness did not make a thorough examination of the premises, as he found it neeeasnrv to change his clothes as soon as possible and have a bath.

A fine of £3 was imposed, in default one month’s imprisonment.

Animal Kingdom is a 2010 Australian crime drama film written and directed by David Michôd, and shot on location in Melbourne with a budget of A$5 million from Screen Australia, Film Victoria, Screen NSW and Showtime Australia.  The film premiered at the 26th Sundance Film Festival on the 22nd of January 2010. 

Michôd’s script was inspired by events which involved the Pettingill criminal family  of Melbourne, Australia. In 1991, two brothers Trevor Pettingill and Victor Pierce (along with two other men: Anthony Leigh Farrell and Peter David McEvoy) were acquitted in the 1988 shooting murder of two Victorian police officers.

After his mother overdoses, 17-year-old Joshua “J” Cody (James Frecheville) asks his estranged grandmother, Janine “Smurf” Cody (Jacki Weaver), for help, and she invites him to move in with her.

Smurf is the affectionate matriarch of a Melbourne Crime family that uses her home as a base. Her home is also being watched by cops who are looking for the oldest son, Andrew “Pope” Cody (Ben Mendelsohn), who is in hiding. The volatile middle brother, Craig (Sullivan Stapleton), deals drugs successfully enough to have bought the house for his mother.

The youngest brother, Darren (Luke Ford), follows the lead of his siblings, while family friend “Baz” leads the gang, which specializes in armed robbery. Craig takes J along to meet with a crooked cop from the drug squad, who tells him that renegade cops on the armed robbery squad are on the look out for all of them.

Later, Baz goes to meet Pope at a shopping centre, where they discuss quitting crime and going straight. As Baz gets in his car to leave, police approach and shoot him dead. Angry and distraught, Pope and Craig want revenge, and ask J to steal a Commodore and bring it to Darren’s place.

The car is then planted in the middle of a night-time street as a lure. Two policemen are soon drawn to the scene, where they are ambushed and shot dead by Pope and Craig. The next day, Pope, Darren and J are taken in for questioning, where J meets Detective Senior Sergeant Nathan Leckie who also leads the armed robbery squad. Leckie, one of the few non-corrupt police officers, recognizes J’s predicament and begins to lean on him. The three are later released from custody, but J returns with his girlfriend Nicky to her parents’ home.

Craig, who has avoided being picked up by the police, Pope, Darren and Smurf meet at a diner, where they recognize J as the weak link. When told by Smurf to give himself up for questioning, Craig panics, and meets a friend in rural Bendigo. He learns that the house is already being monitored, and as the police arrive tries to flee through a field but is gunned down.

Pope and Darren take J to meet their solicitor Ezra. He coaches him to not tell the police anything and pressure him to break up with Nicky, which he does. Leckie takes J into custody again, where he proposes that J be moved to witness protection, but J turns down the offer. Meanwhile, Nicky, unsure what to do, shows up at Smurf’s home, where Pope gives her heroin, questions her, then smothers her to death to keep her silent.

When J returns to Smurf’s house the next morning he discovers Nicky’s bracelet outside the house. He calls Nicky’s phone, and realising something is not right, flees to Nicky’s parents’ house. Pope gets Nicky’s address from Darren and arrives in time to intercept J. J flees on foot and is taken into a safe house. With Craig and Baz dead, Pope and Darren imprisoned, and J potentially being the star witness for the prosecution, Smurf decides, “J needs to go”.

Smurf uses her connections to procure J’s address, and persuades the corrupt cop to help her. Police from the drug squad then raid the safe house. J jumps a fence and returns to Smurf’s house, saying he wishes to help free Pope and Darren from jail. To do this, the family’s barrister then coaches J’s answers.

After his day in court, Leckie sees J before his departure from the safe hotel, and asks him if he has found his place in the world (a reference to Leckie’s animal kingdom metaphor for J’s predicament). Pope, Darren and Smurf celebrate with champagne while being interviewed after their controversial acquittal. Smurf later sees Leckie in the supermarket and taunts him. Later again, J returns to Smurf’s home asking to stay, before going to his room.

Pope enters and begins to talk to him, but is cut off when J shoots him in the head. In the final scene, J returns to the living room and embraces a now silenced Smurf.

Animal Kingdom received 18 nominations for the 2010 Australian Film Institute Awards, across all major feature film categories – a record achievement. On the 11th of December 2010, Animal Kingdom won a record 10 awards.

The film received several other film awards to Jacki Weaver who was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress. Weaver was also nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. It was also named one of the Top Independent Films of 2010 at the National Board of Review Awards.  All up the film received 36 awards and 39 nominations. 

Quentin Tarantino listed Animal Kingdom as his third favourite film of 2010, behind Toy Story 3 and The Social Network.