More TV Memories – Just For The Record.

Just For The Record (Ten, 1988-1989)

In the late-80s/early-90s there were a huge amount of Australian soaps shown on British TV, and most of them were rather successful. But they weren’t the only shows from Down Under that were imported to this country around this time. The memory is a little vague on this one, and it doesn’t even have a Wikipedia entry, but you’ll soon discover why I think it deserves to be featured here.

Just For The Record had a rather similar idea to CBBC’s long-running Record Breakers, as people who had taken things to the extreme all around the world were celebrated, whether they held rather unusual records, had achieved daredevil stunts, or remarkable feats of endurance, in the endless aim to go one better. The hosts in the studio were the rather terrifically-named Garry Who and Louise Wallace. They also did various location reports across Australia and beyond along with additional hosts Brett Clements and Geoff Fitzpatrick. vlcsnap-00673

The show’s symbol was the famous discus thrower statue, which also appeared in the studio as a neon sign. Among the highlights of the show though were the opening and closing sequence, where Garry sang the theme song (“it’s the challenge of a lifetime!“) accompanied by two glamorous women. As it was the late-80s, Garry was wearing a grey jacket with rolled-up sleeves and a skinny tie, and he performed the song as if it was a rather emphatic power ballad. Go on, give it some welly! vlcsnap-00662

There was also a rather weird moment at the end of the song where the two women suddenly vanished and Garry looked around with a rather shocked expression on his face. That’s a way to get viewers’ attention, they don’t make them like that nowadays, it was all rather terrific really. And after a report was shown that featured something spectacular about the biggest or the smallest, and so on, Garry (wearing a horrible sweater) would often ponder why people would do such a strange thing, usually whilst chomping an apple. vlcsnap-00678

As for the scheduling, as far as I can remember Just For The Record was only shown in this country in the CITV Summer Mornings slot in the early-90s, and it wasn’t ever shown in the main afternoon strand. I’m also not entirely sure if the show was originally made for children’s TV in Australia. But – just for the record – this was yet another show that I really enjoyed watching when I was younger.

More TV Memories – A Country Practice.

A Country Practice (Seven, 1981-1993, Ten, 1994)

This is yet another Australian soap, and it was one of the more successful ones. A Country Practice actually wasn’t created by the one and only Reg Watson, instead we have James Davern to thank from JNP Productions. The show could be described as a more rural version The Young Doctors, and a farm also featured, so you’d be as a likely to see a pig as a patient, as an actual person.

The show was mostly set in a small fictional town in New South Wales called Wandin Valley, and we’d meet a variety of characters. Along with the hospital, other locations included a vet, a police station, and of course there was a pub too. This was a show that would go on to do very well in Australia, and after a short while the cast would become familiar names with viewers. vlcsnap-00478

Among the most high-profile cast members was Dr Terence Elliott, although that would be partly because he appeared in more episodes than anyone else. The opening sequence always featured the regular characters, another memorable one was Esme, that old lady with the glasses. A Country Practice was shown twice a week in a primetime slot. Also, unlike most soaps, every episode was titled, and the story played out over two episodes. vlcsnap-00476

To give an indication of how popular the show became, it won several major television awards in the 80s, had very high ratings, and there were also guest appearances by various celebrities as it was a good place to be spotted, and even the Prime Minister took part in one episode. The plan to give viewers a feelgood show that ran for an hour and feature various characters was clearly working. vlcsnap-00479

A Country Practice ran for just over a decade and almost 1,100 episodes, I didn’t realise that there were as many as that. But in 1993, it was dropped by Seven after 12 years. Then, a year later, rival channel Ten decided to pick it up, and make some changes. It was somewhat past its best by this point though, and it ended for good after only 30 more episodes. vlcsnap-00485

A Country Practice was shown on ITV in an afternoon slot, where it received a good following. And you might be beginning to realise just how many imported soaps were being squeezed into this slot while there was a big demand for them. Again, every region showed it at their own pace, with Thames beginning in 1982, and the run was so long that the final episode wasn’t shown until 1996 on their successor Carlton. There were also repeat runs on Sky One, and even long-gone channel Carlton Select! Plenty of episodes have also been released on DVD, but only in Australia. acp0001

More TV Memories – Neighbours.

Neighbours (Seven, 1985, Ten, 1986-2010, Ten Peach, 2011-present)

When doing pieces about soaps, sometimes it is difficult to know where to begin, because there are so many characters, so many stories, and so many episodes that you can choose from. This is one of the more successful soaps, indeed, it is now the longest-running drama series in Australian TV history. But it could’ve been very different, as it almost didn’t happen.

This is yet another soap that was created by Reg Watson, aren’t we grateful. “Everybody needs good Neighbours“, as Barry Crocker said in the opening theme, and he wasn’t wrong. The show was set in the fictional town of Erinsborough, which was supposed to be in Melbourne. It concentrated on Ramsay Street, and originally featured some of the lives of the families that lived on the street. vlcsnap-00458

These included the Ramsays and the Robinsons. Everyone did seem to be rather friendly with each other on the show, almost every scene seemed to feature someone at the door who has come from nearby because they wanted to enter and tell them something. Neighbours launched on Seven in March 1985, but it didn’t make much of an impact, and it ended after 170 episodes later in that year. vlcsnap-00460

But wait, because it was at this point that rival channel Ten picked up the show, and relaunched it at the start of 1986. This was when it finally began to take off. In October 1986, Neighbours launched in the UK, when BBC1 realised that it might be a good idea to put some actual programming in their daytime schedule, instead of just showing endless hours of Pages From Ceefax, how could they. vlcsnap-00459

And then in January 1988, the repeat was moved to the slot after the end of CBBC, and this was when it really became a success, even though the episodes were still about a year behind Australia at this point. Several topics were handled, along with all the heartbreaks, all the setbacks, all the triumphs, viewers became engrossed, and some episodes achieved higher ratings than the entire population of Australia. And when Clive James made a cameo as a postman, you can imagine the excitement. vlcsnap-00462

There was also a lot of merchandise, including episodes being released on VHS, a board game, and endless repeats on UK Gold. It was also been shown around the world. As time went by though, the cast changed, and more memorable families came along, including the Carpenters, the Kennedys, and the ghost of Harold Bishop. It also spawned more pop stars than any other soap, but as is always the case, slowly its moment in the spotlight began to pass. vlcsnap-00463

The ratings began to slump, and in February 2008, Neighbours left BBC1 and moved to Channel 5, where it remains to this day, although for many people it’s reached the “is that still going?” phase. There have now been over 8,300 episodes, and the 35th anniversary is being celebrated soon, but for a short while viewers really did think that it was the perfect blend of everything that they wanted in a soap. harold0001

The YouTube Files – Richmond Hill.

Richmond Hill (Ten, 1988-1989)

It’s about time for another soap review. When Neighbours came to the UK, after a slow start, it achieved large ratings that any primetime show would’ve been satisfied with. So after this success British TV channels were very eager to import any Australian soaps to fill the daytime schedule, and by the late-80s they seemed there were lots of them being shown. This is one that I don’t remember from the time, but I have been interested in finding out more, and I managed to track down some episodes on YouTube.

Richmond Hill seemed to have a lot going for it. The show was created by Reg Watson, who was also behind Neighbours which was at the peak of its populartity in the late-80s, and unsurprisingly it was sold as “if you like Neighbours… you’ll like this!”. It was shown in a primetime slot, and the episodes were about an hour long. You can probably guess what the fate of this one was. vlcsnap-00453

The show was set in a small fictional sunny town near Sydney. The various families played out their lives, accompanied by some cheesy incidental music. Also featuring prominently was a police station. Some actors who are already established in soap were among the cast, including former members of Prisoner: Cell Block H, Sons And Daughters, and the mighty The Young Doctors. When I was younger, I did think that there were only about 25 actors in Australia, because the same ones appeared in all the soaps. vlcsnap-00454

There was also a younger generation of cast members featured, and one who went on to bigger things was Emily Symons, who played Anne Costello with a big late-80s hairstyle (in her TV debut). After this, she would join Home And Away, and she also appeared in British soap Emmerdale for many years, before returning to Summer Bay in the late-2000s. vlcsnap-00452

Richmond Hill seemed to receive a very average response from viewers and critics, it wasn’t the most action-packed of soaps. There were 91 episodes, and it all ended rather abruptly in 1989, with no proper final episode to finish everything off. They didn’t even get the opportunity to randomly blow up the entire cast on a boat, which is what usually happens in faltering soaps. It was forgotten rather quickly, having totally failed to live up to the hype. Strewth. vlcsnap-00455

Richmond Hill was shown in an afternoon slot on ITV in the late-80s. I don’t know if it was shown in every region though, but it was briefly shown on Thames. It didn’t make much of an impact with viewers though, and when Home And Away took off it soon vanished, not even gaining a cult following in this country. It was then repeated on a satellite channel in the early-90s, but it has barely been seen since, and there has been no DVD release. I’ll take a look back at some more soaps from Down Under soon.