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Sunday, March 15, 2009

50 years of Brisbane TV: Part 3-The Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin's contribution to Queensland's TV industry.

Dedicated to Steve Irwin 1962-2006



2009, is a year where we don't just reflect on the living legacy of Brisbane (and indeed Queensland) television. We reflect on the fallen stars, who either died too young, like Brisbane TV personality Tony Gordon, who died tragically in a aerobatics accident in 2001, or died after a distinguished career, like former QTQ newsreader Don Seccombe who passed away suddenly in 1993 and BTQ-7's most notable personality from their 1959 launch, Brian Tait who passed away peacefully in late 2007. But one name is sadly part of this list, the person who brought their Queensland experiences into living rooms worldwide. That man is Steve Irwin.



The genesis of "The Crocodile Hunter"

Steve Irwin was a second generation wildlife expert, growing up, living at his parent's reptile park at Beerwah, before becoming a volunteer for Queensland's crocodile relocation program. Eventually, his parents handed the reptile park to Steve (which became Australia Zoo), and the evolution of the "Crocodile Hunter" began. In 1992 he married his wife, Terri, a American, and by 1996, the first "Crocodile Hunter" episodes aired in Australia. Everyone had not foretold what would happen next.



"The Crocodile Hunter" hits the US

In 1997, the first episodes aired in the US, and was a hit. By 1999 Steve Irwin became a household name in the US, eventually being invited on to Tonight with Jay Leno, and by this time, the program was screening in 167 countries, a major effort (if not the greatest ever) for a Queensland produced television program. People warmed to Irwin's larrikin nature and Australia Zoo became a tourist attraction for overseas visitors to South East Queensland. By 2001, the popularity of Steve Irwin was so great, that he appeared in Dr Dolittle 2 with Eddie Murphy and in 2002 a feature film "The Crocodile Hunter-Collision Course" was released.



A promoter of Queensland and Australian tourism

Steve's success overseas, made Australia Zoo a must see Queensland attraction, and Steve always promoted the virtues of Queensland and Australian tourism overseas. Steve was always on the bill at the "G'day USA" events as part of Australia Week, and his family always came along. Steve was a family man, with both his children Bindi and Robert getting the same education he did, this time with the now massive Australia Zoo as a backyard. The Discovery Channel (which owned Animal Planet, where the Crocodile Hunter series airs) eventually developed a concept for Bindi, which Steve worked on, right until that fateful day in 2006.



Steve Irwin's last documentary, and his passing.
The last documentary Steve Irwin worked on, was "Oceans Deadliest", was filmed on the Great Barrier Reef, near Port Douglas. Brisbane and international TV viewers found out about the tragedy that happened on September 4 through newsflashes, the man they called "The Crocodile Hunter" died doing what he loved, risking his life (in this case, with a stingray, who stuck it's barb into Irwin's heart), to educate the public. Before long, the three Brisbane commercial stations were flooded with journalists from overseas, and Australia Zoo became a moving tribute to the work that Steve did, in protecting the enviroment. Barbera Walters even flew into Brisbane, to do a interview for American television with Terri, which saw many viewers tune in. After the tearful memorial service, there were some more honors to come.

Steve Irwin's legacy, and the honours...
In May 2007, Australian TV publication, TV Week, decided to induct Steve (posthumously) into the Logies Hall Of Fame. But the Irwin legacy lives on through his oldest child, Bindi, who won a Logie for herself as most popular new female talent (in a Queensland sweep of the popular new talent awards, with Lincoln Lewis, son of Wally Lewis winning most popular male new talent) in 2008. Australia Zoo is still a tourist attraction, a Queensland icon, and is a popular place for overseas visitors to go to, when they come to Brisbane for holidays.

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