60 Years of QLD TV

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

50 years of Brisbane TV: Part 9-Kids TV and how it changed the Brisbane industry

Welcome to Part 9 of this blog series, This month, it's all about the kids.

Children's television, has literally been a part of the patchwork quilt of Brisbane telly, since day two of television. That's right day two, August 17, 1959 when "The Channel Niner's" debuted.

The Iliffe Generation: The early days, and the launch of KAK...
The Channel Niner's became the big success of early childrens television in Queensland, while other stations tried many other lineups, QTQ remained consistant, with fewer changes (mainly cosmetic), bar the addition of someone, picked, by the host, Jim Iliffe, to co-host in the mid-sixties, Kerri-Anne Wright (now, Kerri-Anne Kennerley). A favorite moment, of KAK's from her early days as Captain Jim's "sidekick", is when the program was being done from Marineland, on the Gold Coast, where KAK was invited to feed a dolphin, but ended up in the water, with the whole event being filmed, and has been re-run often, alongside other early years clips on various specials. While the first fifteen years were dominated by, Iliffe, there were others who shaped the early years, including BTQ-7's Dina Heslop (who went on to help create Wombat) and "children's hour comedian" Beanpole (played by Dick McCann, who also was part of Theatre Royal with George Wallace Jr). By the time the first colour tests occured in 1974, Captain Jim stepped back, and in came the second generation...

Jackie And All That Jazz... Hurly Burly, it's Jackie Mac.
The early days of colour brought to the world, a new star, Jackie McDonald, and her sister Fiona taking over from Jim, and helped change the way kids television was going, no longer about physical comedy, but about lots of colour, and the new generation, took major advantages, with the changes in technology. Jackie's stint at Nine, ended with a failed move into the US, while Fiona took over Jackie's old show, until the right opportunity came up. Jackie's career blossomed, with a move first to BTQ-7, then over to TVQ-0, where she hosted a breakfast program famous for it's "freak waves" (a famous promotion for a late 1970's viewer contest, where Jackie was giving away a boat, every person who went into the boat to demonstrate the features got soaked with a bucket of water, hence a freak wave), while doing Hey Hey It's Saturday in Melbourne, eventually leaving Brisbane screens when HHIS became a night-time program (and went national) in 1984.

Wombat, Boris's Breakfast Club, Seven's Super Saturday... The King of The Kids, Eric Summons.
The childrens focus, of the first twenty years was changing. Regulation came in, and with it came a new rating, C, and it meant new ways of doing things for childrens television, and two rival efforts were working to achieve those goals, the Sydney-based Simon Townsend's Wonder World, that aired on TVQ-0, and the Brisbane-made Wombat that was done at BTQ-7. It was Wombat, that helped launch many careers, including one, that became synonymous with Seven Brisbane during the 80's, Eric Summons. Eric, was not just a reporter for Wombat, he added many great segments for the program, all in between tapings for his "alterego", Boris The Black Knight. At one stage, Boris was on TV seven mornings a week, six with his own show, Boris's Breakfast Club, and on Saturday mornings, with a character from Wombat, called Agro (played by Jamie Dunn), on Seven's Super Saturday. As Wombat grew in popularity, including going national, Eric eventually stepped away from Wombat, and concentrated on Boris, and eventually in 1989, Boris's Breakfast Club, and Seven's Super Saturday wrapped for good, replaced with two national products coming out of Brisbane, Agro's Cartoon Connection, which lasted until 1997, after a move to Sydney that year for the program failed, and Saturday Disney, which moved to Sydney in 1999.

The changing face of Brisbane television: Tony Johnston.
It was in the peak days of Boris, when Tony debuted fresh out of school, as the host of Saturday Jukebox, a music program which followed Seven's Super Saturday. Many people were thinking at that stage, could Johnston become the new Eric Summons, who had become firmly planted, at BTQ, and the station nurtured Tony's talents. But times had changed suddenly, and in 1987, Johnston jumped ship, for greener pastures, at QTQ-9. QTQ had a major issue, with longterm programming, with kids products, often lasting a year or two, and Tony became the kids show host, that you could rely on. Stints on the Nine revival of Wonder World, and the gameshow, My Generation, eventually found Tony Johnston his calling, and in 1996, went back to BTQ (by this time, a Seven O&O), and became a reliable local personality for the rapidly changing BTQ-7, while managing the national kids gameshow Time Masters, which shared space with A*mazing, then hosted the last major production in BTQ's Studio 1, Wipeout from 1999 to 2001. Tony also expanded his interests, with a stint doing BTQ's weather in 2002-03, as well as taking on fellow Wonder World alumni, Catriona Rowntree on Seven's The Great Outdoors, before leaving Brisbane TV for an adventure, where he explored many opportunities outside the realm of kids TV, including talkback radio, and is busy building a new media business.

The new generation innovates... Drew Jarvis
The 1990's brought many successes. But technology evolved, and thus kids programming evolved too. A whole realm of new talent came up, who had grown up watching the 80's stars as teens, or as young kids, as a result idolising them. The early 1990's also introduced the P rating for preschool programming, while Network Ten eventually centralized most national childrens production in Brisbane, providing a major pathway, for new talent, which had not been open back in Wombat's heyday. Nine had also realized that Brisbane provided a great setting, for childrens TV, and in 1999, Nine launched Y, followed by Hot Source which launched the career of Miranda Deakin, then the preschool program New McDonald's Farm (which was innovative in it's own right) and then in 2006, the information revolution finally caught up with mainstream childrens television, with three acting graduates and a surfer and helped shape a program... that became, The Shak. The "modernised" version of Wombat, literally "drew" viewers in, and introduced the world to a talented person by the name of Drew Jarvis. Drew took the Curio character, to the point, for the first season, but as soon as Nine moved the programs setting to WhiteWater World, we started to see the colourful characters emerge, that would define his career to date. We were introduced first to Urban Aaron, then to Professor Lucas Peel, Kharlie Kherub, various historical characters, Dexter Fry, traveling salesman Kent Perkins, Nitro-loving Aunt Bea amongst others. Viewers were even introduced to the "real" Drew in 2008 on Labrats Challenge, and in front of a national primetime audience on Hole In The Wall, all this while still doing The Shak, which evolved as time went on. Now airing in many countries, The Shak has become the very essence of Queensland television, and shares the last man standing mentality we have, being the last locally made production done by Nine, after recent events.


  1. ANy information on Kids INcorporated??

  2. I was a child dancer on QTQ9's Coca Cola Bottlers Club when TV first started in Brisbane. The show was on every Saturday morning 'live' to start with, then taped and played a little later on Saturday. The host was Alan Brandt of 4BH. I have a photo of a Christmas Show if anyone is interested. It would be great to see some old tapes of this show if they had any. Cheers Cheryl Alldridge.

  3. I was a child dancer on the QTQ9's Coca Cola Bottlers Club in Brisbane when TV first started. The show was 'live' at first on Saturday mornings, then afterwards were played later on Saturdays. The show host was Alan Brandt from 4BH. I have a photo of a Christmas Show if required.