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Friday, October 16, 2009

50 years of Brisbane TV: Part 10-The curtain rises: Brisbane TV Variety

Dedicated to the fallen stars of Brisbane TV variety, in particular: George Wallace Jr (1918-1968), Brian Tait (1927-2007) and Paul Sharratt (1933-2009).

Welcome to another great instalment of 50 Years of Brisbane TV. This month, we are focusing, on what was the lifeblood of our local content for nearly forty years, local variety television.


Theatre Royal: the beginning, of Brisbane variety.
Television, brought among other things, a new way of presenting live entertainment. Simply, most content was live to air and local, and if it was lucky enough to be aired in other cities and interstate, it had to be kinescoped (in other words filmed, on a reel, and sent down by aeroplane, videotape was expensive and cumbersome back in the 1960's). The main people of this early era included QTQ's Hugh Cornish, BTQ's Brian Tait, but the biggest star, was George Wallace Jr. For George and Brian, the 1960's peak of BTQ-7 were dominated by this duo, and Theatre Royal. The program, became a instant hit, and remained popular, up until the day George Wallace Jr passed away. Theatre Royal also opened the door, for another star, only just beginning her climb, Rowena Wallace, (no relation to George) who eventually starred as "Pat The Rat" on Sons And Daughters in the early 1980's. As for Hugh's contribution, it was the "Tonight" formula, QTQ and Cornish tried, but sadly it never succeeded long term in against Tait and Wallace in their prime.

Studio 9, Orton's Music Hall, enormous expense: the Paul Sharratt era.
QTQ's first major success, in the variety field, came with the arrival of Paul Sharratt, in the early 1970's, with of all things, a set of specials for Nine, similar to the recent Hey Hey reunions but involving ice skating. Eventually, Sharratt settled down, and started, Studio 9, and the "Tonight revival" had begun in earnest. Studio 9 lasted for five years, and earned Sharratt, a swag of Logies and soon, Sharratt was making his own programs, bringing up new stars, even returning to the music hall, and producing specials for Nine, from a theatre restaurant. But many say Sharratt's greatest achievement in production, which placed him, on par with people like Peter Faiman, was the show that closed Her Majesty's in Brisbane's CBD (which became the Brisbane Hilton and second stage of the Wintergarden shopping centre) in 1982, a gala performance during the Commonwealth Games for Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth the 2nd. Seven however, was going through struggles too (failed attempts at creating TV specials, and tonight formats), but found a wacky solution in the mid 1980's.

Wickety Wak: Brisbane's Band, making a statement.
Seven, in the mid 1980's was trying to portray a homespun image. Not the meat and three veg image of today, but a great local image. Part of that was Seven turning to Wickety Wak, a Brisbane band, to produce televised specials for the Brisbane station, to beat what Paul Sharratt could bring out (eg. in 1984, The Village People, performed at QTQ's studios) but with a local edge. The first of these special was in 1983, that being Waks Works 1, with two more specials following (Waks Works 2 and 3 respectively), then in 1985, the band got the ultimate honour, actually performing the Love You Brisbane campaign, but by 1990 after doing eight years of hard work, for BTQ-7, the band went their separate ways, until 1997...
In what would be the final hurrah, for local variety, The Wak, did another special, for now, a partially networked, BTQ-7, in 1997, as part of a brief "reunion" tour, before relaxing into retirement until 2006. I really hope Seven can mend fences with the Wak, and put on a final special, for the viewers, before the Wak retire... for good.

Video: Wickety Wak videos can be found on their YouTube channel.
Theatre Royal closer (from Conniptions886)

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