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‘The King’ of TV

August 8, 2011

Last week I won an old exhibition catalogue from ACMI (Australian Centre for the Moving Image). Out of a choice of four, I was able to pick the one I wanted. I chose ‘TV 50’ –  an exhibition held in 2006 celebrating 50 years of TV in Australia. Though I’m not quite sure, I think this exhibition was held in conjunction with a series of DVD’s being released by Channel 9 and the Herald Sun, chronicling the iconic moments in TV decade by decade. I own these DVD’s (I was quite insistent upon my parents getting them for me!) and while it only really shows Channel 9 shows of yesteryear (well, you can’t expect 9 to endorse its competitors, can you?) it does provide a fascinating look into the past.

I’d always had a slight interest in the history of TV in Australia, from its introduction in 1956 to what it is today. My curiosity is particularly piqued by the recognisable faces of TV of the past – Don Lane, Paul Hogan and Bert Newton in their prime. My parents, born after TV was introduced, sometimes reminisce  about shows they used to watch growing up. I try to imagine what kind of things I’ll be able to reminisce about when I’m older. At the moment, I can only imagine rather morbid topics such as September 11. Whilst the DVD’s did take a look at the more serious occasions that TV was there to witness (the West Gate Bridge collapse, Ash Wednesday fires etc.) it focused much more heavily on iconic shows, comedy, musical moments. One person in particular made quite a few reappearances throughout the series, and I am reminded of him once again flicking through my catalogue.

Graham Kennedy is forever known as the King of Aussie TV.  From his early days as the host of In Melbourne Tonight, right through to his last appearance on TV in 1994, he was known for his comedy and his continually pushing the boundaries of what was acceptable on TV.

Don Lane and Graham Kennedy, performing split screen in Sydney and Melbourne respectively. Having a laugh...

One particular incident is outlined in the catalogue – the infamous ‘Faaarrkk’ joke. Occurring on the 3rd of March, 1975, Kennedy yelled out ‘faaark’ during an advertisement live on air (live advertisements were all the rage back then, none of that pre-tape stuff we see on Kerri-Anne in the mornings). A thousand complaint calls were received by the station, and Kennedy claimed (rather cheekily in my opinion) that he was imitating a crow call. He asked his audience to do it as well, which they obliged. He got away with a warning. It was the first time anyone had said it on TV. That is something I would have liked to have been around to see!

When Kennedy passed away, a special tribute was given to him at the Logie Awards that year (he himself won five Gold Logies and is a part of the Logies Hall of Fame). Bert Newton, a close friend of his who was with him in his early days at IMT, performed this. They had performed this duet together many times over the course of the years, and a montage of it was included on the DVD’s I was talking about, but this is the version performed at the Logies. Relating it back to my previous post, this is probably an example of when TV in its traditional broadcast form will remain most valuable – people will come together to share the experience and remember those they loved so well, to pay tribute to them. In the audience I can spot Don Lane and Belinda Emmett , TV stars who have also since passed on.  There is also the way the tribute has been done. I’ve seen footage of a similar tribute Olivia Newton-John performed with Peter Allen, ‘The Boy from Oz’, but that was not done live. Performing with the image of Graham Kennedy was a unique way to pay respect to him, and something only possible with the advancements of television.

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From → Musings

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