Border Mail Column – Friday 29 July 2011
(This column appeared a little out of kilter. Regular Wednesday fortnightly columns are scheduled to resume on 17 August)
It was a normal night on the tele with contestants across the main channels pitted against each other exhibiting their culinary, renovating and entertaining skills, while Aunty and SBS were covering real current affairs and the time warps of Gem, Go and Eleven had taken me back to the sugar coated lands of The Brady Bunch, I Dream of Jeannie and Friends.
A little guiltily I switched back to the last semi final of Australia’s Got Talent (more fairy floss for the brain?) and told myself there must be something redeeming in a show which gives people an opportunity to showcase their talent and also creates employment for a team of production and technical people as well as musicians.
It was then I remembered one of the original talent shows on Australian television, Showcase which was hosted by the English and debonair Gordon Boyd and ran from 1965-1974 and toured in the 1970’s.
Boyd had a particular way of pronouncing words and I clearly remember him introducing contestants who had appeared in ‘eyestedfodds’.
I still remember the Showcase concert at the Lismore Town Hall with the singers, no matter what their style of music, in evening dress and the Hector Crawford Orchestra accompanying them.
Crawfords were a major force in the early days of Australian television, producing not only Showcase but also some of our first police dramas including Homicide, Division 4, Matlock Police, Skyways and Cop Shop, but it is the production values of its music shows that remain with me.
One of the contestants on Showcase was a young Mark Holden, now well known for his appearances as a judge on Australian Idol.
At the time he was a law student, but the tour for Showcase and the offer of a recording contract clashed with his law exams and he made the decision to stay in the music industry.
Talent shows have graced our screens since the early days of television, and were sometimes reincarnations of earlier radio versions.
Channel 7 produced the first of the television talent shows, Swallows Parade in 1957 and this was later renamed as Stairway to the Stars; Young Talent Time had its regulars, but also ran a talent contest giving newcomers including Tina Arena and Denis Walter a start and Channel 10 had Pot of Gold.
In 1991 Star Search uncovered a young comedy mime duo, Shane Dundas and David Collins who appeared as Umbilical Chord and took out the grand prize.
Shortly after they renamed their act the Umbilical Brothers and have entertained audiences throughout the world with their unique act for the past 20 years.
The ABC entered the foray in 1995 with Quest and we have had Pop Stars, Australian Idol, The X Factor and the new US talent show The Voice, where the judges will hear but not see the contestants, will screen.
Australia’s Got Talent with its variety of acts reminds me most of New Faces.
Originally on Australian television in 1963 as the Kevin Dennis Auditions, it screened mainly on Channel 9, but also made an appearance on Channel 10.
Hosts included Frank Wilson, Bert Newton and Darryl Somers who had been a contestant, but its most famous alumni were a blond fresh faced 14 year old Olivia Newton-John and Sydney Harbour Bridge rigger and comedian, Paul Hogan; both have both enjoyed longevity in the industry.
When this column goes to print the winner of Australia’s Got Talent will be known.
Will their ‘journey’ be interesting enough to be chronicled for another columnist to write about in 50 years time?