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The Age

Logie Awards just a good night out

Author: Ross Warneke
Date: 24/04/1996
Words: 929
          Publication: The Age
Section: News
Page: 4
THERE are some in the TV industry who took Sunday night's Logie Awards very seriously. But for most, I suspect, it was just a night out. One of those was John Wood, who plays Sergeant Tom Croydon in Blue Heelers. I was chatting with him on Saturday, and he was looking forward to going to the Logies and catching up with friends and colleagues. But the star of the most popular show on TV this year reckoned Heelers had little, if any, chance of winning anything.

``I think Home and Away will take everything again," he forecast. ``It's terribly tedious." In fact, on Sunday night, as guests filed into Melbourne Park, Wood bet the Seven Network's executive producer of drama, John Holmes, that despite its extraordinary ratings, Heelers would not even win the Most Popular Series award.

Impossible! How could Home and Away, a show that only two weeks ago was attracting an average audience of a mere 446, 500 viewers in Melbourne, beat Heelers, which averaged 565, 000 viewers a week last year and recently has been attracting more than 700,000, in a popularity competition? Well, Wood was right. Apart from the Most Popular Actress award, which went to Wood's co-star, the fan-magazine favorite Lisa McCune, Heelers came away from the ceremony empty-handed.

Home and Away, whose teenage fans obviously bought up every copy of TV Week to cut out the voting coupons and nominate their favorite hearthrobs for the awards, grabbed most of the other drama awards decided by popular vote.

For Wood, there are no television awards in Australia that have the grandeur and respectability of, say, the Oscars, although he admits they are far from perfect. ``I just wish to God there was something here worthy of actors," he said.

One of the problems, he said, was the bias among many of those in the industry against programs made on video rather than film. He's not wrong. The purists reckon shows like Heelers, produced on video, are cheap and nasty, although viewers do not seem to agree.

``Take the AFI (Australian Film Institute) awards, for example, " said Wood. ``Not one videotaped weekly drama got a nomination in any of the television categories. But Halifax got about 15. I think that's pure snobbery - Halifax is shot on film and we're on videotape."

THE only Logies that have any meaning are those judged by members of the industry. Those awarded on Sunday night, to Blue Murder, the second series of Frontline, Four Corners and the Nine Network's coverage of the anti-nuclear protests around Mururoa Atoll last year, were richly deserved.

They certainly had more credibility than the popular-vote awards given to shows like Don't Forget Your Toothbrush, which was out-rated by Hey, Hey, It's Saturday every week, and Seven's breakfast-time advertising marathon for kids, Agro's Cartoon Connection. Surely, it is time TV Week introduced an industry award, as distinct from a popular-vote award, for excellence in children's TV.

The big loser at the Logies was the Ten Network. It did not win one award. That's not surprising, given the dearth of Australian material on Ten. Not even Neighbours, which used to dominate the Logies, year after year, scored a statuette, adding to speculation that this may be its last year on air.

Apart from SBS winning its first-ever Logie on Sunday, for the documentary about relationships among the mentally and physically retarded, Untold Desires, the most notable Logies were those awarded by TV Week's panel of industry experts (not by the readers) to the ABC's two-part docu-drama, Blue Murder, about corruption within the NSW Police Force.

While it was screened late last year in all other states, it was not shown in NSW because it might have prejudiced a case pending in the NSW Supreme Court. One of the main characters on whom the script was based had been charged with murder only weeks after filming was completed. NSW viewers will not get to see the Logie award-winning program until the case ends, possibly next year.

DESPITE assurances from some at the ABC that its long-running Tuesday night drama series, G.P., will not be axed later this year, I understand that its low ratings in recent weeks have made the decision a fait accompli. As well, Auntie is looking at a new series, starring Garry McDonald as a lawyer in a community legal centre, as G.P.'s likely replacement in 1997.

Another possibility for next year, possibly on Ten, is Big Sky, a weekly drama about pilots working for a charter airline and starring Gary Sweet.

IT might have won a Logie, but there is no certainty that Don't Forget Your Toothbrush will return to Nine later this year, as originally intended. It seems there is likely to be a bit of a squeeze on money and studio resources at Nine if its proposed Friday night variety show gets the go-ahead, and Toothbrush, which was slated for another 13-week season from August might lose out.

Rehearsals for the variety show are about to begin, and a decision on whether it will go to air, probably in a 9.30pm time-slot, could be made within three weeks. The Toothbrush host, Tim Ferguson, is a front runner to host the new show.

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