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The Sydney Morning Herald


Author: Jane Freeman and Andrew Conway
Date: 30/06/1996
Words: 854
          Publication: Sydney Morning Herald
Section: THE GUIDE
Page: 2

THE laughter track starts running today on thecomedychannel (do not adjust your sets, that title is correct) which is, um, the comedy channel on Galaxy. The chief executive officer of thecomedychannel, Nick Murray, who was former general manager of Steve Vizard's Artist Services, recently moved to Sydney from Melbourne. Just to prove the advantages of working for a funky humour channel, Murray was welcomed to Sydney with a surprise birthday celebration. Not only was the office full of balloons, but waggish female staff members wore fake breasts and bottoms in reference to a series of racy animated French films purchased by Murray.

For all those Today Tonight viewers who are probably eager to know about anything to do with busts, Murray has not yet decided if he will screen the naughty films.

One thing he will screen is the controversial cartoon series Beavis and Butt-Head, Monday to Thursday at 9.30 pm. Program schedules will be clearly marked "not family viewing" and Murray has already issued a warning that family pets may well be at risk if easily influenced young folk watch the show ... Thecomedychannel will also run on Foxtel from August 1.


THE ABC is still trying to find a new commissioning editor for comedy. The search seems to be assuming the same dimensions as the quest for the Holy Grail, given that the former head of comedy, Ted Robinson, departed the TV network in February last year. The right person is either very hard to find, or the need isn't all that urgent (well, unless you happen to have seen After The Beep). The short list is tipped to contain Max Gillies, above, and Ian McFadyen and interviews have been conducted, but the head hunt goes on.


THIS week the big decisions will begin about what we will see on the ABC next year. Despite those carping ABC critics who think those decisions have already been made - any leftie, femmo, commo, gay stuff management can lay its hands on - this is not so. In fact, the decision process starts with "program bids", where each department pitches its prospective new shows to the powers that be, namely ABC head Brian Johns, head of television Penny Chapman and network programmer Hugh McGowan.

Chapman has declared that this year they will "address concerns that ideas from outside Sydney and Melbourne have been difficult to get heard". Of course, it's yet to be seen what restructuring (or "repositioning" as they prefer to deem it) is going to do to our ABC by this time next year.


CHANNEL Ten and Disney Entertainment, makers of Healthy, Wealthy and Wise, must be less than delighted by remarks made by the husband of their newest reporter. Felicity Kennett, who started on the show last week and will be on air in about five weeks, just happens to be the wife of Victorian Premier Jeff Kennett. Ten would not have been thrilled to hear Premier Kennett marching around last week making remarks about the network's allegedly poor ratings. Perhaps Kennett thought he was making a show of marital solidarity by talking the station down so he can give his wife the credit if there is any improvement in ratings in the future. Or perhaps he wasn't thinking at all.


MANY excited vibrations around the ABC's Ultimo building last week when X-Files pin-up gal Gillian Anderson (aka Agent Scully) was spotted stalking the corridors. However, she was engaged in nothing more spooky than a bit of global multimedia activity. Anderson, in Australia on a PR binge, is also presenting a science series for the BBC and had to record voice-overs for two episodes.

The nine-part series, Future Fantastic, which will eventually be distributed in Australia, speculates about the next century and beyond, from robots and teleporting to extraterrestrials. Anderson says she is very excited about the show because it "proves that science fiction is often the inspiration behind science fact".


THE axed ABC stalwart GP is not dead just yet. Executive producer Matt Carroll is holding discussions with commercial networks to gauge interest in the medical drama series. He says Ten has already turned it down because it has two new medical shows. "I don't think there's a home for it at Nine so we will have to talk to Seven," Carroll says. He says there has been renewed interest in the show overseas since Steve Bisley, above, came on board and the show was treated to a '90s facelift.

Caroll is still perplexed by the ABC's decision, given the money invested in the show's revamp, its respectable ratings and the way it fulfilled the ABC charter, including demands for drama to reflect multicultural Australia. He says the only reason he can think of is the fact that, at this sensitive time in the network's history, it would not look politically advantageous to have such a long-running show in the schedule, rather than be offering up all things new, different and diverse.


FRESH from his big screen success with Shine, Emmy award-winning Australian producer/director Scott Hicks is hitting the small screen with a major documentary special, Ultimate Athlete: Pushing The Limit, which will have its world premiere on the Discovery Channel on Foxtel and Galaxy on July 14 at 8 pm. The program explores the mysteries of athletic brilliance, with cyclist Gary Neiwand making a guest appearance.


SO what's the hottest ticket in town on August 9? Not the Cointreau Ball that night but Playschool's 30th birthday party. ABC publicity says celebs who haven't even been invited are ringing up begging for a ticket and everyone wants to bring at least five kids, nieces, nephews, second cousins and the toddlers next door as well. The daytime party is already bulging at the seams, and there is no knowing what will happen when Big Ted tries to squeeze in ...

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