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The Sydney Morning Herald

Don't bet on it

Author: Michael Idato
Date: 05/05/2003
Words: 1976
          Publication: Sydney Morning Herald
Section: The Guide
Page: 6
Is a best new talent Logie a passport to success? Michael Idato trawls the archives and finds not every previous winner is a household name.

In 1969, at the 12th annual TV Week Logie Awards, a young actor called Gerard Kennedy won the inaugural George Wallace memorial award for best new talent, named after the famous Australian vaudeville star and former Logie winner.

Kennedy was a relative newcomer. He was star of the police series Hunter and had a few guest credits to his name, including an episode of the now-infamous cop drama Bluey. In hindsight, Kennedy was the smart money on the night. He went on to appear in the films Newsfront and The Lighthorsemen, the mini-series Power Without Glory and The Last Outlaw, and a string of TV series including Division 4, The Flying Doctors and Frontline.

For 45 years, the Logies have honoured TV's most popular stars and programs. They are a glittery drag show of sorts, famous for backstage gaffes and panty-twirling Neighbours stars, with a long (and thankfully waning) tradition of importing American celebrities to legitimise proceedings.

They are grist to the TV fable mill. Who could forget the night Bert Newton said "I like the boy" to Muhammad Ali, or the night Michael Cole said "shit" on national television (prompting 300 calls of complaint, and 700 more when the word was cut from the repeat screening), or the 1988 backstage dust-up between Ernie Sigley and Don Lane, or Raquel Welch's 11th-hour refusal to appear, only smoothed over when Seven boss Christopher Skase gave her a $10,000 ring?

It is also the night two newcomers are crowned with Australian TV's equivalent of the Teen Miss USA sash: the Logie for most popular new talent (the award was split into male and female categories in 1999). As with roughly half the Logies, the new talent award is voted by readers of TV Week magazine. The others, christened "outstanding" awards, are judged by panels of industry peers.

The new talent award carries with it the promise of future Logies, with a long acting career thrown in for good measure. But is the recipient of the award always a stayer?

"There are a lot of big-name stars who have gone on to bigger and better things," says TV Week editor Emma Nolan. "You do get people you never hear from again, but I think it's pretty accurate."

A glance at the honour roll suggests readers have a fairly keen eye, with past recipients including Paul Hogan, Lisa McCune, Garry McDonald (as Norman Gunston), Gary Sweet, Georgie Parker, Jason Donovan and Simon Baker. But that's not the whole story.

The 1970s

Due to the popularity of musical and variety programs, many of the winners in the '70s were pop singers, comedians and variety show regulars. They included child prodigy Jamie Redfern, music presenter Jeff Phillips, comedians Hogan and Gunston and actor/ singers Mark Holden and Jon English. There was also a smattering of drama and soap stars, such as Liz Alexander, Brandon Burke and John Waters.

The success of Hogan and Gunston speak for themselves, but the stars of other winners have not shone so brightly. Redfern and Phillips continue to work on the periphery of music and TV, Holden has enjoyed international success as a songwriter, while 1970 winner Liv Maessen, best known for the pop hit Knock Knock, Who's There?, dropped off the radar.

Alexander, who won in 1974 for her performance as Esther Wolcott in the ABC's adaptation of Seven Little Australians, and Burke, who won in 1978 while playing Glenview High pin-up Tony Moore, continue to work as actors but have failed to capitalise on their early commercial success. Alexander's recent roles include the mini-series Seven Deadly Sins (1993) and the telemovie Alien Cargo (1999); Burke was most recently in the US telemovie The Three Stooges (2000) and the mini-series The Potato Factory (2000).

The 1980s

Reflecting TV Week's emerging young female readership, the awards in the '80s went mainly to young men, typically soap opera stars with long hair (or mullets, in some extreme cases) and a disheartening tendency towards synthetic wardrobes and dangerously thin ties.

The memorable names are a who's who of '80s posterboys: Gary Sweet, James and David Reyne, Peter O'Brien and Jason Donovan. Sexy, even wild in Sweet's case, but also anodyne enough to pass muster with the mums of Australia.

Most of them went on to successful TV careers, especially Sweet, who won a handful of Silver Logies and developed a disturbing taste for long leather coats. O'Brien and Sweet are both nominated for Logies in this year's most outstanding actor in a drama category - O'Brien for White Collar Blue, Sweet for Stingers.

Simon Gallaher, who won in 1981 as a Midday Show regular, is one of Australia's best known musical theatre performers, most recently seen in The Pirates of Penzance. Alex Papps (1988) later graduated from the West Australian Academy of the Performing Arts and is still working as an actor, while Stephen Comey (1983) quit acting in the late '80s and now works in retail management.

In 1987, Kylie Minogue struck a blow for women when she was nominated for the award alongside Donovan and Cameron Daddo. She lost to Donovan but took out a higher honour - the Silver Logie for most popular actress. (The following year she took home four Logies, including the Gold.)

In 1989, Nicolle Dickson became the first woman in almost a decade to win best new talent. She won for her performance as shaggy-headed teen tearaway Bobby in Home and Away, a celebrity mill that cranked her (and others since) through the photo studios of TV Week and out the side door to obscurity. She now works in real estate.

The 1990s

As women reclaimed the award in the '90s, soap ingenues such as A Country Practice's Georgie Parker, Neighbours' Brooke Satchwell and Home and Away's Melissa George paved the way for TV tough girls such as Blue Heelers' Lisa McCune and Tasma Walton. The subsequent careers of Parker, McCune, Walton and Satchwell speak for themselves. They've starred in some of the most popular dramas of the past decade, with Parker and McCune winning several Gold Logies apiece.

After winning best new talent Logies in 1993 and '94 respectively, Simon Denny (now Simon Baker) and Melissa George headed to Los Angeles for successful careers. Baker starred in the Academy Award-winning L.A. Confidential and now has his own TV series, The Guardian. George starred in several TV pilots, the films Sugar & Spice, The Limey and Mulholland Drive and the TV series Thieves. She recently appeared in the US sitcom Friends.

Less stellar were the careers of Richard Huggett (1991) and Nic Testoni (1996), although both still work as actors, as does Kym Wilson (1992), who flirted unsuccessfully with a career in LA and attracted the wrong kind of headlines when Michael Hutchence died in 1997. She recently worked on the TV series The Lost World.

In 1999 separate awards were introduced for male and female performers, the first recipients being Neighbours' Daniel MacPherson and Home and Away's Kimberley Cooper. MacPherson has since joined the cast of the British police series The Bill, but Cooper has done little since, apart from an appearance on last year's Celebrity Big Brother.

The 2000s

In 2000 the award was won by Home and Away's Justin Melvey and Blue Heelers' Jane Allsop; in 2001 the awards went to Backyard Blitz presenter Jamie Durie and Home and Away's Tammin Sursok; and in 2002 they went to Blue Heelers' Ditch Davey and McLeod's Daughters star Lisa Chappell. All remain in the gigs for which they were nominated, except Melvey, who has moved to Los Angeles.

The X-factor

Whether the award has long-term impact on an actor's career is debatable. Casting director Jan Russ and Seven drama chief John Holmes prefer to find the talent before they win their first Logie, not after.

"It could be an early indication that the artist has a certain appeal but ultimately it comes down to the actor's natural ability and star quality that determines how successful they become," says Holmes. "Building a reputation by strong performances will ultimately carry more weight than an industry award."

Holmes, however, does concede that an actor's profile often factors heavily in the casting equation. "If it came down to a choice between two competing actors, then a recent Logie win may swing the decision their way," he says.

Russ, who discovered and cast four of this year's 10 nominees for most popular new talent (Jay Bunyan, Patrick Harvey, Delta Goodrem and Michelle Ang), believes success and failure rests with that elusive X-factor.

"It's a combination of things," she says. "It's a natural, inner quality. A lot of people out there are good actors and good performers and they look fantastic, but it's the combination that makes them stand out - the X-factor - and you've either got it or you haven't."

The 45th Annual TV Week Logie Awards screens on Sunday on Nine at 8.30pm.

Michael Idato's 2003 Logie form guide

Most Popular New Male Talent

Daniel Collopy

Plays Josh in Home and Away

Form He's the new hottie in Summer Bay and an onscreen romance has made him No 1. TV Week coverboy.

Odds 3 to 2

Jay Bunyan

Plays Jack in Neighbours

Form He's the new hottie in Erinsborough and an onscreen romance has made him TV Week coverboy on Collopy's off weeks.

Odds 4 to 1

Michael Dorman

Plays Christian in The Secret Life of Us

Form Credible actor in credible drama. He's a looker (big teenage girl vote) but no one's ever put smart money on the credible guy at the Logies and won. Number of TV Week covers: nil.

Odds 12 to 1

Patrick Harvey

Plays Connor in Neighbours

Form This heavily accented Irish import is a dark horse. Number of covers: nil. Number of lines he's said that we understand: nil.

Odds 20 to 1

Ben Mortley

Played Alberto in McLeod's Daughters

Form Wooed, married then got unhitched from Drover's Run lassie Jodi. A guest star, which puts him at very long odds.

Odds 100 to 1

Most Popular New Female Talent

Delta Goodrem

Plays Nina in Neighbours

Form Chart-topping pop singer and regular TV Week covergirl. The girl they're calling "the new Lisa McCune". Most pundits believe the race is run.

Odds 2 to 1

Alexandra Davies

Played Donna in Young Lions

Form Sexy and smart, stuck in a cop show that was probably too clever for its own good, but TV Week loves her, which means she's had high exposure to the voting public.

Odds 30 to 1

Jodie Dry

Plays Nicole in White Collar Blue

Form Cute but below the radar. She might have had a shot in a slow-horse race, but against Goodrem and Davies she's stuck firmly in third place.

Odds 80 to 1

Mieke buchan

Hosted Chain Reaction (FOX8); weekend sports anchor on SBS

Form An unexpected starter given her relative inexperience but she plays the media well.

Odds 120 to 1

Michelle Ang

Played Lori in Neighbours

Form Despite a sympathetic storyline (she was wheelchair-bound) she's racing stiff competition with a Kiwi accent that makes her harder to understand than Patrick Harvey.

Odds 200 to 1

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