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.
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
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).
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Odds 30 to 1
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
Hosted Chain Reaction (FOX8); weekend sports anchor on SBS
Form An unexpected starter given her relative inexperience but she plays the
Odds 120 to 1
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
Odds 200 to 1