In Melbourne Tonight

In Melbourne Tonight, also known as IMT, was a highly popular nightly Logie award-winning Australian variety television show produced at GTV-9 Melbourne from 6 May 1957 to 1970.

In Melbourne Tonight
GenreVariety
Written by
  • Mike McColl-Jones
  • Fred Parsons
Presented byGraham Kennedy
Voices of
Opening themeIn Melbourne Tonight
by Lee Gallagher
Country of originAustralia
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons
  • 14 (1957–1970)
  • 3 (1996–1998)
Production
Production locationMelbourne
Running time75 minutes
Release
Original networkNine Network
Picture format
Audio format
Original release6 May 1957 (1957-05-06) –
27 November 1998 (1998-11-27)

OverviewEdit

Graham Kennedy was the show's main host and star attraction, but other presenters were often called on to present the show on certain nights. In Melbourne Tonight had as many as 50 different presenters over its 13 years on air. The format of the show was inspired by the American Tonight Show on NBC, but Kennedy's exuberant charisma was the key to the success of IMT.

The show originally had its own self-titled theme song, written by IMT's first band leader, Lee Gallagher, but for most of its run, it adopted the tune of Gee, But You're Swell, written by Abel Baer and Charles Tobias in 1936.

Geoff Corke was Kennedy's offsider until 1959, when Bert Newton joined GTV-9 from HSV-7 to become Kennedy's straight man. This began a professional partnership that continued for many years and a friendship that continued until Kennedy's death in 2005.

Other In Melbourne Tonight regulars included Joff Ellen, Val Ruff, Panda Lisner, Anne Marie Fabry, Mary Hardy, Rosie Sturgess, Patti McGrath (later Patti Newton), Toni Lamond, Philip Brady, Johnny Ladd, Noel Ferrier, Elaine McKenna, Bill McCormick, Ted Hamilton, The Tune Twisters, and the Channel 9 Ballet.

The ballet troupe was known as the Royal Dancers. Performers included Denise Drysdale and Roma Egan, directed by Valmai Ennor, a former dancer with the Sadler's Wells Ballet.

 
Anne Marie Fabry appeared on IMT as Graham Kennedy's "French secretary"

From 1960, a Friday-night, syndicated, "national" edition of the program aired under the title The Graham Kennedy Show (later The Graham Kennedy Channel Nine Show), with highlights packages being shown as The Best of IMT and The Best of Kennedy.

On 7 July 1965, IMT featured a then-innovative interstate live split-screen link with The Tonight Show on TCN-9 Sydney, via the recently completed co-axial cable linking Melbourne and Sydney.

Kennedy signed off from In Melbourne Tonight on 23 December 1969 after 12 years. On his final program, he was given a crown—made by the GTV-9 props department—symbolising his reign as king of Australian television.

The following year, IMT continued with four hosts, each on a different night of the week—Jimmy Hannan, Ugly Dave Gray, Bert Newton, and Stuart Wagstaff. The program was gradually scaled back from four nights a week to three, then two, with the remaining shows renamed as The Ugly Dave Gray Show and Tonight With Stuart Wagstaff until they were finally axed in March 1971.[1]

On 20 October 1970, during one of the final programs under the IMT banner, British actor Patrick Wymark was scheduled to appear as a guest to promote a theatre play and a TV special. His nonappearance prompted jokes between host Stuart Wagstaff and guest Richard Deacon until news reached GTV-9 that Wymark had collapsed in his hotel room. His death was announced at the end of the program.[2]

In Melbourne Tonight created a long-standing legacy of live variety programs for several decades from GTV-9. Most of the videotapes were erased and reused after broadcast, so fewer than 100 episodes survive today out of the thousands produced and broadcast.

When Kennedy returned to GTV-9 in the early 1970s, he launched his own weekly variety show for the Nine Network, The Graham Kennedy Show, but it did not recapture the success of the original In Melbourne Tonight, and was later succeeded by The Ernie Sigley Show and The Don Lane Show.

AdvertisementsEdit

Drawing on his radio experience with Nicky (who had routinely "sent up" advertisers), Kennedy transformed the live commercials from what would have otherwise been dull pro-forma obligations into a unique comedic art form. On one famous occasion, a scheduled 20-second ad spot for an aspirin product was spun out into 33 minutes of improvised comedy.

Newton has written:

The blood would drain from the face of Pelaco shirt-wearing executives in television, advertising and business until they realised that instead of televisual suicide, this skinny little wiseguy was commercial gold. And then they liked his brand of humour a l

A commercial I shared with Graham, Raoul Merton ('of comfort you're certain when you wear Raoul Merton') changed the footwear buying habits of men.[3]

Sam ChisholmEdit

Gerald Stone recounts in his book Compulsive Viewing that a "cocky young salesman" visited the IMT set hoping for an extra plug for his employer's product. The young salesman was Sam Chisholm, who later became a senior executive for variously the Packer and Murdoch media empires. A May 2005 interview with Chisholm records:[4]

Sam Chisholm: I was working for Johnson's wax at the time, and I don't think he believed my ...
Graham Davis: Sales pitch.
Sam Chisholm: Assertions about this product. So I said, "I'll go and polish your floors and prove it to you." Which I did.
Graham Davis: Over at his home?
Sam Chisholm: Absolutely.
Graham Davis: You got down on your hands and knees at his home?
Sam Chisholm: Yep. I started off as his housekeeper and ended up being his boss.

RoverEdit

Kennedy requested a "reject" dog from the Jack Davey Memorial Guide Dog Centre and was given a Labrador Retriever which he named "Rover".

Rover was sometimes brought into the studio to assist with advertisements for Pal dog food. One night the dog showed no interest whatsoever in the product, which Kennedy then himself proceeded to eat with apparent relish, straight from the can – or so it seemed.

Rover also achieved television immortality by relieving himself – live to air – upon one of the huge cameras. The studio audience collapsed in hysterics, but the duration and urgency of Rover's impressively hydraulic performance might have led some cynics to question just how impromptu the event really was.

Biographer Blundell quotes Ernie Carroll:

Pal dog food, with Rover [...] was time consuming [...] once we fed him all afternoon so that when he came out to do the commercial he didn't want to touch the Pal dog food. He was already full of it. [...] on another occasion they had him drink before the show, big drinks. So when he came out, he peed all over the camera and all around the set [...] Even those seemingly innocent dog manoeuvres were carefully planned.

Kennedy was exasperated for decades by questions about "whatever happened to Rover". As late as 1989, on Graham Kennedy's News Hour (see below), he answered a viewer's question couched in exactly those words with the withering reply "... he was a dog. What do you think happened?"

In early June 2005, on the 3AW program Nightline with Philip Brady and Bruce Mansfield, Patti (McGrath) Newton stated that her father had often looked after Rover when he appeared at GTV-9. It seems that Kennedy had become increasingly irritated with retrieving Rover from the pound and so, when Patti's father's dog died, Rover went on to a long and happy life at the McGrath (senior) household.

Late-1990s versionEdit

In 1996, the format was revived under the title IMT, hosted by Frankie J. Holden and screened as a Monday-night variety show. Featured on the show were the comedic stylings of Steven Jacobs, Denise Drysdale, Ann-Maree Biggar, and Julia Morris, who was best known for presenting "The Morris Report", a comedic take on the news events of the previous week. The show ran until 27 November 1998.

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Boyce, Patrick; Ryan, Michael (25 March 1971). "GTV-9 shuts down 'Tonight'". The Age. p. 1. Retrieved 22 December 2014.
  2. ^ "Patrick Wymark found dead". The Sydney Morning Herald. 21 October 1970. p. 1. Retrieved 29 September 2018.
  3. ^ Newton, Bert (1977). Bert! : Bert Newton's own story. Toorak, Vic.: Garry Sparke & Associates. ISBN 0-908081-24-3. OCLC 5726563.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: date and year (link)
  4. ^ Davis, Graham. "50 years of television, Part two (transcript)". Sunday. NineMSN. Archived from the original on 27 August 2006.

External linksEdit