REG GRUNDY TIMELINE (1973-1985)
The Reg Grundy Organisation first forayed into documentaries in 1973 with THE WRECK OF BATAVIA and POOR FELLA ME.
1973 also saw the Federal Government introduce regulations that influenced the quantity and types of Australian-made shows that television networks would transmit. Introduced on the heels of the ‘TV – Make it Australian’ campaign that ran throughout the 1960’s and 1970’s, these regulations took the form of the ‘points system’, which is still used today.
At the time, the points system saw Australian programs earn one point for each hour that went to air against a minimum quota. However, game shows only earnt half a point for each hour on air. This saw the networks begin to favour more expensive and labour-intensive drama productions and serials.
Not one to give up, Reg redirected his attention to dramas.
Reg Grundy in his office watching an episode of CELEBRITY SQUARES circa mid-1970’s.
Still from CLASS OF ’74.
The first Reg Grundy Organisation drama series, CLASS OF ‘74, aired on the Seven Network in March 1974.
The concept for CLASS OF ‘74 had come from Reg, however with no experience in dramas he reached out to Australian television producer and screenwriter Reg Watson, who had been working in the UK on British soap opera CROSSROADS. Reg Watson was appointed Head of Drama at the Reg Grundy Organisation where he went on to create and develop a multitude of dramas including YOUNG DOCTORS, PRISONER, SONS AND DAUGHTERS and NEIGHBOURS (to name just a few).
In 1976, Nine Network commissioned the Reg Grundy Organisation to create a new drama series, YOUNG DOCTORS. The network had also commissioned THE SULLIVANS from Crawford Productions, and both series went to air in November 1976. After an initial 13-week production run, Nine Network chose to continue THE SULLIVANS and cancel YOUNG DOCTORS.
Not taking no for an answer, Reg called Kerry Packer:
Kerry: Yes, son, what’s on your mind?
Reg: You know I’ve always accepted the referee’s decision, but not this time. I reckon YOUNG DOCTORS is working. I can feel it.
Kerry: Do you really mean that, Reg?
Reg: Yes, I do.
Kerry: I reckon you’re right. I think it’s working too. Call me at eleven on Thursday morning. (Excerpt from Reg Grundy, Murdoch Books 2010).
YOUNG DOCTORS was saved and went on to run for eight seasons over six years, becoming one of Australia’s top ten longest-running dramas.
The original cast of YOUNG DOCTORS.
Crowd outside a theatre for the opening of ABBA: THE MOVIE.
After meeting ABBA’s manager Sikkan Anderson when the band toured Australia in 1976, Reg made a deal to make the band’s first road movie as a co-production with Polar Music. Filmed during their tour of Australia, ABBA: THE MOVIE opened on 24 November 1977.
One of the Reg Grundy Organisation's most iconic television dramas, PRISONER, went to air on Network Ten in February 1979. PRISONER was not only a hit in Australia, but also marked the Reg Grundy Organisation’s break into the international market. The show was sold to KTLA in Los Angeles and aired in August 1979, becoming the first Australian series to be broadcast in prime time in the US.
PRISONER would go on to run for seven years, with 692 episodes, airing in seven countries and spawning many remakes including the German-language HINTER GITTERN – DER FRAUENKNAST (BEHIND BARS) and the multi award-winning WENTWORTH.
Still from PRISONER.
NBC’s SALE OF THE CENTURY hosts Jim Perry and Summer Bartholomew.
When Nine Network rebooted SALE OF THE CENTURY in 1980, Reg quickly acquired the worldwide rights to the show. In 1982, he began pitching the show (which had been significantly changed from the original version that had aired in America from 1969 to 1973) to US networks.
After receiving a lot of no’s from television executives, Reg’s new SALE OF THE CENTURY aired on NBC in January 1983, making Reg the first non-American ever to make a show in daytime for NBC. SALE OF THE CENTURY went on to be made in over ten other countries, including: the UK, Greece, Germany and New Zealand.
Reg subsequently started Reg Grundy Productions, a US-based production company which would go on to produce numerous game shows in America including SCRABBLE (1984-90), TIME MACHINE (1985), BRUCE FORSYTH’S HOT STREAK (1985), SMALL TALK (1996-97) and SCATTEGORIES (1993).
Reg was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the New Years’ Honours of 1983 for his services to Australian television.
Reg Grundy and Joy Chambers Grundy at Buckingham Palace after Reg received an OBE from the Queen.
The early cast of NEIGHBOURS (circa 1986).
On 18 March 1985, NEIGHBOURS was first broadcast on the Seven Network. The series was a success in Melbourne, however struggled to gain audiences in Sydney and was cancelled after only four months.
Staying true to Reg’s ‘never give up’ attitude, Reg Grundy Organisation’s Managing Director Ian Holmes was able to sell NEIGHBOURS to rival network Ten in an almost unprecedented move. NEIGHBOURS has since become the longest running drama series in Australian television.
A year after first airing in Australia, NEIGHBOURS was sold to the UK where it screened on BBC1 and achieved huge popularity with British audiences. To date, the show has been sold to over 60 countries and is one of Australia’s most successful media exports.