began in Australia in 1956, initially limited to the two largest cities,
Sydney and Melbourne. The ‘BAPH’ cities - Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth and
Hobart - received television in 1959-60, and in the early 1960’s it was
extended to country areas. In 1963, the government decided to licence one
more commercial channel in the five mainland state capitals. The new
television station commenced transmission in Melbourne in 1964, followed
in 1965 by Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth.
In the original
Sydney - Melbourne market, TCN-9 Sydney was affiliated with HSV-7
Melbourne, and GTV-9 Melbourne with ATN-7 Sydney. Later changes in
ownership would see the emergence of the Nine Network (TCN-9 Sydney, GTV-9
Melbourne, QTQ-9 Brisbane and NWS-9 Adelaide) and the Seven Network (ATN-7
Sydney, HSV-7 Melbourne, BTQ-7 Brisbane and ADS-7 Adelaide). In addition,
the public-owned Australian Broadcasting Commission had its own network
across the nation. The licensing of an extra commercial channel in 1964-5
saw the formation of the 0-Ten Network (TEN-10 Sydney, ATV-0 Melbourne,
TVQ-0 Brisbane and SAS-10 Adelaide).
As the new
arrival in the field, the 0-Ten Network was granted extra time to conform
to regulations laid down by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board,
particularly concerning local drama content. Although they were quite
prolific with local variety, and in 1965 produced the imaginative
children’s show The Magic Circle Club, it was not until 1967 that
the 0-Ten Network ventured into the field of local drama.
took the lead with an in-house production, the situation comedy series
Hey You! Created by John-Michael Howson and Godfrey Philipp, the same
team who devised The Magic Circle Club, Hey You! was a
half-hour sit-com set in a suburban Melbourne boarding house. Described in
publicity material as a ‘down-to-earth’ series, the comedy revolves around
the inhabitants of the boarding house – a layabout Australian, an English
con-man, an eccentric spinster, a sensitive wimp and a genteel landlady.
character is ‘Ocker’ Ramsay, an indolent bludger who spends his time
loafing about in his room drinking beer and reading comics. Ocker’s late
mother was a very good friend of the landlady, and before she died the
landlady promised she would look after her boy – and Ocker takes full
advantage of this by living rent-free and drawing unemployment benefits.
Ocker is played by Colin McEwan, a former regular on The Magic Circle
Club. “Ocker’s not a bad guy at all,” said McEwan. “He’s not the sort
of chap you could take home to meet the folks – not even his own folks –
but he’s a likeable sort of fellow.”1
The first episode
introduces the character of Major Hugh T. Worthington, who comes to stay
at the boarding house. Worthington is an Englishman who passes himself of
as a ‘Major’, a title he has created for himself. The reality is that he
is nothing more than an opportunistic, fast-talking con-man out to dupe
the gullible colonials. The ‘Major’ was played by Ernie Bourne, who was
also a regular on The Magic Circle Club. Bourne described the
character: “He used to be batman to the real Major Worthington in India,
and has assumed his identity to impress people in the ‘colonies’.
Basically a very lonely man... pathetic, a compulsive liar, without being
very good at lying.”2
see a clash of personalities with the ‘cultured Englishman’ and the
‘dinkum Aussie’, but as the series develops the conniving Major and the
impressionable Ocker often team up in dubious get-rich-quick schemes.
The landlady is
Mrs. Myrtle McNugg, a kind-hearted widow played by Margaret Reid. “She’s a
kindly soul under a rough exterior,” said Margaret. “She has a deep sense
of respectability, and that’s why she gets annoyed by Ocker, and why she
is apparently taken in by Major Worthington.”3
Sue Israel plays
Miss Farthingale, a daffy, eccentric spinster who dabbles in mysticism.
Sue described the character as “a bit of a weirdo, timid and fluttery, and
living in a world of her own. She is the type of person, pitied or ignored
by those around her, who is destined never to succeed in anything.”4
A support role is
played by George Whaley as Simpkins, another lodger in the house who
appears as required. Simpkins is a sensitive type who works in a boutique,
and finds the idiosyncrasies of the other boarders upsetting to his
highly-strung nervous system.
A pilot episode
was made in January 1967, and ATV-0 executives were very impressed.
Thinking that they had a winner on their hands, they soon gave the
go-ahead for a series of half-hour episodes, filmed in black and white.
The creators of the series were actively involved in its production: John-Micheal
Howson wrote the scripts for every episode, and Godfrey Philipp was the
Producer and Director for the entire series.
Brian Thomson assembled a set of the boarding house in the ATV-0 studios,
which was almost a complete shell of the real thing. To add authenticity
to the set, Thomson spent a few weeks scavenging around building wreckers’
yards for old-style stairways, leadlight doors and other typical
architectural items from period houses.
The series was
recorded before a live audience, with the intention of having real
laughter instead of the irritating ‘canned’ variety. Godfrey Philipp said
that although it placed a greater demand on the cast and crew it achieved
a spontaneity missing from shows with ‘canned’ laughter.5
premiered in Melbourne on 12th August, 1967, in an 8:30 PM
Saturday timeslot. In Sydney, it was shown at 9:00 PM on Tuesday, first
screening on 26th September, 1967. Concerns about earthy and
risqué dialogue, primarily from the character of Ocker Ramsay, were a
factor in choosing the late timeslots. Colin McEwan defended the dialogue,
stating that any doubtful language was there for authenticity: “Why, even
Homicide uses everyday language when it’s considered necessary.”6
By today’s standards, the language in Hey You! is very tame.
got off to an impressive start in Melbourne, doubling the ratings for its
Saturday night timeslot. However, by November the situation was not
looking good. The series was banished to a late timeslot, approximately
10:00 PM, following the Saturday night movie. An ATV-0 spokesman denied
the change was detrimental for the series: “We have completely altered the
Saturday night programming, giving Hey You! a better chance because
it will be following a good movie. It is basically a change of format,
based on surveys, to get a better programme line-up.”7
The reality was
that the series was not doing too well, achieving an average rating of
considered some format changes for the show, including dropping Sue Israel
from the cast. It was thought that her character of Miss Farthingale was
too off-beat and outlandish. Ultimately, however, ATV-0 made the decision
to axe the show, and production of Hey You! was halted after 16
The only incident
of any note during production of the series occurred when Sydney author
Romy Hill announced she was considering taking legal action over the show.
Advance publicity suggested to her that Hey You! had a theme
similar to scripts for a sit-com set in a boarding house that she
submitted to TEN-10 Sydney some three months previously. They were
returned by TEN-10 because of the similar ideas to Hey You! which
was already in production. Hill was shown a special preview of the show
with her legal representatives, but nothing more was made public
concerning the matter.
demise of The Magic Circle Club, and concurrent with production of
Hey You!, series creators John-Michael Howson and Godfrey Philipp
took their bat and their ball across to the ABC, where they adapted The
Magic Circle Club into the innovative and highly successful children’s
series Adventure Island. Hey You! was repeated several times
in off-peak timeslots, but has not been screened since the introduction of
colour television in 1975.
Week, Aug 12, 1967.
2. Melbourne Age, Aug 11, 1967.
6. TV Week, Aug 12, 1967.
7. TV Week, Nov 4, 1967.