CLASSIC AUSTRALIAN TELEVISION
 

TAKING SANDSHOES TO FORENSIC:
GARY DAY

 


Copyright 2005 Don Storey.  All rights reserved.


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This article first appeared in TV Eye No. 1, September 1993.

The first colour Homicide episode ('Initiation', number 376) was also the first episode featuring Senior Detective Phil Redford, played by Gary Day, who replaced Mike Preston in the cast. Recently we talked to Gary, and he shared with us some of his memories of working on the series:

 

"Suddenly, you were famous - everyone knew you in the street, and even now people still remember me as the cop from Homicide more than anything else, even though I've done heaps of stuff. I'd take a weeks holiday to get away from Homicide, drive into the country and pull into a petrol station, and the attendant says 'Oh, you're the guy from Homicide'. That's what fame is, I think - people know you where you've never been before.

"Then there were all these publicity stunts where you're asked to do stupid things for TV Week. Some Chinese kung fu artist flew in from Hong Kong to promote some movie at the Forum, and they had us up at the Southern Cross being the goofs, getting chopped up and pulling funny faces so they could put the photos in Listener In-TV or TV Times.

"I've jumped over every back fence in Richmond in my time. I think I took more sandshoes to Forensic than anyone in police history - that was my job. I was always fourth cop in the rank.

"There was one episode we did - Fred 'Cul' Cullen wrote it - it was a great idea, and they wanted to do it as a two hour movie special. It was based around the Melbourne Cup; someone had been assassinating racehorses because they looked like they might win the race. There was a chase sequence written in with all the cops dressed in tails because we'd been up in the stands - a great idea.

"We all arrived at Flemington (racecourse) to do the episode, cast, crew, caravans, the whole box and dice, and they wouldn't let us in. Someone had dropped a stitch in the negotiations, and they cancelled work that day. The next day the script was changed and it was about the murder of a riding school pony out the back of Sassafras or somewhere. So we went from doing this big glorious telemovie to be shown on Melbourne Cup night to a patchwork, botched-up, half-baked nonsensical piece of dribble, all re-written in the space of twelve hours.

" 'Otto' (ep 407) was filmed at Mt. Buller, and they wanted someone who could ski for this episode. Of course, everyone lies to get a job - 'I'll horse ride, parachute jump, anything you want' - and this guy said he could ski. So they're going to do a sequence with this actor standing on a set of skis with a little slope about 20 feet long in front of him. The director says 'action', and he goes about two yards and 'flop', he falls down on his side. I could only see the back of the directors head and I said 'I thought this guy could ski'. The director spun around, and of course he'd been getting this all day, it was snowing, he had a white parka on with a white hood, everything was white except for these two blazing red eyes, and he explodes with 'If another person says that to me I'll vomit!!'

"There was an episode made with the Ryan cast (ep 408, 'As Simple As ABZ'). They had just finished a series of Ryan, and the network hadn't decided if they wanted another, so they didn't want to lose the whole Ryan crew. Hector (Crawford) called us into the office and told us he wanted to double up and make two Homicide episodes a week using both crews. We thought, 'we're going to get screwed here, what's the money going to be'. Someone, I think it was Bud (Tingwell), asked about the money, and Hector said he'd pay us double. Our response: 'NO PROBLEM!'

"So for a while we were doing two episodes a week, we had a green script and a yellow script, and the organisation to do that with two crews working was a nightmare. There would be a driver waiting for you here - to rush you to location there - but then you've forgotten your gun - and the gun's on Matlock anyway.

"They never had enough guns. I remember doing scenes where you'd be chasing after someone with a gun, and he'd come back and fire a shot, you'd duck and have a shot at him, but there would only be one gun. Another actor would have the gun and he'd go 'bang' - 'right, cut!' says the director - he'd pass the gun back to you and you'd go 'bang', then you'd pass it back to him. And then the gun would have to be out at the Matlock set by 3:30 in the afternoon.

"For John Stanton's last episode (432 'The Fellas Send Their Regards') the script called for a car accident, and they hauled this old bomb out of the wrecker's yard and leaned it up against a pole. One of the takes we had to do again because a bird flew out of the boot.

"The Valiant cars were supplied - it was good PR for Chrysler, and we just dropped them. When you should have been in third or fourth gear, we were still in second to make them sound as if they were going fast.

"The episode we filmed in Fiji was a good week. (482 'I Had A Dream') Here we were in a place where nobody knew you, because they didn't get Homicide. We were filming in a Fijian village, and that's when it really came home to me what a silly way to make a living this is, because you're standing there behind a tree with a gun, going 'bang, bang', and all the villagers are falling over themselves laughing.

"There was a fantastic episode they made and Hector didn't even know about it. Igor Auzins was producing, and they wanted to do something different, but there was a certain amount of pressure to keep the shows the same. It was originally called 'Paying My Dues To The Blues', but they changed it to 'Stopover' (ep 504). It was two hours long, and had a murder on a plane, drugs, and a pop group - all those 70's clothes would probably look silly now, but it was a great ep.

"We were going to make an episode in New Zealand, but then they axed the series. That really cheesed me off, because I'm from New Zealand and was looking forward to it.

"On the last episode (509 'The Last Task') the director, Kevin Dobson, had us all look down at the camera at the end of it, which meant we would have been looking out into people's lounge rooms as a way of saying goodbye. But Crawfords hated it, I think they wanted to cut it or re-edit it, but it stayed.

"The three cop shows all fell in a heap pretty quickly. Division 4 was the first to go, then Matlock Police went, and people were being laid off. The channels saw it as a chance to wipe out Australian production and bring in the cheap imports. They had to pay about $50,000 an episode - a lot of money back then - whereas they could buy U.S. stuff like Cannon or Ironside for peanuts. The Crawford cop shows all went within a year, even though they were still successful.

"Things never got better in terms of the quality of film - and it was all on film. We went from that to Cop Shop, which is all video and shocking. One would have thought there would be a progression, but things got worse.

"There were some overseas sales of Homicide - I think it was some South American country which re-titled it 'The Good Police'. It was pretty big in Zambia also - they didn't want coloured people in TV shows, and Ryan even got knocked back because Luigi Villani was in the cast, and he's an Italian!

"If I had a TV station, I'd run a nostalgia channel. I think you'd clean up. I don't know if the new Crawfords have got their finger on the pulse at all - I think to date they have released the wrong material on video. I run a nostalgia stall in my spare time, and my experience has been that people want to see stuff that creaks; old shows like Homicide and Division 4."