After spending her formative years on a cattle property in remote Queensland, it took a family relocation to Melbourne for my mother to be introduced to television. The sprawling Western suburbs were the setting for these formative television experiences. After initially not owning a television and being subjected to televised wrestling at the behest of her neighbours, the power that came with holding the remote was soon apparent. However, things improved and a television was soon to be a fulcrum in the Dupe family existence.
With limited communication and media technologies available, the television was a vastly popular medium for entertainment and information purposes. The lack of other media ensured that the television was a popular pastime for families. As such television programming tended to cater for a magnitude of differing demographics. One such form of television that proved to be immensely popular during the 1960’s was variety shows. Featuring singing, dancing, skits among a myriad of other potential acts, such programmes could provide entertainment for an entire family.
The worldwide popularity of variety shows waned greatly. By the beginning of the 1980’s the United States, which had revelled in variety shows led by people like Johnny Carson had no variety programmes on commercial television (Bianculli 1983). This has been a continuing trend on Australian television and with the exception of Rove Live it is difficult to name a recently successful variety show on Australian television. Perhaps the explosion of available media devices and the convergence of media content on said devices is a detriment to variety television.
Game shows were also particularly popular with my mother recalling enjoying Pick-A-Box and The Great Temptation. While no longer a staple of primetime television, game shows are still commonly seen in the midevenings on our screens. One would think that an enduring audience remaining from the halcyon days of game shows and the relative affordability of producing content conspire to keep game shows on our screens.
Whilst most shows maintained and promoted family friendly values, my mother vividly remembers one that reversed the trend. Number 96 was a soapie which included the first scene involving nudity on Australian television. To have such images beamed into lounge rooms across the nation caused a massive stir, with people feeling as though they were being assaulted with bad taste which couldn’t be escaped, even in their own homes.
Bianculli, D 1983, ‘Death Knell Sounds for Television Variety Show’, Philadelphia Inquirer, 4 December, accessed 25/8/2013