There’s been some very sad TV deaths for viewers to content with over the years. Patrick Reid’s tragic passing after a traffic incident in Offspring, Claire McLeod plunging over a cliff in a ute in McLeod’s Daughters, a bullet robbing us of Maggie Doyle on Blue Heelers, Madge Bishop dying in the arms of her beloved Harold on Neighbours – they all had fans turning on the waterworks.
But if we were to single out one departure from the screens, and this earth, that really had viewers in floods of tears would have to be that of Molly Jones on A Country Practice. Her 10-week battle with leukaemia had people turning in in their droves in 1984, and the death episode itself was viewed by about 2.2 million people, making it one of the most-watched TV events of the year, according to the Sydney Morning Herald at the time.
Molly, played by Anne Tenney, was the wife of Wandin Valley Hospital nurse Brendan Jones, played by Tenney’s real-life husband Shane Withington, as well as the ‘mother’ to Doris the alcohol-loving pig. Before she was taken down in her prime by leukaemia, Molly had already had a tough run of things, having lost a baby after falling off a ladder.
In the moments before she dies, a wan-looking Molly is lying on a lounge in the garden, watching Brendan and their daughter Chloe flying a kite, with the camera showing the kite from Molly’s point of view, before the picture starts to fade out, with the final scene showing a desperate Brendan running toward the camera, shouting “Molly!”.
As any viewer at the time would know, Brendan then took to drinking for a while, before chasing after a teacher who’s posted out of Wandin Valley. As for Tenney herself, she went on to star in hit Aussie film The Castle, as well as numerous series including Brides of Christ, Police Rescue, Water Rats, All Saints and many others.
As Jo Abi wrote on Mamamia, “it is the saddest thing I have ever watched and no TV death or even movie death has ever matched it in my mind”.