Reflecting on the best Australian TV from nought to the noughties

Oct 10, 2023
One of the first television shows Gay viewed was 'I Love Lucy' featuring Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball, seen here on set. Source: Getty Images

It’s going back a bit, but I remember when all of the ladies I knew were attached to their radio. I would walk down my street and head to the serials as each radio was turned on in the houses along the row. I remember ‘When A Girl Marries’ and ‘Bellbird’ especially, though I’m sure there were others.

We thought radio serials were the ants’ pants until 1956. I was 16, had just met the boy who was to be with me for 45 years, and television had arrived! The big furniture shop opened late and had chairs for people to see what was on offer. The first television show I saw was I Love Lucy. I laughed my head off at the slapstick, comedy at its best.

My father-in-law to be was a widower and bought the first TV in the street. Every day my fiance ran home from work to be in time for, of all things, The Mickey Mouse Club. Then he picked me up and brought me home to goggle at the magic box, along with half the street. My father-in-law loved the company and was kept busy making endless cups of tea, while the ladies arrived with a myriad cakes and biscuits.

Of course, the time came when more appeared in homes and soon there was one in my living room. With so much home viewing, many local theatres closed.

My darling mum was concerned with her health (a tad of hypochondria) and my poor dad checked when the Ben Casey show and other similar shows were on. Coincidentally the television would sort of ‘break’ around those times, but miraculously repair itself an hour or two later. I had seen dad remove the valve, and zipped my lip. It was necessary to take such extreme action. When Mum saw the problems they were dealing with on the show, she would make her way to her long-suffering doctor convinced she had something the same.

Once I was watching the ballet and my dad (who was a bit cheeky) came home, had a look at what was on the box and commented, “That’s a lovely bunch of coconuts”. Being somewhat ignorant, I pondered that for some time.

The television was a godsend when I became a mother. It was a treat for the kids when I needed a bit of peace and quiet.

I found I quite enjoyed the children’s programming and would often watch TV with them. Skippy, Play School, and the British shows such as Sooty were all favourites in our household; the kids loved them.

Who remembers The Box and Number 96? These shows were very naughty in their day. In fact, some of the episodes would be considered too naughty even now. A rather scary show for me was Prisoner though prison guard ‘Vinegar Tits’ always got a little giggle. I’d only allow my older children to watch with us … Until I heard a noise in the passage and my younger two were promptly removed.

Young Talent Time and In Melbourne Tonight were light-hearted and happy shows. My dance class appeared on The Don Lane Show tap dancing. In the group I was tiny and this giant of a man chose to dance next to me. We didn’t have to dance to entertain, just standing together had the audience in stitches.

With Covid-19, television has helped ease the loneliness, anxiety and depression that can come with being locked down. It’s certainly helped me.

I do miss the innocence of early days though. Shows about drama series about true crime, emergency services dramas and doctor and medical shows are interesting, but I do get a bit sick of the characters spending more time in their bedroom than actually doing their job (it’s very entertaining if you fast forward). Don’t even get me started on ‘reality’ television.

I can’t deny it though, it’s 2021 and I still love that box as much as the night I saw I Love Lucy.

Stories that matter
Emails delivered daily
Sign up