Presenting our National Living TV Treasures….


Who are our National Living TV Treasures? That was the question put to some of our country’s top TV critics and commentators.

The criteria was simple: name 5 people (performers, writers, producers etc) who you consider to be a “Living Treasure.” They didn’t need to be still active in television, so long as they are still with us. The list is as eclectic and varied as the shows we have loved. Some gave lengthy descriptions, others were straight to the point. Some even threw in the odd network executive and others fessed up that their choice was also a personal friend.

So here, they are according to:
Holly Byrnes, Sunday Telegraph (HB)
Debi Enker, The Age (DE)
Graeme Blundell, The Australian (GB)
Sue Yeap, West Australian (SY)
Amanda Meade, Guardian Australia (AM)
James Manning, Mediaweek (JM)
Erin McWhirter, TV Week (EM)
Melinda Houston, Sunday Age (MH)
Peter Ford, Fairfax / Austereo (PF)
Andrew Mercado, Foxtel Movies (AMC)
Michael Lallo, The Age / Sydney Morning Herald (ML)
David Knox, TV Tonight (DK)

Wow that’s a shock right? But honestly how could he not be included? Yes things have slowed in the last couple of years but prior to that he was a dominating force, a versatile talent, unmatched adlibber and great survivor. Anyone who can front 15 hours of live TV each week and live to tell the story gets an express pass. -PF


Energetic TV innovator who’s given us food for thought, laughs and tears over many years in shows from Blah, Blah, Blah to Enough Rope. -DE


Our greatest living clown –GB.


“I know everything I need to know, cos Brian told me so.” Says it all really, the Nine News anchor who told us ‘the way it is.’ was and should be. He’s also acted as a generous mentor to those who have followed his lead into TV news, but as a viewer he embodied the broadcasting excellence, experience and confidence others now sadly spruik as mere marketing slogans. -HB


Drama, soap, lifestyle, children’s TV: Hazlehurst has done it all – wonderfully – during her four-decade run on our screens. As one of the best fill-in presenters on Melbourne’s 774 ABC – and with A Place to Call Home having wrapped – it would be great to see Hazlehurst host her own TV chat show. -ML

In short, hard to think of anyone who has been so influential in shaping the Australian television landscape, or who has created so much quality television – often against prevailing trends. -MH

A great journalist, interviewer and commanding presence in current affairs television -AM

At 70, and with 26 years as flamin’ Alf Stewart on Home And Away, Ray continues to be the centre-piece of the soap around the world. And, stone the crows, he won the TV Week Gold Logie in 2010. -EM


He did what hasn’t happened for a while – getting audiences to watch on Saturday mornings and then on Saturday nights. -JM

Before Sandra Sully, Chris Bath, Georgie Gardner, Juanita Phillips, Leigh Sales and Sarah Ferguson there was Geraldine Doogue, one of the first women to give TV news grace and poise and continues to imbue her work today with integrity and a wicked sense of humour. She has long been one of my media heroines, who I regard as an under-appreciated industry pioneer and voice of decency and reason.. -HB


I want to make sure that KAK gets her recognition for doing the most hours of live television by a woman from GMA to Midday to Mornings. Unlike today’s TV hosts, who are more concerned with checking their social media feeds during breaks, Kerri-Anne was involved, well-researched and always concerned about her guest’s comfort by talking to them before the cameras rolled. Professional. –AMC

Yes, he is dear friend of mine but he also created what I believe is the most groundbreaking TV drama in the history of television anywhere in the world. Number 96 was multi-cultural, multi-sexual and non-ageist and many of those iconic characters sprung from this man’s imagination in just one night’s writing. His phenomenally popular series saved Channel 10 and created production history by being the world’s first 5 nights a week prime time soap, the template of which is still being used today. And did we mention that Sale also produced Australia’s first political sketch comedy series The Mavis Bramston Show while he was still in his 20s? Incredible. -AMC


For 4 decades he’s made us laugh, and made us emote through Norman Gunston, Mother and Son, Offspring and endless roles in between. There’s a fragility and honesty about his work, and laughter is the best of medicines. -DK


For so long the King of daytime TV. More than that he was one of the first on-air talents to start packaging his own product, setting a style and standard that others have followed. It also became known it was the only way to make serious money. Extra tick for going into battle with the 9 Network- a brave and costly move with no guarantee he would win! -PF

Inspired writer-producer who’s put his astute, humorous yet whimsical stamp on everything from The Fast Lane and SeaChange to Rake and Jack Irish. -DE

Daring, boundary defying -GB

Grundys’ drama series would never have been as popular if it wasn’t for the fertile imagination of Reg Watson who created hit after hit after hit. Furthermore, his iconic shows Prisoner, Sons And Daughters and Neighbours cracked international TV markets in America, Europe and the UK, not to mention foreign versions and remakes (Wentworth). He has never been properly recognised for exporting our culture around the world and the countless careers and hours of entertainment such shows spawned. Legend. -AMC

John Edwards’ long-time collaborator… From Sweet & Sour through Police Rescue and on to Offspring, Debra Oswald has penned some of my favourite TV shows of all time. Long may she continue to do so. -MH


She was once Australia’s highest-paid personality – and it’s not hard to see why. Quite simply one of Australia’s best television journalists and interviewers. –ML

TV chief who worked his way through the sales ranks and then took over top job at Nine in mid 90s. After he left Nine was recruited by Kerry Stokes and with the help of former Nine colleagues and some of Sevens finest made Seven the power it still is today. -JM

A pioneer in current affairs television and an inspiration to women in TV. -AM

This is perhaps telling of my own passion for sport, especially State Of Origin, which for me has been the poorer without Daryl’s booming commentary. His over-the-top enthusiasm has been much parodied, but no one could transport you to the centre of the sporting action like he could. The theatre, the passion, the volume…unmistakeable, irreplaceable. -HB


One of the funniest, smartest, sharpest and most original comic minds in the country, and he does it all with a straight face. -DE


One of those actors who just lifts your spirits simply by being on screen. Even when she’s playing a rather mournful character (as she regularly does). She’s also pretty good at entertaining small children. -MH

His name is synonymous with the soaps (Neighbours, The Young Doctors) and games shows (Wheel of Fortune, Sale of the Century) so many of us grew up with and his enduring influence is felt in shows like Wentworth, the reimagining of Prisoner. –SY

Now I’m being a bit more radical. Public declaration she’s a good mate. However she fronted two daytime TV current affairs shows that were presented by and for women. These were No Man’s Land and Shoulder To Shoulder. They dealt with issues that just weren’t discussed on TV back then. It was the 70’s and a time of great change and this show reflected that. These were the first of their kind in the world! -PF

Soon to turn 75, Sam Chisholm has worked for the Packers and the Murdochs and both did very well with him. He made Nine a formidable fighting unit in the 80s and then left FTA and adapted to the subscription TV business and turned around BSkyB when he bet big time on acquiring football rights. -JM

Making television about indigenous Australians that no one else will: Redfern Now, Mabo, The First Australians. -AM


What an actor. Has never, as far as I know, turned in a bad performance. She’s also, of course, an accomplished writer and producer – Spirited is still one of my favourite, and one of the most underrated – local productions of recent years. -MH


The guru. Incessantly falling over his words, but with a passion that can’t be denied. Endeared in not one but two TV institutions: Countdown and Hey Hey it’s Saturday. A good sport for being the butt of so many jokes, he is utterly irreplaceable. -DK

She’s an Adelaide institution. The biggest Logie winner of all time- these gained back when they had State based award. Year after year she was there collecting and looking amazing. Now she doesn’t even score an invitation to attend. How disrespectful is that? There were the chat shows, the movie review show, the barrel girl days all these confined to Adelaide. Her fame momentarily extended nationally but in Adelaide she remains a firm favourite, with a level of fame and affection lasts even if she’s no longer on TV -PF

Legendary TV executive who’s worked here and in New Zealand and has never stopped learning. –JM


Such a talented, affecting and genuine performer. There’s a reason she won the TV Week Gold Logie Award in 2009 for her role as Julie Rafter. -EM


I’m Mike Moore. From D-Gen and Frontline to The Hollowmen and now Utopia, backed of course by the rest of the Working Dog team. Need I say more? – SY

denise drysdale

Pure show-biz, full of fun and sass, whether as a 1960s music-show go-go girl, a panelist on The Circle or an actor in Please Like Me. –DE


Gorgeous, full of life, she lights up the screen in everything she does and you just want to throw your arms around her. The Secret Life of Us, Mabo, Redfern Now, Offspring –she hasn’t put a foot wrong. -DK

In the days since Robin Williams sad passing, it’s made me treasure the talented people who have kept as all laughing over the years. And for me there’s been no greater court jester deserving of recognition in this country than the irrepressible, utterly lovable Magda Szubanski. I said love I said pet. She’s made us cry with laughter on screen, and adore and cheer for her off it, whether she was losing weight or coming out. -HB

The cynics will say I’m sucking up to the boss but as a TV commentator, I never have a bad word to say about the company that Brian presides over. Unlike some free-to-air networks who treat their viewers with contempt, Foxtel respect their viewers by starting and finishing shows on time and allowing series to run their course rather than ripping them off mid-stream. Plus the IQ (and its wonderful “Series Link”) is the greatest invention in TV since the video recorder and user-friendly. This happens because Brian is unashamedly old school and loves the medium. And let’s not forget that he also singlehandedly saved Neighbours when it was on the verge of being cancelled for a second time on Ten. Thanks. -AMC

In the 70s and 80s he was producer/director behind the big and lavish TV shows. He had big budgets to work with and he’d use it all and go over it to create the look needed. He delivered a style of TV that had the ‘wow factor’ before we’d even coined the term. Shows hosted by Don Lane, Paul Hogan, Bert etc that were of a style and standard we’d previously only seen on overseas shows. He employed young kids who themselves have gone onto impressive TV careers after being trained in his style. Sadly the days of limitless budgets are gone but an eye for detail and willingness to take a risk live on. -PF

The Walkley Award-winning Ferguson has long been one of the ABC’s best reporters on its flagship current affairs program, Four Corners. (She exposed the mistreatment of Australian live animal exports to Indonesia in her 2011 report A Bloody Business, for instance.) But it was her short reign as fill-in host on 7.30 that brought her to prominence. Her remarkable interviewing skills should be parlayed into a new project: a weekly political program, perhaps?- ML

So there you have it.

There were plenty of “runners-up” that critics wanted to include but that’s how they stacked up.

Feel free to debate the list and add your own suggestions below.

My thanks to all who participated.


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