The landmark Channel Seven show, which aired from 1964 – 1968, was Australia’s first political satire show.
Produced to compete with Graham Kennedy’s In Melbourne Tonight, it starred Carol Raye, Gordon Chater and Barry Creyton (pictured L to R). Later cast members included June Salter (pictured, far right), Hazel Phillips, John Bluthal, Ron Frazer, Barbara Angell, Bryan Davies, Maggie Dence, Noeline Brown and Reg Livermore.
Tackling hot topics such as subjects such as censorship, price fixing,homosexuality, child endowment and the White Australia Policy it fascinated audiences and kept Seven’s lawyers on their toes.
On his Facebook page (republished with permission), Barry Creyton said, “On this day fifty years ago, The Mavis Bramston Show first went to air in Australia.
“Television down under was less than a decade old, and a show which dealt with biting political and topical satire was a bold move, particularly for a commercial network which had more to lose than, say, the politically fence-sitting ABC. The risk was taken by one of Australian television’s braver and greater General Managers, Jim Oswin and the result was a ground-breaking show which held record-breaking ratings for two straight years… no seasons in those days – we did forty weekly shows, an hour apiece, every year.
“With a team of splendid writers, and a legion of legal advisors to ward off the libel suits, the cast of three – the late Gordon Chater, Carol Raye and myself performed that weekly hour almost exclusively. June Salter became a regular guest, and Noeline Brown was the original face – and voice – of the show’s fictitious eponym. In 1965, others joined the cast, but we seldom numbered more than five or six. After the untimely death of Michael Plant, the great talent who helmed the first shows, David Sale took over as executive producer, and the show continued to flourish.
“Mavis became the mother of all Australian television comedy, and the standard by which it is judged, even today. Of the original stars only Carol and I remain; David Sale and our lead writer, the brilliant Ken Shadie are also still going strong and all of us wonder why ATN has done nothing to mark the golden anniversary of their most successful show – indeed, one of the most successful shows in the history of Australian television.
“Carol, David, Ken and I will be raising a glass to Mavis today. We urge any of you who have fond memories of the show to do likewise.
“There never was a dame like Mavis – there never will be again.”
In September Carol Raye told TV Tonight she had written to Seven chairman Kerry Stokes to request Seven release the archival material for a DVD.
“I wrote to him to say ‘I wanted to remind you it’s 50 years since the Bramston show and it was an amazingly brave thing for Channel Seven to do,” she said.
“You can find bits on YouTube but people always say,’There is no DVD.’
“Many people weren’t even born when we did it, but it was an iconic show.”
Writer / Producer David Sale told TV Tonight, “We survivors of the explosion of politically-incorrect laughter with which Mavis rocked Australia, continue to be appalled at the lack of interest from Channel Seven; not only on this momentous anniversary but also in senselessly blocking our attempts to put a compilation of Mavis Bramston shows on DVD, for permanent record and for the enjoyment of those who remember it and those who have only heard about it.”
TV Historian Andrew Mercado added, “The Mavis Bramston Show was hugely controversial in its day for making fun of sacred cows, sending up politicians and daring to say naughty words like ‘bum’ on TV, oh the outrage! There are many clips available on YouTube today and some of them are still hysterical, so one can only imagine the impact they must have had in 1964 with viewers who had never seen such antics from Aussie satirists on TV before.”
“I find it very sad that Seven has no interest in celebrating this milestone. In 1964, they changed the face of Australian TV forever with both Homicide and The Mavis Bramston Show but because its fans are now considered to be part of the undesirable 50+ audience, they totally ignore what was once a monumental achievement for their network.
“Dancing with the Stars would be the perfect show to mention this milestone because it too owes a debt to Mavis for showing that Seven could match Nine back in the day when it came to variety and surely DWTS is the best “variety” show on TV today.”
In September a Seven spokesperson told TV Tonight, “Carol and the entire team from Bramston is very dear to Seven. They are such an important part of our first days in television, indeed they were pioneers for the industry. Following her inquiry to our Chairman, we have spent some considerable time in here on investigating and chasing how we may or may not be able to release a DVD, given rights issues and tape qualities, and we’ve kept in touch with Carol.
“A DVD release remains a possibility.”