She’s becoming increasingly known as TV’s girl of pop, with her love of big hair, mirror balls, cheesy lyrics and trivia.
But Julia Zemiro also loves a good interview and to turn the spotlight on retro music. In Countdown: Do Yourself a Favour, she takes us back to ABC’s iconic show, as a tour guide between much-loved pop stars and industry guru, Molly Meldrum.
“Documentaries and retro shows are so important because you get to look back and put things in context. It’s a little rocket back to another time and you get to revere people who have done the hard yards,” she reminds us.
Filming the links in ABC’s historic Melbourne studios was special for the self-confessed ABBA fan. But it wasn’t her first time on site.
“I filmed Totally Full Frontal in the Elsternwick studios. The first year we did at Nunawading and then Elsternwick, and I just remember thinking it was so exciting to be at the ABC studios in Melbourne,” she recalls.
“I used to walk around thinking ‘Really?’ And Paul Drane our RocKwiz director was also a longtime Countdown director so it’s a beautiful circle.”
The special is divided into two halves, the 70s and the 80s. The young Zemiro was living in Sydney at the time of the show’s original reign, and never had the good fortune to attend a recording.
“My main memory is it was a show you could watch with the whole family. My mum loved watching it because she was a high school teacher and she could keep up to date with what was happening. Staff rooms would be talking about what Sherbet was doing the next day,” she says.
“There was an outrageousness to it and a certain kind of silliness that you just didn’t see on Australian TV. When it went from black and white to colour it was just an explosion.
“The thing that blows my mind is a song would play and you connected with it, but visually you might not see or hear that song again for a week. You had to wait a whole week, talking about it, trying to remember it with your friends, because it might not be in the shops yet.
“So you had to watch it the following week hoping they would play your new song again. How patient we must have been!”
More-wrinkly pop stars now reflect on the show’s 13 year run for the ABC special, but nobody expected Prince Charles to re-create the famed interview with a young -incredibly nervous- Meldrum. It has already amassed 269,000 views on YouTube.
“Haven’t times changed? No-one would ever do that 20 years ago. Now it’s post-modern comedy to go ‘Of course I will make fun of myself, making fun of myself!'” she laughs.
While the special documents the origins of the show and its cavalcade of stars, there’s no escaping this is a valentine’s card to Meldrum and his knack for talent spotting, despite his rudimentary presenting skills.
“Molly genuinely had a good ear for music. He hears ABBA songs, finds out if there are film clips, gets the daggy Lasse Hallström clips made and puts it on and says ‘Can you release it?’ They say ‘No’ and he puts it on again until they say ‘Ok we will just release it in Australia.’ That was the power of the show.
“He gave Madonna her first number one in the world.
“He saw another band in New York and thought they were amazing, so he got their single and put it on and it was ‘In the Flesh’ by Blondie.”
“Molly was a clumsy kind of guy but in the rock world it didn’t really matter.”
Countdown: Do Yourself a Favour 7:40pm Sunday November 16 and 23 on ABC