He has a Gold Logie and remains one of television’s most respected actors, but even for a survivor like John Wood, show business is a roller-coaster.
He’s grateful to be playing Patrick Tyneman in ABC’s The Doctor Blake Mysteries, even though the third series of 8 episodes is 2 less than season two. But Wood, who has worked with the ABC across some 45 years, says cuts do impact on screen.
“I’ve had the worst year of my career. For anybody to say the cuts don’t impact on the on-screen content is insane. I’ve always believed Turnbull would have made a very good alternative Prime Minister but I’m not so sure, now,” he recently told TV Tonight.
“They have been bending over backwards to say ‘They’re not cuts’ until finally they admitted it. The fatuousness of the whole situation really gets my goat.
“I’ve been on both sides of this Sydney – Melbourne rivalry. When I worked in Melbourne, Sydney was calling the shots and when I worked in Sydney, Melbourne was being obstructive. I remember when we finished Power Without Glory the Drama Department was just shut down completely. That was budget cuts. It does impact.
“I remember shooting Dearest Enemy in Sydney about a guy who was a Communist journalist married to a member of the Liberal Party. They loved each other deeply but were on opposite sides of the fence. By the time we finished that series the Comedy Department was cut.
“The ABC is just constantly being cut I don’t remember a time when there was a big injection of funds. People wonder why we can’t maintain a standard like the BBC. Maybe they should bring back licenses.”
“Craig is just amazing.”
More positively, he is heavily invested in the fortunes of Ballarat’s most influential, Patrick Tyneman.
“It’s a great show to work on. George (Adams, creator) is wonderful,” he explains. “And Craig (MacLachlan) is just amazing. He keeps the set running at a high level of jollity, which is great.
“Tyneman’s a businessman who owns in Ballarat and sometimes he is referred to as the Baron of Ballarat. He owns shoe factories, television stations, newspapers, stuff like that. But people have a habit of coming to grief whilst working for him so it makes him look like a bad landlord.
“He and Blake have an antagonistic relationship. Tyneman is a fairly honest businessman but he does cut corners, I think. He’s in these businesses to make money and damn the consequences. So he and Blake have very differing views of the world, but a grudging respect for one another and a deep hatred. It goes back many years.
“I don’t think Blake likes Tyneman’s values at all. And Tyneman just sees him as an interfering busybody, really, standing in the way of making money and progress.”
Wood is also impressed with the visual style of the series, created by Director of Photography, as well as the period costumes and props.
“The ABC just doesn’t have the money to spend on Publicity.”
Yet despite the ratings success of Blake, audiences are quick to remind him of a much-loved drama.
“They still go back to Blue Heelers,” he admits. “The ABC just doesn’t have the money to spend on Publicity. So given that problem –and it is a problem- I think gets amazing audiences. The value of the show is all up there on screen. It looks fantastic with a real consistency of tone and colour about it.
“Lake Wendouree has never looked so mysterious as it does in this show!”
Ratings would suggest the show is a no-brainer for a fourth season renewal. But in this fickle television industry, where nothing is ever assured, Wood knows there are no such guarantees, especially when a public broadcaster is still reeling from government cutbacks.
“It doesn’t matter who’s in government. In my experience both sides accuse the ABC of bias and therefore are punitive with it,” he suggests.
“I wish they were as punitive with the shock jocks that are so far to the Right of the ABC.
“I hope there is another series of this. I certainly love doing it and the public likes watching it.”
The Doctor Blake Mysteries airs 8:30pm Fridays on ABC.