Is this our oldest TV series to still be in reruns?

Still on Nine and GEM, and it's all due to a handshake deal by Sir Frank Packer in the 1960s.


Is there a longer-running locally produced show still in reruns, than Skippy The Bush Kangaroo?

Remarkably, as the show reaches 50 Years since it was first produced, it is still on air on Nine if at the overnight time of 3:30am, and 6:30am on GEM.

That’s despite it’s hokey production values and 4×3 screen ratio.

Skippy was produced from 1966 – 1969, with 91 episodes airing from 1968 – 1970. It went on to become our first international TV hit.

Producer John McCallum first offered the show to Australian Frank Packer, father of Kerry Packer, who bought the show after a brief screening (in fact, one that wasn’t even complete due to projectors breaking down).

He paid a one-off fee for the show in perpetuity.

While that deal was fortuitous for the Packers and Nine, it wasn’t so good for the cast, who signed on without any thought of payment for something called DVDs that had never been invented. Actor Tony Bonner later failed in a courtcase to win residuals.

TV historian Andrew Mercado told TV Tonight, “It is very unfortunate that the actors involved don’t get paid residuals but they are in exactly the same boat as the actors from Gilligan’s Island and The Brady Bunch. Nobody realised back in the 60’s that syndication was coming, let along video, DVDs or streaming. The producers of Skippy took an enormous financial risk to make a TV series on film and in colour – and that risk ended up paying off handsomely. But it wasn’t a certainty, it was a hugely expensive operation which is why they gave endless syndication rights to Nine in a last ditch bid to cover their massive costs.”

25 Responses

  1. This now raises the question as to what is the oldest thing that gets a reasonably regular run on TV here-I would suggest 2 DW Griffiths films-‘Birth Of A Nation’ and ‘Intolerance’-both turn up on air about once a year on CTV, SBS or ABC-both are about 100 years old now. ‘Birth’ is a frighteningly weird thing to see for modern audiences.

  2. The last I heard is that film master copies live in a finance company vault somewhere in Europe. So the chances of a proper HD high quality conversion are very slim. The copies Nine have were originally 2 inch videotape telecine tranfers dubbed in the 70s, then transferred from 2 inch to 1 inch in the 80s and from 1 inch to digital betacam in the 90s. Now played ex server from the digital betacam copies. The Nine copies had Southern Star end copyright tags edited on a few years ago being they are the current copyright owners.

  3. Isn’t nearly everything on GEM in 4.3 ratio? Most of the “wide-screen” movies they show seem to be ‘pan and scan’ transfers. BTW, the quality of most seem to date back to the late 50s. Me-thinks the “viewers” are being taken – again.

  4. It wasn’t on for many many years, then the abc did a special on Skippy and the reruns have been on since. Hands up who had a Skippy mug or plate growing up?

  5. It appears the negatives have either been lost or destroyed and no digital restoration is possible. I have the DVD box set and the episodes still have that faded, grainy and out of focus look they have on TV.

    1. I know what you mean; it certainly wasn’t restored or even tidied up when the DVDs were made. Possibly just a poor transfer from Umbrella Entertainment’s distribution copy?

      Looking at the NFSA catalogue it seems they have early generation copies in various 16mm formats for most if not all (I didn’t check all 91!) episodes. That said, being a cheap-ish family/kids show it’s likely the quality wouldn’t have been all that great to begin with.

    2. Upload each DVD into Adobe Premiere Elements (for example), fiddle with the thingamajigs and you can end up with pristine restored episodes with that DIY flavour…

  6. There are plenty of TV series and movies still being shown in 4×3-personally I don’t like resizing stuff to 16×9 as you lose part of the original picture top and bottom. Making Skippy in colour was the big factor that’s given it the opportunity for current airing though-for TV series, virtually nothing gets shown that’s B&W now except on community TV.

      1. I did note in my original post that B&W TV series generally don’t get broadcast-movies that are many decades older don’t count.

      2. GEM schedules an old movie each day at 1 O’clock, many are B & W classics. But the few that they have are repeated ad nauseum. “Carry On Nurse”, screening next week, is a case in point. I can almost recite the script I’ve seen it so often. Still get a laugh though, especially when Hattie Jacques discovers a daffodil instead of a thermometer placed in Wilfred Hyde White where the sun don’t shine!

  7. Just amazes me that with all the Aussie and overseas content made since 1969 and yet they deal out this stuff. In addition they air it on HD? Seriously??

    1. They could remaster Skippy so that it is broadcast in true HD, assuming that it was originally shot on film, and that the original film stock still exists (a lot of classic TV shows in the U.S. have been fully remastered over the past decade, and look better than they ever have). The BBC, however, discarded the original film and masters of a lot of their archive content back in the day (if I’m not mistaken, Terry Gilliam or Terry Jones bought the tapes for Monty Python’s Flying Circus back from the BBC as they were going to discard, or tape over them at the time).

      Regardless of whether the original film still exists, however, it is unlikely that Skippy will ever be remastered given the limited audience for the show in this day and age, and that they are unlikely to make back the high costs of issuing a remaster.

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