EXCLUSIVE: In a 5:30 G-classified 1980s timeslot Perfect Match host Greg Evans could hardly ask returning dates returning from Tangalooma Island Resort or South Stradbroke Island if they had sex!
“The code word was ‘Was there any romance?'” he recalls.
“I as a compere always knew whether there was romance because we sent a chaperone (segment producer) -and they knew all. They lined up to be chaperones on Perfect Match because they thought it was a great gig. A free holiday!
“But they lasted about 2 episodes and quit because they became slaves to the contestants. ‘I’m not happy with my seat on the aeroplane! My room is facing south, I want to look at the beach! I’m not going horse-riding tomorrow!'”
Whilst Perfect Match was inspired by international dating shows, the inclusion of dates returning to tell all was unique to the Australian format. Participants filmed ‘confessional’ recordings separately to ensure a genuine surprise on air when each heard the others’ thoughts.
“By the time they came back they were either lovers or haters,” Evans explains.
“A lot of the time they didn’t realise they were going to be dumped on until they were on the show. So when you came out of the interviews it was on for young and old!”
Perfect Match was originally filmed in Sydney (Keith Scott voiced the robot Dexter, Max Rowley was the announcer) before switching to Melbourne (where the versatile Bruce Mansfield assumed both roles). It ran initially from 1984 – 1989, with Evans as host for its first 2 years. Amongst the hostesses were Debbie Newsome, Tiffany Lamb, Kerrie Friend, Ankie Nordberg, and later Nicky Buckley.
“It was a bit voyeuristic I suppose.”
The TEN show boldly reinvented a timeslot that had been home to sitcoms and Kid’s TV. Perfect Match beat whatever rival networks threw at it.
“Blankety Blanks with Daryl Somers, Wheel of Fortune -nothing even dented us. It was a ratings juggernaut,” Evens reflects.
“Primetime ad rates started at 6:00 with the news. But Perfect Match brought the primetime rates back to 5:30 and made millions of dollars for Channel TEN. If you wanted to get 1 commercial on Perfect Match you had to buy 5 of their dud shows!
“Why was it so successful? I think because it appealed to such a wide demographic. The kids loved Dexter. For teens it was the promise of things to come. Young lovers could see themselves or perve on the contestants, and for older people it was great memories. And we had all ages on: kids, teenagers, middle aged and older.
“It was a bit voyeuristic I suppose.”
Evans also swears by the authenticity of the format and the computer-matching behind Dexter the robot.
“In 1984 computers were in their infancy. But Reg Grundy had the foresight to realise you could use computers to match people.”
Participants completed an 18 page questionnaire on themselves, and pre-requisites in an ideal partner.
“It was fed into a computer and Dexter was the mouthpiece of the compatibility percentage. And let me tell you it was totally legit behind the scenes too. Those contestants were segregated into separate green rooms at Channel TEN, rehearsed at separate times of the day, there was a divider behind the set so they couldn’t see anybody,” he recalls.
“Often a bloke would say ‘Give me a clue, should I pick 1, 2 or 3?'”
Before TV Evans had previously been 3XY’s #1 DJ.
“In the 70s 3XY was a Leviathan. It was the Rock station and I got to meet every single international Rock Star that came through Australia from 1972 – 1979.
“I was 23 when I started in sneakers and blue-jeans and I loved every moment of it. I was in the right spot at the right time.”
Making the leap to TV he hosted the short-lived Together Tonight, a magazine-style show with Kerry Armstrong.
“It was a revolutionary show because it was hosted live on location. Back in those days everything was studio based,” he continues.
“We would do live links at the Myer Music Bowl and then the whole thing was put on the back of a motorbike and sent to Collingwood, edited and via digital link sent out to Channel TEN in Nunawading.
“Sometimes the end of the programme hadn’t been built by the time the beginning was on the air.”
“Sam Chisholm was very fair to me.”
It was Nine boss Sam Chisholm who poached Evans across to Nine, TEN found out he had gone when they read it in the paper. But the formats he tried, Say G’Day and Crossfire, failed to fire. Evans rejects the notion he was ‘warehoused’ at Nine for too long with no projects.
“A lot of people use that term. But no I think I was given a fair chance at Channel Nine. Sam Chisholm was very fair to me. He offered me a lot of money to leave TEN and come to Nine and virtually gave me carte blanche to do what I wanted. If I had my life to live over again I wish that I knew what I wanted!
“Sometimes saying ‘No’ is cleverer than saying ‘Yes.'”
He returned to TEN for Blind Date, which TEN will revive this year with Julia Morris.
Another show he fronted for TEN was StarSearch in 1985-86 which would uncover talent such as the Umbilical Brothers and even future Perfect Match hosts.
“There was a category called Spokesmodels which is where Cameron Daddo and Kerrie Friend were discovered,” says Evans.
“We had Male vs Male vocalists, so you didn’t have a singer against a juggler or a comedian. They all had their own categories.
“Bad acts were auditioned out. They tried to lift the standard so that comb-players were out. And they had charts written for them in their key, and rehearsals outside the channel as well as on the day.
“It didn’t rate famously because people expected a talent show to have a certain amount of the cringe.
“It was another of those great shows that took 2 years of my life but nobody remembers!”
Evans, who boasts 45 years in radio and TV, is now semi-retired but working across Australia as a marriage civil celebrant. He has now married over 600 couples.
“It was time to look for something different.”
“It was time to look for something different. Kevin Bloody Wilson got me involved with marriage celebrants, when he asked me to marry his daughter. He wrote my first wedding for me.
“A wedding ceremony done professionally on a civil level, there’s no reason it can’t be as happy and as fun as the best game show you’ve ever seen.
“Weddings should be entertaining, as an extension of the couples that are getting married. There’s not one couple that I’ve ever met that wants a boring wedding.
“They come to me if they want some fun and have it handled professionally. Goodness me if I can host over 1,500 episodes of Perfect Match I can host a wedding on my ear.
“I’ve done 14 television shows but everyone remembers Perfect Match & Dexter -and I don’t have any problem with that.”