Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Hey Hey It's Saturday
Hey Hey It's Saturday was a long running variety television program on Australian television. It ran for an incredible 28 years, debuting on the Nine Network in October 1971 and broadcasting its last episode in November 1999. Its host throughout its entire run was Daryl Somers, who would later become executive producer of the program and formed Somers Carroll Productions with Ernie Carroll , who was the puppeteer for Daryl's sidekick Ossie Ostrich.
The show originally started as an early Saturday morning children's program but its freewheeling style, irreverent ad-libbing and subversive humour soon attracted a cult following among older viewers. Although the show bore the unmistakeable traces of both The Goons and Monty Python, Somers was also strongly influenced by Australia's king of TV comedy, Graham Kennedy, and it is significant that Carroll had been one of Kennedy's writers for many years.
Like Kennedy's famous variety show In Melbourne Tonight, the earliest years of Hey Hey were marked by a similar "anything can happen" attitude, with sketches and improvisations stretched to the point of absurdity or terminated without warning; sponsors were also laid open to some gentle ridicule, and live 'reads' of sponsor adverstising often became part of the comedy -- a tactic that Kennedy had made famous. Somers and his colleagues also frequently broke the "fourth wall" between audience and performer, regularly taking the cameras behind the scenes into every area of the studio and even beyond the building. The team also began to develop a series of regular segments, including "What Cheeses Me Off", "Red Faces", "Media Watch Press" and "Chook Lotto".
As the show gained popularity, its budget was increased and it gradually changed format to a light entertainment/comedy variety program. Besides Daryl and Ossie, two other unseen personalities were pivotal to the show's success -- voice-over man/announcer John Blackman and sound operator Murray Tregonning . Blackman provided often satirical and sarcastic remarks, and also provided the voice of many invented characters including "Mrs McGillicuddy", "Angel" and another icon of the show, cheeky "schoolboy" Dickie Knee - in fact a hat and wig on a stick that would pop up in front of Daryl (operated by a stage hand) and which was voiced by Blackman. Tregonning became renowned for his remarkable ability to select and play the appropriate sound effect at a second's notice and his audio punctuations became another trademark of the series.
The show evolved over the years, beginning with recruitment of Jackie MacDonald as a co-host of the show in the late 1970s. Other personalities gradually came on board, including ex-Skyhooks guitarist Red Symons, who not only played in the show's house band, but was also infamous for his withering sarcasm and as a judge on the "talent" segment Red Faces. A fellow musician who became a long serving cast member was saxophonist Wilbur Wilde , who had previously played in Australian bands Ol' 55 and Jo Jo Zep and The Falcons . Other personalities of note who came on board during the show's run included ex-Countdown host Ian "Molly" Meldrum, comedian and ex-The Comedy Company star Russell Gilbert . Following MacDonald's departure, several well known Australian female TV personalities including Denise Drysdale , Jo Beth Taylor , Livinia Nixon and Penne Dennison took her place as co-host, although arguably none succeeded in recapturing the on-camera chemistry between MacDonald and her colleagues.
In 1984 the Nine Network took the remarkable step of moving the show from its morning timeslot to a primetime slot on Saturday nights, and it was briefly renamed Hey Hey It's Saturday Night before reverting to its old name. The show became a showcase for comedy and music which was reflected in the show's segments such as the aforementioned Red Faces; Chook Lotto , which was a gameshow segment that concluded with a segment called Plucka Duck (thus also creating the show's character of the same name); Phunny Fotos ; Media Watch Press (not to be confused with the Australian ABC's program Media Watch); and the music segment Molly's Melodrama . Hey Hey also became one of the most important TV venues to see both local and international music, film and TV stars. Many overseas stars -- including Tom Jones and Sylvester Stallone -- fell in love with the program's loony satirical style and returned as guests on subsequent visits.
The show enjoyed strong ratings and maintained a dedicated following throughout the Eighties, and became a "must watch" program for many viewers, its popularity augmented by the stellar guest lineup, regular musical performances. Although it retained its loyal following well into the Nineties, it appeared to gradually lose its way during mid-decade, especially after Carroll decided to retire in 1994, taking Ossie Ostrich with him, although there were other characters including "Plucka Duck" to take on the role.
But the departure of Carroll created a gap in the show that could never be filled, and coupled with the show's apparent decline in humour, it started becoming irrelevant. Although it still rated strongly, Nine Network executives decided at the end of 1999 to cancel the program. Somers claimed that he wanted to take the program into a new directon, but the budget to redevelop the show seemed too much for Nine Network executives, who were on a cost-cutting exercise at the time. The final program was, needless to say, an emotionally charged affair but the moving last moments were handled with great dignity by Somers.
During the five years after the show's demise in December 1999, Daryl Somers rarely made public appearances, with the exception of a court appearance in 2001 to answer a drink driving charge (which Somers admitted he was "...a bloody idiot" - a reference to a famous anti drunk driving advertising campaign of that time), and an appearance as a guest on the Ten Network program Rove Live, which is seen by some as the spiritual successor to Hey Hey... . In 2004, Somers made his comeback to Australian television hosting the local version of Dancing with the Stars on the Seven Network, which was a surprise ratings success. At present, Somers is hosting the second series of the show.
Cultural significance in Australia
The impact of Hey Hey It's Saturday on Australia cannot be underestimated. The Australian comedy movie The Castle famously made a reference to the show. Many other Australian sketch comedy programs have satired the show at one point or another, perhaps most infamously on The Comedy Company when it was parodied as Ho Hum It's Saturday. Even today, it is still joked about, with the SBS ethnic sitcom Pizza recently parodying Ossie Ostrich as "Woggy Ostrich".
Some people have critised the show for everything from Somers' ability as a host, to the so-called "live" performances of the show. But then again, it was a source of entertainment and light hearted relief for many Australians over its three decades on Australian television. Its segments, especially Red Faces, attracted their own following and in fact the Nine Network aired quite a few Best of Red Faces specials on primetime television. The significance of Hey Hey... on Australian culture cannot be questioned.
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