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Yesterday's TV comes back with a bounce

By Black Country Bugle User  |  Posted: December 11, 2008

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IT'S about time we returned to the TV shows of yesteryear in the company of our resident TV archivist, Alan Keeling, and after a few months break he bounces back with a real cracker that most Bugle readers must recall, 'Skippy the Bush Kangaroo'. Remember how the theme song went? Skippy, Skippy, Skippy the bush kangaroo ...

"It's been over forty years since ABC viewers here in the Black Country and throughout the wider West Midlands were first introduced to an Australian marsupial by the name of Skippy." writes Alan. "Kids were treated to a new children's series early on a Sunday evening time slot of 5.30pm, and became hooked on the antics of this loveable Australian 'roo. The show was set in the Waratah National Park in New South Wales and the story began when a young boy named Sonny Hammond (played by Garry Pankhurst) stumbled across an injured, orphaned baby kangaroo. Sonny immediately falls in love with the soon to be named Skippy, and takes her back to the ranger station where she is cared for and soon adopted by the young lad.

Ed Devereaux played Sonny's father, the chief ranger Matt Hammond; Ken James played Sonny's elder brother Mark; and other leading characters were Tony Bonner as the flight ranger and helicopter pilot Jerry King, and Liza Goddard who played Clancy Merrick, a pretty teenager who was lodging with the Hammonds. The series ran for 90 half-hour episodes from 1966 - 1969 and was filmed on 16 mm colour film and produced by Norfolk International Productions.

Many of the 90 episodes included fairly unknown Australian actors making guest appearances. But a few names people might recognise did make an appearance or two; Mark (Taggart) McManus, Chips Rafferty, Peter Reynolds, Jack (Spyforce) Thompson, John Meillion, even Rod Hull before he became famous with his sidekick Emu. From August 1968 ATV continued to screen the remaining episodes in different time slots, and any re-runs of the series ended in 1974.

"Another classic from the 1960s, this time from the US, was the hospital drama Dr Kildare which attracted thousands of female fans as soon as it was first broadcast in the autumn of 1961. They were swooning over the young intern who was attached to Blair General, Dr Kildare himself, played by Richard Chamberlain. The main gist of the story lines told how Dr Kildare coped with his struggles and defeats in the medical profession whilst being guided by his mentor and senior staff physician, Dr Leonard Gillespie (played by Raymond Massey). The hour long monochrome series ran from 1961 - 1965, amounting to 142 episodes in total.

"For the final season in 1965/66 the series was filmed in 'Metrocolour' with the last 58 episodes in half-hour format. And it was during this final swing of the doctor's stethoscope that Kildare finally found romance in the form of nurse Zoe Lawton (played by Lee Curty), the envy of nearly all the female fans of the show. The guest star line up of well established and up and coming actors who appeared during the programme's five year run is an impressive one. William Shatner, Hazel Court, Joseph Cotton, Glynis Johns, Lee Marvin, Robert Redford, James Caan, Peter Falk, Lauren Bacall, Jack Lord, Walter Pidgeon, James Mason, Jack Hawkins, Douglas Fairbanks Junior, and Basil Rathbone. In fact the list is almost endless, showing just how important it was to appear in a hit show such as Doctor Kildare, as TV began to flex its media muscle in the 1960s."

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