Hello and welcome to the third instalment of my interview with Pete Smith. In addition to an incredible career spanning SEVEN DECADES (from the 1950s until now), Pete has many other strings to his bow. In 2004, he was made a member of the Order of Australia, for service to the community, and back in the late seventies, he worked closely with the man who would later become world famous as Mick “Crocodile” Dundee…
SH: Just off on a tangent, for a moment, from game shows; I believe you worked with Paul Hogan?
PS: Yes. Paul came down. Well Paul originally was a contestant on New Faces. I think in the Frank Wilson period before Bert took over the New Faces show, and I don’t think Paul won. But whether he won or not, it was seen by The Powers That Be, and I think Mike Willesee saw the thing and saw a spark in the guy, and offered him a fun segment on a Friday night on A Current Affair to lighten up the end of the week – to end the week on a lighter note… and the rest, of course, is history.
SH: He came to Melbourne and was given his own show, because he’s originally from Sydney, isn’t he?
PS: Yes, but he did used to do the shows in Melbourne. It’s amazing how they went through all those years with the limited studio space that they had. So in the Paul Hogan specials, a lot of it was pre-recorded, and most of those comedy sketches that still exist today, you see the outside ones were shot on film by John Bowring who’s no longer with us, a wonderful cinematographer who started in the 9 newsroom. Then finally The Paul Hogan Show was all on videotape, so I had a few bits and pieces (acting in some of the sketches). I’ve been a ‘bits and pieces’ man all along – probably that’s what saved my bacon.
SH: Fantastic – you’ve been versatile.
PS: That’s why I’m still around. People say “Well, what are you doing now?” Well I do ‘Community Affairs’. And if you’ve ever had an affair in the community, you know how it can be exhausting.
SH: Boom boom! Thank you very much! I’m conscious of the limited time we have today, so can I ask you about any general game show highlights or game show memories that stick out?
PS: Some of the great times in the show were when they had the Celebrity $ale of the Century specials. Of course television is wonderful of cannibalising itself, and the celebrity shows that I recall at $ale of the Century really did have celebrities. I mean, Gough Whitlam was on the show for God’s sake, and that’s just one stand-out name I mention. They really did manage to get big names. And unfortunately after a long period of time with other shows that tried to get celebrities too, it became a bit like I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here. And I don’t mean to put that down…
SH: No, but… who are those people?
PS: and eventually, the bigger celebrities didn’t want to do that sort of thing, unfortunately.
More’s the pity. Next week, as our discussion continues, I ask Pete for his thoughts on the future of game shows, and we discuss the importance – and increasing rarity – of live television, and what that may mean to the future of the industry in general.
See you next Tuesday!