Welcome back! When we left off last week, we were discussing the early days of Steve’s TV career, and the show he was working on, where he happened to meet the young woman who would later become his wife…
========================== SH: And was that your first game show-related job, Sale of the Century? You were an associate producer?
SM: Well, yeah, although I started off as a copywriter. I dropped out of university and I wanted to get into advertising somehow. And I got a job at Channel 10 in the publicity department, just before they were about to televise the Olympics. And the publicity department had four women and the boss said to me,
“None of us know anything about sport. Do you know about sport? Because we’ve got the Olympics…”
And I said “yeah.”
“You’re hired, young fella!”
And I was quickly found to be the worst publicist in the history of publicity. And after a couple of years there, I thought I cannot in good conscience ring the editor of TV Week once more, suggesting another Young Talent Time story, without bursting into laughter. But what I did see working in publicity at Channel 10 was all the shows being made; Prisoner, Carson’s Law, Young Talent Time… you saw the newsroom and all that stuff. And I thought making shows would be a lot more fun than trying to promote them through the newspapers, which I was no good at. I thought ‘maybe I’ll try and get into production’. And a bit later I saw an ad in The Age saying “Grundy Entertainment – copywriter”. I thought, ‘That’s it. That sounds like me’, but I had absolutely no idea what I was talking about. But I got the job (as copywriter on Sale of the Century)! I thought I’d be writing all the questions and some quips for (host) Tony Barber. But it’s nothing to do with that, of course; it’s writing all the prize reads for the ‘Gift Shop’ prizes, and the big major prizes. And it was an absolutely perfect introduction to it all because, first week, you’re in the studio and you’re watching them do it. We all grew up watching Sale of the Century and Tony Barber… and suddenly there I am, in the thick of it! So, I stayed there for a couple years, moved up to Associate Producer, but decided to move on.
SH: How did you go from writing the prize reads to becoming an Associate Producer?
SM: They had a pretty open sort of ladder at (production company) Grundy’s. If you stayed there long enough, and they thought you were pretty good at the job, they’d give you that title with a bit more money and a few more responsibilities. And the Associate Producer on a show like that doesn’t make too many big decisions. But you’re dealing with the prize department and programming prizes and stuff like that. But I wanted to get into the question side, so I was going through all the questions with question writers. I asked my boss at the time “What makes a good producer?” And he said, “Common sense. We sometimes see people get a bit excited about it, and they get caught up in the title and think they’re the Big Decision Maker. But it’s mainly just steering the thing and putting a good solid hand on the wheel, and having good people underneath you”.
SH: And so how long were you in the role of Associate Producer?
SM: 18 months.
SM: And then, as you know, I got bored and decided to fly to LA and indulge my youthful fantasy of driving an American car from LA to New York, which I did.
SH: By yourself?
SM: Yeah. Yeah, it was fun.
SH: That’s very cool. So, if you were over there doing that, what made you come back to Australia?
SM: Just ran out of money, basically! I think I went back to Grundy’s and then resumed as an Associate Producer.
When I heard Steve say that, I found it heartening that the Grundy Organisation welcomed one of its former employees back with such open arms. The way he told it, it almost sounded to me like they were welcoming him back into the family. I’m not sure that the big TV production companies would be quite so accommodating with their people these days. At the risk of sounding like a sappy old geezer, it feels like it was a simpler, kinder, more decent time back then…
And we’ll be exploring it further, right here next Tuesday!Tweet