CLASSIC AUSTRALIAN TELEVISION

GLENVIEW HIGH


Copyright 2013 Don Storey.  All rights reserved.


GLENVIEW HIGH
EPISODE DETAILS

 

HOME

 

INTERVIEWS

 

CHRONOLOGICAL
OVERVIEW

 

F.A.Q.

 

LINKS



There were four series produced in the first twenty years of Australian television that were set in the school classroom. The first two, Take That and Good Morning, Mr. Doubleday were both situation comedies. The third was the soap opera Class Of '74/75, and the fourth was the drama series Glenview High.

Class Of '74, which ran into the following year with a name change to Class Of '75, was the first foray into drama by Reg Grundy Productions (later known as the Grundy Organisation). Previously the company had packaged many quiz and game shows for the various networks, commencing with Reg Grundy's Wheel Of Fortune in 1959.

Early in 1976 it was announced that the Seven Network had commissioned Grundy's to produce another schoolroom drama, titled Jackson High. Lyle McCabe, then Managing Director for Reg Grundy Enterprises, said of the show: "It's a strong adult drama which revolves around children in their last year of high school. But it doesn't revolve around their school work. We don't know if it will go to a series. But we'd be ready and would anticipate having complete stories in each episode, with guest actors each week."1

A pilot of Jackson High was made featuring Charles 'Bud' Tingwell, Carmen Duncan, Carla Hoogeveen, Mark Holden, Stanley Walsh and Robyn Gibbes. "This pilot could expand into a series," said Producer/Director Alan Coleman. "It involves the kidnapping of some of the pupils who are held to ransom in the school. They are the children of wealthy parents, and although the police get involved the school tries to sort things out for themselves."2

During 1976 Grundy's also produced King's Men, Case For The Defence and the soap opera The Young Doctors for the Nine Network; at the same time a police series with the working title The Killer Stalks was being developed for the Seven Network, but it was not proceeded with. (The concept later evolved into the Ten Network series Bellamy in 1981). As Seven had commissioned Crawford Productions to produce the detective series Bluey, and in 1977 would contract with them to produce Cop Shop, a police series was not needed from Grundy's - therefore the decision was made to purchase the school drama. Production commenced in 1977, by which time the project had undergone considerable change and been renamed Glenview High.

Glenview High was devised by Ron McLean, a prolific writer and producer whose credits include Spyforce and Silent Number. When Reg Grundy Productions moved from quiz and game shows into drama, McLean was offered the job of devising and producing new drama series, as well as script writing. McLean was Producer for the whole series of Glenview High, and wrote about half of the episodes. Associate Producer was Max Varnel, who previously directed many episodes of Skippy and The Rovers.

Glenview High is set in a Sydney secondary school located in a tough, under-privileged suburb. Grigor Taylor (who previously appeared in Matlock Police and Silent Number) had the lead role of English teacher Greg Walker. The first episode introduces Walker as a country teacher who transfers from his quiet bucolic posting at Hillsdon to the problematic Glenview High School in the city. Predictably, Walker is a concerned, understanding do-gooder, although Grigor Taylor conveys the necessary subtlety and human frailty to make the character believable. Hardly surprising, considering that in real life Taylor was a school teacher before embarking on his acting career.

After Silent Number, Grigor Taylor scaled down his acting work, accepting only a few guest parts in various series plus a lead role in the film High Rolling. Glenview High attracted him back to regular series work: "I was shown two scripts and made up my mind from them," he said. "I thought it looked like an honest attempt to show school life as it is, with the immense problems kids are facing these days. I'd worked with Ron McLean before (on Silent Number), and I like his concept of what drama is all about and his ideas for this series."3

School principal of Glenview High is Margaret Gibson, a stern, efficient, and yet sympathetic character with the concern of all her students at heart. The part is played by Elaine Lee, who previously had a long-running role as Vera Collins in the soap opera Number 96. Elaine said that it was "very nice to play a together lady after being mixed-up Vera for so long".4

Bill Kerr plays Harry Carter, a cynical, hard-nosed science teacher, who tends to think of the students as the enemy. Harry regards teaching as just a job, and although disillusioned he retains a dry, sharp wit. He once accused Walker of 'being out in the rain and catching a bad case of dedication'.

Brandon Burke plays student Tony Moore, a rebellious tough guy who is only completing his final year because he cannot find a job. Underneath his yobbo front, Moore is an intelligent and mature student and is something of a leader among his peers. There is inevitable conflict between Walker and Moore, however they develop a grudging respect for each other. Brandon Burke won a TV Week Logie award for Best New Talent in 1977 for this role.

Burke said he was given some latitude to develop the character of Tony Moore: "In a lot of ways he epitomises just what is wrong with the school system. He's certainly bitter and rebellious, but he's not really bad at all. Grigor and I have worked on that character to develop him as we think he should be. We've developed the interaction between the teacher and the pupil to show a mutual respect, but a certain amount of suspicion - a sort of armed neutrality."5

The other principal cast members are not connected with the school, but centre on Walker's place of residence. When Greg Walker arrives in the city he moves in with his brother Tom, who shares a house on a platonic basis with two girls. Tom is younger than Greg, and spends his time wheeling and dealing in financial scams. He is played by Ken James, who previously had major roles in Skippy, Barrier Reef, The Group and The Box.

The two girls sharing house with the Walker brothers are daffy blonde Jill Beamish, played by Camilla Rountree, and air hostess Robbie Dean, played by Rebecca Gilling. Rebecca had previously appeared in the Chopper Squad pilot and the Number 96 movie, and also appeared in the films Stone and The Man From Hong Kong.

There were many support roles in the series. Students appearing in most episodes included Tim Burns as Miller, Michael Smith as Fletcher, Eva Dickinson as Helen, Olga Tamara as Ayla and Georgina McLaughlin as Sharon. The depth of the roles varied from a lead guest part to extras making up class numbers. "I'm impressed with the kids in the show," said Grigor Taylor. "The first day I walked into the classroom set I was comparing it with the classes I took when I was teaching. It came across very true to life to me, which I suppose is natural. The kids aren't that long out of school themselves."6

School staff also made up a fair proportion of support roles: Ron Graham as Frank Faulkiner, Don Reid as deputy principal John O'Brien, Sandra Lee Patterson as Di and Mervyn Drake as Eddy.

Other support roles that appeared as required were Paul Chubb as the local barman Jim, and Les Foxcroft and Dolore Whiteman as Tony Moore's parents.

Naturally, most episodes were concerned with issues at the school, while some episodes were character-centred or concerned with events in the Walker household. This meant that the depth of some regular character roles would vary, particularly those of Camilla Rountree and Rebecca Gilling. Rebecca reflected on her role in a TV Eye interview: "I spent most of the series tiptoeing around Grigor or having subplot relationships with other people. By not playing a teacher I was unable to work with, say, Brandon Burke, who played a student and was an excellent actor that I went to drama school with. Looking back, the limitations of the character are more obvious now."7

Glenview High frequently looked at the problems faced by city kids preparing for a world of uncertainty, with less opportunity and high unemployment. It also dealt with the frustration of the education system from the point of view of both teachers and students. "The public is sick and tired of being told there are drugs in schools," said Ron McLean. "The real issues as I see them concern the system and society".8

The series constantly preached the benefits of completing a secondary education, and drummed home the pitfalls of leaving school early. Finishing school and going on to university was often the resolution to the conflicts within an episode. A typical prediction for would-be dropouts was "marriage, suburbia, some sort of job, just enough to get by".

Most episodes were directed by Max Varnel or Bill Hughes, with other directors filling in with an occasional episode. Grigor Taylor was asked by Grundy's to direct episode 17, 'The Sect', on which he was assisted by regular director Max Varnel. "Directing isn't really my thing - I prefer to act," said Taylor. "But I can't deny I'm enjoying directing. It is a challenge. Max's debut on Australian television with Skippy and later series has earned him a lot of respect in the industry. I'm anxious to learn as much as I can from him. You could say he's my backstop in case anything I do turns out to be a dismal failure."9

Assistance was obtained from the NSW Department of Education for school furnishings, and a number of desks, chairs and lockers were loaned to the producers. Permission was given for set designers to visit various schools built around 1922 (the year Glenview was supposed to have been built) so that the look of the school could be as authentic as possible. Dedication to authenticity was so meticulous that a supply of old-fashioned black electric light switches was sought out, and some fishbowl-shaped frosted lamps were especially made. Other sets received similar attention - the Walkers' flat was furnished by a discount house in exchange for a credit on each episode, and Margaret Gibson's house achieved its old, lived-in look as a result of scrounging through junk shops and furniture auctions for the right pieces of bric-a-brac. At one stage the props department at Grundys was over budget on Glenview High, so as an economy measure Ron McLean brought his own lounge suite to the studio for some scenes!

The opening title theme tune was an original composition by Mike Perjanik, complete with an 'ooh-ah' style "Glenview Hi-i-igh" vocal. The opening titles established the Walker household and school environment, but with seven regular cast members it was a rather lengthy sequence. From episode 27 the opening was modified to incorporate preview scenes of the episode, with the cast credits compressed into the remaining time.

Glenview High premiered in Melbourne on September 27, 1977, and started shortly afterwards in Sydney. The Seven Network contracted for an initial 26 episodes, which were produced on videotape in colour. In January 1978 Seven commissioned 13 more episodes, making a total of 39.

Grundy's claimed that Glenview High could not be compared to Class Of 74/75, a valid statement with which the critics agreed. Glenview High was a better product than Class, but it could not be considered an outstanding series: the scripts sometimes lapse into melodrama, with corny and contrived endings, and being produced entirely on video gives it a cheap look. However, it is not a bad series either: the acting and direction are very good, although the predominance of interior sets does not allow for very imaginative camera work, and the good scripts outnumbered the not-so-good ones. It stands up very well compared to the soap operas that were starting to dominate programming at that time.

Viewers, however, did not take to the series. Glenview High attracted a rating of only 14 in Melbourne, and it was shuffled around various timeslots in search of an audience. It suffered a further blow when The Restless Years was programmed against it later in the year. (The Restless Years was a twice-a-week soapie, ironically also produced by Grundy's, which centred around school leavers and was aimed at a similar audience). Eventually Glenview High was banished to a Saturday night timeslot, and finally taken off air altogether when the 1978 football season commenced - after 23 episodes had been shown.

Similar treatment befell the series in Sydney, and although they persevered a little longer, it had vanished from the schedules by mid-1978. Other states were also playing the show sporadically.

The series returned in Melbourne for the 1978-79 summer non-ratings 'silly' season, but the final seven episodes were not screened until the series was repeated in off-peak late night and/or daytime timeslots.

The 39th episode was due to be completed by the end of May 1978. Rumours that the show would not be renewed for a second series were rife by April, causing cast and crew members to speak out. Brandon Burke said the rumours caused a destructive atmosphere on the set and were not conducive to good work.10 Ken James, who regarded Glenview High as "one of the most professional shows I have worked on", said the rumours were "irresponsible and detrimental to the Australian television industry as a whole".11 Rebecca Gilling suspected a conspiracy: "I can't point a finger, but there are certain people with other interests who appear to be intent on putting a damper on Glenview High."12 Camilla Rountree said the show was victim of a "scurrilous campaign" and director Max Varnel said there was "malicious intent" behind some of the rumours.13

Ron McLean was more philosophical. At that stage he had not been told if the show was going to be axed or not, but thought the chances of renewal were remote: "Australian productions are expensive and they have to rate well to justify their existence," he said.14

As it happened, the poor ratings performance meant the writing was on the wall, and one did not need to be a genius to see it coming. In late April 1978, with five episodes still to be completed, Seven announced that the contract would not be renewed, and the total episodes produced stood at 39.

Grigor Taylor went on to appear in City West and Butterfly Island; Ken James had major roles in Skyways and Sons And Daughters; Rebecca Gilling appeared in The Young Doctors and became well-known for her lead role in Return To Eden, and was later seen as a presenter on the lifestyle programme Our House; and Bill Kerr appeared in many films and mini-series. Ron McLean continued working for Grundy's, and his credits include the 1981 police series Bellamy.

Glenview High has not been screened since the early 1980's.

 

GLENVIEW HIGH EPISODE DETAILS

 

1. TV Times, Feb 21, 1976.
2. TV Times, March 6, 1976.
3. TV Times, Oct 29, 1977.
4. TV Times, Nov 5, 1977.
5. TV Times, Dec 17, 1977.
6. TV Times, Oct 29, 1977.
7. TV Eye No. 4, Feb 1995.
8. TV Week, Sept 24, 1977.
9. TV Week, Feb 4, 1978.
10. TV Week, April 8, 1978.
11. Ibid.
12. Ibid.
13. Ibid.
14. Ibid.



Grigor Taylor as teacher Greg Walker in conflict with Brandon Burke as student Tony Moore.


Rebecca Gilling as air hostess Robbie Dean.

03.jpg (13225 bytes)
Camilla Rountree as daffy blonde Jill Beamish.

04.jpg (10106 bytes)
Ken James as Tom Walker, Greg Walker's brother.

05.jpg (10625 bytes)
Bill Kerr as cynical science teacher Harry Carter.


Grigor Taylor with Elaine Lee as school principal Margaret Gibson.


A scene from episode 2, 'Faith And Tony'. Guest actor Sally Conabere is pictured here with regulars Elaine Lee and Brandon Burke.


Elaine Lee, Bill Kerr and Ken James during rehearsals for Glenview High.



Elaine Lee previously had a long-running role in the abysmal soap opera Number 96.


Georgina McLaughlin in a support role as Sharon, a Glenview student, with Brandon Burke as Tony Moore.


Grigor Taylor and Rebecca Gilling.


Glenview High opening titles.


A scene from episode 19, in which Alyson Best (left) played a student who works part-time as a model.


The Walker brothers, Greg and Tom, played by Grigor Taylor and Ken James.


A classroom scene with Brandon Burke and Grigor Taylor.