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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
"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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
has not been screened since the early 1980's.
GLENVIEW HIGH EPISODE DETAILS
1. TV Times, Feb 21,
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
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.