Hey Hey it’s still Blackers

By David Knox on September 16, 2009 / Filed Under News 22

jblackFor 28 years Hey Hey it’s Saturday was like an old friend inside our television sets.

“It was just one of those shows that was so easy to watch and so user-friendly,” John Blackman says. “When it was taken off air back in 1999 it left a huge void. Not only in my bank account but in the viewing public’s psyche. It was like a friend had died, and wasn’t going to be there anymore. There was a period of mourning there for a while.”

As he prepares for two live to air reunion specials, the ‘voice’ behind Hey Hey spoke with TV Tonight about the show’s incredible run and what viewers can expect from its revival, 10 years after its exit -a move he says was driven more by dollars than sense.

“Powers much greater than us had much better ideas about what should be shown on a Saturday night between 6:30 and 8:30 and quite frankly they never ever successfully replaced Hey Hey it’s Saturday. They had a series of all sorts of shows but none of them were ever Hey Hey because it was so unique,” he says.

The show’s bizarre mix of personalities, animated characters, seemingly ‘under-produced’ segments and A-list guests made for comfortable, spontaneous live television.

“If you watched Hey Hey it’s Saturday you’d know that whoever was going to be in town would be on it. Especially overseas artists who were in Australia. They made a beeline for Hey Hey because it was the only programme, really, where they could get national exposure for their concert.

“The publicists would say ‘You’ve got to get on Hey Hey it’s Saturday, it’s the only show in town.’ A bit like Rove at the moment. But our demographic was 8 to 80.”

Now after repeated hopes of reviving the show, it will become a reality for two shows, on a Tuesday night*.

“What were they thinking!” he laughs.

Blackman says despite some cynical opinions the team were pushed to reform, he is delighted to be back with the show.

“Every interview I’ve ever done I get asked ‘Is Daryl standing behind you with a gun at your head?’ No! I’m my own man!”

Likening the show to ‘pulling on an old sock’ he does concede to nervous anticipation.

“But I was full of nervous anticipation before every show. If I didn’t get some sort of laugh in the first two or three minutes it was always going to be a shocking show as far as I was concerned.

“So my biggest worry is the first 2 or 3 minutes. After that it will be just coasting, I guess.”

Returning to the show, in its original GTV9 studio, are Daryl Somers, Blackman, Wilbur Wilde, Red Symons, Russell Gilbert, Livinia Nixon, Molly Meldrum (there are more conflicting reports on this), Dickie Knee and Plucka Duck. Even cartoonist Andrew Fyfe, longtime producer Pam Barnes and floor manager ‘Lucky’ Phil Lambert are back.

Blackman expects all his voice characters to make an appearance.

“No doubt Daryl will evoke the memory of The Angel, Mrs Mac, Charlie Who, Alfred Deskmike, Norman Neumann, all of those characters. Daryl used to say I was the man of a thousand voices -but not really. I’ve got about 4 or 5 I do. So it’s a bit of a misnomer really. But I’m sure they’ll all be there.”

So far he has begun promo shoots and photo sessions with some of the old cast. He isn’t too fazed by the fact that he hasn’t had to turn up for many meetings yet.

“That was always the case in the 28 years of the show. I never actually went to any meetings. Because you can’t prepare spontaneity,” he explains.

At one of those shoots he did catch up with Ossie Ostrich, via his handler Ernie Carroll. For the reunion, Ossie is set to make ‘an appearance.’

“Ossie showed up at one of the photographic sessions, and as you know he lives in a case. I said to Ernie ‘Can we have a look at him?’ And there was little Ossie sitting there, with one eye looking up at us, all scrunched up. It was quite emotional actually.

“I said to Ernie, ‘Have you had him in the case all this time?’ and he said ‘Don’t forget I left the show 5 years before it finished.’ So he’s been in the case for 15 years and hasn’t changed a bit.”

Plucka Duck will be played by ‘Sim’ who took over from his original Plucka, Mark McGann. Sim will also double as the ‘Dickie wrangler.’ Audio guru Murray Tregonning will also be replaced by his successor.

“Murray has become an audio mogul. He’s got offices in Melbourne, Sydney, Paris, Rome and Auckland. He’s way too busy to come back to the show. But Lindsay Ray who took over from Murray, the ‘sorcerer’s apprentice,’ I think will hopefully be back doing sound effects and audio.”

Audience favourite Jackie MacDonald, now a mother of two, is yet to say yes.

“Jackie spends most of her life getting up at a sparrow’s fart mucking out stables and floating around horses all over the countryside to gymkhanas and God knows what. But last time I spoke to her it was very much a state of flux. She hasn’t said ‘no,’ so we’re hoping she’ll come on board as well.”

Having run for 28 years, the show accrued not just its legion of fans, but its share of gossip-mongering as well. In particular there have been suggestions that relations behind the scenes were vastly different to those seen on air within its tight ensemble. Blackman was pragmatic when the issue was raised.

“Like any family, and I regard Hey Hey as a family, we had squabbles,” he concedes. “I’d be less than truthful if I didn’t say we didn’t have our fair share of family squabbles. But the minute that red light went on we were all professional enough not to let it get in the way of our performance or let the audience know. But they were just that. They were just squabbles.

“But people try and build it up into something bigger,” he insists. “There are some journalists going around saying we all hated each other, which is not really true. We occasionally had our differences of opinion, which we kept to ourselves. But I don’t think there was ever a time when you read anything adverse about Hey Hey it’s Saturday.”

Except perhaps for the brief, and now infamous era of Denise Drysdale as sidekick?

“Denise was a great performer but there was another agenda there. There was somebody else pulling some strings behind the scenes,” he politely admits.

For a show that ended its run when expenses were cited as being too high, it is somewhat ironic that the cash-strapped Nine Network now turns to the same show as an audience, and hopefully revenue, drawcard. But the team couldn’t be happier, nor the 200,000 Facebook devotees who have rallied for its return.

If they get their way the show could become a permanent feature on Nine’s schedule. For that to happen it will take not one, but two, impressive shows.

“We’re assuming that for Hey Hey it’s not Saturday on Tuesday there will be big curiosity factor tuning in and we better be good. We better be able to deliver the goods that we promised,” says Blackman.

“And then we’ve got to back it up a week later.”

* Updated: Hey Hey It’s Saturday: The Reunion airs live 7:30pm Wednesday September 30 & October 7 on Nine.

22 Comments »

  1. Eva October 9, 2009 at 2:05 pm -

    Hi,

    Its intriguing that someone will take offence of satire good or bad performed.
    Imitators been there and will continue to pop up. Or he/she must be a Opportunitst and want to make big, big issue of it, and hope to roll money towards them for it ( we witnessing it right now )
    The meaning been to have fun, and let it be at that. Fun, fun and fun…
    Or we again suck to American Harry Connick that wanted make quick few buck’s from interviews. Intelligent down to earth people will just laugh, and simpletons will make from fly a elephant.
    Let entertainment to be entertainment always some people will be pleased and some not, we are only humans. Cheer Up and stopt to apologise or suck to someones back “yard”….

    Regards Eva

  2. Benjamin James October 8, 2009 at 9:31 pm -

    Hey Hey its Saturday was one of the most loved TV shows in Australian History. Every weekend the family would sit together and watch quality and respectful television, always on the border of what was right but never over the top. last night was just a stupid decision to put an American in an Australians seat, that is that! Do Australians care what Another country thinks? Why should we! The skit that every one is having a dig at is just a repeat of a skit done many years ago. How can it not be considered racist back then but today it can? If any Australians thought it was to much then don’t watch it, is it so hard to change the channel? Most Australians are sensible and new a joke but the rest of the population against it needs to harden the f*** up. Americans for one have had digs at the former pop star for years, as soon as he dies they protect him like a saint? another thing is, i am sick of hearing younger people that weren’t even old enough to watch it originally comment on the subject! I don’t need to hear a 16yr old voice there opinion when back when it was on they where still learning there f***** ABC’s. Harden the f*** up Australia, take your skirt off and stop complaining!

  3. JohnP September 17, 2009 at 2:23 am -

    What was “infamous ” about when Denise Drysdale was on? I must have missed the gossip then!

  4. Bereft Skerrick September 16, 2009 at 9:02 pm -

    I’ll tune in as long as Animal the drummer makes an appearance.

  5. BundyNelle September 16, 2009 at 8:51 pm -

    Apologises ….

  6. David Knox September 16, 2009 at 8:43 pm -

    Bundy check Programming posts first? It was also amended in this story hours ago.

  7. BundyNelle September 16, 2009 at 8:34 pm -

    According to Facebook, Hey Hey will now be on Wednesday night … up against CH10 “Celebrity Masterchef”!

  8. Stan September 16, 2009 at 5:00 pm -

    This is a yawn fest and full of nostalgia. I stopped watching before went off the air because it was becoming so boring. Why didn’t they run the reunion on Saturday in their original time-slot? Were they afraid of Footy finals and people not bother to watch it?

  9. James Johnson September 16, 2009 at 3:44 pm -

    Yes! Great to find out some further info and that Ossie will be involved. Great to hear Andrew Fyfe will be back too. I remember how something would be spoken of or shown and he’d have a quick little drawing of it in seconds.

    Hopefully it is able to come back full time as a regular show (although they’re going to have to slot it back in on Saturdays – can’t have Saturday in the title and air it on other days of the week).. Was a sad time when it did go away, and it truly was the place for overseas stars and even local celebs to pop up on. They also got more time to plug/promote whatever they were there for (as not only could they have an interview, but also pop up in other segments of the show like judging Red Faces and so on), rather than the 30 second chats on Rove and then they’re pretty much out the door they do today.

  10. vid September 16, 2009 at 3:18 pm -

    @leon….. i think hey hey will do very well…it even might beat packed to the ratfers!!!
    i have to remember hey hey has a big following..and where on tv way before packed to the rafters!!

    the show hasnt been in for over 8 yrs so i think u willl fine it will rate very well!!

  11. Burt September 16, 2009 at 3:17 pm -

    A reunion show is fine and will rate very well for Nine, but you couldn’t have the same people (who are now all too old) fronting a Hey Hey remake show that Nine should air on GO on Saturday nights next year to test it out. It’d need a whole new younger cast.

  12. Jason September 16, 2009 at 2:31 pm -

    Cool – John Blackman was my favourite thing about Hey Hey – always funny, Hey Hey was at it’s best when he would chime in with some remark from above – it was like listening to the smartarse in school who is really funny!

    I guess that’s the show’s strength, everyone just about has something they like about it.

  13. KFed September 16, 2009 at 1:34 pm -

    So I’m thinking no Denise then. Shame. What about JoBeth Taylor?

    I also noted that John’s name has been left off the promos on Nine at the moment … rude.

  14. Dakota September 16, 2009 at 1:04 pm -

    Great Interview! I just hope that Ossie gets a decent appearance, he was such a massive part of the show, and will definitely draw in a few viewers as well i’d imagine.

  15. Smacca September 16, 2009 at 1:02 pm -

    Superb interview, David. I can’t wait to see it again!

  16. Leon September 16, 2009 at 11:53 am -

    Still Notice how Ch9 is calling it ‘Hey Hey, It’s Saturday’ yet being Broadcast Live on a Tuesday? Wake up Ch9, Going up against Packed to the Rafters is TV Suicide!

  17. David Knox September 16, 2009 at 10:45 am -

    T-Mac: No idea sorry!

  18. T-Mac September 16, 2009 at 10:29 am -

    Yay! Andrew Fyfe’s back! This may sound weird, but he was my favourite thing about Hey Hey.

    But as for Murray Tregonning being replaced by his successor…I hope that’s not the same guy who does the audio for the AFL Footy Show, because he only seems to know how to use one sound effect (the old Sale Of The Century “Famous Faces” clip) Could you please get back to me on this David?

  19. Shane Sachse September 16, 2009 at 10:00 am -

    I don’t get why it’s going to be called “Hey Hey It’s Saturday: The Reunion” if it’s o be aired on a Tuesday. How about just calling it “Hey Hey: The Reunion”.

    It also should start at 6:30pm not 7:30pm, as 6:30pm was the time that Hey! Hey! It’s Saturday always started. I’m sure Channel 9 can forgo A Current Affair and Two and a Half Men for just two Tuesdays.

  20. Tony September 16, 2009 at 8:46 am -

    Everyone knows what Mr Somers is really like. As for Denise Drysdale, she got the boot because she was stealing some of the limelight from Daryl and his over-sized ego.

  21. Tarquin September 16, 2009 at 7:53 am -

    Lucky Phil, Pam Barnes… What about Krystal???

  22. Alan Cramer September 16, 2009 at 7:22 am -

    Great interview with John Blackman. Looking forward to seeing Hey Hey once more…

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