Arcade (TV series)
|Written by||David Sale
|Theme music composer||Mike Perjanik|
|Opening theme||"(Walking Through An) Arcade" performed by Doug Parkinson|
|Country of origin||Australia|
|No. of episodes||30|
|Running time||25 minutes|
|Original channel||Network Ten|
|Original run||20 January 1980 – 29 February 1980|
Arcade was an Australian television soap opera shown in 1980 that became one of the biggest flops in the history of Australian television. It aired on Network Ten with the premiere (76-minute) episode shown on Sunday, 20 January 1980. The series then ran five nights a week, Mondays to Fridays, as a 30 minute serial. It was produced solely by Network Ten (as an in-house production) with a start-up budget of almost $1 million. Set in a fictitious shopping mall (hence the "Arcade" of the title) in the northern suburbs of Sydney, Arcade dealt with the lives and loves of the characters who worked at the various stores within the shopping complex.
The plan was to have the show on the air before the ratings season started to build an audience, however the serial quickly proved itself a ratings disaster, which actually caused the shows on rival networks it was programmed against to improve in the ratings!
A total of 50 episodes were actually shot and produced, but the series was cancelled after six weeks, so only 30 episodes ever went to air.
The disco-style, metaphoric theme song "(Walking Through an) Arcade" was composed by Mike Perjanik and performed by Australian singer Doug Parkinson. The opening title sequence feature aerial shots of a real building and shopping arcade, which was actually the exterior of the famous Strata Motor Hotel located on Military Road, in Sydney's North-Shore suburb of Cremorne.
The show's set was one of the biggest and most realistic ever built for an Australian television series at that time. Rupert Murdoch and Network Ten spent almost $1 million to pour a new concrete floor in Studio A at the Sydney Channel 10 studios; install a complete new lighting grid and lighting system; new editing software; upgraded control rooms and cameras and, of course, the construction of the massive Arcade set itself.
Not long before the show was axed, there was talk the series might be moved to a later timeslot allowing it to become a bit "raunchier" (similar to the hit series Number 96) and a large new set had been built featuring a "western-style" saloon bar, so that more of the action could take place in a venue that supplied alcohol. There were also moves (before the show was axed) to have some of the regular characters "perform" in the bar/nightclub setting, as many of the actors appearing in the show had a background as cabaret artists, singers, comedians and so on, and it was felt that these skills should be utilised and might help save the series. However, the series was cancelled before these plans could be brought to fruition.
The shops featured in the initial episodes were:
- Kitty's Record Bar (a record and tape store)
- Aristocrat (a dry cleaning store)
- FlashBack Leisure Centre, (a pinball parlour)
- Toby's, (a sit down restaurant)
- Pendleton's Health Studio (a health and workout studio)
- The Bookworm (a book store and news agency)
- Magda's Gifts, (a gift shop)
- Surf 'n' Ski (a sports shop specializing in water sports)
In later episodes, a small (illegal) casino was introduced in an apartment above the Arcade - many of the characters lived in apartments above the Arcade - and at the time the series was taken off the air, a large new set had been built featuring a nightclub and bar called "The Sawmill".
The pilot episode
The 76 minute pilot episode was produced by Bill Harmon and Perter Bernados who had earlier produced the highly successful soap opera Number 96.
Arcade also employed Number 96's creator David Sale and its veteran scriptwriter Johnny Whyte as scriptwriters. Like Number 96, there was some room for light comedy as well as drama.
Rupert Murdoch had acquired what was then the 0-10 Network in 1979 and had Channel ATV 0 in Melbourne change its call sign from 0 to 10 in January 1980 to make the network complete. So the launch of the pilot (or "movie-length opening episode") of Arcade was seen as the "flagship" program of the brand-new Network Ten.
On the night it aired (Sunday 20 January 1980), the 0–10 Network officially became known as Network Ten to reflect ATV-0's transition to ATV-10 – although the Brisbane station continued to broadcast as TVQ-0 until 10 September 1988. On 27 December 1987, Adelaide's SAS-10 gave ADS-7 the affiliation rights of Network Ten, and became known as ADS-10. (Perth's NEW-10 did not go to air until 1988.)
Long running Number 96 actor Mike Dorsey was cast in a regular role in this new series, playing Vic Marshall, the owner of the pinball parlour. Vic's paraplegic daughter Tina (who worked in the pinball parlour with her overprotective father) was played by South Australian newcomer Christine Harris (who has gone on to become a well known and respected theatrical producer).
Other recognisable actors in the cast included Aileen Britton who played Joyce Blair, the haughty woman who ran the Aristocrat Dry Cleaning store with her comical husband Walter, played by one time vaudeville comedian Syd Heylen.
Tracy Mann played Susie Blair, Joyce and Walter's dry and slightly sardonic daughter, who helped out at her folks dry cleaners.
Joy Miller, played Kitty Adams, a former cabaret singer who was the owner of Kitty's Record Bar and Danny Adcock as Duncan Adams, Kitty's estranged husband and former showbiz manager, who are constantly arguing.
Peggy Toppano (the mother of Peta Toppano of Prisoner fame) played gossipy Miriam Buxton, who ran the Bookworm News Agency with her somewhat more exuberant sister Molly Sparks, played by Lorrae Desmond. Molly's energetic but bumbling son was played with comic relish by Greg Bepper.
Maggie Stuart appeared as grasping vixen Iris Pendleton, (the villain of the piece) who co-owned the Pendletons Health Studio with her nerdy brother-in-law Norman (Garth Meade), whom she is conniving to get rid of, with the aid of the dim-witted gym instructor Len Crosby (Bill Charlton). Coral Kelly (who later on became Coral Drouyn, a storyline editor for Prisoner) played Consuela McPhee, the newly hired 'full figured' receptionist at the Health Studio, who was despised by the vengeful Iris;
Annie Semler got a lot of media attention at the time for playing the outrageous, somewhat provocative but very well-meaning gift shop owner Magda Yokochek. (In real life, Annie was, and still is married to Oscar-winning cinematographer Dean Semler. Today they both reside in the United States)
The late Alan Penney, who would later appear as a regular in A Country Practice, occasionally appeared as Mr. Henderson, the manager of the arcade.
Lucy Taylor and Raymond Nock as Si Wan and Philip, the mother and son operators of Toby's (the sit-down restaurant), and Sinan Leong played the spoiled and pampered Mee Ling, Si Wan's daughter, and Philip's sister who balked at working at the family restaurant. In the 'shocking' storyline in the early episodes, Philip realised he was falling in love with his sister!
Patrick Ward played conceited - and rather dimwitted - Craig Carmichael, who owned the Sports shop, but spent most of his time trying to get work as a male model. His girlfriend Di Smith, played by former ballerina Olga Tamara managed the shop on his behalf
Jeremy Kewley played Robbie Stewart, a mysterious young man who turns out to be the younger brother of Craig Carmichael (whose real name was Stan Stewart, but he had changed it to Craig Carmichael which he thought was a sexier name for a male model).
Life after Arcade
Jeremy Kewley went on to star in later successful series like Janus and Stingers, playing lead roles in movies like Frank & Jerry and Disappearance and became popular as the audience warm-up comedian on the AFL version of The Footy Show for almost two decades.
Tracy Mann won awards for her roles in films like Hard Knocks and Fast Talking and starred in popular series including Prisoner, the 1984 ABC-TV series Sweet and Sour, and the 1990 police drama Skirts, as well as popular Australian mini-series such as Sword Of Honour and Cyclone Tracy.
Also having successful careers after the series ended - and starring together again - were two of its older and more experienced regular cast members, Lorrae Desmond and Syd Heylen who both took leading regular roles in the long-running and very popular Seven Network drama series A Country Practice (1981–1993).