Sunday, April 7, 2013

It's Logie time, so get a little Bert on your hands, son

At the dawn of television's night of nights and on the eve of its hangover of hangovers, here's a Logies secret or two we are allowed to share with you.

See that bloke polishing the statue in the adjacent picture? That's not Bert Newton. Folks, this is not Bert's show any more. We can also reveal this: that little gold number being caressed by veteran Nine stage manager Jake Nicolaisen: it's not even a real Logie.

As The Sunday Age discovered on a behind-the-scenes visit to Logie Land at Crown on Saturday, much is an illusion. For our Logie shot, we had to use a Nine prop, because real Logies are hard to come by, with this year's batch at the engravers, and Rowena Wallace leading an eccentric charge to flog the old ones on eBay. (Her 1994 Gold just fetched $4050, suggesting Lisa McCune need not worry about her super.)

Stage man Jake Nicolaisen has been involved in setting up the Logie Awards for 14 years, photographed at Crown Casino, Melbourne.

Stage man Jake Nicolaisen has been involved in setting up the Logie Awards for 14 years. Photo: Paul Jeffers

And what's not an illusion is often a secret, as co-executive producer Brent Williams was at pains to stress during Saturday's all-in production meeting - complete with a 38-page running sheet, from opening act to ''Gold Logie Presenter'' (a secret).


''None of this is to leave the room,'' he told the meeting.

Williams knows his stuff when it comes to big TV moments. This is his second Logies, he is a Carols by Candlelight veteran, and he also oversees The Footy Show - TV tightrope-walking at its best.

Gold Logie nominees, clockwise from top right; Adam Hills, Asher Keddie, Andy Lee, Hamish Blake, Carrie Bickmore and Steve Peacocke.

Gold Logie nominees, clockwise from top right; Adam Hills, Asher Keddie, Andy Lee, Hamish Blake, Carrie Bickmore and Steve Peacocke.

It requires a cool head, and Williams appears so relaxed you would never guess he and co-executive producer Michelle Wyatt are in charge of one of the most watched programs of the year.

In part, that's because they know this team is the best there is, from backstage to the red carpet staff outside, among them a stand-by calligrapher on hand in case anyone forgets their invitation. Williams and Wyatt also know that sometimes the unexpected will happen and nought can be done - and sometimes it's the highlight of the night.

''It's a funny thing,'' Williams says. ''At the time things happen you think it's terrible, but looking back, it's often what people remember.''

He is talking about memorable Logies moments, like the loud on-stage ''Shit!'' exclaimed by US actor Michael Cole in the 1970s, or that moment when Bert Newton innocently touched a racial nerve when he said of Muhammad Ali: ''I like the boy.''

You cannot plan for surprises like that. But you can plan a few of your own. It's for that reason that ahead of tonight's 53rd Logies presentation we have agreed to report partly in contorted code so as not to ruin the show - the show, after all, being the main point of the exercise. Without it, who among us would have given TV Week reader polls a second thought since the 1980s?

What we can tell you is this: expect three standing ovations - one for a surprise guest whose appearance will raise the roof. It was hard not to stand and roar at rehearsal. Two of these ovations will be accompanied by tears, in the Logies room and in living rooms across the land.

The show's opening sounds a zeitgeist-worthy cracker. And in answer to the question, ''What about Bert?'' we know only that Newton's law of gravity demands his irresistible wit will pop up somewhere. But it seems clear he will never own this stage again.

''It's a different show these days,'' said one Logies veteran on Saturday. ''It used to be just an awards show, now it's a festival that goes for days.''

It's a fashion show now as much as anything, and a promotional bonanza for not just the TV networks but radio stations, magazines, hotels, airlines, bars and nightclubs.

One who remembers quieter times is Brian Henderson, the host of 1950s and 1960s pop-fest Bandstand and Nine's familiar Sydney newsreader.

At 81, a decade retired, Henderson is attending the Logies with his wife, Mardi, his first ceremony in years. The last time was at the Southern Cross Hotel in 1968. Bert was host, the awards were televised for the first time - and Hendo won the Gold.

''That was also totally unexpected,'' he said on Saturday night. ''I think they'd run out of people to give it to.''

He spoke to The Sunday Age after completing rehearsals for acceptance of his Lifetime Achievement Award.

''I haven't been down a lot since. In fact, not at all. We watch the ceremony at home. We prefer to watch it there. I guess we're fuddy-duddies.''

Indeed, he hints that come Sunday night's big moment, home is where he would rather be.

''Don't remind me,'' he says. ''I like talking to the camera, but I get very nervous in front of people. Apparently, there will be a few people there.''

Yes there will, and when it's over many of them will carry on all night. There are a string of after-parties planned, and after a tumultuous industry year, cross-network camaraderie may be more obvious than in the past.

There has been movement at the stations - sackings, mainly - and Logies night is a cult of old regrets, not fresh ones. Embarrassment comes later.

For this one run from the golden gong to dawn, it's no secret at all that those television people are ripe to party like there's no tomorrow.

Glittering race forgolden figurine

Michael Idato

The Gold Logie is a popularity contest, make nomistake, so it wears the mantle of the biggest prize in Australia's TV industry a little uneasily. But that hasn't hampered its ability to get it right. (OK, Kylie Minogue has one. As does DarylSomers, but like most things in life, the Logies shouldn't be exposed to too much scrutiny.) So here is our form guide to the 2013 Logies –the 55th sinceTV Weekmagazine launched them.


■ What he's on:Adam Hills In Gordon St Tonight(ABC1)

■ What's at stake: The ABC historically does well with nominations but not wins, and they're particularly vulnerable in the gold category.

■ Can he win? Not likely.


■ What he's on: Hamish & Andy's Euro Gap Yearand Hamish & Andy's Caravan of Courage (Nine Network)

■ What's at stake: His comedy partner Hamish Blake won last year's Gold Logie, so fans will be hoping Lee can make it a pair for the duo.

■ Can he win? Possibly, and probably. Lee comesinto the race with a high profile, a loyal following and Blake's endorsement.


■ What she's on:Offspring(Ten Network)

■ What's at stake:Last year was Keddie's year – Offspring plus the wave of love following her brilliant performance as Ita Buttrose in Paper Giants – and the audience's affection for her cannot be underestimated.

■ Can she win? Undoubtedly. Logie loves anactress, and Keddie is, to some extent, the actress's actress. She's talented and popular.


■ What she's on:The Project (Ten Network)

■ What's at stake: Bickmore has a loyal following, and she's a popular, likeable personality. But she's a presenter in a category that has, in recent years, favoured actresses.

■ Can she win? Potentially, but the damage done to The Project by Ten's schedule shuffling for the past two years is difficult to measure.


■ What he's on: Hamish & Andy's Euro Gap Year, Hamish & Andy's Caravan Of Courage and Australia VS New Zealand (Nine Network)

■ What's at stake: Blake comes into the category as last year's winner, but without the intensity of the ''race for Gold'', which has been abandoned, he may lack the fire power to win.

■ Can he win? Maybe, possibly, but insiders say if it wasn't for last year's ''race'', Blake would not have got across the line.


■ What he's on: Home and Away (Channel Seven)

■ What's at stake: The dark horse in the race, Peacocke has had a steep ascent – from most popular new male talent last year to Gold Logie nominee this year. But he's popular, and Home and Away's audience sits in the Logie ''heartland''.

■ Can he win? Maybe, but not likely. Home and Awaybreeds Gold Logie winners but they usually take time.
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