In regional TV and radio you get to do lots of different things. At TNT 9 Launceston as well as being an on the road reporter I also read the news at night.
But it didn’t end there – the channel decided to broadcast the trots on Saturday nights but what sort of program could you put around a race every 25 minutes or so.
Live variety was the answer and fellow presenter Jim Cox (later to enter politics and become Police Minister) and I were enlisted to co-produce and co host this two hours of “fun filled” entertainment.
I think the weekly budget for the show was $300, so sets were far from lavish and guests were expected to perform for cab fare.
It meant we had to be very innovative – I wrote and performed comedy sketches – and local “talent” got to display their distinct lack of it.
All performed in front of a live audience
Every week we tried to come up with something that would involve the audience at home. Sometimes it worked and it was very entertaining, other times it was quite cringe worthy.
However, the most unforgettable stunt upset the viewers and outraged the RSPCA.
Running low on ideas someone suggested a frog race in the studio. At the start of the show we called on people at home to bring in a pet frog (if they had one) and we’d have a race in the studio.
We expected maybe 5 or 6, ten at most. When more than 200 people turned up with frogs, toads, newts the alarms bells went off.
There we were trying to organise the race on live television. The studio floor covered with a writhing amphibian mass. There was a winner, but that meant there were many, many, many, losers and most of the owners seemed less than keen to take them home.
Some took delight throwing their frogs against the studio wall, others did worse.
The more humane just walked off and left the station crawling with frogs of all shapes and sizes.
For weeks after frogs kept turning up in all sorts of strange places, not surprisingly the toilets were popular.
After the RSPCA inquiry into claims of animal cruelty we agreed never to involve animals in our broadcasts again of course other than the trotters.
In spite of that less than glorious performance The Saturday Night Show went on to win a TV Logie Award for the best live variety show in Tasmania
If there’s a shortage of frogs in Tasmania to this day now you know why.