Home TV by Decade TV Shows - 1980s Tonight with Bert Newton

Tonight with Bert Newton

1 9 8 4 (Australia)

One of the biggest television flops in Australia in 1984 was the Nine Network’s Tonight with Bert Newton which kicked off its four-nights-a-week schedule in February of that year and finally bowed out on 8 November.

The show was ultimately axed because it had low ratings in Sydney but throughout its eight-month life, it never looked particularly healthy.

There had been quite a build-up; Channel 9 promised the forerunner of a new age of Tonight shows, an offbeat programme with wit and sharpness. Australian television audiences were entitled to expect something of Bert Newton, who had consistently shown himself to be a gifted, quick-minded comedian with an ability to improvise that should have been just right for a live show.

But it didn’t work. The show lurched between comedy, variety, celebrity interviews and heavy-handed larks.

There seemed to be a problem with preparation and research, as exemplified by the occasion when he said to a guest: “I understand you’d rather be called a dwarf than a little person” and his guest replied, “Actually, I’d rather be called a little person”.

The much-vaunted immediacy of live television led to on-air tiffs that got out of hand and not much else. Newton was ill-at-ease with his regular guests, particularly Derryn Hinch. Sometimes he just seemed ill-at-ease with the decade he was in.

When Bert announced the end of his show, he told his audience: “I am sorry in some ways that I have failed”.