|MILESAGO: Australasian Music & Popular Culture 1964-1975||Television|
THE LINK MEN
Genre: police drama
Duration: 13 x 50 min episodes (Ep. 1 not broadcast)
Format: b/w film and videotape
Broadcaster / Production Co: Nine Network
Exec. Producer: George Spenton-Foster
Director: Jonathan Dawson
Creator: Glyn Davies
Scripts: Tony Morphett, Ted Ager, Peter Schreck, Don Barkham
Music: Geoff Harvey
Regular cast: Bruce Montague, Tristan Rogers, Kevin Miles, Max Meldrum
The Link Men was something of an abberration for the Nine Network -- this was its first venture into TV drama as a producer and it was virtually the only drama program that it self-produced until the creation of its PBL production house in 1984. Nine generally shied away from local drama production, relying instead on its perennially successful mix of local variety, sports and game shows, underpinned by a powerful roster of imported US comedy and drama series and Hollywood movies. Thanks to the vast economy of scale afforded by America's huge domestic TV market and Hollywood's booming overseas TV sales, US producers could offer Australian networks highly favourable package deals and this, combined with the government's reluctance to impose Australian content regulations, created enormous obstacles for local producers, who had to spend around 10 times as much per episode to achieve anything like the same quality of production as the best US series.
The Link Men was clearly intended to compete with Crawford's hugely popular cop shows Homicide and Division 4. It followed the exploits of a special criminal investigation unit in the NSW Police. There were three Australians and one British actor in the regular cast; star Kevin Miles (DS John Randall) appeared in scores of local film TV and stage productions; British import Bruce Montague (DS Harry Sutton.) had worked with creator Glyn Davies in the UK; Tristan Rogers (DC Ray Gamble), a first-time actor, was a former male model. He later moved to the US, where he became a cast member of General Hospital. Max Meldrum had a regular support role as forensic scientist Det. Russell.The cast of the various episodes comprised a 'Who's Who' of Australian acting at the time; those appearing included veteran actress Enid Lorimer, John Meillon, Maggie Dence, Judi Farr, Lorraine Bayly, Jeannie Drynan, Don Pascoe, Clarissa Kaye, Jeff Ashby, Max Cullen, Carmen Duncan, Frank Thring, Sandy Gore, Peter Sumner, James Condon, Don Crosby, Owen Weingott, Peter Whitford, June Salter, Reg Livermore, entertainer Frankie Davidson and actor-musician Lionel Long.
Series creator Glyn Davies was a fomer Scotland Yard officer; his UK credits included the dramas The Ratcatchers and No Hiding Place, and after moving to Australia he had worked on Homicide. Several episodes were by Tony Morphett, one of Australia's most respected TV writers; he subsequently drew on his experiences at Nine for his ABC's drama Dynasty (which also starred Kevin Miles) and he went on to creating and write the popular and successful Certain Women. Music was by long-serving Nine musical director Geoff Harvey.
The production faced difficulties from the outset. The original plan to shoot entirely on colour film was soon scrapped and Nine reverted to the proven 'integration' method used by Crawfords, although the high ratio of interiors shot on video (70/30) contributed to its 'cut-rate' look. Scripts were also evidently a problem -- producer George Spenton-Foster subsequently noted that several were below par, and in fact Nine took the highly unusual step of rejecting the pilot, which was intended as the first episode, and this episode (which featured June Salter and Reg Livermore) was never aired. Other problems included constant friction between two of the lead actors (presumably Miles and Montague) as well as the logistical problems of antiquated / sub-standard equipment and facilities, and the show's meagre budget. Both Spenton-Foster and Tristan Rogers cited interference from Nine'smanagement as major problem and Rogers became so disilliusioned that he resigned from the show just before it was canned.
The result was that The Link Men did not rate well, mainly because the production and script problems affected its quality, although the later episodes were reportedly a marked improvement, and co-star Bruce Montague felt that the series would have settled down within a few more episodes, had it survived. In the event, its performance was reviewed by Nine MD Clyde Packer just after Episode 12 went to air and he cancelled the series.
A well-known story about the show relates that Nine supremo Frank Packer turned up at a rehearsal and he offered some "advice" about unarmed combat, to which guest-star Jack Fegan (the former star of Homicide) repsonded by throwing the burly media baron to the mat. The incensed Packer immediately ordered that Fegan be removed, but when informed that this couldn't be done, Packer barked "Well, sack him as soon as he's finished". TV historian Don Storey states that, contrary to the assertion in Albert Moran's book, this was not the reason the series was cancelled.
The Link Men was repeated several times in the early '70s, but was not shown again after the advent of colour in 1975. Several episodes are preserved in the National Film & Sound Archive. For full details on this series we recommend Don Storey's superbly researched Classic Australian TV website.
References / Links
Classic Australian TV
The Link Men
The Australian Film & Television Companion (Simon and Schuster, 1995)
Moran's Guide to Australian TV Series (publisher, date)
Peter Beilby (ed.)
Australian TV: The First 25 Years (Nelson/Cinema Papers, 1983) pp. 142-143
National Film & Sound Archive