Monday, May 9, 2016

Australian TV Exec Behind 'Neighbours' Reg Grundy Dead at 92

Reg Grundy
Reg Grundy, the television producer behind the Australian soap opera Neighbours, has died at his home in Bermuda at age 92.

Grundy's production company also created many of Australia's other biggest TV shows, including The Young Doctors and Prisoner, called Prisoner: Cell Block H in the UK and elsewhere.

He developed Neighbours in the 1980s, with head of drama Reg Watson. The popular soap is still running today.

The Reg Grundy Organisation, founded in 1959, produced many of Australia's most-popular television shows. It has since been bought and is now known as FremantleMedia Australia.

The head of FremantleMedia Australia, Ian Hogg, said in a statement that Grundy was a national treasure, and that his "legacy to Australian entertainment is insurmountable. His visionary ability to know how to connect Australian families through some of this country's most loved programming has stood the test of time.  Reg is an icon and he will be sorely missed."

In addition to developing hugely popular game shows for Australian TV, including Blankety Blank, Wheel of Fortune and Sale of the Century, the Grundy production company came up with the original ideas for some of the era's biggest hits.

The most well-known of his creations, Neighbours, premiered in 1985. The fictional Ramsey Street launched many careers in addition to those of Kylie Minogue and Jason Donovan. Russell Crowe appeared for several episodes as former prisoner Kenny Larkin, so too did Hunger Games star Liam Hemsworth as Josh Taylor and singer Natalie Imbruglia as Beth Brennan.

Starting in 1979 and one of Grundy's biggest hits around the world, Prisoner - it was known as Prisoner: Cell Block H in the UK and US - the soap was set in a fictional women's prison. Alongside the mundane details of life inside, it also dealt with more adventurous issues for the television of its day, such as homosexuality, social injustice and prison reform.

When Television New Zealand (TVNZ) wanted to create a soap opera set in a medical facility, Grundy came up with the format for the series Shortland Street Hospital. The series, which began in 1992 and which TVNZ calls "New Zealand's favourite drama", is still running.

Young Doctors was a series about young medics, who made little attempt to separate their professional and personal lives, was one of the few big Grundy shows that never won an award. However, it still ran for more than seven years.

Grundy's company did not just make its own programs, it also pioneered foreign versions of its ideas. Goede Tijden, Slechte Tijden - the Dutch remake of The Restless Years - lasted much longer than the English-language original.

Public facilities were long a favored setting for Grundy soaps, and Waterloo Station was no exception, focusing on characters connected to a fictional police training academy in Sydney.

Grundy died in Bermuda, where he has lived with his wife Joy since 1982. The couple met when she auditioned for one of his game shows. They were married for 45 years.

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