Hi, this is Andrew Mercado and my first job in TV was as the Location Manager on Aussie soap PARADISE BEACH followed by becoming Publicist for cult series PACIFIC DRIVE and US production NEW ADVENTURES OF FLIPPER starring Jessica Alba.
Next came CHANNEL [V] where I started as Publicist and then got asked to go on-air to review movies. Soon I was working simultaneously on sister channel MUSIC MAX and doing movie segments for KERRI-ANNE. Next came TV review program THE PLAYLIST on Showcase and now I can be found co-hosting the FOXTEL MOVIE SHOW, commentating on A CURRENT AFFAIR and MORNINGS on Nine and a weekly column about soaps in TV WEEK. I also talk TV on heaps of radio stations but particularly Sydney’s #1 FM station, WSFM, with Amanda and Jonesy on WS FM, and many ABC radio stations across the country including 702 Drive with Richard Glover.
There was also my book …
SUPER AUSSIE SOAPS
I spent several years writing this for Pluto Press and it was about every Australian-made
television serial drama. Even I get caught up in re-reading chapters today when I go looking to check something. And make no mistake, whilst I have met and interviewed some major names in entertainment, nothing is more thrilling than meeting the TV idols of my youth. This book is now out of print but check eBay and those second hand bookshops for copies. The best part about the book was it led to an approach from Umbrella Entertainment to curate TV series onto DVD. We’ve now done SONS AND DAUGHTERS, THE YOUNG DOCTORS, CHANCES, E STREET, GRAHAM KENNEDY’S COAST TO COAST, THE DON LANE SHOW but nothing beats bringing back the most groundbreaking TV show in the history of television …
The first volume of NUMBER 96 was a
thrill for me because it’s always been my favourite Aussie TV show ever. This DVD contains the 1974 big-screen movie, painstakingly restored from several movie prints because over the years horny projectionists had hacked the movie’s numeorus nude scenes to pieces. Sadly no trailer for the flick could be located, nor could we track down any footage of Don (Joe Hasham) kissing naked boyfriend Simon (John Orcsik). Listen to the audio
commentary from writer David Sale, actress Elaine Lee (who played the much-raped Vera Collins) and myself and you’ll discover that the scene was indeed in the original print but somehow got mysteriously snipped out after its Sydney premiere.
Disc 2 features the 1976 documentary which commemorated the first 1000 episodes, NUMBER 96: AND THEY SAID IT WOULDN’T LAST. Since the show then ran for another 218 episodes, I decided to reunite some key members overlooked during the first retrospective. My companion documentary NUMBER 96: THE
FINAL YEARS is deliberately shot in the same style as the first which we later realised had been filmed exactly 30 years earlier. So since she had concluded the first special, Elaine Lee (Vera) was recruited to open this new one before then handing over the reins to Sheila Kennelly (Norma Whittaker), Wendy Blacklock (Edie “Mummy” McDonald), Deborah Gray (Miss Hemingway) and David Sale.
What a thrill to have worked with all these wonderful legends of Australian TV and my childhood. Several months later, at a taping of Seven’s WHERE ARE THEY NOW, they insisted I join them for dinner because I was now part of their “NUMBER 96 family”. A very special moment indeed.
After the success of the first DVD, Umbrella decided to release complete episodes of NUMBER 96. Unfortunately the first two years of the series had been destroyed since nobody valued black and white videotape after colour TV began in Australia on 1 March, 1975.
Luckily The National Film and Sound Archive still stores every colour episode made but I decided we needed to start with a complete saga, NUMBER 96: THE PANTYHOSE STRANGLER. Watch from the first victim (ironically this was the first episode ever broadcast in colour) and in just 32 episodes (all of which fitted perfectly onto 4 discs) the killer is revealed. There’s an audio commentary with Chantal Contouri which I can now reveal was done with her in Adelaide and me sitting in Sydney. Ah, the magic of technology.
The story continued straight afterwards with another volume called NUMBER 96: AFTERMATH OF MURDER with new audio commentaries from Elisabeth Kirkby (who played Lucy Sutcliffe) and Carol Raye (the Baroness Amanda Von Pappenburg).
In 2012 we released another NUMBER 96 DVD to celebrate its 40th anniversary – THE BEGINNING AND THE BOMB. It featured 16 black and white episodes from the first few months as well as 16 episodes around the infamous bomb blast in the deli. There were audio excerpts from James Elliott (Alf) and Peter Benardos (Director) and another personal highlight as I chat to former High Court judge The Hon Michael Kirby AC CMG who talks about the social impact 96 had on Australia and himself.
Ten News interviews with Angela Bishop and the cast also feature heavily on all of these discs as she has very kindly covered every single release to date.
So what next for NUMBER 96? Probably no more DVDs but there is a possibility it will continue to return in a new format … stay tuned