The most compelling character in any Melbourne TV series over the decades is the capricious city itself
Read how writers, producers and actors immortalised Melbourne’s landmarks, reputation and foibles – then explore the locations yourself.
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The Sullivans, 1976-1983
The vicinity of Canterbury’s Maling Road is where the stoic Sullivan family called home in long-running series set in the World War II era. Though their humble abode has since been torn down, at 35 Matlock Street you can find Willy’s Store, which has since renamed itself Sullivan House and now operates as a museum of sorts. Across town is the Retreat Hotel at 226 Nicholson Street in Abbotsford, where Dave and Uncle Harry bent their elbows, and you can still order a pint surrounded by décor straight out of the 1930s.
You may need to line-up for hours, air kiss the nice dor lady and pay a cover charge, but it could be worth it to see the filming location for the first season of Showcase series Satisfaction, starring Alison Whyte and Madeleine West. Not since Pretty Women have normal girls wanted to become prostitutes so badly, and here’s why. Southbank’s swankiest nightclub Eve Bar, at 334-342 City Road, is where the high-class brothel action happens in the now-axed TV series, before it moved to a specially built set for seasons two and three.
Rush, 2008-present day
Filmed in Footscray, for its tough, urban feel, cop drama Rush utilises a loose and informal way of shooting. Says writer Christopher Lee, “It was always going to be a Melbourne show. Partly because Melbourne actually had a real-life Rush squad [a Tactical Response Unit]. They were once pretty rare; now they’re everywhere. Having decided on Melbourne we did our best to make the city an integral part of the culture of the show. We put our colours up the flagpole early by shooting the first sequence of the first episode right in the recognisable heart of the city.”
Tangle, 2009-present day
"We wanted to use the river as a motif, as a Melbourne lifeline,” explains creator John Edwards of the leafy locale of this tense Showcase drama about familial relationships, starring Justine Clarke and Kat Stewart. “We explored the Kew and Hawthorn side of the river for middle-class life.” Keep your eyes peeled for cameos from Studley Park Boathouse, Fed Square, The Windsor Hotel (excellent for dangerous liaisons apparently), Parliament House and Abbotsford Convent. Yes, Melbourne’s beauty spots and glitzy epicentres have been well milked.
Round the Twist, 1989-2001
While the Twist family lived in Split Point Lighthouse in Aireys Inlet down the Great Ocean Road, Cameron Nugent, who played Tiger Geeson, recalls, “We shot the bedroom scenes and lighthouse interior at a studio in Rouse Street, Port Melbourne. A cooler location to visit would be Williamstown Primary School. It’s very recognisable, being made of bluestone and being on a relatively main street. All school exterior stuff and many of the events, such as the frog race, were shot there and in the surrounding streets.”
The Henderson Kids, 1985-1987
Series two of the children’s TV series saw our protagonists settled in Westport. No effort, says producer Alan Hardy, was taken to particularly disguise the fact that this was filmed in the south-west seaside suburb of Williamstown. In fact, the opening credits ran over footage of the naval dockyards along Nelson Place (and the strains of a saxophone). Much use was made of Williamstown High School – named Westport High School here – and let’s not forget the gripping BMX bike chase by the Brown Street Boys past the Terminus Hotel on Hanmer Street.
Summer Heights High, 2007
The principal of Firbank Girls Grammar in Brighton’s Outer Crescent, where the scenes of Ja’mie King’s elite girls school were filmed, denounced creator Chris Lilley for delivering “every awful, stereotypical prejudice” about private and public schools there is. The principal of Brighton Secondary College in Marriage Road, East Brighton – where bad boy Jonah attends Summer Heights High – shrugged off the comment saying she thought her students all found it pretty damn funny. Lilley himself would ride trams past elite private schools to eavesdrop on conversations while developing his Ja’mie prototype.
Cop Shop, 1977-1984
The old Melbourne Custody Centre on Russell Street was the façade where scenes of Cop Shop’s fictional Riverside Station were filmed. At 1 Southampton Crescet in Abbotsford there’s also an old fabric factory where a scene with guest star Mel Gibson was filmed and which was, at the time, the Crawford Productions office. Spooky trivia: the cast of Cops had to attend the real-life funeral of cast member Bill Stalker who died in a tragic motorcycle accident only a week or so before they had to film scenes of fictional character Claire Benjamin’s funeral at St Peter’s Church at 585 Toorak Road, with many struggling not to break down in tears on set.
Kath & Kim, 2002-2007
You too can crack open the c-ardonnay and have your own Fountain Lakes “wine time” with a visit to the home of Kath Daynight at 4 Lagoon Place, out in the south-east suburb Patterson Lakes. It’s owned by the ABC and rented out between filming. When Kim uttered the line “Brett and I have decided we want solid monogamy… I want to go to Knobs & Knockers," she was referring to a real store you can find at 732-742 Hampton Street in Brighton. And you can’t go past Westfield Southland in Cheltenham or Fountain Gate Shopping Centre for a bit of retail therapy in the vein of Kel’s Choice Cuts or Pru and Trude’s “grayshsh” homeware store. Watch out for the Kath & Kim film – or “filum” – out later this year.