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"LANE END" should

please "Bellbird" fans

New television serial will take viewers people-watching in Paddo


NON, ABC-TV script editor who created "Bellbird," the popular four-year-old serial about a country town, is up to her eyes in work on its city cousin - a serial about life in Sydney.

The new serial, "Lane End," is set in Paddington, and tells the continuing story of a group of charac- ters who work and live there - a kind of Sydney "Coronation Street."

" 'Lane End' is going to

be like 'Bellbird' - comedy drama rather than heavy drama, but city oriented,"

Barbara Vernon told me.

"It has a number of regular characters, including

a Greek-Australian and his wife who run the corner store, a man who owns a used-car lot, and a nurse who does special cases.

"The used-car man, Ray,

and his wife live in Wool-

lahra, and his mother-in-law lives at Lindfield, which moves the characters around to different suburbs.

"The nurse was made a nurse so she could move

around Paddington during

the daytime, when office

workers are at their desks.

"Among the other charac- ters are city workers and young couples who earn their living in modern offices and escape at 5 p.m. to their Paddington terrace houses

and Edwardiana."

Miss Vernon hopes that "Lane End" will be as good as "Bellbird," and as popu- lar, for she believes serials like "Bellbird" add color to the lives of many viewers.

"Bellbird" is astoundingly popular. Its characters (after more than 700 episodes) are friends to many viewers, especially in Northern Queensland and Western Australia, where it is TV's smash hit, getting close to 80 percent of the entire TV audience, day after day.

According to ABC-TV experts, its three high peaks

of drama have been the

death, early in the piece, of Charlie Cousins, played by actor Robin Ramsay, who wanted to leave the show, the marriage of Lori ( Elspeth Ballantyne) to horse trainer Ton Grey (Tom Oliver), and the death of Gil Lang


(Keith Eden) just before Christmas, 1970.

" 'Bellbird' certainly has had its high-drama peaks," Miss Vernon said, "but I think one of its strengths is its low-key content.

"Viewers like 'Bellbird's'

quiet ordinariness.

"They don't expect car

crashes or bushfires or bad

family troubles day after day. They like the homely stuff.

"To regular viewers, I always think 'Bellbird' is like a letter, with pictures, from someone they have known a long time."

She is so right. People are upset when their daily

letter has bad news.

I remember Christmas, 1970, when Gil Lang died.

On holiday in the country soon' afterward, I was con- tinually asked by country viewers how Rose Lang was coping as a widow. Was daughter Rhoda (Lynette Curran) any comfort to her?

I was flabbergasted when I was first asked about them as if they were close friends of mine. Then I got used

to it and had trouble

restraining myself from making up comforting

stories about Rose.

"Bellbird's" yearly season always ends about mid December. It starts its next season two months later.

Remembering my experi- ence last year with Gil's

death, I tried to find out how it would end this year. I ran against a wall of secrecy, but finally did

winkle out the fact that the 1971 season would have a

happy denouement.

Barbara Vernon goes along with the people who

liken "Bellbird" to ABC radio's "Blue Hills." She is proud of the comparison.

Barbara's "Bellbird" is rather like a child who has

been adopted. It is years now since she has had any- thing to do with the serial.

I don't think it is nearly as country-town oriented as it was in the beginning, and this apparently comes from the team of city writers who now write the very suc- cessful scripts.

Second book

But Barbara Vernon's "Bellbird" still lives. She has written two books about

it. The first is simply called "Bellbird," and the second, which has only just hit the bookstalls, is called "Big Day at Bellbird" (published by Ure Smith).

In these books she doesn't write about today's "Bell- bird." She goes back to its beginnings. Between the hard covers of both books, Charlie Cousins ( Robin Ramsay) still lives and woos Lori (Elspeth Ballantyne) - long since married to another character in the serial.

I had a vision of Lori and Charlie happily married and raising a family in Barbara Vernon's books, but she was horrified. She sticks to the actual happenings of the serial, but so far hasn't got up to Charlie's untimely end, when he crashed to his death from a wheat silo.

A nine - to - five script editor, a kind of play doctor, at the ABC, Barbara also writes at home (two stage

"BELLBIRD" characters from the first episodes four years ago are like old friends today. Elspeth Ballantyne as Lori Chandler, Carl Bleazby as Colonel Emerson, and Clive Winmill as Tony in the serial.

plays, seven children's plays, two books).

Her first "Bellbird" book

was very successful-the jam on her bread and

butter. She made more than $3000 out of it and hopes for similar success with "Big Day at Bellbird."

"My 'Bellbird' books are not great literature," she said. "It is folk literature, like 'Blue Hills'-with over- tones of 'Dad and Dave,' too. It is very Australian. I don't think it would sell anywhere else."

Barbara Vernon rather reminded me of some of the

characters she spoke of in "Lane End," the ones who work in modern offices and go home to Edwardiana.

She does much the same in reverse. She lives in a modern home in Mosman, goes to work to immerse herself in the 1890s and on.

She is involved at present in an exciting project, adapt- ing five of Norman Lindsay's books for a nine-part series called "Norman Lindsay Theatre," to be produced by

Alan Burke at ABC-TV's Gore Hill studios as one of their 1972 prestige drama offerings.

The five books she is

working on are "Redheap" (to be made in three parts), "The Cousin from Fiji" (three parts), "Dust or Polish," "The Curate in Bohemia," and "Halfway to Anywhere" - to be made into single-episode plays.

All this activity augurs well for viewers. The Vernon name on television does seem to be synonymous with satisfying entertainment.

? ? ?


(TCN9, Wednesdays, 8.30 p.m.), the American

spin-off from the BBC's "Till Death Us Do Part," in which Alf Garnett was gen- erally vile and conservative and side-splitting, is to be joined on the American net- works by another imitation of a famous British series.

This time it's an even more

remarkable one, a spin-off of "Steptoe and Son," called "Sanford and Son," with an all-black cast. I'd love to

hear what old Steptoe has to say about that one.

Has kind word for his critics

jyjANY things have been

said about critics,

mostly harsh, but Australia's young king of pop, engaging johnny Farnham, had some good things to say ahout them recently when I heard him interviewed on ABC TV's pop show "GTK."

Critics kept him working, he said. They helped him. He reads every word written about him, good or bad.

"What they say makes me work hard," he said, "makes

me want to be better, or

keep being as good as they say I am."

"GTK" (Mondays to j

Thursdays, 6.30 p.m., on ABC-TV) is probably the

best pop show on TV. It s a : concentrate of facts and music. Its initials stand for "Getting To Know."

It started with that title j

and was 30 minutes' long, » :

bit windy, a bit square - j

not bang-on at all.

Word went out that the

show had to be shortened, j smartened up, or «'* Up-tempoed, initialled, and concentrated, it is really