With more than 2000 episodes and on air for almost ten years during the 1980s, journalist Simon Townsend created the award winning and highest ever rating Australian children’s television show, Wonder World.
Accompanied by his ever faithful bloodhound canine friend Woodrow, Simon presented unusual and entertaining stories to viewers in a magazine style format. Unfortunately, Woodrow passed away in 1986 and was replaced by a sulphur crested cockatoo and later, a Labrador puppy aptly named Logie after one of the show’s Logie award wins.
Aimed at tweens, teens and young adults, Wonder World field reporters would film unscripted stories on anything from amazing animals to one hand clapping. It was up to the reporters to think on the spot to make the story as interesting as possible. If stories fell through, the reporters would research other potential stories and film them before heading back to the office. It is believed that the field reporters for Wonder World never returned to the office without at least two filmed stories.
In addition to the quirky field reports, Wonder World also had a viewer segment and a music segment. Although the music segment was normally produced by the show itself, Wonder World holds the title for being the first ever television show to air a music video for home grown rock sensation INXS.
Townsend initially developed the concept for Wonder World in the early 70s and both Channel 7 and Channel 9 financed pilots of the show however neither station committed for the long term. It wasn’t until 1979 when the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal made it compulsory that only television shows suitable for children were aired during 4pm and 5pm on week days that Townsend again resurrected his idea for Wonder World. This time however, he approached Channel 10. Before too long, Wonder World was a national sensation, often recording higher ratings than shows aired during prime time.
Not only did Simon Townsend provide Australia with the highest ever rating children’s television show, he provided many locals in the television industry with the opportunity to gain valuable experience. He was the first in Australia to ever employ a female cinematographer. Another of his cinematographers later went on to win a prestigious Academy Award. Wonder World was also the stepping stone for some of the most popular media personalities we see our screens today including Amanda Keller, Sonia Kruger, Jonathan Coleman and Catriona Rowntree.
Wonder World won many awards and accolades during the years it aired on television including five Logies and even a special Prime Minister’s Award trophy which was awarded by Bob Hawke in 1983 after the show’s 1000th episode. After almost a ten year reign, the show was axed by Channel 10 in 1988. It was later picked up by Channel 9 in 1992 and after three years, ratings began to dwindle so it wasn’t long before we heard Townsend sign off with his famous phrase, “And remember, the world really is wonderful”, for a final time.
Did you used to watch Simon Townsend’s Wonder World? Do you remember Woodrow or the other animal companions? Were you lucky enough to see INXS for the first time on television?