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Jack Thompson Down Under – Episode 25 (1987)


A magazine-style program representing aspects of Australian life, culled from footage shot over the years primarily by the ABC and Film Australia and presented by Aussie icon Jack Thompson. In this program there’s an item about the Australian wine industry, another about the discovery of a long-lost wreck of a three master off the South Australian coast and yet another about two Melbourne hang-gliders hoping to beat the world record by gliding above the Nullarbor Plain.

Curator’s notes

This series is a guide to the beauty and wonder of Australia with its emphasis on some of the continent’s most inaccessible places. Production company Beyond obviously had an eye to US sales, since all distances described in the narration are in miles although in Australia we have used metric measures since the 1960s. In fact, the two series were sold to the American Discovery Channel. Jack Thompson is a great narrator. He’s the iconic Aussie male and his voice has that dinky-di Australian drawl that Americans love to hear.

In this program, the footage is drawn largely from the archive of Film Australia, although most of the footage that made up the two series of 26 programs each was drawn from 25 years of A Big Country (1992), one of the longest running and best loved of the ABC’s documentary programs, made by the national broadcaster’s rural unit. Series producer Matthew Flanagan had been a producer on A Big Country (1992) and, while there, had tried to interest the team in exploiting their fabulous archive of rural program material. In this respect, Matthew Flanagan was well ahead of his time. These days, television archives are trawled every year for possible compile tapes.

Eventually, Matthew Flanagan was persuaded by Iain Finlay, one of the principals of Beyond, to make a pilot with the company. An agreement was worked out in which Beyond offered a facilities deal in return for a 30% stake. Kevin Weldon took another 30% in return for an office for Matthew, who retained the rest. The series was licensed to Network Ten in Australia, with Discovery picking up the rights to broadcast in the US.