an NFSA website

Winner Take All – Downside Risk (1982)


Mining concern Mincoh’s share prices go up when a war in Namibia threatens world thanadium supplies. While things are looking up for company boss Dick Coleman (Ronald Falk) and his second-in-command – and lover – Liz (Tina Bursill), their Sydney-based business partner John Catani (Sean Myers) is on the nose. He owes big money to drug dealers and they are coming to collect. Meanwhile the money behind Mincoh, Dick’s wife Margaret (Diana McLean), decides to bank-roll a feature film directed by her secret lover.

Curator’s notes

This all-but-forgotten ten-part ABC series about the fast-paced world of big business is an early ‘80s time capsule, and it may be more fun now than when it first went to air. In its vision of the modern office, multi-tasking means barking into the phone while chain smoking and punching numbers into the latest-model pocket calculator, occasionally stopping to check if anything’s come in on the teletype machine. Before Wall Street’s (1987) Gordon Gecko declared 'greed is good’, this series’ brokers and entrepeneurs were espousing the same philosophy.

In their world, a 'killer instinct’ is a great asset and social status and privilege are all-important. Accumulating wealth and beating the competition are the highest goals, leaving ethics and social responsibility in the dust – for example, in this episode the company celebrates the share price increase delivered by the outbreak of war in an African nation.

The series makes much of the Melbourne versus Sydney divide. Here, the Melbourne business world is a conservative, sophisticated and discreet bastion of old money, while Sydney is the home of brashness, risky trading, fast living and the nouveau riche. These differences are underlined by the contrast between main character Dick Coleman and his smooth-talking, dodgy-dealing, sunglasses-indoors-wearing rival John Katani. Coleman’s Melbourne office is a staid looking, beige, wood-panelled affair, while to emphasise the Sydney difference, Catani’s is filled with tropical-looking potted palms.

The slick, glamourous vision of the business world the series aims for is stymied somewhat by the limitations of budget. Nonetheless, it is snappily paced and entertainingly over-the-top.

Downside Risk is episode six in the ten-part series.