Remembering television executive Reg Grundy, who has died aged 92.
“Reg Grundy is a national treasure. His legacy to Australian entertainment is insurmountable. His visionary ability to know how to connect Australian families through some of this country’s most loved programming has stood the test of time. Generations of Australians have grown up with and been touched by a Grundy Production, be it Sons and Daughters, Sale of the Century, Prisoner, The Price Is Right and hundreds of other programs.
“His innate understanding of great storytelling and entertainment lives on today through programs such as Family Feud, Wentworth and Neighbours. Reg is an icon and he will be sorely missed. Our thoughts and prayers are with Joy and family at this difficult time.” – Ian Hogg – CEO, FremantleMedia Australia
For decades Reg Grundy and The Grundy Organisation were names associated with some of the most popular Australian, and later UK, television productions to hit viewers screens. From game shows to drama and the ever popular continuous serials, Reg Grundy’s productions reached millions of viewers every week.
Born in August 1923, in Sydney Australia, Reg began his media career aged 24 when he joined – the still broadcasting – Radio 2SM in Sydney. While preliminarily a sporting reporter and commentator he would in 1957 create for the radio station an entertainment game show – The Wheel Of Fortune. This lead Reg into the world of television, when he founded The Reg Grundy Organisation, an independent production company, which first produced the TV version of The Wheel of Fortune for the Nine Network. The company across the 1960s devised and produced, or acquired format rights, for quiz and game show formats for Australian and international markets. Early Australian programming included The Money Makers, Blind Date, The Price Is Right and Split Personality – to name only a few.
In the 1970s Reg decided to branch into drama and continuous serials. In a working visit to the UK he spent sometime with ITV broadcaster and production company ATV Network, looking at how they produced programming such as the twice weekly saga General Hospital and the fast-turn-around four nights a week “soap” Crossroads. The latter had been directed for many years by the late Midlander Alan Coleman and produced by former quiz show and entertainment executive – and native Australian – Reg Watson. Reg Grundy lured both over to ensure his new drama department had the very best talent behind it.
The name Grundy is, especially in the UK, more so than the quizzes associated with the company’s serial output with shows such as The Young Doctors, Sons and Daughters, Prisoner: Cell Block H and the still running Neighbours and Shortland Street enjoyed by millions of viewers every week. In the 1980s the Grundy Organisation, later re-branded as Grundy Television Productions, began setting up international creative units, with shows produced in countries including Germany, Sweden, Italy and America. At this time Reg Grundy also established a production arm in the UK which in association with the BBC, and associated European broadcasters, produced the Henry Kelly hosted general knowledge game show Going for Gold – this became his first major UK based success. This was swiftly followed by the HTV, for ITV, commissioned music quiz Keynotes.
“Basically I have Reg Grundy to thank for having a career. If it hadn’t been for Prisoner which was a benchmark in Australian television – Reg took the gamble at the time when women were not cast in strong roles – it was groundbreaking and I know I wouldn’t be still doing what I love today if it wasn’t for his vision.” – Colette Mann – Doreen Burns in Prisoner: Cell Block H
A revived version of Celebrity Squares, hosted by Bob Monkhouse, in association with Central Television, proved successful for ITV during the 1990s. It was during this decade the UK arm would become heavily involved with the output of newly launched Channel 5. The Grundy company in the UK gave the network such programmes as quizzes 100%, Whittle and One To Win, the latter a repackaged Going for Gold. There was also celebrity karaoke series Night Fever and action game show Fort Boyard.
However its final few years saw the company under the control of Pearson Television, who also owned former ITV company Thames Television, when Reg sold-up and retired to the sunny charms of Bermuda – a place he had called home since 1982. In 2006 the Grundy name was dropped entirely in Australia – which was met with much distaste from viewers – and also in the UK with a re-brand to FremantleMedia. The European outlets later adopted the Fremantle name.
However while his name may have sadly gone from the end of television productions The Reg Grundy name still lives on in re-runs of classic shows, especially Prisoner: Cell Block H which has been re-screened in the UK on Channel 5, and via numerous DVD releases of classic programmes. His name is also still in the minds of millions of viewers – notably in Australia where “Reg Grundies”, or “Grundies” is a term used as rhyming slang for “undies“. Which proves just how well known and successful a media mogul Reg Grundy had become.
Reg died at his home in Bermuda with his wife of 45-years Joy Chambers by his side. Joy is best known to UK audiences as the recurring character of Rosemary Daniels in five-nights-a-week serial Neighbours. Joy and Reg had first met when she auditioned for a role on a Grundy game show.
“Reg Grundy and Hector Crawford were the founders of commercial television drama as we know it today. Reg also lead the way with television light entertainment. I was fortunate enough to cut my teeth on many of Reg’s shows, eg Young Doctors and Prisoner, which eventually lead to the role of Paul Robinson in what has become an international success story, Neighbours. I had the pleasure of being the on-screen nephew of Reg’s lovely wife Joy.
“Hearing of the passing of Reg has genuinely rocked my world because not only was he my boss but an inspiration proving anything can be achieved if you believe in yourself. Reg was a tough businessman who was loved by many. I will miss you Reg and my heart goes out to the family, most particularly Joy who will devastated by the loss of her husband and best friend. Today sees the end of one of one of the true love stories in the entertainment industry. RIP Reg.” – Stefan Dennis – Paul Robinson in Neighbours