Ask Me Another: Australia's first TV game show

Ask Me Another: Australia's first TV game show
Nine Radio and Cinesound Movietone Productions
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This is a complete and publicly unseen 1953 game show pilot episode hosted by Jack Davey, Australia’s biggest radio star of the era, with strong claims to being Australia’s very first television game show production.

Three years before television launched in Australia, Charles Ogilvy – the Managing Director of Macquarie Broadcasting Service – organised for Fox Movietone’s cameras to record one of their radio programs.

On Tuesday 30 June 1953, the live audience at 2GB’s Macquarie Auditorium in Phillip Street, Sydney unknowingly found themselves part of Australian television history. The film pilot was created during the recording of episode 164 of Ask Me Another.

Davey’s on-screen panel consisted of Daily Mirror journalist Elizabeth ‘Betty’ Riddell, writer Keith Smith (who later devised the popular radio and TV show The Pied Piper), French-born Australia’s Amateur Hour contestant Linda Lorene and newspaper cartoonist Dan Russell. Also seen are announcer David Low and assistant Joan Scahill.

A mocked-up advertisement for the show’s main sponsor, Eno Fruit Salts – produced without a soundtrack and featuring fellow 2GB personality Keith Walshe hamming it up for the camera – was also included for demonstration purposes. 

The haste in which the production was completed is evident. Still in pristine condition, the 35mm film contains no titles, credits or visible captions. Sound mixing was only cursorily undertaken with the silently filmed cutaways of the audience, panellist close-ups and the Eno advertisement making for a jarring viewing experience. Even panellist Keith Smith’s name plate has an obvious (intentional?) spelling mistake!

Ask Me Another commenced on radio in March 1950. In each episode, a panel of 4 personalities sought to uncover a phrase that was either animal, vegetable or mineral, within the allocated 20 questions. Prizes were awarded both to listeners sending in their suggestions, and other contestants on stage if the panel failed to match the phrase.

Ask Me Another ran for 5 years on radio but of the 262 episodes produced, only a handful survive today.

The filmed Ask Me Another pilot did not lead to Macquarie obtaining a Sydney TV licence and it never went to air. Nevertheless, Macquarie initially followed through with their interest in adapting their radio shows for television.

In February 1957, only months into regular television broadcasting in Australia, Jack Davey found himself fronting the cameras of ATN7 for 3 of his radio shows: Give It A Go, The Dulux Show and The Pressure Pak Show. However, none were successful. Only The Pressure Pak Show – a reworking of the Ask Me Another format – survived into 1958.

Diagnosed with lung cancer in June 1959, Jack Davey continued to schedule hundreds of engagements in his final year across radio, film, charity events and newsreel narration duties, the latter as the voice of Movietone News editions for 25 years. 

Unquestionably Australia’s greatest radio star, Davey's passing at age 52 on 14 October 1959 was a national news story.

Read more about Jack Davey and the Ask Me Another television pilot.