Excerpts from Graham Kennedy's guest role in an episode of the Australia-USA family period drama series Five Mile Creek, broadcast on HSV 7 Melbourne on 2 August 1984. In 'Bang The Big Drum' (Series 1, Episode 6), Kennedy plays 'Walker The Hawker', a bumbling, inexperienced travelling salesman yet to learn the basics of peddling, haggling and horses.
Five Mile Creek (1983-1985) was touted at the time as the most expensive television series ever shot in Australia. Dubbed a Down Under version of the wholesome American family drama Little House On The Prairie, the series starred Liz Burch and Louise Caire Clark as two independent women operating a stage coach way station in 1860s post-gold rush Australia. An initial Australia-USA co-production, the lavish set was constructed at Belrose, northern Sydney, and provided the location for the first 26 hour-long episodes filmed over 18 months, before the series relocated to Melbourne for its final season. A particular ratings success in the USA on the Disney Channel Cable Network, this episode was seen first by American audiences in January 1984. Though predominantly produced for American cable television, the program's failure to obtain a children's 'C' Classification in Australia meant it could not be screened locally to its target youth audience in the key local afternoon slot. HSV7 Melbourne screened only 11 episodes in the 1984 Friday night 7.30 pm timeslot, while ATN7 Sydney didn't schedule it until the following year.
Amongst a strong line-up of local talent making appearances across the series - among them Michael Caton, Rod Mullinar, Nicole Kidman, John Waters, Geoffrey Rush and even a young Asher Keddie - the role presented another opportunity for Graham to broaden his appeal as an actor. Kennedy had a stated liking for dressing up in period costume, having done so on countless occasions for filming of In Melbourne Tonight (IMT) sketches. A further incentive was the filming location being close to home for the now-resident Sydneysider. The role also appealed to his liking for the 'frontier' historical period genre, having once told The Age in 1974, 'every Sunday night at 6.30 pm without fail I sit down and watch The Waltons. You know The Waltons? Corny, sloppy, bordering on mawkish? You know this old style of American family series? Well I sit there and cry.'
Playing Walker the Hawker allowed Graham to display a wider range of his acting talent. Usually handed comedic roles, his scene opposite impressionable youngster Hannah Scott (Priscilla Weems) demonstrated his ability to play a gentle, paternalistic character displaying warmth, empathy and affection, far removed from his roles in feature films Don's Party, The Club and The Odd Angry Shot.
Graham shot his Five Mile Creek scenes during the later months of 1983, completing a busy acting year. This included filming a (mostly excised) role in Thailand for David Puttnam's feature The Killing Fields and co-starring in Australian comedy feature Stanley, the latter about which he expressed his dissatisfaction during publicity obligations.
Notes by Simon Smith