All Saints: articles

Wil Traval

Good medicine... Wil Traval

Healthy hospital case

There's a certain irony in the fact that, when All Saints premiered in 1998, the hospital drama was predicted to last about as long as one of the unluckier patients brought into its fictitious wards.

Showing against Channel Nine's Water Rats, the series struggled to find an audience and was expected to be axed by network executives keen to cut their losses on a bad decision.

Fast forward to now, however, and perseverance paid off, with more than 368 episodes aired, multiple awards and viewer numbers that regularly make it the most popular Australian drama.

Just how things were turned around and why All Saints has succeeded where others have failed is as much a mystery to those at the centre of the series as anyone.

A clue is a combination of belief in a good concept, said All Saints executive producer John Holmes and the fact nobody involved has ever relaxed or let things stagnate.

"There's no easy answer, " Holmes said. "If there was we'd all be incredibly successful.

"But we do know we have to reinvent every now and then.

"We always say 'evolution, not revolution' for any long-running show and the way to freshen things is to change the elements, the stories, the performers and sometimes the way we actually shoot the show, all of which we have done at All Saints in the past two years."

In 1998, for example, the series was set in Ward 17 of All Saints Hospital and followed the comings and goings of the hospital staff, chiefly nurse Terri Sullivan (played by Georgie Parker).

Terri has since left the hospital and the action now takes place in an emergency ward and on the road with ambulance teams.

"We're constantly changing the mix of the characters to make the ensemble work in the direction we want to point the show," Holmes said.

"When we lose favourites and bring in new people we don't do that lightly, but it is necessary."

When All Saints was struggling against the more male-oriented Water Rats, Holmes said, the introduction of the ambulance angle gave access to more action and viewers who had been watching the rival police drama suddenly took notice.

'We're doing similar things now, changing characters and putting others in different circumstances to prevent stories becoming a bit similar," Holmes said.

"It's not always as dramatic as moving from the ward to emergency… but it's important to constantly refresh and we always will."

For the actors, that means never knowing what is next.

Wil Traval, for example, joined the cast as Dr Jack Quade, a love interest to nurse Sullivan.

Since then he's romanced two other series regulars, was nearly a father with one and is now heading back into the work and relationship ring yet again.

"It's great because the cast and the viewers can't take anything for granted, things change" Traval said.

"Things have been significantly changed since I joined All Saints [in 2004] when we were still in Ward 17 working with patients, through to emergency. My character has gone from being an intern to a resident to a surgeon and a whole host of new characters have come through.

"And this gives a great opportunity for the audience to discover new aspects and new reasons to watch."

Beginner's pluck

When Dr Jack Quade joined All Saints the dynamics of the show changed forever, but it wasn't Wil Traval's first appearance in it. Shortly after leaving NIDA in 2004, the young actor was asked by the producers of the long-running drama to play a priest who becomes very embarrassed while having his pubic hair shaved prior to surgery. "Yes," Traval said, "I thought, 'that should be interesting to play'… I don't know what I did right, but three weeks later they called with an offer to come back as a regular."


Australian television has had a long love affair with medical dramas, but few match the enthusiasm we had for A Country Practice. The series ran from 1981 to 1993 (with a brief additional run in 1994), won 29 Logies and gave us one of the most-remembered scenes in local TV history. When much-loved character Molly Jones (Anne Tenney) died in 1985, the story made front-page news around Australia and more than 30 per cent of all TV viewers tuned in to the episode.

By Scott Ellis
October 30, 2006
The Sun-Herald