The Last of the Australians: articles


'THE Last of the Australians" is one of the few Australian comedies to break through the barrier of mediocrity that has barred the success of many promising productions.

From left, Ted Cook (Alwyn Kurts), with Terry Norris and John Ewart, two old mates, have a cold beer in the kitchen of the Cook home.

I have seen three episodes of this National Nine Network show at previews, and every one has made me laugh.

The continuing characters are Alwyn Kurts and Rosie Sturgess as Ted and Dot Cook, and Richard Hibbard as their son, Gary.

Ted Cook is an old Digger, a Middle East veteran in his fifties, who works as a lift-driver because some obscure war wound debars him from any other work.

He is a dyed-in-the-wool male chauvinist and has spent most of his life trying to keep Australia on the right track.

He was in Australia through the Depression, fought for it, and is now battling the moral and economic climate brought about by his favorite foe, the Labor Government.

When his wife takes off on her own one night to play Euchre, he blames her defection on "reading Margaret Whitlam and that Charmaine Greer" and is inclined to agree with his provocative son that the euchre game is a communist front.

Richard Hibbard, who plays Gary Cook in the first season of "The Last of the Australians."

The Cook son, Gary, is a university student (no course mentioned), played by Richard Hibbard. And played very well, too. I'd never seen Hibbard in action before.

He has a good part, full of opportunities for characterisation, of which he takes advantage.

As Gary, he loves his parents, despite everything — but has long since rejected their values and life-style. He goes along with it all because it suits him. and. when it suits him. he even pays impressive lip service to his father's beliefs.

He's a con-man par excellence with Ted and Dot, and shakes them down in the nicest way. without malice and lots of affection.

Take a good look at Richard Hibbard. It is the last time you will have the chance. He believes this series of "The Last of the Australians" is the last time he will ever act.

Last Christmas, with 13 episodes of the series finished, he resigned, and gave up all his worldly goods and worldly ways of life to join the Hare Krishna sect.

At the time he was still under contract for another 13 episodes of the show for Crawford Productions, who are making "The Last of the Australians." Crawfords legally could have held him to his contract.

Hector Crawford, head of the production company, was upset about Hibbard's decision, but after talking to him, let him go and took no action.

"To become a member of the Hare Krishna sect was vital and of great importance to Hibbard." he said. "It was something he felt he really had to do. I could not stand in his way."

Today. Hibbard, with shaven head, chants unrecognised as he worships round the streets of Melbourne with a band of disciples.

Everyone in "The Last of the Australians" was shocked by Hibbard's act.

Rosie Sturgess, Dot Cook, Ted's long-suffering wife.

Kurts and Rosie Sturgess, who had worked closely with him, say that on the set he was a very inquiring sort of person, always looking for answers. And, as an actor, he was one of those staunch, reliable characters who was always on time, and always knew his lines.

Hibbard is being replaced by a young man called Stephen Thomas, who will, without fanfare, take over the role of Gary in about three months' time. He has just begun working with the cast.

It is a very close-knit "family" group working on "The Last of the Australians." They rehearse for two weeks together before each episode is recorded live in front of an audience.

Terry Stapleton, who is the creator, writer and producer of the series, played Ted Cook in the original production of Alan Seymour's play, "The One Day of the Year."

Seymour is pleased about the extension of his characters into a TV series, and worked with Stapleton on the original format of the series.

The old Digger, Ted Cook, is a marvellous character, perhaps caricatured a bit cruelly at times in "The Last of the Australians."

Cook believes that there should always be time after a hard day's work in the lift (in all weathers) for a man to come home and have a good read of the paper while dinner is cooking.

He likes to think of the wife in the kitchen cooking and being grateful to him for being him — and getting the greatest kick out of tending his needs.

Dot has learned to live with Ted, because, Stapleton says, the only alternatives were divorce or assassination, and neither has ever been possible because she loves him. She rebels from time to time, but can't keep away from her life's work, looking after Ted and Gary.

Each episode is self-contained but there are some family adventures that continue from episode to episode.

As well as the Cook family, there are many interesting guests around from time to time. Terry Norris and Maurice Fields, from "Bellbird," are old Digger friends. Other guests include John Ewart, Noeline Brown and Jacki Weaver.

The laughs are good, clean laughs — refreshing.

There are no blue jokes, nor any schoolboy lavatory jokes or smut. The only thing that may offend some rare people are the "Woodys", which, like the beers, come thick and fast.

In TV jargon, "The Last of the Australians" is a "goer," which means it's a beauty. It is too.

"The Last of the Australians" may be seen on TCN9, Sydney, Sundays, 730 p.m. Other National Nine Network stations soon.

By Nan Musgrove
Australian Women's Weekly
Wednesday, April 30, 1975


TCN9's new comedy series is a winner — it's very funny and so true to life.

ROSIE STURGESS, Richard Hibbard (centre), and Alwyn Kurts… good fun.

"THE Last of the Australians," one of the rare local comedies to make me laugh out loud at a solo preview, premieres on TCN9 on Sunday, April 6, at 7.30pm.

"The Last of the Australians" is the story of the lives of Ted Cook (Alwyn Kurts) his wife, Dot (Rosie Sturgess), and their son, Gary (Richard Hibbard).

I can recommend it. It is a funny show. I've never been an Alwyn Kurts fan till "The Last of the Australians." He is good.

Kurts, as Ted Cook, and his mates are based on the characters seen in that controversial play about Anzac Day, "The One Day of the Year."

The series is not a dramatisation of the play, but its characters are based on the characters in the play.

Ted Cook is a great supporter and a mainstay of the local RSL club and as real a character as ever you'll meet. All Australians will know a Ted Cook.

By Nan Musgrove
Australian Women's Weekly
Wednesday, April 9, 1975


TCN9's new comedy series is a winner — it's very funny and so true to life.

A show having its premiere on TCN tonight could be the breakthrough in situation comedy Australian television has been waiting for.

ALWYN KURTS who plays Ted cook in TCN's The Last of the Australians.

Called The Last of the Australians, it's a half- hour weekly series starring Alwyn Kurts as Ted Cook, a bigoted, chip-on-the-shoulder dinkum Aussie.

Rosie Sturgess plays Ted's dedicated, long-suffering wife, Dot, and Richard Hibbard, as Gary, is their trendy son whose university education and liberal views are the cause of frequent conflict in the household.

These three are sometimes uncomfortable stereotypes… but in the funniest possible way.

Take the character of Ted Cook as an example. Ted firmly believes that a woman's place is in the kitchen, that anyone under the age of 25 is a long-haired moral generate and that the "Labor mob in Canberra has sold our country down the drain."

He is also totally convinced that "hordes of slant-eyed yellow wombats" are poised and ready to swarm over our homeland and destroy everything that he and his Digger mates fought for in the war.

Recognise him?

The Last of The Australians is the brainchild of Crawford Productions' Executive producer, and writer, Terry Stapleton, who spent some time in Britain studying producing techniques for a comedy series.

The characters are based on Alan Seymour's famous play The One Day of the Year which, incidentally starred Terry Stapleton during its world premiere in Adelaide in 1960.

Even though Ted Cook may sound an absolute pill (in fact, he is an absolute pill), it's a fair bet you'll find him likable.

Sydney Morning Herald
April 6, 1975