Reg Grundy, the producer behind the Australian soap opera Neighbours, has died aged 92.
Mr Grundy’s production company created many of Australia’s biggest television shows, including The Young Doctors and Prisoner: Cell Block H.
In the mid-1980s Mr Grundy developed Neighbours with his head of drama Reg Watson.
The popular soap, which made Kylie Minogue and Jason Donovan international stars, is still running today.
The Reg Grundy Organisation, founded in 1959, produced many of Australia’s most-popular television shows.
It has since been bought and is known as FremantleMedia.
The head of FremantleMedia Australia, Ian Hogg, said Grundy was a national treasure.
He said: “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.
“Reg is an icon and he will be sorely missed.”
Mr Grundy initially made an impact with game shows including Wheel of Fortune and Sale of the Century.
He later branched out into drama and also produced Abba: The Movie, a successful documentary which opened in 1977.
His name is so ubiquitous in Australia that “Reg Grundies” is commonly used as rhyming slang for “undies”.
In 2014, it emerged that he had been behind an undeclared donation to a fundraiser linked to the country’s Liberal party, some years before.
He died at his home in Bermuda, where he has lived with his wife Joy since 1982. The couple met when she auditioned for one of his game shows, and they were married for 45 years.
As well as developing hugely popular game shows for Australian TV, including Blankety Blank, Wheel of Fortune and Sale of the Century, the Grundy production company came up with the original ideas for some of the era’s biggest hits.
Surely the most well-known of his creations, the mid-1980s soap was a platform for bigger things for many more than just Ramsey Street stars Kylie and Jason. Russell Crowe appeared for several episodes, as former prisoner Kenny Larkin. So too did now-Hunger Games star Liam Hemsworth – as wheelchair-bound Josh Taylor – and singer Natalie Imbruglia – as Beth Brennan – both of whom got early career boosts from the show.
Starting in 1979 and one of Grundy’s biggest hits around the world – it was known as Prisoner: Cell Block H in the UK and US – the soap was set in a fictional women’s prison. Alongside the mundane details of life inside, it also dealt with more adventurous issues for the television of its day, such as homosexuality, social injustice and prison reform.
When Television New Zealand (TVNZ) wanted to create a soap opera set in a medical facility, Grundy came up with the format for the series Shortland Street Hospital. The series, which began in 1992 and which TVNZ calls “New Zealand’s favourite drama”, is still running.
This series about young medics, who made little attempt to separate their professional and personal lives, was one of the few big Grundy shows that never won an award. However, it still ran for more than seven years.
Grundy’s company did not just make its own programmes, it also pioneered foreign versions of its ideas. Goede Tijden, Slechte Tijden – the Dutch remake of The Restless Years – lasted much longer than the English-language original.
Public facilities were long a favoured setting for Grundy soaps, and this was no exception, focussing on characters connected to a fictional police training academy in Sydney.