Producer John Molloy talks about tapping into the nation’s nostalgia with Channel 7’s new miniseries Molly. By Caris Bizzaca.
Buzzing lightbulbs lit up the words “Countdown” as young fans screamed, cameramen were on the ready and Skyhooks prepared to take the stage.
As some of the crew walked onto the Countdown studio, goosebumps erupted on their arms. For a moment, they weren’t on the set of the miniseries Molly, but back in the 70s, on their very first job.
“Lots of our crew worked on Countdown and got their very first job as an assistant on the show,” Molly producer John Molloy says. “Even Darrell Martin – our second camera operator – he actually shot Countdown, so he was recreating all the camera moves he used back in that time.”
Molloy says whether they needed to be on set or not, everyone wanted to be there on that first day in the Countdown studio.
“One of the great highlights was the very first day in the Countdown studio, because a lot of people worked on it. It was beautiful and electrifying,” he says. “Everybody came to Molly with a real connection.”
And if the ratings are anything to go by, Molly Meldrum and Countdown still mean a lot to many Australians too.
Part 1 of Seven’s two telemovies about the music icon averaged 2.6 million overnight viewers (metro + regional) on Sunday night.*
That’s on top of the soundtrack, suitably titled Molly: Do Yourself a Favour, going GOLD weeks before the miniseries even went to air.
“People are already out there buying this soundtrack because they can’t wait to experience these songs again,” Molloy says.
It is a natural side-effect of watching Molly that you feel like digging into your music collection for some Russell Morris or Suzi Quatro.
Interestingly, other music-related Australian miniseries, such as INXS: Never Tear Us Apart and Peter Allen: Not the Boy Next Door have also been hugely successful. In 2014, INXS pulled in an average of 3.1 million viewers across the two episodes (metro + regional) **, while Peter Allen danced its way to becoming the second-highest rated TV drama in 2015, averaging 2.2 million viewers across the two episodes (metro + regional). ***.
“It’s because music can just create your own sense of nostalgia,” Molloy says, explaining that like certain smells, music triggers memory.
“You can always remember where you were at the time that music was playing.
“And I think particularly for Australia, there was a rich period where we were listening to our own bands, our own singers – we were really connected to that part of Australian identity.”
And for many Australians growing up in the 70s and 80s, that knowledge and love for Australian music was linked to watching Countdown and getting tips from Ian ‘Molly’ Meldrum.
The Molly miniseries concentrates on those Countdown years, from 1974-1987.
“That forms the heart of the drama that we explore,” Molloy says. “However naturally we have to include some elements from his childhood and present day, just to give context and a deeper understanding of the story.”
Meldrum himself was a consulting producer on Molly and suggested Samuel Johnson for the part before he went on to nail the audition process and nab the role.
In fact, Johnson embodies the character so well, Molloy has gotten comments from people about the ‘cameo’ Meldrum makes in a scene set in present day.
“I went, ‘nah that’s absolutely Sam’. It’s a real tribute to his performance and the make-up team as well,” he says.
Even before Sunday’s ratings success, Molloy says local television is in a really positive place.
“It’s really exciting that Australian audiences are so keen to connect with and watch stories about contemporary Australian history,” Molloy says.
“It’s nice to be telling Australian stories to Australian people.”
Catch Part 2 of Molly on Channel 7, Sunday February 14 at 8.30pm. Catch up on Part 1 on Plus7 now.
Source: OzTAM and RegionalTAM, 5-city-metro, combined markets, total people, average audience, all consolidated except Molly which is based on overnight viewings and therefore subject to change.
*Metro viewers totalled 1.79 million
**Metro viewers totalled 2.2 million
***Metro viewers totalled 1.5 million
Metropolitan data is copyright to OzTAM and Regional data is copyright to RegionalTAM and may not be reproduced, published or communicated in whole or part without the prior consent of OzTAM or RegionalTAM.