The King (2007)
As the end credits rightly state, Graham Kennedy will always be the king of Australian television. Within a year of the medium being launched in 1956, Kennedy was hosting ‘In Melbourne Tonight’, a local variety show that aired five times a week. It dominated the ratings for the next thirteen years. After leaving the show in 1970, Kennedy found more success with the game show ‘Blankety Blanks’ and ‘Coast to Coast’, a late-night news program filmed in front of a live studio audience. However it was Kennedy himself who was in the headlines when controversial radio host Derryn Hinch outed him as homosexual. Regrettably this biopic spends too much time on this aspect of his life rather than the laughter he generated for years.
After a quick detour to his infamous crow call, The King flashes back to Kennedy’s childhood where he is raised by his maternal grandmother. An opportunity to play straight man to popular radio host Nicky Whitta provides him with an invaluable lesson in comedy, one that he abides by when he tackles the new medium of television – “improvisations always play better on the third rewrite.” Following a disastrous first week hosting ‘In Melbourne Tonight’, Kennedy throws caution to the wind and mocks one the show’s advertisers during an on-air paid promotion. Surprisingly the skit results in the product flying off the shelves and soon Kennedy becomes responsible for over half of the television station’s revenue.
To those unfamiliar with Kennedy’s output, one could be mistaken for believing this was his only schtick. Apart from some byplay with Bert Newton and a brief recreation of a Wilsons sketch, The King limits its recreations of ‘In Melbourne Tonight’ to Kennedy spruiking cat food, dog food, footwear and cough medicine. Similarly, depictions of the off-camera Kennedy are also skewiff. Though the biopic tactfully juxtaposes Kennedy’s public image with his personal life at a time when homosexuality was illegal, it overplays the cliché that this resulted in him being lonely and miserable. There is no sign of the naughty schoolboy who delighted in pushing boundaries, just hints of a nasty streak.
Stephen Curry gives a commendable performance in the title role and Stephen Hall mimics Bert Newton to a tee. Yet much like the reaction the Hinch’s exposé, The King leaves you wondering what all the fuss was about.
as Graham Kennedy
as Bert Newton
"At the time everybody suspected he was gay but nobody gave a shit about it, nobody cared and back in those days nobody even talked about it…. That ludicrous thing about making the bloke climb into the boot of the car - that never happened. Graham did tell me he made a guy sit in the back seat with a rug over him but he never made him get into the boot."
Passing reference is made of The Club, though the conversation takes place before Kennedy hosts ‘Blankety Blanks’ when in fact the movie was filmed after the TV series ended. End credits also mention his performances in Don’s Party and The Odd Angry Shot.