We are saddened to learn of the death of Home and Away creator Alan Bateman, who passed away peacefully in the early hours of Saturday morning after a long cancer battle his family have announced.
A former technician at TVW in Perth, Bateman joined ABC and worked his way up the ranks to become the network’s Head of Programming. He later moved to the post of Head of Drama for the Seven Network, where in 1986 he was tasked with the creation of a new show to replace Neighbours, which Seven had axed only to see it unexpectedly picked up by Network Ten and made into a success.
Bateman’s inspiration for this new show famously came whilst buying an ice cream in a small country town in southern NSW, where he heard that locals were in uproar about the construction of a new foster home for kids from the city.
“I saw then the outline for a serial” Bateman said in a 1989 interview. “I had wanted to make a serial but I hate copycat television. I wanted to do something that really reflected the hopes, fears, challenges and ambience of young people in the 1980s. I believe young people are alienated to a certain extent nowadays. It is very tough growing up. They have to cope with unemployment and the family unit is a changing structure. Television shows were being written by middle-class, middle-aged people about what life used to be like, not what’s happening in the Eighties. Then in the country town I saw it. Nobody in the community wanted them to move in and I began to wonder how streetwise city kids would adapt to the new lifestyle. Suddenly I thought, there is my slice of life in a community. Some residents were violently opposed to what they saw as troublesome kids being dumped on their own doorstep. Others wanted to give them a go. It had all the elements of fine drama”
Originally titled Refuge, the pre-production faced a number of teething problems before the renamed Home and Away finally premiered on 17th January 1988. The first 6 months were very difficult for the show, which came close to being axed by the network executives, but Bateman managed to keep it on air for the time it needed to gain a loyal following.
Once the show was on safe ground, Bateman moved on to the Nine Network to head their drama department, where one of his first projects was revamping ailing soap The Flying Doctors. After running his own consultancy specialising in sports events, he returned to Seven in the mid 90’ss as Managing Director and Head of Production, before leaving network television in 1999 to work in other executive fields.
Bevan Lee, who effectively became ‘sco-creator’s when he was brought in to completely rewrite the Pilot script, has been kind enough to share with us this tribute to Alan:
Fans of “Home and Away” owe Alan Bateman a huge debt of gratitude, as indeed do I. Alan asking me to rewrite the opening tele-movie of “Home and Away” kick started my career again at a time when it had stalled. He also commissioned me to create “All Saints”, another one of my big successes. He was a force of nature in the business, although he left it many years ago to pursue other career options. One huge way he contributed to “Home and Away” is less well known than the fact that it was his original idea. Six weeks in to its time on air, the Network programmers decided to cancel it due to low ratings. Alan got in there and fought like a terrier to get a four week stay of execution. In those weeks the ratings took an upward path and the rest is history. Without Alan Bateman, on so many levels, we would not be celebrating this 25th anniversary. Rest in Peace Alan. Your creation lives after you to remind us you were here.
We join Bevan in giving our gratitude to Alan Bateman and send our sincere condolences to Alan’ss family.
Please feel free to leave comments in the dedicated thread on our forum.
(photos used with kind permission of the Bateman family)
Update: Following our announcement, Seven Network’ss CEO Tim Worner has released the following statement:
In an industry built on legends, Alan Bateman was a trail blazer. Home and Away, conceived, developed and executive produced by Alan during its critical early seasons will ensure his history and that of the iconic series are forever linked. When Alan was in charge of a production, everyone had fun. That spirit lives on inside Home and Away today.
The official Home and Away site has chosen to use our tribute on their site, and we have also contacted current producer Lucy Addario to ask if there
could be an on-screen caption for Alan after an episode – similar to the one used after
Belinda Emmett’ss death. (Sadly we never did receive a reply and there was no
on-screen recognition of Alan’ss passing)