IMDB and Wikipedia are Wrong: Round The Twist did NOT Premiere 30 Years Ago this April

21 Mar 2019

If you Google the premiere date for beloved Australian children’s series, Round The Twist, a search will return April 4, 1989. So, it appears as though the iconic series’ 30-year anniversary is fast-approaching.

However, we caution Round The Twist fans not to celebrate too early. The truth is that the series premiered to the United Kingdom in April 1990 and to Australia in August 1990.

A whole year off the mark, how is it that the internet has got it so wrong, and why can no one remember when this iconic program went to air?

It’s because in Australia, Round The Twist was buried. Here’s the story behind it.In 1989, Australians were excited. They’d heard word that a ‘deliciously macabre’ TV project was in the works, adapted from stories by one of the nation’s most beloved authors, Paul Jennings.

Little was known about the upcoming project, Round The Twist (first pitched as Round The Bend and occasionally referenced in early media as Around The Twist), other than it had started filming at Victoria’s Split Point Lighthouse in Airey’s Inlet, it starred Frankie J Holden, Richard Moir and Bunney Brooke, and it cost three million dollars to make.

Australians believed they wouldn’t have long to wait for this anticipated series to air. Within the year, production had wrapped up and by November 1989, the series had been delivered for broadcast to Channel 7.

However, despite the growing public interest in the program, there remained little news of when Round The Twist would go to air. By May 1990 – six months on from its delivery, no Australian premiere date for Round The Twist had been announced.

In an ironic twist for a series so inherently ‘Aussie’, it was in fact the Brits who watched Round The Twist first.

And boy, did they enjoy it.



BBC1 premiered the series to the world in April 1990 in prime-time at 5PM on Fridays. It quickly shot to fame with UK audiences, pulling an average of five million people per episode. That year, Round The Twist ranked as the UK’s seventh most popular sitcom and outperformed U.S. kids’ juggernaut, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

By the time Australia decided to run Round The Twist, the BBC had asked for a second series, Scandinavia was well into repeats and it was being dubbed into German and French.

When Channel 7 finally decided to premiere the series in Australia on August 26, 1990, it was met with uproar. After the long wait and proven success in the UK, Round The Twist was scheduled for 8.30AM on Sundays – a time otherwise known as the ‘ratings dead-zone’. It was reported at the time that the number of houses using TV on a Sunday morning was less than a fifth of those during prime-time.

Australian audiences were furious. Viewers quickly took to the media to deem Channel 7’s ‘burying’ the series an “unspeakable act” – “dreadful”, “atrocious” and “a waste”. In one letter to the editor, a disgruntled fan said “Channel 7 deserved a bullet” for their decision to broadcast the series “while everyone is still in bed”.

Seven’s announcement left many in the media questioning the broadcaster’s commitment to its young viewers.

“8.30AM on Sundays is hardly a blockbuster, cut-throat slot, which makes me wonder why Channel 7 is about to close down The Mouse Factory (whatever it is) and replace it with Round The Twist.

“I mean, how many other Australian series which cost $3 million to make have been shown at 8.30AM Sundays? If this is a new trend in programming, it requires an explanation,” said Lawrie Masterson for TV Week.

Cartoon published in TV Week Australia, 11/8/1990

“Why don’t they move Ninja Turtles to 8.30AM Sunday and give us our own writers and talent in prime-time?” added viewer Shirley Cumming in a letter to the editor of The Age.

For the ACTF (who produced Round The Twist), the news was heartbreaking, but not totally unexpected. The 8.30AM timeslot had been tested earlier that year on the release of Kaboodle – Series 2, which had proved an unpopular time for audiences. When Seven’s announcement for Round The Twist was released, the ACTF campaigned to urge the broadcaster to reconsider a 6.30PM timeslot on Sunday nights. This request was rejected by the network.

The decision was so grave that it almost saw the end to Paul Jennings’ involvement in Round The Twist altogether. In a 1990 interview with the Geelong Advertiser, Jennings said:

“Channel Seven have buried [Round The Twist] before breakfast on Sunday and I wish another channel had bought it.”

“I just think that for them to show an American show like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which Round The Twist out-rated in England, in a premier timeslot and dump this down where no one will see it is a really poor show.

I have been approached (about making more television programs for children), but at the moment I’m still recovering from the timeslot of 8.30AM. I know it’s doing really well overseas, but I really wrote it for Aussie kids. And it took two years to do. To have two years of your life buried at dawn, it’s a pretty sad thing. So, I’m going to wait and see what happens to Round The Twist. If it’s really popular and gets a better timeslot in its second run, I might reconsider it. But at the moment, I just can’t bring myself to say yes.”

Despite the disappointment of cast, crew and audiences, the broadcaster remained steadfast in their decision. At the time, Seven programmer Ian Duncan said that 8.30AM Sundays is “simply the best place for [Round The Twist].”

“The opposition programming at that time is pathetic and it will maximise the audience for the program,” he said.

During the early ‘90s, Channel Nine held the lead in ratings for the nightly news/current affairs timeslot and overall prime-time surveys, with Seven occasionally making inroads. In a strategy to compete with its opposition, Channel 7 reserved its coveted 5-6PM timeslot for reality gameshow programming.

When questioned on Round The Twist’s slot, Channel 7’s network director of programming, Glen Kinging said: “We just can’t see the series rating as well as Family Feud or Wheel of Fortune”.

Margaret Geddes for The Age responded:

“The Seven Network’s conviction that anything that gains the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal’s C rating is by definition unsuitable for adults is unshakeable.

“It apparently has not occurred to Seven to wonder just how well it may have rated in a family viewing time-slot… Given Seven’s attitude, chances are we’ll never know,” she said.

Thankfully, the people of Australia let Seven know the importance of Round The Twist. Despite modest promotion and unappealing time-slot, Round The Twist beat the odds – its popularity grew, largely by word of mouth.

Jeffery Walker, who played Bronson in series 2, remembers waking himself up early to catch the original season.

“I remember the first season of Round The Twist. It was on very early. My sister and I would get up to watch it – we just loved it,” he said.

Like Jeffrey, many Australians embraced the series. In schools, teachers taped Round The Twist to share with their students. At home, it was enjoyed by both children and adults. VHS sales skyrocketed as media predicted the series would broadcast again, but not for at least another year.

Over time, word-of-mouth promotion prevailed. Four seasons and 29 years later, Round The Twist is one of the most successful children’s dramas made anywhere in the world. Even now, the series remains on air or on SVOD (somewhere across the globe) almost every day of the year. In Australia, Round The Twist remains an embedded and much-loved part of our nation’s cultural history.

It may be difficult to recall the day it began, but Round The Twist’s wacky and wonderful adventures simply cannot be forgotten.

Next year, when we mark the series’ 30th anniversary, we’ll be celebrating the people who uncovered the buried gem of Round The Twist and helped it to shine.

It’s thanks to you that its legacy will live on for years to come.


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Russell says

I love the line "The Mouse Factory (whatever it is)" Us old-timers remember it as one of Disney's attempts to regain the glory of the original Mickey Mouse Club. As bad as 8:30 Sunday morning may be, replacing the Mouse Factory with Round the Twist was forward thinking indeed!

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ACTF says

Hi Russell, thank you for clarifying "The Mouse Factory". It's nice to know that many more people were prepared to get up early for Round The Twist than a Disney re-hash!

Patricia Edgar says

There is one person who can answer all questions about Round the Twist. - why it was developed, how it was developed, the process, how it worked, how the program was financed , why Channel 7 came to buy it, why it was scheduled when it was and just about anything else you want to know about Round the Twist. There is no one at ACTF now who could do the same. History is being rewritten and that is what history becomes.
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Tejas says

Please document this somewhere - perhaps in a book or something. i'm sure there would be demand for this information, especially from the EP of the show

Quirky Queen says

Next year for the 30th anniversary they should celebrate with a movie reboot or a documentary! I just think something should be done...

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ACTF says

Great suggestions! We will definitely be celebrating the series' 30 year anniversary in 2020.

rrj says

I grew up with this show. But I think I remember the reruns on the ABC rather than it being on channel 7. I've learnt something new!

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ACTF says

Hi rrj, Round The Twist definitely had a long life on the ABC. It was broadcast on the Seven Network in 1990 and on the ABC from 1992-2001.

Tejas says

Series 1 was filmed at my school (Williamstown Primary in Melbourne) and we got to be extras in it. They used my older brothers classroom for all the interior classroom shots.

Was a great time to go to school as you never knew what was going to happen that day - be it the actors who played the twist kids coming to school seemingly naked on the back of a ute or saying back after class (with parental permission) to be artfully draped in spaghetti for a scene. It was great and they had one of the first mobile phones i ever saw - a massive 2 part job with a bag that was slung over the shoulder with a 6 foot tall antenna on it.

I remember they had a ceremony to hand over the final script and they showed us a rough edit of Skeleton on the Dunny which was the first ep filmed (i believe) due to the SFX they needed for the ghosts - which they had not added when they showed us the episode, meaning we had to imagine the ghost

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ACTF says

Hi Tejas, we loved reading your memories on set. Thank you for sharing!

Heidi says

A great way to celebrate 30 years would be filming and airing a new season (preferably based on more of Paul Jennings' short stories).

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ACTF says

Hi Heidi,

Thank you so much for your comment - we're looking forward to celebrating the 30 year anniversary of Round The Twist this year. We will pass your suggestion on for review.

Bill says

Having been born after the show started I wasn't around when the first season aired but do remember the ABC repeating it around the time of the 3rd season and saw the 1st season 1st I remember it so well when they got to the 2nd season I was a bit confused as to the cast changes but at Next time around got going with Pete acting like a chicken when ever any one said now I remember thinking yep this is Round the Twist alright! I always loved Tiger's commentary. Bit of a shame he lost that in the 3rd and 4th seasons and became more of a bumbling baffoon (As did Rabbit and Gribbs) but the show was still enjoyable. Happy 30th Round the Twist! Oh and any news on what is happening for the 30th? A Movie or new season perhaps? I know it's a long shot but strange things happen...

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Scott says

I loved this show as a child, and as a 38-year-old I'm rewatching it on DVD and it's still just as fun.

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regina gleeson says

hi ACTF! we run the lighthouse tours at Split Point and would love you to be involved in some celebrations of 30 years of RTT. we're in Stage 3 shutdown at the moment but are hoping to be open again in September. any chance you could rustle up some of the crew and have an appropriately socially distanced event when the weather warms up? We're keen!!

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ACTF says

Hi Regina,

Thanks for the suggestion, it hasn't been a year for events with COVID. It would be a big job to track down the cast and crews from the various series, many of whom are spread around the country, as well as some key members unfortunately no longer being with us. Unfortunately it's not something we can do at this time, but thank you so much for thinking of us. We can't wait to visit Split Point again now that restrictions are set to ease.

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