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JAG down under

First appeared in TV Week 5th February, 2000.  By Marina Williams

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The sand may have settled on the Australian Baywatch beach fiasco, but we could still be the country of choice for Hollywood producers.  Don Bellisario, the creator and executive producer of the action-packed Channel Seven adventure series JAG and other network blockbusters, has hinted that he would consider filming a series on our shores.

"I would love to do a series down here," says Don.  "Australia's got lovely locations, clean air, blue seas - it's magnificent."

JAG star David James Elliott who plays Lieutenant Commander Harmon "Harm" Rabb Jr, agrees.  "I could certainly live here," he says.

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The JAG juggernaut, which also included Catherine Bell (Colonel Sarah "Mac" MacKenzie) and Australian actor Trevor Goddard (Lieutenant Commander Mic Brumby), spent two weeks filming in Sydney last month for the series' 100th episode, titled "Boomerang".

It will screen in the US days after cast and crew have returned home, indicating just how tight their schedule is.  The episode, featuring Sydney landmarks, is due to screen here on the Seven Network later this year.

"It's just lovely - I brought my family and they love it here, " says David, pleased to be back three years after his last visit, as guest presenter at the TV Week Logie Awards.

Passionate about the series and Australia, Don Bellisario opted to direct the milestone episode himself.  Several weeks were spent scouting Sydney's landmarks last year, and as each location shoot prgressed (with a largely Australian crew), the fans followed, with actors and beach-babe-worthy extras keen to spend time out at Manly beach.

"I wanted to film the 100th episode in a special location," Don says.  "JAG is very popular here and my wife Vivienne is Australian, so it was a great opportunity."

He attributed Australian fans with helping to save the series when it was cancelled by one American Network after its first season.

"When we were not doing great in the US we were still big here," David remembers.

Consistently high ratings here in Australia prompted another US Network to relaunch the series.  It was a smart move - JAG went on to gain equally high ratings in the US and around the world.

"The only thing we can put our success in Australia down to is that the show offers the right mix of action and adventure, something that's rare on television today," Don says.

Keen to strengthen his ties here, Don introduced an Australian character to the show, played by Perth-born Trevor Goddard.

"I brought in an Australian character two years ago, and the character has worked really well," he says   "Vivienne and I love it so much here, we're looking for a place!"

 


First appeared 31st January, 2000