Neil Mitchell left his top-rating Melbourne radio show on his own terms but he was once unceremoniously sacked from the hit television series Frontline.
The outgoing 3AW morning host appeared as himself in the first season of Frontline, the ABC mockumentary which satirised TV current affairs journalism in the mid 1990s.
Frontline documented the production of a fictitious program of the same name as it battled for tabloid stories against the real-life A Current Affair and Today Tonight.
Mitchell had a recurring role discussing the news of the day with Frontline’s self-absorbed and dimwitted host Mike Moore, played by Rob Sitch, on his 3AW morning program.
Neil Mitchell had a recurring role on the comedy series Frontline discussing the news of the day with the fictitious program’s host Mike Moore, played by Rob Sitch (above)
Neil Mitchell insists it was his decision to quit his top-rating Melbourne radio show but he was once unceremoniously sacked from the hit television series Frontline
Frontline first aired in 1994 and was produced by Working Dog, the company founded by actors Sitch, Jane Kennedy, Santo Cilauro and Tom Gleisner a year earlier.
The same team, who had previously appeared in The D Generation, went onto make Russell Coight’s All Aussie Adventures, Have You Been Paying Attention?, Utopia and The Cheap Seats, as well as films The Dish and The Castle.
Frontline’s cast included Kennedy as ambitious young reporter Brooke Vandenberg, Tiriel Mora as foot-the-door journo Martin Di Stasio, and Cilauro as weatherman Geoffrey Salter.
Bruno Lawrence, Kevin J. Wilson and Steve Bisley appeared as Frontline’s executive producers in seasons one, two and three respectively.
Mitchell said he had loved appearing on Frontline but he fell out with Working Dog when he criticised another of their programs and they sacked him.
Frontline’s cast included Jane Kennedy as ambitious young reporter Brooke Vandenberg (left), Rob Sitch as host Mike Moore (centre) and Tiriel Mora as foot-the-door journo Martin Di Stasio (right). Kevin J. Wilson appeared as executive producer Sam Murphy in series two
The broadcaster would be sent ‘a bit of a storyline’ the night before filming, or that morning, then he and Sitch would ‘would just sit down and go for it’ in the studio before Ernie Sigley began the station’s afternoon shift.
‘It was done in one take with a couple of Handycams,’ Mitchell told Daily Mail Australia last year.
‘Ernie Sigley used to get p***ed off because he was about to take over the studio but it only took us about five minutes. I used to love doing it.
‘Unfortunately, they sacked me. Mind you, my payment for the whole entire series was one bottle of whisky and I don’t drink whisky.’
Mitchell said he got the boot because he had criticised another Working Dog production called Funky Squad which mocked 1970s American police dramas and lasted only one season.
‘They sacked me because they had a thing called Mod Squad or something and it was awful and we bagged it on air,’ Mitchell said.
‘They got the manager to call me and say, “We don’t want you anymore, we only want to work with people who approve of what we do”.
‘I got Rob Sitch to call me and I said, “But it’s crap – I’ve got to express an opinion on it”. We had a bit of a disagreement. Anyway, they sacked me.’
Mitchell was replaced by 7.30 Report journalist Sarah Henderson, who was the partner of Working Dog producer Michael Hirsh.
Henderson – now a federal Liberal senator – appeared in four episodes of Frontline’s third and final series.
Mitchell has no hard feelings about his exit from the program, which finished in 1997 and is now considered an Australian comedy classic.
‘It was good fun,’ he said. ‘I was an admirer of [Working Dog] from the days of the D Gen. I really liked them. I still do like them. We got over that.’
Working Dog, which also produced Thank God You’re Here, The Panel, The Hollowmen and Audrey’s Kitchen, has been contacted for comment.
Mitchell announced on Friday morning he was leave his morning program in December after 33 years but would continue at 3AW as an analyst and record a weekly podcast.
Seasons one to three of Frontline are available to stream on Stan.
Frontline ran from 1994 to 1997 and is now available to stream on Stan. Left to right are Rob Sitch, Bruno Lawrence, Jane Kennedy and Tiriel Mora