Neil Mitchell quit as king of Melbourne radio on his own terms. It was a very different story when he was unceremoniously sacked from the cast of classic 1990s comedy Frontline
Neil Mitchell left his top-rated Melbourne radio program on his own terms, but he was once unceremoniously fired from the popular television series Frontline.
The outgoing 3AW morning host appeared as himself on the first season of Frontline, the ABC mockumentary that satirized television current affairs journalism in the mid-1990s.
Frontline documented the production of a fictional program of the same name as it competed for gossip stories against the real A Current Affair and Today Tonight.
Mitchell had a recurring role discussing the day’s news with Frontline’s egocentric and dim-witted host Mike Moore, played by Rob Sitch, on his 3AW morning show.
Neil Mitchell had a recurring role on the comedy series Frontline discussing the day’s news with fictional host Mike Moore, played by Rob Sitch (above)
Neil Mitchell insists it was his decision to quit his top-rated radio show in Melbourne, but he was once unceremoniously fired from hit television series Frontline
Frontline first aired in 1994 and was produced by Working Dog, the company founded a year earlier by actors Sitch, Jane Kennedy, Santo Cilauro and Tom Gleisner.
The same team, who had previously appeared on The D Generation, made 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.
The cast of Frontline included Kennedy as aspiring young reporter Brooke Vandenberg, Tiriel Mora as door-to-door journalist Martin Di Stasio, and Cilauro as weatherman Geoffrey Salter.
Bruno Lawrence, Kevin J. Wilson, and Steve Bisley appeared as Frontline executive producers in seasons one, two, and three, respectively.
Mitchell said he loved appearing on Frontline, but he got into a fight with Working Dog when he criticized another of their programs and they fired him.
The Frontline cast included Jane Kennedy as aspiring young reporter Brooke Vandenberg (left), Rob Sitch as host Mike Moore (center), and Tiriel Mora as door-to-door news reporter Martin Di Stasio (right). Kevin J. Wilson appeared as executive producer Sam Murphy in series two
The broadcaster would get “a piece of storyline” the night before filming, or that morning, and then he and Sitch would “just sit down and go for it” in the studio before Ernie Sigley started the station’s afternoon shift.
“It was done in one take with a pair of Handycams,” Mitchell told Daily Mail Australia last year.
“Ernie Sigley used to get teased because he was about to take over the studio, but it only took us about five minutes. I used to really enjoy doing it.
Unfortunately, they fired me. Mind you, my payment for the whole series was one bottle of Scotch and I don’t drink Scotch.’
Mitchell said he got the boot for criticizing another Working Dog production called Funky Squad, which mocked 1970s American cop dramas and only lasted one season.
“They fired me because they had something called Mod Squad or something, and it was terrible, and we put it on the air,” Mitchell said.
“They had the manager call me and say, ‘We don’t want you anymore, we only want to work with people who approve of what we’re doing’.
“I had Rob Sitch call me and I said, ‘But it’s rubbish – I have to voice an opinion on it'”. We had a little disagreement. Anyway, they fired me.’
Mitchell was replaced by 7:30 Report journalist Sarah Henderson, 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 leaving the program, which ended in 1997 and is now regarded as an Australian comedy classic.
“It was a lot of fun,” he said. “I was an admirer of (Working Dog) from the D-Gen era. I liked them a lot. I still like them. We got over that.’
Working Dog, who also produced Thank God You’re Here, The Panel, The Hollowmen and Audrey’s Kitchen, has been contacted for comment.
Mitchell announced Friday morning that after 33 years he would be leaving his morning show in December, but would remain with 3AW as an analyst and record a weekly podcast.
Seasons one through three of Frontline are available to stream on Stan.
Frontline ran from 1994 to 1997 and is now available to stream on Stan. From left to right are Rob Sitch, Bruno Lawrence, Jane Kennedy and Tiriel Mora