The mild-mannered creator behind the comedy TV detective show with an international following, filmed in a West Pennant Hills garage
David Murdoch may not look like a comic giant, but that’s just what he is. This 50-something grey-haired, mild mannered former printer from West Pennant Hills spends hours every week writing, filming and editing ‘Pete Boone, Private Eye’ which airs on Foxtel’s Aurora – about a hapless, long-haired private eye who never manages to crack a case.
Hard to believe when you visit his suburban bungalow that it’s the creative nerve centre of this TV show, now in its eighth season and 100th episode.
In the back yard stands a flagpole with the Pete Boone flag. “When it’s raised and the neighbours hear someone screaming:’Help, murder!’ they know we’re only filming and not to call the police,” chortles David.
‘Pete Boone’ has a huge Australian and international viewing audience – he gets emails from fans aged from eight to 80, from around the country and internationally. So devoted are the fans that when they filmed the Christmas episode and season finale, filmed at Australiana Pioneer Village and to be shown on December 13, the obsessive sneak preview audience made it a red carpet affair, dressing up in all their best finery to watch the special episode.
Just how big his audience is, he doesn’t know as being a community channel, Aurora can’t tell him. Not that he cares – for David it’s his passion.
He first picked up his dad’s super 8mm movie camera at the age of eight. “I’d get my school friends to act out sketches I’d written. I got the bug and it never left me. I grew up with the Marx Brothers and Monty Python and that’s reflected in the show.
“Now I write the scripts, cast characters, film and edit the show too. It’s my baby.”
He also pays for the whole production out of his printing industry wages, the actors working for free. “We’re definitely nuts,” he tells The Monthly Chronicle. “But I want to make people happy, make them laugh. There’s normally a pun or joke in every line, so hopefully we do that.”
Filming mostly happens in a fibro garage tucked away in his garden, a modest 4m by 4m affair where the hapless gumshoe’s office is set up with a desk and a few tools of his trade mostly from the 1950s – an old typewriter, an aging cradle-mounted phone, a magnifying glass and a dusty collection of Agatha Christie novels as his reference material. No wonder he never solves a case.
In front of the desk stands a few bright lights and a tripod mounted camera, the only signs this is a TV studio.
A cast of 50 actors and four crew pull the show together, filming around twice a week throughout the year according to cast members’ availability. Other locations have included a Dojo school in Port Macquarie – don’t ask!
Casting involves trawling local theatre companies across Sydney and approaching actors. David has roped a few famous faces into the madness too, including radio star Jono Coleman.“Anyone that’s impressed me I’ve asked,” says David, “and so far they’ve all jumped at the chance!”
In the title role of Pete Boone is Will Seaman – his character inhabits the fictional suburb of West Pennant Falls. “The back story with Pete is that he got kicked out of school and out of home for his long hair. He’s a bit of a dumb rebel,” explains Will, 21, from Thornleigh.
Will was delivering pizzas to David’s house when he was lassoed into the title role despite having no acting experience, a move he’s never regretted. Outside of the TV acting he’s studying tourism management at a Sydney university.
“Being in the show has given me confidence to talk to more people and I think it will help me when I become a tour guide,” he says.
So celebrated and adored is this crazy local creation that fans have even put up a Wikipedia page. “I imagine we must be Australian community television’s longest running comedy show,” says David.
“Everyone has a great time making this and our fans love it. And why wouldn’t they – the world needs more laughter.”
Catch ‘Pete Boone, Private Eye’ on Foxtel Channel 173 Aurora at 11.30pm on Wednesdays 11.30pm, and again at 8.30am on Thursdays, or at:www.peteboone.tv where you can watch the programmes after they’ve premiered on Aurora, if you don’t have Foxtel.