In 1988, channel Ten Australia commissioned Grundy Television Production to produce a twice weekly one-hour drama to attract viewers to the network during the 7.30pm family time on Wednesday and Thursday nights. Dr Patricia Edgar of The Australian Children's Television Foundation told Fiona Whitlock in 1989, "Children watch soapies because there's really nothing else for them to watch. We know that kids really prefer to watch drama. They don't want information programs.
"There is no regular programming for the age group beyond the pre-school programs because the drama quota is only 8 hours a year and the rest of it is magazine television. So they watch soapies. Soapies are very basic in their storylines, and have regular characters that are easy to identify, in the recognition of the young audience, certainly teenagers. I don’t think any harm has been done by the soapies at all."
Set in an outer suburb of a large Australian city (real life Hunters Hill in Sydney), 'Richmond Hill' starred Gwen Plumb previously Ada on 'The Young Doctors'. She told Lucy Clark, "I fought for that program (from cancellation back in) nineteen-seventy-something … I had good vibes for 'The Young Doctors' and I've got good vibes about this ('Richmond Hill'). Not everybody is going to like it. Not the blue stockings but the average people are going to like it and there are a lot of average people."
In January 1988, the network launched 'Richmond Hill' in Sydney Town Hall with special guests, the former Lord Mayor Doug Sutherland and the former Lady Mayoress Patricia Feodosiu. Mark Patrick of 'Fairfax Media' reported, "After drinks, guests congregated in the main hall which was tarted up as a street from the show complete with road signs, picket fences and various stalls dispensing food. The big round tables all had at least one TV star sitting at them (such as Gwen Plumb, Paula Duncan, Amanda Muggleton, Ashley Paske, Emily Symons, Robert Alexander and Maggie Kirkpatrick)."
Reg Watson reportedly saw Gwen on 'Neighbours' sent Reg Grundy tapes of her work and was told "get her". At the time, Gwen was committed to 'Home and Away' but "John Holmes (the line producer) who I had worked with on 'Neighbours' was really sweet about it." Hilary Kingsley of the 'London Daily Mirror' wrote the book 'Soap Box' at the time mentioned Reg Watson frequently through her book. Hilary argued, "Australian television needed him badly. There was little or no home-made drama; almost every show was bought from abroad.
"Reg masterminded drama for the Grundy Organization with wild success. 'The Young Doctors' (1975), 'Sons and Daughters' (1981), 'Prisoner' (1979) and many others were created and shaped by him. He made it look easy." 'Richmond Hill' was said to cost $300,000 a week to produce and consistently scored 15 to 16 points in the AGB McNair Anderson ratings diary in the 2 important markets, Sydney and Melbourne.
Dina Panozzo played real estate agent Jill Warner. Dina was considering leaving show business in 1986 upon learning the death of her father Bruno in a car accident in Italy. At the time Dina was performing at Belvoir Street Theatre in Sydney while her mother and 4 siblings were in Adelaide. "I heard the news an hour before I had to perform. It was awful, because my first feeling was to get on a plane and go home to Mama."
Dina then went to Indonesia for 4 weeks break but ended up staying for 6 months. She explained, "When Dad died, my drive went out the window, as well as the reason to prove myself as an actress. I thought, 'Maybe I don't want to act, maybe I don't want to do any of this.'" However after she returned to Australia, "Suddenly I went right back with it at a furious pace. I landed a play and then 'Richmond Hill' came along.
"When he died the whole structure of the family changed. It was havoc – suddenly all the rules changed and he wasn't there. I was his eldest girl, so that bond was very important. Both my parents were extremely extroverted and I think a lot of my sense of performance came from him. They panicked when my sister Oriana (the second Susan on 'Sons and Daughters') and I began acting, but the irony is that later in life they accepted the fact that it was because of what they were like.
"The eldest girl is expected to set an extraordinary standard and I always felt I was doing it wrong. I wasn't doing what my cousins were doing. I remember one terrible fight my Dad and I had and I kept shouting, 'But, I'm just like you' and that was my reasoning. He was a traveller and a vagabond. So my father to me is quite a mystery and now (back in 1988) it breaks my heart, because he's not here and I still don’t know what he did when he was young."
'Richmond Hill' was up against programs such as 'The 7.30 Report' with Trisha Goddard, 'The Flying Doctors', 'A Country Practice' and 'Rafferty's Rules'. John Wood played a magistrate on 'Rafferty's Rules' told Kevin Sadlier in 1989, "I thought there were all sorts of other things I would like to have been: a musician, a painter, a writer, but in all those things, the discipline is so hard and I’m essentially lazy even though I can paint and I can play the guitar and I do write.
"Acting was something that was easy for me but what was more important was that it was always an act of expression, of wanting to reflect society or reflect the way I felt about the world. Writing is just one of those things you can't help yourself doing. Writing is like a drug. Once you have an idea in your head, you can't rest until you've got it down on paper.
"At home, I can't resist sitting down at the typewriter. But, as I said, I don’t have the staying power. The discipline is terrible." John graduated from the National Institute of Dramatic Art in 1970 believed, "'Rafferty's Rules' is without doubt the best Australian show on telly (at the time) … In a sense, this show could go on for ever because there are hundreds of courtroom stories going on every day."