The actor Samuel Johnson won the TV Week Gold Logie on Sunday night for his portrayal of the Countdown host, Molly Meldrum, in the eponymous television miniseries.
But his moment of triumph was overshadowed by a rambling, expletive-laden speech from Meldrum, who ambushed his acceptance speech.
“Sorry, my family is all based out of a house in Preston,” an emotional Johnson said. “Amongst ourselves we call it the Prestonian Institute for the Temporarily Defeated. I know you are watching in Preston – not tonight.
“In all seriousness, you [the arts community] have given me such wonderful shelter, I feel indebted. I want to say thank you.”
But Meldrum, who had followed Johnson on stage to present him with his trademark Akubra which he had hidden in a black briefcase, interrupted him to tell him to stop saying um and ah.
Eventually Johnson, who beat the favourite and last year’s winner, Waleed Aly, to the Gold for best personality on Australian television, stood to one side and introduced Meldrum. The Countdown host then took over the microphone and stumbled through an incomprehensible speech for several minutes, peppering his story with “tits” and “fuck”.
Attempts by the awards host, the comedian Dave Hughes, to usher him off failed and Johnson did not get the chance to speak again.
Winning the best actor award earlier in the night Johnson spoke only of his sister Connie, who is terminally ill and was watching him at home on TV. The Channel Seven miniseries Molly also won the best drama award.
“My sister is succumbing finally to the perils of cancer after a three-decade long tussle and, rather than rolling over, she’s going out blazing with an attempted world record for the longest line of coins, absurdly,” he said.
“She’s putting together a row of coins in the shape of a love heart, hopefully the biggest love heart this country has ever seen, made of five-cent pieces from cancer families all around the country, with the entire proceeds going directly to scientists and researchers, no skimming, no add anybody.”
Johnson put his career on hold last year to raise money for his sister’s charity, Love Your Sister. In 2013 The Secret Life of Us actor travelled around Australia on a unicycle to raise funds for cancer research and to share Connie’s story.
After the ceremony he thanked members of the 380,000-strong Love Your Sister “village”. “No actor from a one-off TV event or telemovie has ever been nominated for Gold before, let alone taken home the bacon,” he said.
His sister had asked members to vote for him – “and they did, in droves. Facebook has been swinging voting results lately, and I think we’re no exception.”
The Meldrum gatecrash came after three and a half hours of a live broadcast that started at 7.30pm, and a red carpet that started in the late afternoon.
Hughes’ opening monologue was brutal in its takedowns of some of the industry’s biggest names, including the MasterChef host George Calomobaris, who underpaid his restaurant staff by $2.7m, and the Seven chief executive, Tim Worner, whose affair with a former Seven employee is the subject of a highly embarrassing court case.
“George said he was devastated to find out,” Hughes said as the camera settled on Calombaris in the audience. “He was devastated to find out. He was devastated when he found out. If he hadn’t found out, he wouldn’t have been devastated.
“But in his defence, he said he’s a chef, not an accountant. Apparently that’s why he cooked the books.”
Of Worner and his now infamous affair with a former executive assistant, Amber Harrison, Hughes said: “Jessica Marais is up for two shows. Channel Seven were working on a pilot of The Wrong Girl, that was starring their CEO, Tim Worner, and … that was more a reality show.
“He picked the wrong girl to mess with. It was going really well, but they thought it was too expensive and they tried to cancel it.
“I’ve never worked on Channel Seven and I probably never will!”
The overseas entertainment acts James Blunt and Andy Grammer were overshadowed by brilliant performances from local singers Casey Donovan and Jessica Mauboy.
The ABC’s Four Corners won most outstanding public affairs report for its program Australia’s Shame, about youth detention in the Northern Territory, and Sky News won most outstanding news coverage for its election coverage.
The political commentator Peta Credlin, who was once Tony Abbott’s chief of staff, took to the stage with Sky’s political editor, David Speers, to collect the award.