Homicide (Australian TV series)

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Homicide
Homicide au-show.jpg
Starring Don Barker
Gary Day
Les Dayman
John Fegan
Dennis Grosvenor
Alwyn Kurts
Lionel Long
Terry McDermott
George Mallaby
Lex Mitchell
Mike Preston
John Stanton
Leonard Teale
Charles Tingwell
Norman Yemm
Country of origin Australia
No. of episodes 510
Production
Running time 50 minutes
Broadcast
Original channel Seven Network
Picture format black-and-white (1964–1973)
colour (1973–1977)[1]
Original run 20 October 1964 – 18 January 1977

Homicide (1964-1977) was an Australian television police procedural drama series made by production firm Crawford Productions for the Seven Network. It was the television successor to Crawfords' radio series D24.

Series synopsis[edit]

The series dealt with the homicide squad of the Victorian Police force and the various crimes and cases the detectives are called upon to investigate. Many episodes were based directly on real cases, although the characters (including the detectives) were fictional. 510 episodes were produced, and aired from October 1964 to January 1977. It remains as the longest-running Australian drama series.

Broadcast history[edit]

The first episode aired at 7:30 p.m Tuesday 20 October 1964. The debut episode ("The Stunt") was not the first to be produced, with the pilot ("One Man Crime Wave") airing as episode 24A just prior to the departure of Lex Mitchell.

Regular daytime repeat screenings began in the early 1970s running until the early 1980s, as strip programming. Additionally, seven episodes were screened as specials, or part of specials:

  • ep. 376 - "Initiation", as part of the HSV-7 nostalgia program "Those Were The Days"
  • episodes 379 ("The Last Way Out"), 385 ("The Friendly Fellow"), 394 ("Patterns & Stripes Don't Mix"), 410 ("Bill"), and 463 ("The Life & Times Of Tina Kennedy") as part of the program's 30th anniversary celebration in 1994
  • ep. 383 - Assassin, shown in November 2005 as part of HSV-7's 50th year celebrations.

In 2004 the episodes "Flashpoint" (ep. 56) and "Stopover" (ep. 504) were screened cinematically by Melbourne Cinematheque.

In August 2010 WIN Television, as part of their late night "Crawford's Classic Drama" series, began sequential repeats from episode 1, but ceased in March 2011 at episode 33 (the pilot "One Man Crime Wave" was not included).

In the 1960s, the series was picked up, on a regional basis, by some of the ITV companies in the UK. Not all regions screened the show, which was scheduled in a late-night slot (usually 10:30pm or later), but among those that did were Westward TV, Yorkshire TV, Channel TV, Border TV and Southern Television.

Technical specifications[edit]

Early episodes were in black and white with the bulk of material recorded on videotape in the studios of HSV7 using a Multicamera setup. Each episode also featured about ten minutes of location footage shot on 16 mm film. Total time per episode was 47 minutes.

With occasional exceptions, the filmed segments did not have synchronised sound and so featured little dialogue, concentrating more on dramatic shots of cars pulling in, gun battles, and fist fights.

Dialogue for the film scenes was done "post sync". This means that the dialogue was recorded on location but, due to the often low quality of audio recorded in this manner, the actor was required to record the dialogue in a sound-proof studio in the standard filmmaking process known as Additional Dialogue Recording. Location recordings were used infrequently, and usually limited to brief dialogue snatches in enclosed spaces, such as the interior of a car. Sound effects would be also dubbed onto the location-shot footage. Both pre-recorded sound effects recordings and the work of Crawford's foley artist would be used.

Episode 56, "Flashpoint", which first aired on 19 April 1966, was shot entirely on location on film, and most of the dialogue of this episode was post-synched. Over the years the ratio of film to videotape was increased, and synchronised sound became the norm. When the series switched from black and white to colour in 1973, it necessitated shooting entirely on film, as the HSV7 studios were yet to be converted to colour video production.

If a script was amended, a Crawford Productions staff member who lived near the actor concerned would be required to deliver the new script to their house. Quite often this new dialogue had to be memorised for filming the next day.[2]

Scripts[edit]

Homicide scripts explored a number of major social issues, such as:

  • pack rape (episode 21, "The Violators")
  • prostitution (episode 23, "The Brand")
  • loneliness, suicide and mercy killing (episode 31, "An Act Of Love")
  • the occult (episode 34, "Witch Hunt")
  • police shooting of criminals (episode 76, "The Snipers")
  • road safety (episode 123, "No Licence To Kill")
  • drugs (episode 128, "Freakout")
  • the plight of pensioners (episode 208, "Everybody Knows Charlie")
  • pollution (episode 314, "Fighting Fred")
  • use of firearms (episode 405, "Time And Tide")
  • ‘poofter bashing’ (episode 411, "A Crime Against Nature")
  • youth gangs (episode 434, "The Graduation Of Tony Walker")
  • child abuse (episode 463, "The Life And Times Of Tina Kennedy")
  • the dangers of hitch-hiking (episode 478, "Wipe Out")

Many of these episodes were introduced by John Fegan to highlight their significance.

Scripts were frequently based on real murder cases. For example, episode 211, "I, Mick O'Byrne", was based on the recent case of Ronald Ryan, the last man hanged in Australia. Episode 37, "Colour of Hate", was based on the real-life murder of a young police constable. The victim's family later wrote a very appreciative letter to Crawfords in which they described the episode as ‘a fine tribute to our son’s courage and devotion to duty’. The letter was later read out by Leonard Teale in the documentary The Homicide Story, who noted that it held a special place in the production team's files. A third episode, "A Lonely Place" (episode 39), was based on the case of real-life serial killer Arnold Sodeman, who strangled four girls between 1930-1935 when affected by alcohol.

Homicide won multiple awards for its scripts, including three AWGIEs, two Logies, one Penguin and one Sammy Award:

AWGIEs:

1970: John Dingwall - Best Script for a TV Drama Series for episode 208, "Everyone Knows Charlie"
1975: Peter Schreck - episode 434, "The Graduation Of Tony Walker"
1976: Keith Thompson - Best Script for Telemovie for episode 504, "Stopover"

Logies:

1973: Fred 'Cul' Cullen - Best Script for episode 385, "The Friendly Fellow"
1974: Fred 'Cul' Cullen - Best Script for episode 414, "Twelve Bar Blues"

Penguin:

1975: Australian Film Commission Second Prize for episode 434, "The Graduation Of Tony Walker"

Sammy:

1976: Keith Thompson - Best Writer (TV Play) for episode 504, "Stopover"

Stopover[edit]

Late in the show's run - between episodes 470 and 480 - a feature length episode was filmed. This film was entitled Stopover, with the title Homicide not used at all, and was shot entirely on film on new sets and on location at Melbourne Airport. The story involved an international rock band that was held at the airport following the fatal overdose of a band member. Guest stars included Jon English as the band's lead singer, and Tony Bonner as the band member who overdosed. The film never received a cinema release but was shown on television as a special in 1976. It is officially listed as episode 504, with episodes 502 and 503 also being feature-length.

Lawson, White, Deegan and Redford are the detectives in the film.

Records[edit]

  • Homicide ran for 12 years and 6 months, making it the longest-running Australian weekly primetime drama in history.
  • With 510 episodes produced (the last episode is numbered 509, but the pilot episode was numbered with an 'A' suffix, making a total of 510), for many years it held the record for most episodes produced in an Australian weekly primetime drama. When it ended in 2006 Blue Heelers equalled this record. However, "Homicide" ran on-air for longer than "Blue Heelers", and had a greater cumulative running time due to five "feature-length" episodes.

Significance[edit]

Homicide was the first major dramatic television series to be produced in Australia, the domestic television market having been previously dominated by American and British imports. In 1964, any Australian-made product tended to be quiz shows, children's series, music/variety series and one-off plays, with local drama production sporadic at best, with only a handful of typically short-lived series on commercial television such as Autumn Affair, Emergency and The Story of Peter Grey, along with several mini-series on ABC such as Stormy Petrel. Foreign imports were preferred because they were both cheaper and (especially for US series) more plentiful than local productions. Homicide proved that there was a market for home-grown dramatic programming and was highly successful from the start - its initial ratings were in the 30s, and regularly rated in the high 40s and even low 50s (modern cop show ratings tend to be in the 20s at best). In addition, the series was produced at a tenth of the cost of an overseas program and easily outrated them.

Guest artists[edit]

The series also proved itself to be a virtual training ground for Australian television and film production. During its 11-year run, almost everyone in the industry - actors, directors, scriptwriters, producers, camera crew, etc. - worked on the series at some point in their careers, and guest roles were filled by a veritable Who's Who of the Australian entertainment - both established and newcomers

For these reasons, as well as for inspiring a series of popular cop dramas that followed, it remains one of the most important programmes in the history of Australian television.

In 2007, Homicide was chosen for a 50 cent stamp to celebrate 50 years of television in Australia.

Characters[edit]

Characters' ranks (except for Detective Inspector) changed in accordance with real-life changes in the Victoria Police Force. For example, Detective Sergeant Mackay becomes Detective Senior Sergeant to reflect his role as the squad's number-two when this rank was introduced. Barnes becomes a Senior Detective after the rank of Detective was abolished.

A gruff but warm-hearted pipe-smoking Irishman who worked his way up through the ranks from constable. Takes long service leave prior to retiring from the force in episode 204, "Chain of Evidence".
  • Det. Sgt. Frank Bronson (Terry McDermott) - 1964-1966
A capable and calculating detective, married with children, Bronson can be very tough when necessary, but is generally easy-going with a strong core of humanity and humour. Shot dead by an escaped convict (played by Gerard Kennedy) in episode 58, "Vendetta".
  • Det. Rex Fraser (Lex Mitchell) - 1964-1965
Young, impulsive, and single, Fraser is a ladies man and a milk drinker (instead of alcohol), and only recently assigned to the squad. Transferred to another squad after being promoted to Senior Detective in episode 27, "Fifth Column".
  • Sen. Det. / Det. Sgt. / Det. Snr. Sgt. David Mackay (Leonard Teale) - 1965-1973
Known as 'Mac', Mackay is a tough cop with high ideals about justice. Initially he has a large chip on his shoulder - he had been a Detective Sergeant before, but was demoted to Senior Detective because of a report by Bronson. This initially triggers conflict when Mackay realizes Bronson is to be his superior officer, but he mellows and matures over the years. Promoted to Sergeant after Bronson's death, Mackay is eventually promoted to Inspector and transferred to Ballarat in episode 383, "Assassin". In the final episode, "The Last Task", Mackay returns to help out his old squad in a case. The final scene has the cast looking through a doorway into the lens of the camera - ostensibly farewelling Mac, but actually saying goodbye to the viewer.
A crack shot who hates the idea of killing anyone - but is forced to do so on several occasions in order to protect other people's lives - Hudson is a 'new breed' type of detective, well-trained in scientific methods of detection and with a modern approach to everyday living - in contrast to Connolly's solid beat-trained old-school type of detective. He is transferred from Forensic to assist Homicide after Mackay is seriously wounded by a prison escapee, and remains with the squad after Sergeant Bronson is killed on the case - a death he blames himself for. After being forced to fatally shoot another person once too often, Hudson is granted a leave of absence in episode 161, "The Pay Off". Dialogue in a later episode indicates that Hudson had been transferred back to Forensic and was due to return to work shortly.
  • Det. / Sen. Det. / Det. Sgt. Peter Barnes (George Mallaby) - 1968-1973
Transferred from the Sydney Vice Squad, Barnes is a brash young cop - and a bit of a swinging bachelor - promoted to Detective at an earlier age than usual. He matures over the years, developing into a talented, formidable detective but retaining his good nature and sense of humour. Promoted to Sergeant after Mackay transfers out, Barnes has a nervous breakdown shortly afterwards from the strain of non-stop murder cases in episode 395, "One Too Many".[3]
A first-generation Australian of Italian descent who, like his predecessor Hudson, has been transferred from Forensic. Unlike Hudson, Costello prefers more action. Killed in a mine cave-in during a case in episode 210, "A Quiet Town".
Originally from Maldara in country Victoria, a widower who lives with his unmarried daughter, Fox is greatly respected by the other detectives who realise his bark is worse than his bite - but don't let on. Shrewd with a dry sense of humour, Fox has a deep and mature respect for the role he fills. Shot dead by a sniper in episode 383, "Assassin".
A tough-as-nails cop with a direct methodology and a devoted family man, Patterson had previously boarded with Inspector Fox when posted to Maldara. He has an identical twin brother, Eddie (played by Yemm's real-life twin Gordon), who inadvertently causes havoc in the squad in a case of mistaken identity in episode 249, "The Superintendant". The episode (an out-and-out comedy) includes a legendary dream sequence in which three of the detectives are racing down an alleyway, guns blazing - but trouserless.[4] Quits the force after becoming too emotionally involved in a case in which he nearly kills the murderer of a small boy in episode 333, "Grains of Sand".
  • Sen. Det. / Det. Sgt. Bob Delaney (Mike Preston) - 1972-1973
A Londoner who had been a constable in the British police force before coming to Australia, Delaney is a 'snappy' modern dresser who pushes his clothes and hair length to the regulation limit. Replacing Patterson, Delaney is killed by a letter-bomb in episode 375, "We'll Both Remember Angie"; the episode ends with a police funeral with full honours.
  • Sen. Det. Phil Redford (Gary Day) - 1972-1977
A Vietnam veteran who has strong ideas about violence, Redford is also studying law part-time at university. Delaney's replacement, he remains to the end of the series.
Recalled to Melbourne from Scotland Yard (after serving with the United Nations peace-keeping forces in Cyprus) to take over the squad after the murder of Inspector Fox. Remains to the end of the series.
A tough, no-nonsense detective brought in after Barnes is promoted to Sergeant. Crippled in a car crash when pursuing a criminal in episode 432, "The Fellas Send Their Regards".
A family man, good-natured joker and incessant talker, but with a tough edge that increasingly comes to the fore. He replaces Barnes after his breakdown, and remains to the end of the series.
  • Sen. Det. Mike Deegan (Dennis Grosvenor) - 1974-1977
A motorcycle-riding, martial-arts expert transferred to the Homicide squad from Ballarat, where he had worked under Inspector Mackay, as Kelly's replacement. Remains to the end of the series.

DVD release[edit]

Homicide has been released on DVD in a series of box sets since December 2012. Each box set contains 26 episodes on 7 discs. As of 2014, eight sets have been released, available from Crawford's online store.[5]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Homicide Episode Details". Classic Australian Television. Retrieved 2014-09-19. 
  2. ^ These days it would be sent by fax or email.
  3. ^ Barnes was added because the expanding scope of Homicide was proving a strain on the existing actors for location filming; it was decided that adding a permanent fourth detective would help spread the load around the regular cast.
  4. ^ In all the two-shots Gordon played Jim while Norman played Eddie, and in single shots Norman played both roles; he also dubbed both their voices. In episode 298, "Inquest", Gordon Yemm doubled for his brother in action sequences after Norman suffered a leg injury.
  5. ^ "Homicide on DVD". Crawfords Online DVD Store. Retrieved 17 March 2014. 

External links[edit]