Stingers

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Stingers
Format Drama/Crime
Created by Guy Wilding
Mikael Borglund
Michael Messenger
Tony Morphett
Starring Peter Phelps
Kate Kendall
Anita Hegh
Joe Petruzzi
Roxane Wilson
Ian Stenlake
Jessica Napier
Jacinta Stapleton
Daniel Fredriksen
Lisa Chappell
Gary Sweet
Country of origin Australia
No. of episodes 192
Production
Running time approx 0:44
(plus commercials)
Production company(s) Beyond Television Productions
Broadcast
Original channel Nine Network
Original run 29 September 1998 – 14 December 2004

Stingers (1998–2004) was an Australian police drama television series. It ran for eight seasons on the Nine Network before it was canceled in late 2004 due to declining ratings and the late timeslot Channel Nine gave the program. The series has also aired in 65 countries, including Canada, Denmark, Egypt, France, Gibraltar, Iran, Ireland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, and the United Kingdom.

Inspired by true events, Stingers chronicled the cases of a deep undercover unit of the Victoria Police. The series also followed their personal lives, which sometimes became intertwined with their jobs. The show received average ratings during its debut season, but after some major changes, including intensive character development, the series turned out to be a success during the following year. The original cast members include Peter Phelps, Joe Petruzzi, Kate Kendall, Ian Stenlake, Anita Hegh, and Jessica Napier. All except Kendall and Phelps left the show during its run.

Cast[edit]

  • Senior Constable Peter Church – Peter Phelps (1998–2004, Ep 1 to 192)
  • (Detective) Constable Angie Piper – Kate Kendall (1998–2004, Ep 1 to 192)
  • Det-Sen Sgt. Bernie Rocca – Joe Petruzzi (1998–1999, Ep 1 to 44)
  • Constable Oscar Stone – Ian Stenlake (1998–2002, Ep 1 to 110)
  • Det-Sen Sgt. (originally Det-Sgt.) Ellen 'Mac' Mackenzie – Anita Hegh (1998–2002, Ep 1 to 110)
  • Constable Daniella Mayo – Roxane Wilson (2000–2002, Ep 45 to 114)
  • Detective Inspector Luke Harris – Gary Sweet (2002–2004, Ep 111 to 192)
  • Constable (originally Probationary Constable) Christina Dichiera – Jacinta Stapleton (2002–2004, Ep 112 to 192)
  • Senior Detective Leo Flynn – Daniel Frederiksen (2003–2004, Ep 136 to 192)

Semi-regulars and other cast[edit]

  • Senior Detective (briefly demoted from Detective Inspector) Bill Hollister (Head of Homicide) – Nicholas Bell (Seasons 1–4)
  • Det-Sen Sgt. Reg 'The Ferret' Masters (Head of Vice Squad/Head of Drugs Squad) – Richard Morgan (Seasons 2–8)
  • Det-Sen Sgt. Bryan Gray (Head of Armed Robbery/Senior Detective for Special Investigations) – Jeremy Kewley (Seasons 3–8)
  • Det-Insp. Harry Love (Head of Homicide) – Martin Jacobs (Season 5)
  • Det-Insp. Frank Callahan (Head of Homicide) – David Swann (Seasons 3-5)
  • Det-Sen Sgt. Eric Chatterly (Senior Homicide Detective, possibly Acting Head of Homicide) – John Ridley (Seasons 2-8)
  • Det. Nick Jardine - Andy Rodoreda (Season 5)
  • Marty Engle (Informant/Angie's Fiance) - Jim Russell (Season 5)
  • Det. Insp. Andrew Bligh (Internal Affairs) - Russell Kiefel (Seasons 3-7)
  • Criminal Barrister Ingrid Burton – Rebecca Gibney (Seasons 6–7)
  • Sophie Novak – Katrina Milosevic (Seasons 7–8)
  • Detective Katherine Marks – Gigi Edgley (Season 8)
  • Constable Megan Walsh – Lisa Chappell (Season 8)
  • Samantha Piper - Angie's younger sister - Asher Keddie (Seasons 3-8)

Deceased cast members[edit]

Richard Morgan, who played Det-Sen Sgt. Reg Masters from 1999 until 2004, died of motor neurone disease on 23 December 2006. Morgan also appeared on The Sullivans, A Country Practice, Sons and Daughters, MDA, Blue Heelers and Something in the Air.

Series history[edit]

On Sunday 16 July 2006 at 2 p.m., Executive Producer John Wild and Script Producer Marcia Gardner sat down with an audience at ACMI in Federation Square in Melbourne to "explore the narrative arc and character development from the first episodes to the final series." The event took place in the Screen Pit and was free to the public. Also in attendance was cast member Jeremy Kewley who posted the following rundown of the discussion for the Stingers forum:

Stingers came about in a very fast manner. John Wild had to get the show from a concept 'jotted down on paper' into a television series in just 11 weeks and in an 8.30pm time slot!

It first began airing up towards the end of the year, on Monday nights. It was up against another new show on Channel Seven, Ally McBeal, and Stingers beat McBeal regularly for its first 11 weeks before it went on its Christmas ratings break. When both shows returned after the ratings break, McBeal began to win in the ratings quite comfortably, worrying Nine executives.

At this time Channel Nine and the producers had to work out how to win ratings back, and found that the reason why so many people preferred Ally McBeal over Stingers was because Stingers had a very rough, edgy and realistic feel to it, and that this did not appeal to women of all ages, who preferred the lightness of McBeal. So Stingers was moved to Tuesday night. This helped a bit, but not enough. Channel Nine were thinking about canceling the show, but Nine owner Kerry Packer liked the show and suggested that they keep it on the air. Nine did, but moved it an hour later to 9.30pm Tuesdays, and Stingers started to find its audience (although this was still not a big one). It stayed at this timeslot until the end of 7th season which seemed to be predominately male middle class white collar workers between the ages of 30–55.

By the middle of the second season, ratings were still not spectacular enough and Channel Nine commissioned research which showed that women were not particularly interested in Stingers. As women make up 50% of the audience the producers were told to make the first major change to Stingers: make it more female-friendly. This led to the departure of Joe Petruzzi, making Anita Hegh's character the boss of the Unit. This also led to another female character being introduced, undercover operative Danni Mayo, portrayed by Roxane Wilson. This led to the show becoming more 'lighter' to appeal to the female audiences. Soon after, humour was added to the show, in the form of Jeremy Kewley's character, Bryan Gray. These changes worked well and Stingers steamed through Seasons 3, 4 and 5, but then Anita Hegh and Ian Stenlake decided to leave the show, causing another drastic change in the series.

Channel Nine, on a nationwide cost-cutting drive, hinted at dropping the show because Stingers' was considered too expensive; its budget had crept up from its original $440,000-per-episode cost, to around $480,000. They dropped a bombshell on the producers: shave around $130,000 every week from the budget or the show would have to cease production. A huge ask, but everyone at Stingers was keen to keep going as everyone felt there were still life in the show and plenty of stories to tell.

By the start of the next season the budget was chopped down to $350,000 per episode. Shooting changed from six days per episode to five, stock changed from 16 mm film to SP Betacam Videotape, the crew became smaller, and writers were given less time to write each episode. The location changed from the "Crimplex" (warehouse/studio/offices by the Yarra River) to the studios of Channel Nine in Richmond. Channel Nine spent money on a big new set (plus a new "hospital ward" set and a new "pub/bar" set) and justified the cost by making sure that most of the action on the show now took place inside the studio on the new sets, with a lot less time spent on locations, with less money spent on car chases, stunts and special effects.

Channel Nine also wanted more "star power" in the show, so Gary Sweet was brought in as Luke Harris (and Roxane Wilson decided to leave), and Rebecca Gibney – now out of a job without Halifax f.p. – was cast for the first few episodes of the new season. Most of these major changes worked quite well, and most viewers at home would not have been too aware of the changes to the visual quality of the show (such as using tape instead of film).

But, as Executive Producer John Wild humorously pointed out, "the ratings didn't change one point!" Channel Nine commissioned more surveys that told them the show needed to appeal to younger viewers. So two new characters were added, played by Daniel Frederiksen and Jacinta Stapleton, and, John Wild said, "and the ratings still didn't change one point!" Channel Nine insisted that still more star power was needed to lift the ratings, so Lisa Chappell (Logie winning McLeod's Daughters star) joined the cast. After still no improvement to the ratings, more star power was further added in guest roles with Bill Hunter, Gigi Edgley, Steve Bisley, Tottie Goldsmith. No improvement still.

Stingers was then "rested" for a couple of weeks and replaced by repeats of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, and these repeats rated better than first-run episodes of Stingers (screening a repeat episode of CSI probably[vague] costs the network about $25,000 as opposed to a first-run episode of Stingers at $350,000).

It became clear what Nine would do: move Stingers to 10.30pm on a permanent basis and put higher-rating repeats of CSI on at 9.30 p.m. Channel Nine in Adelaide did not like this move and moved Stingers to 9:30 Monday nights, however this only lasted for five weeks before it was moved back to 10:30 on a Tuesday night; such a move to a later timeslot caused Stingers’ ratings to drop even lower, giving Nine reason to finally end the show. Stingers’ curse seemed to be that it always rated well, but it never rated spectacularly.

Plot[edit]

Inspired by true events, Stingers chronicled the cases of a deep undercover unit of the Australian police. The series also followed their personal lives, which sometimes became intertwined with their jobs. The original unit was composed of Senior Detective Peter Church (whose real name was Mike Fischer) played by Peter Phelps, Senior Detective Angie Piper (Kate Kendall), Constable Oscar Stone (whose real name was Cameron Pierce) played by Ian Stenlake, Det-Sgt. Ellen 'Mac' Mackenzie (Anita Hegh) and Det-Sen Sgt. Bernie Rocca (Joe Petruzzi), who led the unit. Rocca was shot and left the unit in season two, and Mac became the new head.

Constable Danni Mayo (Roxane Wilson) joined the unit in season three, while season five saw two casualties: Stone was killed while Mac ran away with a diamond robber. Detective Inspector Luke Harris (Gary Sweet) took over as head of the unit until the end of the series, and Danni quit the force after being enraged by him. Constable Christina Dichiera (Jacinta Stapleton) joined the unit in season six. Her real name is Felicity Matthews, but this was not known to the force, as she had a criminal history under that name. Senior Detective Leo Flynn (Daniel Frederiksen) joined in season seven.

Season eight saw the arrival of Detective Katherine Marks, who was revealed as Harris' daughter from his first marriage. The revelation also ended definitely Harris and Angie's already shaky relationship, which had produced a son.

Season one (1998–99)[edit]

September 1998 to June 1999 – 22 episodes

  • Kaye being abducted and quitting the unit after her face being exposed on TV
  • Peter Church and Mac's romance
  • Oscar being bashed and Angie posing as his girlfriend in front of his parents
  • Church confronting the man who killed his love, Alice years before
  • The breakdown of Church and Mac's relationship
  • Church going undercover with the Rossi crime family and falling for Christina, leaving the force to be with her
  • Dino Rossi killing his sister Christina when she dives in front of a bullet meant for Church

Season two (1999)[edit]

June to November 1999 – 22 episodes

  • Mac being blackmailed by someone she went to the academy with who found pictures of her and Church
  • Church returning to the force
  • The breakdown of Angie's relationship
  • Oscar and Angie being followed to Oscar's family's farm by a man seeking revenge
  • Bernie's wife having an affair
  • Oscar and Angie starting to fall for each other
  • Bernie being shot and leaving the force to repair his family situation

Season three (2000)[edit]

June to November 2000 – 22 episodes

  • Danni Mayo joining the unit
  • Mac becoming the new head of Undercover
  • Mac being stabbed by a needle that had HIV positive blood in it; she was not infected
  • The investigation into the criminal activities of Danni's boyfriend
  • Angie's sister almost ruining a sting
  • Church's attempts to rekindle a relationship with his estranged father
  • Church helping out a young street boy
  • Oscar and Angie drifting apart after Oscar falls for a target
  • Bill Hollister being demoted after attending an illegal brothel
  • Church starting a relationship with a young nurse
  • Oscar being shot and hospitalized
  • Mac starting a relationship with Bill

Season four (2001)[edit]

August to December 2001 – 22 episodes

  • The death of Bill Hollister in a car bombing
  • Oscar being forced to kill someone for the first time and an investigation into it
  • Danni becoming pregnant with Church's baby
  • Mac attempting to find her real birth parents
  • Church meeting Stig Enquist for the first time
  • The investigation between Hollister's death and an ex-undercover officer

Season five (2002)[edit]

February to July 2002 – 22 episodes

  • Danni losing the baby
  • Mac remaining as head of Undercover
  • Angie helping her sister escape the country
  • Angie falling for a criminal turned informant
  • Oscar being diagnosed with testicular cancer
  • Oscar sleeping with a 15-year-old prostitute
  • Oscar is killed by diving in front of a bullet meant for Church
  • Mac helps a diamond robber escape and runs away with him, leaving the Unit behind

Season six (2002)[edit]

August to December 2002 – 14 episodes

  • Luke Harris taking over the Undercover Unit
  • The Unit moves from the Crimplex factory to Police HQ
  • Church's reckless search for Oscar Stone's killer, the hitman Conrad
  • Young constable Chris Dicheria accidentally busts Church while he is undercover
  • Harris asks Chris to join the Unit
  • Church sleeps with Ingrid Burton, the lawyer defending Conrad and records her saying something that could destroy her career
  • Harris and Danni kissing, but Harris later enrages Danni to the point where she trashes his office and quits the force
  • Harris's bipolar disorder and his obsession with Stig Enquist, another of Ingrid's clients
  • Harris and Church teaming up
  • Ingrid being kidnapped by Conrad, who is killed by Enquist before revealing where Ingrid was

Season seven (2003–04)[edit]

March 2003 to April 2004 – 40 episodes

  • Ingrid being found and leaving the country with $3 million of Enquist's
  • Harris and Angie's relationship
  • Harris saving Angie and her sister from Reg Masters, trying to arrest them both
  • Harris tells Angie about his condition
  • Leo Flynn joins the Unit after proving his partner was corrupt, however his partner was the father of his sister's baby and Leo is forced to kill him
  • Bernie Rocca returns, having lost his family and all his money in a deal gone wrong. He lies to Church in order to gain his help, causing the two of them to fall out
  • Harris asks Angie to marry him
  • Brett Linton, a criminal from Harris's past discovers that Harris has bipolar and begins to blackmail him
  • Harris goes off his medication to focus on dealing with Linton's threat and has a mental breakdown on his wedding night
  • While drunk, Church sleeps with receptionist Sophie Novak at Harris and Angie's wedding
  • Linton kidnaps Angie, but is killed by Harris. Angie however decides to separate from Harris.
  • Chris is shot by an old boyfriend she was investigating
  • Church agrees to marry a Polish woman named Anna Trukan in order to help her stay in the country due to a debt he feels he owes her father, he later falls in love with her
  • Sophie fears she is pregnant with Church's baby, but it turns out to be a false alarm
  • Angie discovers she is pregnant with Harris's baby and delivers a little boy
  • Chris returns to work
  • Leo is accused of corruption by a member of the Drug Squad, but later proves his innocence

Season eight (2004)[edit]

April to December 2004 – 28 episodes

  • The return of Harris's daughter Katherine from his first marriage, although she is all grown up and a Detective herself
  • Katherine sleeping with both Leo and Chris, and kissing Harris before revealing who she is
  • Katherine's bipolar disorder and her unhealthy feelings towards Harris, who tries to not give in to his own
  • Katherine leaving in order to sort out her feelings for Harris
  • Harris becoming an opium addict
  • Church discovers that Anna has married a target and when it appears she revealed that Church is a cop, he has her deported
  • Megan Walsh joining the Unit and forming a relationship with Church
  • Megan sleeping with Harris in order to gain information
  • Angie's sister becoming involved in diamond smuggling getting her killed sends Angie on a rampage in order to uncover the truth
  • Harris and Church teaming up to take down corrupt officer Megan Walsh, who was the real culprit behind exposing Church
  • Angie falling in love with her psychiatrist Sean Hunter
  • A serial killer continues to strike in Melbourne, Harris is convinced it is Sean Hunter
  • Harris goes off his medication in order to catch out Sean after Sophie is left for dead by the killer
  • Harris plants evidence in order to arrest Sean, infuriating Angie
  • Harris suffers a breakdown at work and is hospitalized, putting Church in charge of the Unit
  • Sophie wakes up and names Sean Hunter as her attacker. Church arrests him just before he was set to leave the country with Angie and her baby

DVD releases[edit]

  • Stingers – Series 1 was released on Region 4 DVD on 4 September 2006, a six disc set with Episodes 1 – 22
  • Stingers – Series 2 was released on Region 4 DVD on 14 March 2007, a six disc set with Episodes 23 – 44
  • Stingers – Series 3 was released on Region 4 DVD on 4 June 2007, a six disc set with Episodes 45 – 66
  • Stingers – Series 4 was released on Region 4 DVD on 7 December 2007, a six disc set with episodes 67 – 88
  • Stingers – Series 5 was released on Region 4 DVD on 11 June 2008, a six disc set with episodes 89 – 110
  • Stingers – Series 6 was released on Region 4 DVD on 6 January 2009, a four disc set with episodes 111 – 124
  • Stingers – Series 7 was released on Region 4 DVD on 10 June 2009, a ten disc set with episodes 125 – 164
  • Stingers – Series 8 was released on Region 4 DVD on 4 August 2009, a seven disc set with episodes 165 – 192

Awards and Nominations[edit]

Awards[edit]

Australian Film Institute Television Awards:

Logie Awards:

Nominations[edit]

Australian Film Institute Television Awards:

  • Best Actress in a Supporting or Guest Role in a Television Drama or Comedy – Jacinta Stapleton (2004)[2]
  • Best Direction in Television – Grant Brown (2004)[2]
  • Best Screenplay in Television – Matt Ford (2004)[2]
  • Best Television Drama Series (2003)[3]
  • Best Actor in a Guest Role in a Television Drama Series – Travis McMahon for the episode "Rich Man's World" (2001)[4]
  • Best Performance by an Actress in a Guest Role in a Television Drama Series – Rhondda Findleton for the episode "Fool To Want You" (2001)[4]
  • Best Performance by an Actor in a Guest Role in a Television Drama Series – Aaron Blabey for the episode "Second Chance" (2000)[5]
  • Best Performance by an Actor in a Guest Role in a Television Drama Series – Daniel Daperis for the episode "Forced Perspective" (2000)[5]
  • Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Television Drama Series – Anita Hegh (2000)[5]

Logie Awards:

  • Most Outstanding Drama Series (2005)
  • Most Popular New Female Talent – Katrina Milosevic (2004)
  • Most Popular New Male Talent – Daniel Frederiksen (2004)
  • Most Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series – Gary Sweet (2004)
  • Most Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series – Kate Kendall (2004)
  • Most Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series – Gary Sweet (2003)
  • Most Outstanding Drama Series (2001)

External links[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Television categories 1986–2009". AFI Award Winners. Australian Film Institute. 2009. Retrieved 2010-11-12. 
  2. ^ a b c T Zuk (1998-2010). "2004 Australian Film Institute Awards". Australian Television Information Archive. Retrieved 2010-12-05. 
  3. ^ T Zuk (1998-2010). "2003 Australian Film Institute Awards". Australian Television Information Archive. Retrieved 2010-12-05. 
  4. ^ a b T Zuk (1998-2010). "2001 Australian Film Institute Awards". Australian Television Information Archive. Retrieved 2010-12-05. 
  5. ^ a b c T Zuk (1998-2010). "2000 Australian Film Institute Awards". Australian Television Information Archive. Retrieved 2010-12-05.