Bellbird (TV series)
|Created by||Barbara Vernon|
|Country of origin||Australia|
|No. of seasons||11|
|No. of episodes||1,562|
|Original release||28 August 1967 – 23 December 1977|
Bellbird is an Australian soap opera serial set in a small fictional Victorian rural township that makes up the series title. The series was produced by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation at its Ripponlea TV studios in Elsternwick, Melbourne, Victoria. The opening title sequence was filmed at Daylesford, Victoria.
Production and broadcasting
The series was produced between 28 August 1967 and 23 December 1977. Though Bellbird was not Australia's first television serial, (its first which was Network Seven's, Autumn Affair, it was the first successful soap opera and even spanned a feature film and tie-in novel. The show's ratings were modest but it had a devoted following, especially in rural Australia. During its 10-year production run, 15-minute episodes of Bellbird screened from Monday through to Thursday nights during the lead in to the 7 pm evening news bulletin. In 1976 the series was screened as one one-hour episode each week, before switching to three half-hour installments per week during its final season.
The show's storylines followed the lives of the fictional residents of the small country town that gave the show's title.
Principal cast members included:
Stars after Bellbird
The cast of Bellbird, became well-known household names to the viewing audiences, that many went on to further appear in soap opera, in 1979, two years after Bellbird ended its run, Elspeth Ballantyne, Patsy King, and Sheila Florance would work together once again in the iconic series Prisoner playing guard Meg Jackson Morris; prison governor, Erica Davidson and inmate Lizzie Birdsworth, respectively. Gerda Nicolson and Maurie Fields would also join Prisoner in the later years of the series as Governor Anne Reynolds and guard Len Murphy, respectively.
Ian Smith and Anne Charleston, who would appear in smaller roles in Prisoner, would go on to appear as husband and wife long term characters in the Australian TV show "Neighbours" as Harold Bishop and Madge Bishop.
Episodes of Bellbird were screened in the UK in 1972. After the initial 52 episodes had been screened, Actors Equity in Australia intervened and insisted the ABC increase the price of the episodes so as to pay more to the actors. As a result of this price increase the UK broadcaster purchased no further episodes.
In 2004 it was reported that the ABC taped over the series mastertapes, something which series cast member Alan Hopgood had complained about in a TV Times article in 1976: "They are just wiped off and another episode run over them... This failure to preserve the program is criminal, to my way of thinking".
An extensive selection of surviving episodes, apparently found during the closure of the ABC's Gore Hill studios, is stored in the Australian National Archives.
One complete black and white episode is available to be viewed at the Australian Mediatheque at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image in Melbourne, while several colour episodes are known to exist in the hands of private collectors.
Film and novel
The series was the first soap opera in Australia to spin-off into a feature film version and tie-in novel, entitled Country Town (1971), it focused on Bellbird's problems during a severe drought. The movie's script was also novelized. Many future soaps followed suit, spawning their own film versions, including Number 96 and The Sullivans.
In 1971 the show was the fifteenth most popular show in the country.
- "Bellbird". Aussie Soap Archive. Retrieved 1 September 2015.
- Albert Moran, Moran's Guide to Australian TV Series, AFTRS 1993 p 77
- Andrew Mercado (27 November 2004). "Soap: It's just what the great unwashed need". The Age. Retrieved 2007-09-22.
- TV Times, 11–17 December 1976, p.10: "Home-Truths From Bellbird"
- "TELEVISION RATINGS". The Canberra Times. 45, (12,803). Australian Capital Territory, Australia. 6 May 1971. p. 8. Retrieved 20 September 2017 – via National Library of Australia.