Number 96 (TV series)
|Created by||David Sale|
|Based on||elements of Coronation Street and Peyton Place|
|Written by||David Sale, Johnny Whyte, Lynn Foster, Ken Shadie and Eleanor Witcombe|
|Directed by||Peter Benardos, Brian Phillis, Ted Gregory (pilot episode)|
|Ending theme||Theme from Number 96: Paper Boy|
|Country of origin||Australia|
|No. of seasons||6|
|No. of episodes||1,218|
|Executive producer||Don Cash – Bill Harmon|
|Producers||Kevin Powell (production manager), Bob Huber, Ted Jobbins (Associate Producer)|
|Production location||Network 0–10 Lane Cove & Woollahra|
|Camera setup||Mike Cleary|
|Running time||30 minute per episode (five nights a week)|
|Production company||Cash Harmon Television|
|Original network||The 0–10 Network|
|Picture format||4.3 Black & White (1972–1974)|
4.3 PAL (1974–1977)
|Original release||13 March 1972 –|
11 August 1977
|Related shows||Number 96 (US series)|
Number 96 is an Australian television soap opera that aired on week nights in the prime time 8.30 pm slot, from March 1972 to August 1977. It was one of the most popular Australian TV series of the 1970s
Storylines explored the lives and relationships of the residents of a four-storey block of flats/apartments at 96 Lindsay Street, Paddington. The building has eight apartments, a ground floor delicatessen and a chemist shop. The chemist soon became a wine bar, which finally became a disco shortly before the series ended.
Number 96 became famous for its adult storylines, nude glimpses, and comedy characters.
The serial was groundbreaking with many controversial storylines and firsts, including the world's first gay character, an interracial romance, and other taboo subjects that were not being addressed at that time in America.
Creators Don Cash and Bill Harmon of Cash Harmon Television produced the series for the 0–10 Network, which was in third place in the ratings behind the Nine Network and Seven Network. The 0-10 network had requested a series similar to the British soap opera Coronation Street, and specifically one that explored adult subjects. Number 96 was later likened to US series Peyton Place.
Number 96 was the first Australian soap opera to gain a significant following there. It led to tie-in books and novels, a 1974 feature film also called Number 96, and a short-lived 1980 American remake.
When the series started its cast was one of the largest ever assembled for a local production. When it ended after 1218 episodes it was the longest running soap opera produced in Australia, having surpassed the ABC series Bellbird. Number 96 was surpassed by The Young Doctors in 1982.
Broadcasting and production
In 1972 Australian television featured many imported shows. Previous Australian soaps Autumn Affair, The Story Of Peter Grey and Motel were only mildly successful. Long running ABC soap Bellbird was moderately popular in the city, but more popular in rural areas. The then popular Crawford Productions shows Homicide, Division 4 and Matlock Police where police procedurals.
Bill Harmon (1915-1981) and Don Cash (1910-1973) had previously worked in New York at NBC, and became a partnership after arriving in Australia and producing adventure series The Rovers and a couple of unsuccessful films.
Production of Number 96 started in October 1971. It was produced in monochrome for the first three years and switched to colour production in late 1974.
The premise, original story outlines and original characters were devised by series creator David Sale who had also created comedy series The Mavis Bramston Show. Sale also wrote the scripts for the first episodes of Number 96 and continued as a script editor for much of the show's run.
Directors included Peter Benardos (1928-2014) and Brian Phillis (1939-2016). Regular writers included David Sale, Johnny Whyte who was the series final script editor, Lynn Foster (1914-1985), Ken Shadie and Eleanor Witcombe.
Storylines and characters
Number 96 was known for its groundbreaking adult storylines and nude glimpses, its comedy characters, and controversial storylines including teenage drug addiction and a black mass conducted by devil worshipers. Whodunits included a panty snatcher dubbed the knicker snipper, the pantyhose murderer, and the bomb in the building.
Early shock moments involved the travails of the pregnant Helen Eastwood (Briony Behets) whose husband Mark (Martin Harris) had an affair with Rose Godolfus. Doctor Gordon Vansard (Joe James) was struck off for providing drugs for an illegal abortion. His wife Sonia (Lynn Rainbow) suffered from mental delusions. Sonia returned for the film version of Number 96.
The series launched the career of Abigail, who was promoted as a sex symbol. It was the first soap globally to feature an ongoing gay character, Don Finlayson (Joe Hasham). Don was a dependable lawyer who was joined by his more flamboyant partner Dudley Butterfield, played by Chard Hayward.
The series featured a transgender character portrayed by Carlotta in a short storyline in 1973. There was an interracial romance featuring dancer Ronne Arnold, and an ongoing role for indigenous actress Justine Saunders, campaigning for aboriginal rights.
- Selected cast member's include stars appearing in 20 or more episodes, (except where the character is particularly notable, like Tracey Wilson, Miss Hemingway etc.)
Key cast members included:
|Pat McDonald||Dorrie Evans||321|
|Jeff Kevin||Arnold Feather||297|
|Joe Hasham||Don Finlayson||297|
|Elaine Lee||Vera Collins||283|
|Ron Shand||Herb Evans||237|
|Wendy Blacklock||"Mother" or " Mummy" Edie MacDonald||227|
|Mike Dorsey||"Daddy" Reg MacDonald (note: Had an earlier brief role as a different character in the series||220|
|Chard Hayward||Dudley Butterfield (note: Had previously appeared in the series as a hippie)||209|
|Bunney Brooke||Flo Patterson||195|
|Sheila Kennelly||Norma Whittaker||193|
|Johnny Lockwood||Aldo Godolfus||178|
|James Elliott||Alf Sutcliffe||174|
|Bettina Welch||Maggie Cameron||164|
|Dina Mann||Debbie Chester||137|
|Gordon McDougall||Les Whittaker (note: later returned as the cousin of Les, Andrew Whittaker)||133|
|Suzanne Church||Jane Chester||130|
|Mike Ferguson||Gary Whittaker||128|
|Elisabeth Kirkby||Lucy Sutcliffe||125|
|Harry Michaels||Giovanni Lenzi||123|
|Frances Hargreaves||Marilyn MacDonald||122|
|Philippa Baker||Roma Godolfus||119|
|Tom Oliver||Jack Sellers||105|
|Michael Howard||Grant Chandler||96|
|Anja Saleky||Jaja Gibson||85|
|Thelma Scott||Claire Houghton||76|
|Abigail||Bev Houghton (note: Abigail was later replaced by Victoria Raymond, the sister of regular Candy Raymond||75|
|Carol Raye||Baroness Amanda von Pappenburg||recurring, various episodes|
|Mary Ann Severne||Laura Trent||73|
|Stephen McDonald||Lee Chandler||62|
|Joe James||Gordon Vnasard||61|
|Joseph Furst||Carlo Lenzi||56|
|Lynn Rainbow||Sonia Freeman||53|
|Margaret Laurence||Liz Chambers||52|
|Vivienne Garrett||Rose Godulfus||49|
|Kit Taylor||Warwick Thompson||49|
|Robyn Gurney||Janie Somers||46 episodes|
|Dave Allenby||Dr. Harold Wilkinson||46 episodes|
|Roger Ward||Weppo Smith||46 episodes|
|Peter Adams||Andy Marshall||40|
|Peter Whitford||Guy Sutton||40|
|Nat Nixon||Opal Wilkinson||40|
|Jan Adele||Trixie O'Toole||39|
|Vince Martin||David Palmer||36 episodes|
|John McTernan||Rob Forsyth||36|
|Norman Yemm||Harry Collins||35|
|Scott Lambert||Mile sCooper||32|
|Lynne Murphy||Faye Chandler||32|
|Patti Crocker||Eileen Chester||29|
|Chelsea Brownh||Hope Jackson|
|Les Foxcroft||Sir Mainwaring||-|
|Martin Harris||Mark Eastwood||25 episodes (original cast)|
|Briony Behets||Helen Eastwood||25 Original cast|
|Paula Duncan||Carol Finlayson||25|
|Candy Raymond||Jill Sheridan||24|
|Chantal Contouri||Tracy Wilson||17 episodes|
|Kay Powell||Vicki Dawson||unknown||22|
|Pamela Garrick||Patti Feather||24 episodes||22|
|Paul Weingott||Bruce Taylor||20|
|Deborah Gray||Miss Hemingway||16 episodes|
The Duke and Duchess of Bedford made a cameo appearance in the series when they visited regular character Baroness Amanda Von Pappenburg (Carol Raye). Talk show host Mike Walsh made a cameo appearance as himself.
The show attracted many complaints. The Australian Broadcasting Control Board repeatedly sanctioned the network. To keep the series on air, each episode was previewed to ensure it complied with Control Board guidelines. Sometimes offending scenes would be cut from the episode after its Sydney airing and were not seen when episode screened elsewhere. Consequently the first episodes feature cuts and screen blackouts. Paperwork of the removed material survives with the National Film and Sound Archive but the actual reel of footage has not been found. Eventually due to the show's popularity the Broadcasting Control Board relaxed its restrictions and stopped previewing episodes.
Cast members were amazed to learn the show was screening in some overseas countries. Cast member Bettina Welch reported seeing it dubbed in Italy. But despite a short late-night run in Toronto, Canada on Citytv, the content was far too explicit for US and UK television. An attempt to sell the show at Cannes TV Festival in 1975 with a topless model backfired when the British Daily Mirror reported that "it got a swift 'No Entry' sign" from the BBC and ATV."
As common at the time Number 96 as a TV soap operas was adapted as a feature film, like had been the case with serial The Box and previously the long-running ABC serial Bellbird, the film released in 1974 and titled Number 96: The Movie, and highly promoted by the fact that it was a full colour production, unlike the series which was still broadcasting in monochrome, had the same creative team and mostly the same cast as the series, and although it received mostly negative reviews, audiences lined up all down George Street to gain a cinema seat. It earned nearly A$2.5 million on a A$100,000 budget, and was to that time one of the most profitable Australian movies ever made. Characters in the film received applause when they made their entrances.
Number 96 was Australia's highest-rated program for 1973 and 1974. The series was shot on videotape initially in black-and-white but switching to colour in late 1974. Many black and white episodes are now lost, falling victim to the wiping of videotapes for re-use, which was the official policy at Channel Ten at the time.
During 1974 the series shifted its emphasis from sexual situations and drama to focus more on comedy. By mid-1975 ratings had gone into decline so a bold new storyline was devised to revitalise the series. The Mad Bomber storyline, in August–September 1975, came in the wake of news from periodical TV Week that the ratings for Number 96 had dropped to just half what they had been at the beginning of 1974. In an unprecedented move, 40 complete scripts were discarded and rewritten, while the Number 96 set was sealed off to non-essential personnel. The new storyline involved a mysterious figure planting a time bomb in Number 96, following a series of warnings and false alarms. The dramatic storyline was intended to draw back viewers and to provide a mechanism to quickly write out several existing characters in a bid to freshen up the cast of characters and revamp the storylines.
On 5 September 1975, a bomb exploded in the delicatessen, destroying it and the adjacent wine bar which was crowded with customers. The makers of the show made a bold move, killing several long-running cast favourites, including Les, and Aldo and Roma Godolfus (Johnny Lockwood and Philippa Baker), and then revealing schemer Maggie Cameron as the bomber and sending her off to prison (she never planned for the bomb to kill anyone and merely wanted to scare residents into moving to facilitate a sale of the building). Despite the publicity and major changes it brought, the bomb-blast storyline resulted in only a temporary boost to the program's ratings.
By October two more central figures – Lucy and Alf Sutcliffe (played by original cast members Elisabeth Kirkby and James Elliott – were written out of the series. New, younger characters were added to the show, most of whom didn't last out the series. Two that did were orphaned teenage sisters Debbie and Jane Chester Dina Mann and Suzanne Church. Other enduring characters amongst the high cast turnover of the later period were the new blond sex-symbol Jaja Gibson (Anya Saleky), and Giovanni Lenzi (Harry Michaels), an exuberant Italian who worked in the deli.
A later whodunit storyline was the Hooded Rapist in May 1976. Episodes around the time of episode 1000 in June 1976 saw an increase in location shooting, including Moncur Street, Woollahra (outside the building used in the credits), local parks, Chinatown, and Luna Park.
The final year of Number 96 featured an continued emphasis on younger characters and the reintroduction of sexual situations and nudity. Don and Dudley had split; Don's new boyfriend was Rob Forsyth (John McTernan). The show's final months in 1977 included a range of shock storylines including a Nazi biker gang and a psychopathic blackmailer.
Another bold move in the show's final months saw Number 96 feature what was publicised as Australian television's first full frontal nude scene when new character Miss Hemingway (Deborah Gray) made the first of several unveilings in April 1977. Number 96 in 1976 had shown a bit-part nurse fleeing Dudley's bedroom which revealed a full frontal nude flash but this was the first time such nudity was shown front and centre in protracted scenes. In one outrageous moment, Miss Hemingway wore a bra but no panties and despite screening at 8.30pm on free-to-air TV, there were few complaints. Other bedroom farce comedy sequences of the period featured increasing levels of male and female semi-nudity, and other instances of full frontal female nudity. A scene where Jane Chester becomes a prostitute and is asked to whip her male client, new Number 96 resident Toby Buxton (Malcolm Thompson), featured a brief glimpse of full frontal male nudity.
These changes to the series were made to combat falling viewing figures. However, they were not a success, and in July 1977 the series was cancelled due to declining ratings. Dorrie (Pat McDonald) and Herb Evans (Ron Shand), and Don Finlayson (Joe Hasham), where the only original cast members to remain to the final episode (Shand had not been in the unaired pilot).
The first episode began with an exterior shot of the building with moving vans being unloaded while Herb and Dorrie are heard having an argument. Each subsequent episode began with an exterior shot of the building while audio from the previous episode's final scene could be heard. The shot would zoom in on the apartment in which that scene occurred, or remain unchanged, as the show's title was displayed. The vision would then switch to the scene in question as a recap of the previous episode's cliffhanger.
The feature film has a pre-credits sequence involving Vera being raped, followed by the film's opening titles. After this, the opening shot is a zoom-in on the exterior of flat 3 and the action starts with the interior activities of flat 3.
The series was broadcast as five half-hour episodes each week for its first four years. From the beginning of 1976 episodes were broadcast as two one-hour episodes each week in most areas. However from an internal perspective episodes continued to be written and compiled in half-hour instalments.
The production supervisor on the series was Kevin Powell, son of British film director Michael Powell. The show's studio directors were Peter Benardos and Brian Phillis. Audio directors included Terry Green, Ross Boyer, Larry Price, Robert Judson, John Keane and Steve Wakely. Director's Assistants included Gillian B. Brown and Maggie Powell. Executive Producer of the series was Bob Huber. Series producers included David Hannay and Ted Jobbins. Network producers were Nancy Sales Cash of Cash Harmon Television. Lighting directors included George Poole, Adrian O'Bearn, Phil Cullen, Paul Gilfeather, Richard Curtis and Peter Richardson. Floor managers included Keith Walker and Murray Graham. Credits director and opener and closer director was Monica Pendegast. Audio boom operators included Laurie Hutchins, Vladimir Lozinski, John Dodds, Paul McCloskey, Jack O'Brien, Steve Wakely (later a series audio director).
Cameramen who worked on the show over the years included Max Cleary, Allan Catt, Bob Henderson, Keith Watson, Dennis Livingston, Ian O'Brien, Chris Fraser, John Bott, Roy Chivers, Murray Kelso, Phil Lomas.
Aside from the four Logies won by cast member Pat McDonald during her run with the show, Number 96 won the "Best Drama" Logie in 1974, 1975 and 1976. Actor Bunney Brooke won the "Best Actress" Logie Award for her work as Flo in 1975.
The series cast became stars in Australia and had their own Number 96 Passenger train, specially designed for cast and crew travel which for the show's first few years they would take the train from Sydney to Melbourne for the annual TV Week Logie Awards in a multi- silver carriaged train with the Commissioner's carriage hooked up at the rear for VIPs. This train was specially-organised by Publicity Director Tom Greer. The 16 and a half-hour overnight journey, left from the centre of Sydney at 4.30pm with a farewell party, complete with red carpet and jazz band in attendance, it would feature whistle stops at country sidings and saw thousands of people turn out to see their favourite stars, before it arrived at Spencer Street station. These whistle stops were all beamed back by television stations and went live to air. The rail service of the time was keen to promote its overnight tourism package's, and for the journey the train was christened as the "Spirit of 96".
A humorous story, as told by Greer, was the engagement of a piano player (the outrageous John McDonald) to entertain the cast on the train on the way to Melbourne. John could only play upright pianos. The railways rang and said they could not get the upright around the passageway corners of the train so it would be impossible to get it on board. Greer demanded it be put on the train somehow even if it meant dismantling the piano and putting it back together – "key by key". In desperation, engineers arrived and took off the side of the carriage, loaded the piano on with a forklift, before replacing the carriage wall. The train used green steam locomotive number 3801, which frequently operated the Spirit of Progress train service between Sydney and Melbourne.
In 1975 the Number 96 Cookbook was released in Australian by the publisher Family Circle; it featured recipes from eight members of the cast.
The series celebrated 1000 episodes in 1976 with a compilation special, Number 96: And They Said It Wouldn't Last, which reviewed the show's most famous story lines and recounted the exploits of its departed main characters. And They Said It Wouldn't Last was repeated at the start of 1977 with a new ending presented by Dina Mann. It is featured on the DVD release.
The final episode ended with a reunion curtain call of popular cast members past and present. A week after the airing of the final episode in Sydney a televised public auction of props and costumes from the series was held in the grounds of Channel 10.
In 1980 a short-lived US remake of the same name on NBC retained the comedy, but toned down the sexual elements of the series. The series was launched over three consecutive nights, from 10 to 12 December. US television and TV Guide promotions for the series utilised advertising hyperbole, suggesting that the series had been "banned in Australia." The nudity and racy content of the original series was not present in the remake; it would probably not have been allowed in the US due to censorship standards there, so the US version only hinted at the sexual content that had been on display in the original. The US version of Number 96 was quickly cancelled due to low ratings. The US show was finally aired in parts of Australia in 1986.
Channel 10 Sydney started a repeat run of the series on 4 February 1980, starting from the first episode fully produced in colour, episode number 585. Episodes were screened Monday through to Thursday, at midnight.
The 1976 special, And They Said It Wouldn't Last, was repeated by Ten in a prime time slot in 1994. This edition of the special dropped the "And" from the original title and included a new introduction by Abigail. It concluded with a replay of the final episode's curtain call of actors.
Number 96 was rated number 9 in the 2005 television special 50 Years 50 Shows which counted-down Australia's greatest television programs.
McKenzie Wark, wrote in Celebrities, Culture and Cyberspace (published by Pluto Press , 1999), Once, when I was a kid, I was walking down a suburban street at night, when i noticed a rhythmic flickering of light from inside the houses, Though screened from view by the drawn curtains, the lights from a row of separate houses were all pulsing in time, And then I heard the music and I knew everyone was watching the same show ... Number 96'.
Phillip Adams, from newspaper The Age, wrote i believe that television serials provide a surrogate sense of community and that many viewers are more involved in Number 96, than they are in there own community
The series was featured in cinema documentary Not Quite Hollywood (2008). Interviewees included Number 96 actors Rebecca Gilling, Wendy Hughes, Lynette Curran, Briony Behets, Candy Raymond, Deborah Gray, Roger Ward, Norman Yemm, and an associate producer of Number 96 and The Unisexers, David Hannay.
The first 584 episodes of Number 96 were produced in black and white. When Australian television was switched to colour in 1975 Channel 10 didn't think people would want to watch black and white again, so the master tapes were wiped or made into a "foyer display". The first three weeks (episodes 1–15), episodes 31–35 and two episodes from the 1974 black and white episodes (episodes 450 and 534) survive. Up to December 2016, 648 episodes survive.
A two-disc DVD of the Number 96 feature film (with commentary), plus documentary And They Said It Wouldn't Last, was released in July 2006. The DVD included archive footage of one of the Spirit of 96 train journeys, and a new documentary The Final Years, which featured clips from the series and new (2006) interviews with actors Elaine Lee, Sheila Kennelly, Wendy Blacklock, Deborah Gray, series creator, David Sale and TV historian, Andrew Mercado. Disc 1 also appears in a collection of Australian movies, Ozploitation: Volume 4.
A DVD set of the complete The Pantyhose Strangler storyline was released in September 2008. Comprising 32 episodes on four discs, it started with Episode #649 (originally aired 1974-11-04) and culminated with #680 (original airdate 1975-01-27) and included a stills gallery (held over from the previous release) and a new commentary with actress Chantal Contouri, who portrayed Tracy Wilson.
On 13 March 2010, another batch of episodes was released on DVD. Again comprising 32 episodes on four discs, Aftermath of Murder included episode #681 (original airdate 1975-01-28) through to #712 (original airdate 1975-03-12), archival Christmas cast messages from 1975, and new commentaries with actors Elisabeth Kirkby and Carol Raye.
The fourth DVD was launched to celebrate the series' 40th anniversary. Entitled The Beginning and the Bomb (March 2012), the set includes a selection of sixteen surviving black and white episodes (#1–10, #13, #31, #33–35 and #450) plus the complete, sixteen-episode Mad Bomber storyline in colour, Episodes #832 (originally aired 1975-08-27) to #847 (original airdate 1975-09-16). The set includes archival audio interviews with actor James Elliott and director Peter Benardos, and a new audio commentary with Michael Kirby and TV historian Andrew Mercado.
|DVD name||Ep #||Discs||Region 4 (Australia)||DVD special features||DVD Distributors|
|Number 96: The Movie||0||2||10 July 2006||Audio Commentary
Documentary: And They Said It Wouldn't Last
Spirit of 96: Train Journeys
A New Documentary: The Final Years
|Number 96 (Volume 01): The Pantyhose Strangler||32||4||30 August 2008||Audio Commentary
|Number 96 (Volume 02): Aftermath of Murder||32||4||13 March 2010||Archival Christmas cast messages from 1975
New Commentaries With Cast Members
|Number 96 (Volume 03): The Beginning and the Bomb||31||N/A||13 March 2012||Archival Audio Interviews With Cast Members
A New Audio Commentary With Cast and Crew Members
- Giles, Nigel "NUMBER 96: Australian TV's Most Notorious Address", published by Melbourne Books, 2007 ISBN 978-1-925556-00-1
- Daily Mirror, 26 April 1975.
- McLean, Ian (4 August 2008). "Luna Park: Just for fun, just for the record – Have Phaser, Will Travel". Retrieved 4 August 2008.
- Clarke, David and Steve Samuelson. 50 Years: Celebrating a Half-Century of Australian Television, Random House: Milsons Point, NSW, 2006. ISBN 1-74166-024-6 pp. 151–60
- Groves, Don and Jacqueline Lee Lewes. Overflow of TV soapies. The Sun Herald: Sunday 20 January 1980, p.42.
- McLean, Ian. "Number 96 episode guide: 1977 (cont.)... And in later years..." Retrieved 10 July 2006.
- McLean, Ian (17 May 2008). "Beware The Pantyhose Strangler! – Have Phaser, Will Travel". Retrieved 17 May 2008.
- McLean, Ian (11 November 2009). "Number 96 DVD update! – Have Phaser, Will Travel". Retrieved 11 November 2009.
- McLean, Ian (26 September 2011). "Finally, more Number 96 DVDs are coming! – Have Phaser, Will Travel". Retrieved 28 September 2011.