|Created by||David Sale|
|Ending theme||"Paper Boy"|
|Country of origin||Australia|
|No. of seasons||6|
|No. of episodes||1,218|
|Executive producer||Don Cash & Bill Harmon|
|Production location||Network 0–10 Lane Cove & Woollahra|
|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
The premiere of the series was promoted heavily in media with newspaper articles as "the night Australian television lost its virginity" and followed the residents of people living in a four-story city apartment block at the fictional 96 Lindsay Street, Paddington.
The show was developed by production firm Cash Harmon Television, who were originally commissioned by the then flagging network to make a soap opera similar to the British series "Coronation Street but a little racier". Airing weekdays at 8.30pm, Number 96 became one of the most popular Australian television series of its era, known for its groundbreaking sex scenes and nudity, as well as its depiction of taboo subjects of the time, such as homosexuality, abortion, rape, interracial romance and transgenderism. and also its array of comedy characters
The show has been credited for featuring gay and lesbian and trans characters decades before its American and British equivalents, including the world's first regular gay character, played by Joe Hasham, the first trans character, a transgender actress, played by cabaret performer Carlotta and the first lesbian character on television Marie Crowther played by Hazel Phillips (albeit in a guest role).
Broadcasting and productionEdit
In 1972 Australian television featured many imported shows, primarily from the United States and The United Kingdom. Previously local soaps Autumn Affair, The Story Of Peter Grey and Motel were only mildly successful. Long running ABC soap Bellbird was moderately popular in rural areas, but less so in city locales.
Bill Harmon and Don Cash 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 written for the TV comedy satire series The Mavis Bramston Show. Sale also wrote the scripts for the first episodes of Number 96 and continued as a script writer and storyliner for much of the show's run.
A building at 83 Moncur Street, Woollahra was used for exterior establishing shots of the block of flats. The majority of taping was done on sets at Channel Ten's studio based then in North Ryde, Sydney.
Cast and charactersEdit
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, before leaving and returning 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, the character of Don Finlayson (Joe Hasham) was a dependable lawyer who was joined by his more flamboyant partner in wine barman Dudley Butterfield, played by Chard Hayward.
The series featured a transgender character portrayed by Sydney cabaret performer Carlotta, (credited as Carole Lee) in a short storyline in 1973.
There was an interracial romance featuring character Chad Farrell, played by dancer Ronne Arnold in 18 episodes, and an ongoing role in 20 episodes for Indigenous Australian actress Justine Saunders, who as Rhonda Jackson campaigns for Aboriginal rights.
Actors highlighted in yellow are original cast members.
|Pat McDonald||Dorrie Evans||321|
|Jeff Kevin||Arnold Feather||297|
|Joe Hasham||Don Finlayson||297|
|Elaine Lee||Vera Danielle Collins Sutton||283|
|Ron Shand||Herbert "Herb" Evans||237|
|Wendy Blacklock||Edie MacDonald (note: refereed to by her husband as "Mother"" and her daugter as "Mummy")||227|
|Mike Dorsey||Reginald P. MacDonald (note: referred to by his wife and daughter as "Daddy"||220|
|Chard Hayward||Dudley Butterfield||209|
|Bunney Brooke||Flo Patterson Mainwaring||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/Andrew Whittaker (aka The Lord McCradanow)||133|
|Suzanne Church||Jane Chester Forsyth||130|
|Mike Ferguson||Gary Whittaker||128|
|Elisabeth Kirkby||Lucy Sutcliffe||125|
|Harry Michaels||Giovanni Lenzi||123|
|Frances Hargreaves||Marilyn MacDonald Bordello||122|
|Philippa Baker||Roma Lubinski Godolfus||119|
|Tom Oliver||Jack Sellers||105|
|Michael Howard||Grant Chandler||96|
|Anja Saleky||Jaja Gibson||85|
|Thelma Scott||Claire Houghton||76|
|Bev Houghton Goodman & Eve||75|
|Mary Ann Severne||Laura Trent Whittaker||73|
|Stephen McDonald||Lee Chandler||62|
|Joe James||Dr. Gordon Vansard||61|
|Joseph Furst||Carlo Lenzi||56|
|Lynn Rainbow||Sonia Freeman Vansard Hunter||53|
|Margaret Laurence||Liz Chalmers Father||52|
|Arianthe Galani||Maria Panucci||51|
|Vivienne Garrett||Rose Godolfus Myers||49|
|Kit Taylor||Warwick Thompson||49|
|Robyn Gurney||Janie Somers||46|
|Dave Allenby||Dr. Harold Wilkinson||46|
|Roger Ward||Frank "Weppo" Smith||46|
|Pamela Gibbons||Grace "Prim" Primrose||44|
|Peter Adams||Andy Marshall||40|
|Peter Whitford||Guy Sutton||40|
|Nat Nixon||Opal "Gran" Wilkinson||40|
|Jan Adele||Trixie O'Toole||39|
|Vince Martin||David Palmer||36|
|Carol Raye||Baroness Amanda Ashton von Pappenburg||36|
|John McTernan||Rob Forsyth||36|
|Norman Yemm||Harry Collins||35|
|Scott Lambert||Miles Cooper||32|
|Lynne Murphy||Faye Chandler||32|
|Curt Jensen||Herbert "Junior" Winthrop||29|
|Patti Crocker||Eileen Chester||29|
|Chelsea Brown||Hope Jackson||27|
|Les Foxcroft||Sir William Mainwaring||26|
|Martin Harris||Mark Eastwood||25|
|Briony Behets||Helen Eastwood||25|
|Paula Duncan||Carol Finlayson||25|
|Chantal Contouri||Tracey Wilson||17|
|Kay Powell||Vicki Dawson Feather||24|
|Pamela Garrick||Patti Olsen Feather||22|
|Paul Weingott||Bruce Taylor||20|
|Deborah Gray||Miss Hemingway||16|
|Josephine Knur||Lorelei Wilkinson|
Famous celebrity cameosEdit
The series featured over 100 performers, including screenwriter and technicians. Many upcoming performers where given the opportunity in the industry to develop there performance, whilst an alumnus of the showbiz world made guest appearances
|Robert Helpmann||CBE Dancer, choreopgrapher|
|Frank Thring||Australian film director/actor|
|Mike Walsh||As himself||OBE, AM, Famous Australian TV host|
|Lorrae Desmond||Marion Carlton||MBE, AM Singer and actress, the first female on Australian television to be awarded the Gold Logie|
|Toni Lamond||Karen Winters||AM, Variety entertainer, the first woman to host a talk show|
|Ray Meagher||Fred Shimpton||AM, winner of the Gold Logie|
|Carlotta||Billed as Carole Lea - Robyn Ross||AM cabaret Performer and activist|
|Ronne Arnold||Chad Farrell (18 episode storyarc)||American=born dancer|
|Judi Farr||Alderman. April Bullock (8 episodes)||AM Actress|
|Enid Lorimer||Mrs. Harvey||OAM, Actress|
|Noeline Brown||Trixie||OAM Actress, entertainer|
|Henri Szeps||Phillip Chambers||OAM Actor|
|Hazel Phillips||Marie Crowther||OAM, winner of Gold Logie|
|Rowena Wallace||Muriel Thompson||Later won Gold Logie for her role as Pat the Rat in Sons and Daughters|
|Shane Porteous||Joshua||awarded the Centenary Medal Actor, scriptwriter, animator|
|Penne Hackforth-Jones||Noeline Sutcliffe||American-born AFI-nominated actor|
|John Ewart||Oswald P. Piper||AFI-award winning Film star|
|Brian Bury||As himself||Weather presenter|
|Anne Charleston||Mad Stella|
|Jon English||Mr. Masters|
|Sheila Helpmann||Mabel Butterfield|
|Neva Carr-Glynn||Mrs. Sutcliffe|
|Joyce Jacobs||Mrs. Carson|
|Brian Wenzel||Jock Walpole|
|Johnny Ladd||Jimmy Jock|
|Moya O'Sullivan||Phyllis Pratt|
|Gordon Piper||Detective S|
|Judy Lynne||Gloria Gould|
|John Hamblin||Dr. Mike Cavanagh|
|Alister Smart||Vernon Saville (TV series/Frank Hobson (film version)|
|Pat Bishop||Melissa Hobson|
|Brian Moll||T.C Eddie Buchanan|
Numerous stars wanted to appear in guest roles, even racing identity Gai Waterhouse, who had completed a drama course in England, also suggested was a young Bryan Brown (although having been in England he had acquired a British accent, and was not suited at the time by producer Bill Harmon, even though he hails from Parramatta).
Visit by RoyaltyEdit
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 lost, the videotapes being wiped 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 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, 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 central figures Lucy and Alf Sutcliffe (played by original cast members Elisabeth Kirkby and James Elliott) were also 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 among 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 had in November 1976 shown a brief full frontal nude flash when bit-part nurse fled Dudley's bedroom that caught on fire, but this was the first time full nudity was shown front and centre in protracted scenes. In one striking moment, Miss Hemingway wore a bra but no panties. Despite screening at 8.30 pm 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.
Number 96 was adapted as a feature film in 1974 and titled Number 96. One of the major drawcards being it was a full colour production, unlike the series which was still broadcasting in monochrome. It had the same creative team and mostly the same cast as the series. 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.
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.
Cultural impact and receptionEdit
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 their 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.
Number 96 was the first Australian soap opera/serial to gain a significant cult following, prior to the network's internationally successful series Prisoner. It led to tie-in books and novels, merchandising, 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.
When the stars travelled from Sydney to Melbourne via train to attend the Logie Awards ceremony they were mobbed at stations during whistle stops. Crowds in Melbourne were greater in number than those that met The Beatles during their only Australian tour in 1964.
Whilst the program was extremely popular in Australia, and made for the Australian market, because of its risqué subject matter and storylines, highly controversial for its time, it did not sell in many overseas markets including the United Kingdom and even in the United States.
The series based at the time during mass-emigration to Australia, featured a multicultural cast primarily of British extraction, as well as many well known veteran actors in Australia, mainly from the early days of radio and stage. Indeed, as theatre had been the preferred form of entertainment, many stars like Wendy Blacklock, were reluctant to go into a TV serial.
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.
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 silver multi-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-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.
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 British newspaper Daily Mirror reported that "it got a swift 'No Entry' sign" from there broadcasters the BBC and ATV."
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.
|First aired||Last aired|
|1972||1–201||13 March 1972||15 December 1972|
|1973||202–445||8 January 1973||14 December 1973|
|1974||446–669||28 January 1974||15 December 1974|
|Film||5 May 1974|
|1975||670–910||13 January 1975||12 December 1975|
|1976||911–1098||19 January 1976||7 December 1976|
|1977||1099–1218||18 January 1977||11 August 1977|
From 4 February 1980, TEN-10 in Sydney commenced repeating the series at midnight Mondays through Thursdays, starting from episode 585, the first episode fully produced in colour. In 1994, Network Ten repeated the 1976 special And They Said It Wouldn't Last with a new introduction by Abigail.
In November 1996, Network Ten screened a re-run of Number 96: The Movie.
Though the complete run of colour episodes (585–1218) survive, the National Film and Sound Archive retains only 19 of the first 584 black-and-white episodes. The rest were lost when the show switched to colour, with the master tapes wiped by the network for re-use, 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. With the exception of episodes 11, 12, 14, 15 and 534, all available black-and-white episodes have been released on DVD, along with Number 96: The Movie and the 1974 and 1975 episodes 649–712, 832–847. As of March 2022, 96 of 1218 episodes have been released in some form, with 560 episodes presumed lost and 553 episodes in archives awaiting home release.
Number 96: The Movie was released in a 2-disc collectors edition on Region 4 on DVD by Umbrella Entertainment, who subsequently released three volumes of episodes across 4 discs each. Number 96: The Movie was also included the compilation Ozploitation: Volume 4 with five other Australian exploitation films.
|Region 4 (Australia)||Includes|
|Number 96: Collectors Edition||10 July 2006||
|Number 96: The Pantyhose Strangler||32||August 30, 2008||
|Number 96: Aftermath of Murder||32||March 13, 2010||
|Number 96: The Beginning and the Bomb||32||March 13, 2012||
- Giles, Nigel "NUMBER 96: Australian TV's Most Notorious Address", published by Melbourne Books, 2007 ISBN 978-1-925556-00-1
- "When TV lost its innocence". 10 March 2012.
- "With Number 96, Australia brought queer people to TV decades before anyone else". TheGuardian.com. 15 July 2019.
- 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
- Daily Mirror, 26 April 1975.
- 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.