For 692 episodes Prisoner kept Australians glued to their TV sets. The series that first aired in 1979 garnered a huge audience of over a million viewers on average for every episode. The show was even a powerhouse overseas ranking as the number two highest rated show when it premiered in the US.
Prisoner was depicting life behind bars for women way before Orange is the New Black. It was a massive program for Channel Ten and its production house Grundy Television Productions.
Even though it was only a TV show about being in prison, things on set could get very real with one extra was sent into a panic and had to coax from her hiding spot after a scene with Franky, played by actress Carol Burns, smashing up the recreation room. The extra wasn’t the only victim as in one dangerous fight scene actress Val Lehman, who played Bea Smith, accidentally broke Amanda Muggleton’s, who played Chrissie Latham, nose.
The popularity in Australia and internationally was like no other show produced in Australia. After the last episode aired in Sweden in 2000, there was a protest demanding reruns of the program and because of the sheer mass of the protest the reruns were played. Entertainment legend Sammy Davis Jr was such a fan that when he came to Australia in 1986, he requested a set visit and even expressed an interest in guest starring on the show. Unfortunately, for Sammy the show was already wrapping up its final season.
A classic Australia shows that will forever live on and was a monumental moment in Australian broadcasting for those lucky enough to have experienced it as it happened.
Did Prisoner have you glued to the TV each week? Do you prefer the modern remake, Wentworth?