Celebrating 60 years of Australian soapies 1



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You might find it hard to believe that it has been 60 years since television in Australia was born. Back then, it was black and white, programming stopped during the night and many families couldn’t afford their own television set such was the luxury of the item.

The main shows on Australian television during the 1950s were largely variety shows. But with time Australia created a great many television serials, more commonly known as ‘soapies’ today.

From the innocent charm of the ’50s and ’60s, to the sex and sin of the ’70s, Australian television serials have been watched and loved for 60 years. Here are some of the Starts at 60 favourites.

Bellbird (1967-1977)
The first successful soap opera. The show followed the lives of the residents of Bellbird, a small rural town in Victoria. Main cast members included Maurie Fields and Anne Charlestone. The show was screened Monday to Thursday before the nightly 7pm news.

Number 96 (1972-1977)
Launched amid much controversy, on the day the first episode of Number 96 was to air, Channel 10 was inundated by protestors carrying signs that read ‘Ban this Filth’, ‘Protect Our Children’ and ‘Where Has Decency Gone?’ The series was set in a Sydney apartment block and is best known for its groundbreaking sex scenes, nudity and for its comedic characters. Number 96 was also the first series in the world to feature an openly gay character. The series proved to be a huge success and lifted the network from financial ruin.

The Young Doctors (1976-1983)
This hospital soap certainly got your blood pressure rising. Handsome doctors worked the wards, while sexy nurses paraded around in slinky pink pinafores. Romance was always on the charts at the Albert Memorial hospital, despite the efforts of stern Sister/Matron Grace Scott (played by Cornelia Frances).

The Sullivans (1976-1983)
The story of an average middle-class family from Melbourne and the effect World War II had on their lives. It was one of the more successful soaps in Australia as well as the United Kingdom, Ireland, the Netherlands and New Zealand. Lorraine Bayly played Grace Sullivan, the family matriarch and a devout Catholic, which often created conflict with her husband Dave (Paul Cronin) who was a non-practising Anglican.

Prisoner (1979-1986)
Set in the fictional women’s prison, Wentworth Detention Centre, the storylines focused on the lives of the prisoners, and by extension the officers and other prison staff. The show often had themes of feminism, homosexuality and social reform, which were ‘radical’ for the time. Among the many characters was Joan ‘the Freak’ Ferguson.

Sons and Daughters (1982-1987)
Who could forget the theme tune to this Australian soap, or Rowena Wallace as Patricia ‘Pat the Rat’ Hamilton/Morrell/Palmer. The show was based on a Romeo and Juliet style romance that revolved around two families, one rich and one working-class.

Did you watch any of these? What was your favourite Australian TV serial?

Starts at 60 Writers

The Starts at 60 writers team seek out interesting topics and write them especially for you.

  1. I used to love the BOX and the actor GEORGE MAULLEBY i think he died, also I used to like DIVISON FOUR and MATLOCK POLICE also GERAD KENNEDY was my favourite actor at the time. I did watch 96 and it was hilarious, I used to like the children program in the morning with MR DOBEE the kids were so cute.

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