Any regular reader of this site will be very familiar with Number 96, the ground-breaking series that redefined Australian television drama in the 1970s with its radical mix of drama, sex, diversity and comedy. The ongoing stories from within a Sydney apartment block brought a never-before-seen depiction of suburban and adult life into Australian living rooms for six years. The critics despised it, and the censors constantly monitored it, but the viewers loved it.
Number 96 was Australia’s top rating program in 1973 and 1974 and collected four Logie Awards for Best Drama. Pat McDonald, who played gossipy Dorrie Evans, won a Gold Logie in 1974 for Most Popular Female Personality on Australian TV. The series’ success rescued the financially-troubled 0-10 Network and became the envy of networks overseas — with America’s NBC launching its own version almost a decade after Australian TV had ‘lost its virginity’.
While some websites (such as the Number 96 Home Page and Aussie Soap Archive) and books (Andrew Mercado‘s Super Aussie Soaps and Number 96 creator, David Sale‘s Number 96, Mavis Bramston And Me) give an insight into the series, there is still so much to be uncovered about the show that ran for over 1200 episodes, employed hundreds of actors and was watched by millions at a time when Australia was going through rapid social change.
TV historian Nigel Giles has been recording oral histories with a long list of actors, writers and directors, and is compiling his interviews and extensive TV knowledge in publishing a book, Spirit Of 96 — named after the train that used to bring the Number 96 cast from Sydney to Melbourne to attend the TV Week Logie Awards, meeting crowds of fans as they stopped at stations along the way.
The book promises a thorough insight to the show that changed the face of Australian TV, including setting straight some of the myths and misconceptions that have spread over the years.
More than 60 people who have been involved with the show, including series creator David Sale, have been tracked down and interviewed for this ambitious project. Some of these people are now no longer with us, so this is a rare opportunity to get their memories now in print.
The book is also set to feature various black-and-white and colour photographs — many not published before.
To get Spirit Of 96 off the ground, Giles has launched a crowd-funding campaign with a target of $10,000, to help cover the costs of design, publication and distribution. More information and details on pledging a donation can be found at the Pozible website.