Return to Soaps: The First 40 Years

’70s soap steams up

Number 96 in 1974

The Seventies saw a sexual revolution going on, but not just in the bedroom, it was also happening on our TV screens.  The cash strapped 0-10 Network took the lead with its first nightly soap opera — the racy Number 96 — and instantly the nation was captivated. The success of 96 led the way for a string of successful soaps in years to come:

Number 96 (0-10, 1972-1977):

The mother of all soaps. The nightly goings on in a fictional Sydney apartment block both shocked and captivated viewers across the country for five years. Constantly criticised by the press, it was a hit with viewers with its mix of sex, comedy and drama. The series won a number of awards, and sparked a movie spin-off.

Class Of ’74/’75 (Seven, 1974-1975):

Seven’s move into the classroom was the first soap to come from producer Reg Grundy. Featuring a mix of young talent and veteran performers.

cherylrixon

Cheryl Rixon, The Box

The Box (0-10, 1974-1977):

The success of Number 96 led to this nightly series from Crawford Productions. Produced in Melbourne and just as racy as its Sydney counterpart, it was set in a fictional television station, UCV12. Both shows ran back-to-back five nights a week and dominated prime time ratings in the mid-Seventies.

Until Tomorrow (Seven, 1975):

Another daytime soap from Seven, produced at BTQ7 Brisbane and screening weekdays. The cast included Brisbane identities Babette Stephens and Ron Cadee, and former Gold Logie winner Hazel Phillips.

The Sullivans (Nine, 1976-1983):

Another hit from the Crawford Productions stable.  Set in Melbourne during World War II, the series was often acclaimed for its accurate portrayal of life in the Forties.

The Young Doctors (Nine, 1976-1983):

Grundy’s nightly look at life around fictional Alfred Memorial Hospital was a huge early evening hit for Nine and sold well overseas.

Hotel Story (0-10, 1977):

Crawfords’ proposed replacement to The Box was axed after six weeks in production, before the first episode had even gone to air.  Melbourne’s ATV0 then rushed the few completed episodes to air and left the viewers to make up their own minds.

The Restless Years (0-10, 1977-1981):

The lives of a group of teenagers coming to terms with the grown-up world — a soapie genre that would be revisited in many productions to follow.

Cop Shop (Seven, 1977-1984):

Combining police drama with the popular soap element. The criminal goings on in suburban Riverside were mixed with a look at the lives of people around the local police station.

Sheila Florance, Prisoner

Glenview High (Seven, 1977-1978):

Only a few years after Class Of ’75, Seven went back to the schoolroom for this soap attempt.  Screened mostly out of ratings, class was soon dismissed.

Prisoner (0-10, 1979-1986):

Life inside a women’s prison was a huge success in Australia, Europe, the United States and particularly in the United Kingdom.

Skyways (Seven, 1979-1981):

The goings on around an international airport provided a somewhat bumpy ride for Seven.  Screening back-to-back with Cop Shop two nights a week, it was axed after two years. Trivia: One episode features a very young Jason Donovan and Kylie Minogue as brother and sister.
Australian soaps were certainly in full swing by the late Seventies, and were increasingly popular overseas. The trend continues into the Eighties…..

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