Reprinting a review that I’d written for TelevisionAU some years ago. The reason I’m re-printing it here is because that page of the website is now obsolete, and because some rare clips from the series have appeared on (you’d never guess!) YouTube (see below):
The raunchy prime time series Number 96 set the pace of Australian TV soap opera drama in the early 1970s with its mix of comedy, sex and melodrama. The 0-10 Network expanded on the successful 96 formula with The Box.
Produced by Crawford Productions, The Box began on 11 February 1974 at 9pm, immediately following Number 96, and both shows ran back to back for several years and both ranked as the most popular programs on Australian TV in 1974.
The Box was based around the behind-the-scenes drama of a fictional television station UCV12 and featured a range of characters including bumbling TV actor Tony Wild (Ken James), bitchy reporter Vicki Stafford (Judy Nunn), station owner Sir Henry Usher (Fred Betts), gossipy tea lady Mrs Hopkins (Lois Ramsey), effeminate producer Lee Whiteman (Paul Karo) and management figures Paul Donovan (George Mallaby) and Max Knight (Barrie Barkla).
While The Box was considered purely fictional, it was sometimes regarded as being almost an accurate, if not satirical, reference to the television industry at the time. The bombastic Sir Henry was believed at the time to be based on elements of real-life ATV0 owner Sir Reg Ansett and Nine Network owner Sir Frank Packer, though it was much later revealed by producer Jock Blair that the character was loosely based, affectionately, on Hector Crawford. So realistic were the characters that actor Peter Regan, who played host of a Tonight-type show on UCV12, went on to host a real life variety program, Quest.
Like Number 96, The Box also tackled numerous adult topics such as bisexuality and adultery, and generous amounts of nudity. One storyline would see various characters visit a nudist retreat, with actors featured in various stages of undress.
The Box, while not regarded by Crawford as his best work, was to be a saviour for Crawford Productions, who had suffered the axing of long running police shows Homicide, Division 4 and Matlock Police within a short space of time. The Box would be Crawford’s only ongoing production until new projects were commissioned in 1976-77.
In 1975, the success of The Box, and the popularity of Number 96‘s movie spin-off the previous year, prompted Crawford’s to produce a movie version of The Box which would feature special guest star Graham Kennedy.
By 1977, the ratings success for both Number 96 and The Box had faded and both series wound up production within months of each other. The final episode of The Box appeared on ATV0 in Melbourne on 11 October 1977.
From sawhitley, various scenes from The Box:
Part 1 including Fred Betts, Barrie Barkla, Helen Hemingway, Lois Ramsey, Monica Maughan, Belinda Giblin, John Waters, Judy Nunn
Part 2 including Judy Nunn, Paul Karo, Jerry Thomas, Peter Regan, Geraldine Turner, Fred Betts, Barrie Barkla
Part 3 including Helen Hemingway, Barrie Barkla, Fred Betts, Vanessa Leigh, Ken James, Jill Forster, Lois Ramsey, Paul Karo
Part 4: including Jill Forster, Lois Ramsey, Tracy Mann, Ken James, Paul Karo, Peter Regan, Judy Nunn, Paul Barry, Fred Betts
Pictured: George Mallaby and Barrie Barkla in The Box