When it debuted in October 1964, Homicide marked a significant milestone in the development of Australian television drama. There had been earlier attempts at drama series, soap operas, mini-series and televised plays but many struggled to gain a high profile in Australia’s early television landscape. After all, it was so much cheaper to buy US shows than to invest in local production, but Homicide was the first high-profile drama series to be made by Australians for Australians and its ratings from the very beginning proved that local production could be a viable and popular alternative to imported programs.
The show’s producer, Hector Crawford, had been a successful producer of radio programs since the mid-1940s and television productions since the late 1950s and had modelled Homicide loosely on an earlier radio drama series, D24.
Homicide made its debut on Melbourne’s HSV7 on Tuesday 20 October 1964 at 7.30pm. The series was soon sold across the network and also later sold overseas. By 1966, Homicide was ranked as the third most popular show on Australian television, rising to first place the following year and would top the national ratings again for four consecutive years from 1969 to 1972. In 1973 it was bumped to second place by Number 96.
The success of Homicide led to Crawford receiving requests from rival networks to produce police dramas for them as well – and he responded with Division 4 (Nine Network) and Matlock Police (0-10 Network) which were also well received by the public.
Homicide continued for a record breaking 510 episodes with its final episode going to air on HSV7 in January 1977, although production had ceased as far back as 1975. Homicide’s demise came soon after the axe had also been put to Division 4 and Matlock Police, triggering theories that the networks had colluded to bring down the Crawford empire in response to his high-profile battle to force the networks into an increase in the amount of Australian production on television.
Since its last episode in 1977, repeats of Homicide have been few and far between. The Seven Network did pay tribute to Homicide on the occasion of the show’s 30th anniversary in 1994 with a one-hour special hosted by Blue Heelers stars John Wood and Lisa McCune, and the network screened a handful of Homicide episodes in an afternoon timeslot.
Seven also paid tribute to Homicide in November 2005 with the screening of the 1973 episode that farewelled long-time cast members Leonard Teale (pictured, far right, with the cast in 1967) and Alwyn Kurts to commemorate the start of HSV7’s fiftieth year of transmission. And the Nine Network’s 50 Years 50 Shows special, produced in 2005, ranked Homicide as the 12th most significant program to have been made in 50 years of Australian television.
With Crawford Productions now owned by WIN Corporation, its regional television network, WIN, has in recent years been re-playing various series from the Crawford archives in late-night timeslots. Some of the titles to have featured include Division 4, Matlock Police, Carson’s Law, Skyways and even the ill-fated Holiday Island. With episodes of most of those titles now exhausted WIN earlier this month started replaying Homicide, starting from the show’s earliest episodes that first went to air in 1964.
WIN broadcasts through regional markets in Southern NSW, Victoria, Queensland, Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia as well as the Australian Capital Territory.
Homicide. Monday night/Tuesday morning, 2.00am. WIN Television (except South Australia)