Over the last few years a selection of classic Crawford Productions series – including Homicide, Division 4, Matlock Police, Skyways, Carson’s Law and Holiday Island – have been screened in late-night timeslots on regional network WIN, which has owned the Crawfords business since the late 1980s.
Recently, Crawfords Australia (as it is now) have started to release episodes of other series on DVD.
The Flying Doctors, based on a fictional adaptation of the real-life Royal Flying Doctor Service, began as a mini-series on the Nine Network in 1985 – with a cast led by Andrew McFarlane (The Sullivans) and US actress Lorna Patterson – and its popularity led to production of an ongoing weekly series from 1986 with a mix of cast members from the original mini-series and the addition of new characters to sustain an ongoing production. (Among those joining McFarlane in the ongoing series were Liz Burch and Rebecca Gibney, pictured above)
The series gave the Nine Network one of its few drama successes in the ’80s, among a string of failures such as Starting Out, Taurus Rising, Waterloo Station, Possession, Prime Time, All The Way and Kings.
The Flying Doctors was a success in Australia and overseas and ran until 1992. The series was relaunched as RFDS in 1993. RFDS, which featured few of the Flying Doctors cast and shifted the focus of the show from the fictional town of Coopers Crossing to the real-life town of Broken Hill, failed to catch on with viewers and was not extended beyond its first series.
Crawfords Australia have recently released a DVD box set featuring 234 episodes of the series. The Crawfords website does not mention if this also includes the initial 1985 mini-series and/or the RFDS spin-off.
The 48-disc box set is certainly one of the largest DVD releases in Australia but is still a far cry from the long-running Australian series Prisoner which has just had all 692 episodes re-released in a 174-disc set – believed to be the largest DVD release in the world.
And another Crawfords series is also getting a new life on DVD. The Sullivans was the highly-acclaimed series depicting the life of a Melbourne family during the time of World War II. The series debuted on the Nine Network in November 1976 and was an immediate success. The Sullivan family was led by Dave (Paul Cronin, formerly from previous Crawford dramas Matlock Police and Solo One) and Grace (Lorraine Bayly) with daughter Kitty (Susan Hannaford) and sons John (Andrew McFarlane), Terry (Richard Morgan) and Tom (Steven Tandy). The Sullivans was a hit in Australia, winning a swag of awards, and sold to 20 countries. Even though World War II ended in the series in 1981 the show continued to depict life in post-War Melbourne.
Bayly had left the series in 1979 but production of The Sullivans wound up after Cronin decided to leave in 1982. After 1114 episodes The Sullivans came to an emotional end on screen in early 1983.
To coincide with the 35th anniversary of the show’s debut Crawfords Australia released the first 50 episodes of The Sullivans on DVD before Christmas and are planning to release the next 50 episodes this year.
Both The Flying Doctors and The Sullivans DVDs are available via the Crawfords Australia website.