Having already produced successful dramas Homicide, Division 4 and Matlock Police based around the Victorian police force, Crawford Productions took a different path with its 1973 action drama, Ryan. Instead of focusing on the police force, the central character, Michael Ryan (Rod Mullinar) is a private investigator. The only other regular characters are Ryan’s secretary Julie King (Pamela Stephenson), his assistant Tony Angellini (Luigi Villani) and Detective Cullen (Colin McEwan).
Ryan, comprising 39 episodes with a budget of around $1 million, was regarded at the time as one of the most expensive Australian television dramas to date. It was produced on film and, with an eye on overseas sales, in colour even though Australian television at the time was still airing in black and white.
It was a gruelling production for lead actor Mullinar, working 50 to 80 hour weeks to churn out each episode within around six days, and doing most of his own stunts. It was also a physically tough role for Stephenson, whose character Julie also presented some demanding undercover and fight scenes.
Guest actors to appear in the series during its run included Brian Wenzel, Judy Morris, Terry Gill, Rowena Wallace, Carl Bleazby, Jack Thompson, Helen Morse, Norman Yemm, Bill Hunter, Elspeth Ballantyne, Carmen Duncan, James Condon, Robyn Nevin, Nick Tate, Anne Charleston, Shane Porteous, Cornelia Frances, Terry Norris, Vince Gil, Peter Whitford, Ernie Bourne, Anne Phelan, John Waters, Maurie Fields, Michael Caton and Gerda Nicolson.
Ryan was an ambitious project with the typical high production values of Crawford dramas, but was not to be a ratings success and failed to sell overseas. In Melbourne, where it was made, it was a victim of HSV7 giving it the prime timeslot of Sunday 7.30pm against UK shows The Rolf Harris Show and The Benny Hill Show, with rival GTV9 putting a replay of the Elvis Presley concert special Aloha From Hawaii up against the first episode. GTV9 also aggressively reacted by putting first-run episodes of its popular Division 4 up against it in the following weeks. Ryan was not renewed beyond its series of 39 episodes.
The Melbourne premiere of Ryan is among the latest additions to Classic TV Guides:
- Tuesday 6 June 1967 — SYDNEY Live satellite telecast Expo 67
- Monday 28 August 1967 — SYDNEY Premiere Bellbird
- Sunday 5 October 1969 — VICTORIA Bathurst 500
- Sunday 27 May 1973 — MELBOURNE Premiere Ryan
- Monday 26 May 1975 — MELBOURNE Happy Days debuts
- Sunday 2 May 1976 — MELBOURNE FA Cup
- Wednesday 17 March 1982 — SOUTH AUSTRALIA
- Wednesday 17 March 1982 — DARWIN
- Tuesday 19 April 1983 — SOUTH AUSTRALIA The Dismissal
- Tuesday 20 September 1983 — MELBOURNE Scales Of Justice
- Monday 4 March 1985 — SOUTH AUSTRALIA Premiere ABC National
- Monday 4 March 1985 — WESTERN AUSTRALIA Premiere ABC National
- Monday 4 March 1985 — TASMANIA Premiere ABC National
- Monday 4 March 1985 — DARWIN Premiere ABC National
- Wednesday 29 May 1985 — MELBOURNE The Celebration Concert
- Monday 28 March 1988 — MELBOURNE
- Monday 13 June 1988 — MELBOURNE Premiere Live At Five
- Monday 11 January 1993 — VICTORIA Premiere Jeopardy
- Monday 16 May 1994 — SYDNEY
- Monday 16 May 1994 — TASMANIA
- Monday 5 June 1995 — MELBOURNE Premiere Echo Point
Source: IMDB. TV Times, 26 May 1973, 15 September 1973. TV Week, 16 June 1973.