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:

Source: IMDB. TV Times, 26 May 1973, 15 September 1973. TV Week, 16 June 1973.

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