Number 96 (TV series)

Number 96

Title card from a 1975 episode of Number 96. Where the cliffhanger resolution following this shot at the start of the episode took place in one of the building's flats, the shot of the building would zoom in on that flat as the title appeared on screen. Where the resolution scene occurred in an exterior location there was no zoom and the entire building would be shown, as seen here.
Created byDavid Sale
StarringLeading cast members: Johnny Lockwood, Philippa Baker, Gordon McDougall, Sheila Kennelly, Pat McDonald, Ron Shand, Bunney Brooke, Joe Hasham, Chard Hayward, Carol Raye, Jeff Kevin, Mike Dorsey, Wendy Blacklock, Frances Hargreaves, Elaine Lee, James Elliott, Elisabeth Kirkby, Bettina Welch, Abigail, Tom Oliver, Jan Adele, Dina Mann and Thelma Scott. Short term cast members included: Briony Behets, Vivienne Garrett, Norman Yemm, John Orcsik, Carmen Duncan, Jill Forster, Candy Raymond, Anne Louise Lambert, Carlotta, Penne Hackforth-Jones, Diana McLean, Wendy Hughes, Josephine Knur, Peter Adams, Pamela Garrick, Chantal Contouri, Judi Farr, Chris King, Aileen Britton, Paula Duncan, Margaret Laurence, Vince Martin, Anne Charleston, Rowena Wallace, Justine Saunders, Joseph Furst, Mary Ann Severne, Henri Szeps, Pat Bishop, Julieanne Newbould, Arianthe Galani, Judy McBurney, June Salter, John McTernan, Deborah Gray, Malcolm Thompson, Ray Meagher, Joanna Lockwood, Shane Porteous, Joyce Jacobs.
Country of originAustralia
No. of episodes1218
Running time30 min per episode
Original channelNetwork Ten, produced by Cash Harmon Television
Original runMarch 13, 1972August 11, 1977
External links
|/ IMDb profile

Number 96 was a revolutionary Australian soap opera set in a Sydney apartment block. Don Cash and Bill Harmon produced the series for Network Ten, which requested a Coronation Street-type serial, and specifically one that explored adult subjects. The premise, original story outlines, and the original characters were devised by David Sale who also wrote the scripts for the first episodes and continued as script editor for much of the show's run. The series proved to be a huge success, running from 1972 until 1977, and became famous for its sex scenes and nudity, and for its comedy characters.


Number 96 was launched in March 1972 with a simple promotional campaign - each night for several weeks before its debut, the message "Number 96 Is Coming" would appear on screen during Network 10's advertisements. No explanation was given, and it stimulated curiosity. When the series premiered viewers were presented with a level of titilation and taboo subjects that had never been seen on Australian television before, and the event came to be known as "the night Australian television lost its virginity".

Characters and storylines

Storylines of the series explored the relationships of the residents of a small apartment block named Number 96 after its street address, with scripts tackling such topics as racism, drug use, rape, marriage problems, adultery and homosexuality, along with more prosaic romantic and domestic storylines. The building's two ground floor businesses - a delicatessen and a winebar - along with a nearby launderette, provided venues for the various characters to meet. The show featured a multiracial cast, had frequent nude scenes, and featured a long-running gay male relationship that drew no particular interest from any of the show's other characters. It is believed that the series was the world's first to include a portrayal of a gay couple as normal people fully accepted by and integrated into their community.

Playing the role of malaproping gossip Dorrie Evans, actor Pat McDonald won the Best Actress Logie Award in 1973, 1974, 1976, and won the Gold Logie in 1974 [1]. Playing the part of Bev Houghton, Abigail quickly emerged as the show's most famous sex symbol. She left the series suddenly in June 1973 in a burst of publicity. Bitchy businesswoman Maggie Cameron (Bettina Welch) became part owner of the building and sustained acrimonious enmities with several of the residents and the other owners. Her friend and sometimes rival was Flat 7 resident Vera Collins (Elaine Lee) who would be perpetually unlucky-in-love. Lawyer Don Finlayson (Joe Hasham) was revealed as gay in an early episode and had several boyfriends over the course of the series; his most enduring relationship was with film buff Dudley Butterfield (Chard Hayward).

As the series progressed it increasingly focused on comedy characters such as brassy winebar proprietor Norma Whittaker (Sheila Kennelly), her inventor husband Les (Gordon McDougall), no-nonsense Flo Patterson (Bunney Brooke), and the bookish Arnold Feather (Jeff Kevin) who proved irresistible to the ladies. The series made good use of end-of-episode and end-of-year cliffhangers, and whodunit type storylines proved particularly popular. These included a panty snatcher dubbed the Knicker Snipper, and a serial killer called the Pantyhose Murderer.

Feature film

A feature film version of the serial was shot in December 1973 in colour on 16mm film. It carried the same title as the TV series.

The film features nearly all the show's regular cast from that time and the story of the film features various interwoven story threads that occupy the characters to varying degrees. These include the return to Number 96 of former resident Sonia (Lynn Rainbow) after her release from a mental asylum. Sonia is now married to newspaper journalist Duncan Hunter (Alister Smart). Many of the residents become embroiled in the major plans for Dorrie and husband Herb's (Ron Shand) Ruby Wedding Celebrations; those that aren't are roped in by Les to assist in his new business venture: a sauna in the building's basement. Vera endures a troubled romance with politician Nick Brent (James Condon), not helped when she meets his son Tony (Patrick Ward). Meanwhile Maggie and Vera start a new business venture with Simon Carr (John Orcsik), a character they had a previously had romantic rivalry over in the television version of Number 96 in 1972. Sonia's old friend Jack Sellars (Tom Oliver) and his new girlfriend, flight attendant Diana Moore (Rebecca Gilling) who has moved in to flat 6, worry about Sonia's increasingly erratic and apparently deranged behavior.

The film was released in May 1974 and became a major box office success.

Series evolution

Number 96 was Australia's highest rating program for 1973 and 1974, and was the first English-language soap opera to be broadcast each weeknight. The series was shot on videotape initially in black-and-white but switching to color in late 1974. Unfortunately, many black and white episodes are now lost, falling victim to the wiping of videotapes for re-use, which was the official Channel Ten policy at the time.

The series began taping in color in late 1974. This period also saw the series shift its emphasis from sexual situations and drama to focus more on comedy, however by mid 1975 ratings had gone into decline so a bold new storyline was concocted in the hope of revitalising the series. The Mad Bomber storyline, in August-September 1975, came in the wake of news from periodical TV Week that the ratings for Number 96 had dropped to just half what they had been at the beginning of 1974. In an unprecedented move, 40 complete scripts were discarded and rewritten, while the Number 96 set was sealed off to non-essential personnel. The new storyline involved a mysterious figure planting time bombs in Number 96, and one of the bombs would explode in the apartment block. The dramatic storyline was intended to draw back viewers and to provide a mechanism to quickly write out several existing characters in a bid to fresh up the cast of characters and revamp the storylines.

On September 5, 1975, a bomb exploded in the delicatessen, destroying it and the adjacent wine bar which was crowded with customers. Despite the bold move of killing several long running cast favourites, including Les, and Aldo and Roma Godolfus (Johnny Lockwood and Philippa Baker), and then revealing schemer Maggie Cameron as the bomber and sending her off to prison (she never planned for the bomb to kill anyone and merely wanted to scare residents into moving to facilitate a sale of the building), the bomb-blast storyline resulted in only a temporary boost to ratings figures.

By December two more central characters - Alf and Lucy Sutcliffe (James Elliott and Elisabeth Kirkby) - were written out of the series. New, younger characters were added to the show, most of whom didn't last out the series. Two that did were orphaned teenage sisters Debbie and Jane Chester (Dina Mann and Suzanne Church). Other enduring characters amongst the high cast turnover of the later period were the new blond sex-symbol Jaja (Anya Saleky), and Giovanni Lenzi (Harry Michaels) who worked in the deli.

A later whodunit storyline was the Hooded Rapist in mid 1976. The final year of Number 96 featured an increased emphasis on younger characters and the reintroduction of sexual situations and nudity, and in 1977 a range of shock storylines included the exploits of a group of nazi bikers and a psychopathic blackmailer.

Another bold move in the show's final months saw Number 96 feature what was publicised as Australian television's first full frontal nude scene when new character Miss Hemingway (Deborah Gray) made the first of several unveilings in April 1977. Although an earlier scene showing brief and distant full-frontal nudity appeared in the debut episode of Matlock Police in February 1971 while in Number 96 in late 1976 a bit-part nurse fleeing Dudley's bedroom had revealed a full frontal nude flash, this was the first time the nudity was shown front and centre in protracted scenes. Other bedroom farce comedy sequences of the period featured increasing levels of male and female semi-nudity, and some other instances full frontal female nudity. Meanwhile a scene where Jane Chester becomes a prostitute and is asked to whip her male client, new Number 96 resident Toby Buxton (Malcolm Thompson), featured a brief glimpse of full frontal male nudity.

These changes to the series were made to combat falling viewing figures, however they were not a success, and in July 1977 the series was cancelled due to declining ratings.

Long-running characters Dorrie and Herb Evans, Flo Patterson, Don, and Arnold, all continued in the series to the end.

Series format

Each episode began with a shot of the building while audio from the previous episode's final scene could be heard. The shot would zoom in on the apartment in which that scene occurred, as the show's title was displayed. The vision would then switch to the scene in question as a recap of the previous episode's cliffhanger.

The feature film has a pre-credits sequence involving Vera being raped, followed by the film's opening titles. After this the opening shot is a zoom-in on the exterior of flat 3 after which the action starts with the interior activities of flat 3.

The series was broadcast as five half-hour episodes each week for its first four years. From the beginning of 1976 episodes were broadcast as two one-hour episodes each week in most areas, however from an internal perspective episodes continued to be written and compiled in half-hour installments.

Series crew

The production supervisor on the series was Kevin Powell, son of British film director Michael Powell. The show's studio directors were Peter Bernados and Brian Phillis. Audio directors included Terry Green, Ross Boyer, Larry Price, Robert Judson and Steve Wakely. Director's Assistants included Gillian B. Brown and Maggie Powell. Bernados was director of the 1974 feature film version of the serial. Executive Producer of the series and the feature film was Bob Huber. Series producers included David Hannay and Ted Jobbins. Lighting directors included George Poole, Adrian O'Bearn, Phil Cullen, Paul Gilfeather, Richard Curtis and Peter Richardson. Floor managers included Keith Walker and Murray Graham. Credits director and opener and closer director was Monica Pendegast. Audio boom operators included Laurie Hutchins, Vladimir Lozinski, John Dodds, Paul McCloskey, Jack O'Brien, Steve Wakely (later a series audio director).


Aside from the four Logies won by cast member Pat McDonald during her run with the show, Number 96 won the "Best Drama" Logie in 1974, 1975 and 1976. Actor Bunney Brooke won the "Best Actress" Logie Award for her work as Flo in 1975. [2].


The series cast became stars in Australia and for the show's first few years the cast would take the train together to Melbourne for the Logie Awards each year in specially-organised Whistle stop train tour style journeys.

In 1975 the Number 96 Cookbook was released in Australian by the publisher Family Circle; it featured recipes from eight members of the cast.

In 1980 a short-lived US remake of the same name on NBC retained the comedy but toned-down the sexual elements of the series. The series was launched over three consecutive nights. US television and TV Guide promotions for the series utilised advertising hyperbole, suggesting that the series had been "banned in Australia". The nudity and racy content of the original series was not present in the remake; it would likely not have been allowed in the US due to censorship standards there, so the US version only hinted at the sexual content that had been on display in the original. The US version of Number 96 was quickly cancelled due to low ratings.

In the early 1980s in Sydney, Network Ten ran a partial rerun of the colour episodes in a late-night slot. The 1976 compilation special And They Said It Wouldn't Last, which reviewed the show's most famous storylines and recounted the exploits of its departed main characters, was repeated by Ten in a prime time slot in 1994.

Number 96 was rated number 9 in the 2005 television special 50 Years 50 Shows which counted-down Australia's greatest television programs.

A DVD of the Number 96 feature film, and And They Said It Wouldn't Last, was released in July 2006. The DVD also includes a new documentary The Final Years, which focuses on the show's 1976-1977 episodes that are not covered by And They Said It Wouldn't Last. The Final Years features clips from the series and interviews with actors Elaine Lee, Sheila Kennelly, Wendy Blacklock, Deborah Gray, and with series creator David Sale.

See also

External links


1. ^ Clarke, David and Steve Samuelson. 50 Years: Celebrating a Half-Century of Australian Television, Random House: Milsons Point, NSW, 2006. ISBN 1-7416-6024-6 p 151-60
2. ^ Clarke, David and Steve Samuelson. 50 Years: Celebrating a Half-Century of Australian Television, Random House: Milsons Point, NSW, 2006. ISBN 1-7416-6024-6 p 151-60
David Sale is an Australian-based author and television scriptwriter. He has been a contributor to many TV drama series, provided special material for Australia's leading entertainers, and has worked as producer, director, actor and journalist.
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Johnny Lockwood (born 7 December 1920 in London, UK) is an Australian-based actor and comedy performer, possibly best known for his role in the 1970s television soap opera Number 96, playing Aldo Godolfus.

Lockwood had always wanted to perform on stage.
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Philippa Baker is an Australian-based actor best known for her role in the 1970s television soap opera Number 96, playing Roma Godolfus.

Baker was initially a librarian. She switched to acting in the late 1940s.
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Gordon McDougall (born Glasgow, Scotland) was an Australian-based theatre and television actor.

McDougall trained in Glasgow at the Athenaeum Drama School and began acting in 1936, working in various facets of the entertainment industry.
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Sheila Kennelly is an Australian actress famous for several television soap opera and comedy roles starting in the 1970s.

She initially became famous in Australia through her role of bubbly barmaid Norma Whittaker in soap opera Number 96.
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Pat McDonald Born "Patricia Ethell McDonald" (1 August, 1922–10 March, 1990) was an Australian actress best known for two long-running soap opera roles. She was the daughter of one of Australia's most prominent radio engineers, Arthur McDonald She played comical gossip Dorrie
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Ron Shand (born 3 February 1906, died 8 August 1993) was Australian actor and comedian who worked extensively in theatre, vaudeville and television.

Shand started his career in the circus with his parents as a clown, and later performed as a song and dance man in vaudeville,
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Bunney Brooke (born 9 January 1921 Golden Square, Bendigo, Victoria, Australia - died 2 April 2000, Sydney, New South Wales) was an Australian actor best known for her television acting roles including the long-running role of Flo Patterson in soap opera Number 96
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Joe Hasham (Arabic: جو هشام) (born Tripoli, Lebanon) is a Lebanese Australian actor who became famous in Australia in the 1970s through his long running role of dependable and decent gay lawyer Don Finlayson in soap opera Number 96.
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Chard Hayward (born Roy Hayward, in Wales, UK in 1949) was an Australian and later US-based television actor. In Australia he was best known for his long-running role of Dudley Butterfield in the 1970s television soap opera Number 96.
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Carol Raye (born Kathleen Mary Corkery 17 January 1923, London, England) is an Australian-based theatre and television actor and comedian.

Trained as a ballet dancer, Raye was discovered by choreographer Freddie Carpenter at age 16.
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Jeff Kevin is an Australian actor.

He is best known for his role of Arnold Feather in the television soap opera Number 96, a role he played from mid 1972 until the series ended in August 1977.
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Mike Dorsey (born 1930 in Yorkshire, United Kingdom) was an Australia-based theatre and television actor best known for his long-running role of Reg MacDonald in the 1970s television soap opera Number 96.
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Wendy Blacklock (born Sydney, Australia) was an Australia-based theatre and television actor best known for her long-running role of Edie MacDonald in the 1970s television soap opera Number 96.
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Frances Hargreaves was a South African born actor who became famous in Australia in the 1970s through her long running role of Marilyn McDonald in soap opera Number 96.

Prior to Number 96 she had acted on the stage in the UK.
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Elaine Lee (born 1937 in South Africa) is an Australia-based theatre and television actor best known for her long-running role in the 1970s television soap opera Number 96.
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James Elliott (born UK) was an Australia-based theatre and television actor best known for his long-running role of Alf Sutcliffe in the 1970s television soap opera Number 96.

Elliott was an original cast member of Number 96 which premiered March 1972.
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Elisabeth Kirkby (b. 26 January 1921) was an Australia-based theatre and television actor and member of the New South Wales Legislative Council.

Born in Bolton, England, Kirkby's acting career began in the UK where she spent three years working for the war effort.
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Bettina Welch (1922-1993) was an Australia-based theatre and television actor who became best known for her role as scheming businesswoman Maggie Cameron in the 1970s television soap opera Number 96.

Early career

Welch was born in 1922 in New Zealand.
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Abigail as Bev and Robyn Gurney as Janie in Number 96
Birth name Abigail Rogan
Australian actress
Born July 23 1946 (1946--) (age 61)
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Tom Oliver (born 12 June 1938, in Hampshire, England) is an Australian television, film and theatre actor, best known today for playing the role of Lou Carpenter in the Australian soap opera Neighbours.
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Jan Adele (born 1936 in Australia, died 27 February 2000) was a circus, vaudeville, theatre, film and television entertainer and actor best known for her recurring role of Trixie O'Toole in the 1970s television soap opera Number 96.
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Dina Mann (born 1950) is an Australian actress recognised for several television soap opera and film roles in the 1970s and 1980s.

In the 1970s Mann specialised in playing characters much younger than herself in adult-themed dramas and comedies.
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Thelma Scott (17 June1913—23 November2006) was an Australian actress whose 70-year career in theatre, radio, film and television made her one of her country's most recognisable personalities.
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Briony Behets (born in 1952, United Kingdom) is a British-born actress who found fame acting in Australian soap operas of the 1970s.

Her father's work as a civil engineer took him around the world and as a result much of Behet's childhood was spent in Germany, Africa
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Vivienne Garrett is an Australian-based theatre and television actor best known for her role of Rose Godolfus, daughter of deli owner Aldo, in top-rated soap opera Number 96.
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Norman Yemm (sometimes credited as Norm Yemm) (born circa 1933) is an Australian actor.

He is probably best known for his long-running role as Norm Baker in the television drama The Sullivans.
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John Orcsik (born 15 May 1945) is an Australian actor of Hungarian descent. Recognised for his appearances in Australian films and television productions of the 1970s through to the present day.
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Carmen Joan Duncan (born July 7, 1942 in Cooma, New South Wales) is an Australian actress. Carmen's younger sister is actor Paula Duncan.

Carmen Duncan is known to Australian audiences as a character actress in films and on television.
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Jill Forster (born 1936) is a British-born Australian actress, with several television credits, including Motel, Number 96, The Box, The Restless Years, Starting Out, Prisoner, A Country Practice,
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