Prisoner (TV series)Prisoner
was an Australian television soap opera
set in Wentworth Detention Centre, a women's prison
. The series was produced by the Reg Grundy Organisation and ran on Channel Ten from 1979
. Storylines concentrated on prisoners, officers and other prison staff and their relationships with one another inside and outside the prison. However the main storylines focused primarily on prisoners' relationships amongst themselves; their power struggles, friendships and enmities.
The series made good use of cliffhangers, often involving dramatic escapes, crimes, and catastrophes befalling the prison and its inhabitants. Sometimes non-prison related storylines concerning officers occurred, and some periods of the series also extended the action to a halfway house for recently released prisoners. As the series progressed increasingly outlandish stories occurred. Several lesbian characters were featured throughout the show's run, most notably Franky Doyle, Judy Bryant, and Joan Ferguson. The lesbian angle was never used for titillation but instead for thoughtful and realistic storylines.
One of the earliest Australian soap operas exported to the UK where it was screened as Prisoner: Cell Block H, possibly to avoid confusion with The Prisoner. It achieved enduring success there despite much negative criticism from reviewers.
Principle cast included:
- Elspeth Ballantyne as kind officer Meg Jackson (later Morris), the only character to continue the show's entire run
- Betty Bobbitt as prisoner Judy Bryant, initially tough and later motherly lesbian prisoner
- Sheila Florance as Lizzie Birdsworth, an elderly, cigarette puffing, alcoholic recidivist prisoner
- Maggie Kirkpatrick as Joan Ferguson, a sadistic and corrupt lesbian prison officer
- Val Lehman as Bea Smith, the tough and uncompromising top dog (unofficial leader of the prisoners)
- Patsy King as well-meaning Governor Erica Davidson
- Gerda Nicolson as Governor Ann Reynolds who succeeded Erica for the second half of the series
- Colette Mann as Doreen Burns, a dim-witted and easily led prisoner
- Judith McGrath as sarcastic and ambitious Officer Colleen Powell
- Joy Westmore as inept Officer Joyce Barry
- Fiona Spence as Vera Bennett, an acid-tongued officer convinced that Erica's progressive methods were wrong and never missed an opportunity to relish Erica's failures
- Gerard Maguire as Deputy Governor Jim Fletcher a stern authoritarian ex-army man with a tendency to fall in love with the "nicer", "innocent" prisoners
- Lois Collinder as prisoner Alice Jenkins late in the show's run. She started out a dim-witted thug but later softened
- Louise Siversen as prisoner Lou Kelly, a vicious thug during the show's later years
- Pepe Trevor as prisoner Lexie Patterson, loud-mouth punk and card-sharp in the show’s later years
- Reylene Pearce as dim-witted prisoner Phyllis Hunt
- Anne Phelan as prisoner Myra Desmond, a thoughtful but strong woman who took over as top dog after Bea left
- Amanda Muggleton as prisoner Chrissie Latham, tarty and lascivious prostitute who turned over a new leaf after the birth of her daughter
- Maxine Klibingaitis as prisoner Bobbie Mitchell a rebellious and street-wise youngster
- Jane Clifton as prisoner Margo Gaffney, a thug who often operated as prison bookie
- Glenda Linscott as spirited biker Rita Connors who became the show’s last top dog
- Judy McBurney as flighty romantic Pixie Mason in on bigamy and fraud charges
- Janet Andrewartha as scheming toughie Reb Kean
- Lisa Crittenden as wise-cracking young biker Maxine Daniels
- Jackie Woodburne as Julie Egbert, a young prisoner in the later years, plagued by self-doubt and low self esteem
Carol Burns who played tough lesbian biker Franky Doyle was the show's first big star, capturing viewer's hearts despite the fact she appeared in only the first twenty episodes.
Follow this link for the 1967 UK television series The Prisoner, created by and starring Patrick McGoohan.