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The Thorn Birds

The Thorn Birds is a 1977 best-selling novel by Colleen McCullough, an Australian author. In 1983 it was adapted as a television mini-series that, during its television run became the second highest rating mini-series of all time behind Roots.

The mini-series starred Richard Chamberlain, Rachel Ward, Barbara Stanwyck, Christopher Plummer, Mare Winningham and Jean Simmons. It was directed by Daryl Duke.

Set primarily on "Drogheda", a fictional sheep station in the Australian outback, the story focused on the Cleary family, and spanned the years 1920 to 1962. Over the years, numerous deaths and disasters - fire, a drowning, a goring by a wild boar - were to befall the family.

While the epic saga recounted the story of the entire Cleary clan, it focused primarily on the lone Cleary daughter, Meggie (Rachel Ward) and her relationship with Father Ralph de Bricassart (Richard Chamberlain), a handsome young Catholic priest who had been banished to the outback for a previous disobedience. Ultimately, Father Ralph becomes a Cardinal.

In the controversial third episode, the two consummated their relationship in what Newsweek 's Harry F. Waters called "the most erotic love scene ever to ignite the home screen".