Skip navigation

When I was a school kid, we would rush to the TV room at the end of prep to watch Prisoner – was it on Wednesday nights? —————————————————————————

February 16, 2009 – 1:09PM

Thirty years ago, Prisoner hit our screens with a bang. Michael Idato looks back fondly on a classic.

 

When the Australian jailhouse soap Prisoner made its debut 30 years ago, the television landscape changed forever.

Set in the fictional Wentworth Detention Centre, it ran for 692 episodes, turned Bea, Doreen, Lizzie and “the Freak” into household names and became one of Australian television’s biggest exports.

It is remembered fondly for a rogue’s gallery of actresses, many of them big-boned, and themes and storylines that were provocative for the time. But its greatest contribution to the cultural landscape, according to former star Colette Mann, was in shattering the glass ceiling for women on television.

“Before Prisonerwe had the very gorgeous Paula Duncan and Lynda Stoner [in Cop Shop], with lip gloss and guns pressed up against the wall, and a number of women cut up the carrots for their husbands in Bellbird but, really, we hadn’t seen women as leads,” she says. “We hadn’t seen women play strong women’s roles.”

Another former star, Maggie Kirkpatrick, agrees. “We were very conscious of the strengths of playing power and commitment and it was there for all of us that we were doing something very different. Women, even in American programs, no matter how good their characters, were adjuncts to male leads. With Prisoner, it was a groundbreaking effort.”

The series took its first bow on February 27, 1979, though it had spent the best part of the previous year in development, initially as an Australian version of the critically acclaimed British drama Within These Walls, about the progressive governor of a tough maximum-security prison.

That idea was married to a report published in 1978 by the Nagle Royal Commission into prisons in NSW, which landed in the lap of veteran executive producer Reg Watson (The Restless Years, The Young Doctors). It painted a damning portrait of the corrective services administration and recommended a wide range of reforms.

Watson brought in producer Ian Bradley, who, with writers Denise Morgan and Michael Brindley, shaped what became Prisoner.

“It was an amalgam of a show idea and some research, which wasn’t really much of a show,” Bradley recalls. “What we took from the research, however, was that everybody was a Prisonerof their environment – both the officers and the prisoners – and that is how we laid the foundations for the show.”

A labyrinthine set, which included the cellblock, laundry, governor’s office and recreation and dining rooms, was built at Channel Ten’s studios in Nunawading, Victoria, while the writers worked on a cast of characters writ large from the archetypes of prison life – murderess and “top dog” Bea (Val Lehman); institutionalised Doreen (Mann), who was under the spell of lesbian biker Franky (Carol Burns); alcoholic recidivist Lizzie (Sheila Florence); and happy hooker Marilyn (Margaret Laurence). Guarding them were the warders – gentle Meg (Elspeth Ballantyne) and cruel Vera (Fiona Spence), whom the inmates nicknamed “Vinegar Tits”, and elegant, intellectual governor Erica Davidson (Patsy King), unmistakably based on Googie Withers’s governor Faye Boswell in Within These Walls.

Led by a massive marketing campaign – “If you think prison is tough for a man, imagine what it’s like for a woman?” – Prisonerhit Australian screens like a tornado. Mann describes it as “a sort of Underbelly of its day in that everybody knew it was coming up and every woman wanted to be in it”.

The Sydney Morning Herald declared the series “stirring stuff, intelligently written and brilliantly acted”, praising the casting of theatre actresses over the “tired old faces from the soap operas” and its scriptwriting, which “sparkles with freshness and originality”.

It was like being in the eye of a storm, Lehman says. “It was a life-changing experience,” she says. “You don’t realise the power of it as much when you’re in the middle of it as you do when you look back on it.”

The commercial success of Prisonerwas unprecedented. A telemovie, The Franky Doyle Story, was produced from re-edited footage and the series was sold to the US, where a series of tie-in novels were published, and in Britain, where Lynne Hamilton’s theme song, On The Inside, became a hit and episodes were released on the then-new VHS video format.

In Australia, the Ten Network aired PrisonerIn Concert, and a spin-off, Punishment, set in a men’s prison. The former was aired once and never repeated (for good reason, frankly) while the latter is noteworthy only because it marked the screen debut of Mel Gibson as PrisonerRick Monroe.

Prisonerbecame even more successful in its fourth year when Kirkpatrick was cast as the Lady Macbeth-like officer Joan “the Freak” Ferguson, a bent screw in every sense of the phrase. She took a cut of the prisoners’ illegal rackets and paid the occasional nocturnal visit to some of her prettier charges, such as Hannah Simpson (Julieanne Newbould) and Paddy Lawson (Anna Hruby).

“I’m proud of my contribution to what I saw as a terrific drama series,” Kirkpatrick recalls. “I wasn’t worried about the nefarious nature of the old girl. It’s a job, I’m an actor and it was just 41/2 years of a very long career.”

Despite the affection lavished on the show by its fans, most critics agree the show spent its final years in steady decline largely because the producers kept trying to shoehorn new characters into the templates of long-departed favourites – the tough-loving top dog, the wily geriatric and the dizzy dumpling among them.

The Herald described the mixed fortunes of Prisonerthus: “Prisoneris a strange series which fluctuates from good to bad, from believable to ludicrous, from entertaining to abysmally boring. An innovative series to begin with [it is now] laden with characters who resemble Sherman tanks in denim tarpaulins.”

The show’s Australian life ended on December 16, 1986, with a two-hour finale in which the prison’s dying top dog, Rita Connors (Glenda Linscott), was given a rose from the prison grounds (a nod to the theme song) and the Freak was exposed, charged and locked up in Wentworth as an inmate.

It was “moving, apt, topical and brilliantly handled”, said the Herald at the time. “Prisoner, like the Freak, went out with its head held high.”

But it wouldn’t die.

Late-night repeats in Britain (the show was retitled Prisoner: Cell Block H) turned the series into a cult. It was remade in the US, where it failed, and in Germany, where it was a hit. It also spawned a stage musical in Britain.

Thirty years on, Lehman says the show has lost none of its power.

“The issues – incest, rape, murder, domestic violence – never change. They are all still there and the way we handled them, it wasn’t closeted, it was up front and out in the open,” she says.

“And the characters were identifiable. We weren’t hiding behind inches of make-up and clothes; we were very ordinary women in a very extraordinary situation.”

http://www.smh.com.au/news/entertainment/tv–radio/bad-girls-broke-the-shackles/2009/02/16/1234632706023.html?page=fullpage#contentSwap2

VERSE 1
He used to give me roses,
I wish he could again;
But that was on the outside,
And things were different then.

We'd built our world together,
With a love so clear and strong;
But that was on the outside.
Where did i go wrong?

*******************
CHORUS
On the inside the sun still shines,
And the rain falls down;
But the sun and rain are prisoners too,
When morning comes around.

*******************
VERSE 2
Last night i dreamed we were together,
Sharing all the love we've known;
Til i had to face the nightmare,
Of waking up alone.

*******************
CHORUS
On the inside the sun still shines,
And the rain falls down;
But the sun and rain are prisoners too,
When morning comes around.

On the inside the roses grow;
They don't mind the stoney ground;
But the roses here are prisoners too,
When morning comes around.

*******************
He used to give me roses,
I wish he could again;
But that was on the outside,
An things were different then.

55 Comments

    • Ben Wilson
    • Posted April 30, 2009 at 5:21 am
    • Permalink

    Prisoner was and still is a fantastic show. I’ve been really grateful for the DVD releases, and have enjoyed every minute of every episode I either relived or saw for the first time. It made be old now and a bit rough round the edges but theres something about it which is so endearing and addictive!

  1. a brilliant series in its time, beautiful song

  2. We’re a group of volunteers and starting a brand new scheme in our community. Your site provided us with helpful info to work on. You have performed an impressive activity and our whole neighborhood shall be grateful to you.

  3. Thanks for one’s marvelous posting! I actually enjoyed reading it, you might be a great author.I will be sure to bookmark your blog and will eventually come back in the foreseeable future. I want to encourage yourself to continue your great job, have a nice afternoon!

  4. Usually I do not read post on blogs, but
    I wish to say that this write-up very forced me to check out and do it!
    Your writing style has been surprised me. Thanks, quite great post.

  5. At this time it appears like WordPress is the top blogging platform available right now.
    (from what I’ve read) Is that what you are using on your blog?

  6. Regarding Karina, she is wearing her Uggs once more after being fitted with custom padding to support her arches.
    A lot of consumers have enjoyed the shopping as well as walking experience with these UGG boots.
    For the same reason, you could save a handsome profit if
    you buy shoes or boots on our UGG shoes or boots wholesale.

  7. Fantastic beat ! I would like to apprentice while you amend your site, how
    can i subscribe for a blog site? The account aided me
    a acceptable deal. I had been a little bit acquainted of this your broadcast provided bright clear
    idea

  8. Some people prefer taking weight loss tea, appetite suppressant,
    or fat binder products. There are many diet plans that are available for
    you to try but make sure you have success with them. Information is power when it
    comes to weight loss plans and if you want to know more,
    the Internet provides a variety of informational resources that really can’t be compared to.

  9. I find it’s a great way to break the fast and stop my stomach grumbling in the morning which helps to maintain and feed my muscles early in the morning while letting my body use my fat for fuel. There are many diet plans that are available for you to try but make sure you have success with them. For lunch enjoy 3 more bananas and for a mid lunch snack have one more banana.

  10. Since shampooing and regular conditioning is important for
    cleansing the dirt and oily accumulations, rinsing your hair with
    the Macadamia Natural Oil Rejuvenating Shampoo on a regular basis can act wonder on your hair by
    converting any type of lifeless and frizzy hair into smooth,
    silky and shiny that is free of damage. Its ingredients help to reduce scar tissues and
    encourage skin cell growth. Macadamia Natural
    Oil Healing Oil Treatment can be performed on damp or dry hair.

  11. This design is wicked! You definitely know how to keep a
    reader amused. Between your wit and your videos, I was almost moved to start my own blog (well,
    almost…HaHa!) Wonderful job. I really loved what you
    had to say, and more than that, how you presented it.
    Too cool!

  12. According to Marion County Public Schools, there are over 8,000 students with special needs.
    She was living with her mom at the time and there wasn’t a lot of room for her and her six-year-old son, not to mention the place was a disaster. I returned to school the next day instructed to ask my ex-girlfriend if she wanted to spend next weekend with us.

  13. Click here to subcribe to the Green Jobs Report online.

    Investment banking is a process whereby investments bankers
    act as investors on the behalf of their clients, and also work as intermediaries for
    them and perform functions such as underwriting of shares, helping their clients
    with mergers and acquisitions, and so on. Also repeated swing apply will aid a participant bring consistency to his
    game.

  14. As an example, you find a specific profile, that is tailor-cut to your needs,
    and you click the link to contact the person.
    Indeed, rejection can be extremely painful to experience. They tend to over think about what they did not do when they were young, and since they are starting to
    grow older, they act half their age again, thinking it will be the last opportunity they will have.

  15. Be sure to stop by their site, watch the series and let
    them know what you think. Search tons of absolutely free personals to meet
    singles for dating, love and love. From the moment you make a date with
    a woman, you are under the starters gun.

  16. Online dating is one of the safest and most of all is the most convenient means to accommodate individual men or women.

    Being selective permits you to exercise patience, perseverance and control in the dating process.
    All you’re going to do is bring old relationship problems to the new one, and that’s
    not what you want.

  17. I really like it when folks come together and share ideas.
    Great site, stick with it!

  18. The free singles site serve as a via media between the singles and other singles who wish to find love,
    via the internet. Did you know that one kiss begins the chain of sexual stimulation
    in a man. You want to talk to each other regarding
    anything that may be bugging you.

  19. Generally, women are very interested in men who can teach them various things.

    This is one of the events that regardless of the size and scale are
    the obstacles, destiny, it is likely that two people find each other
    alone Asian men in Asia. Register, login, update your about us
    page and you are on your wait to finding your next love connection.

  20. After all, you would not want to find yourself dating a woman that did not meet your personal specifications
    since this would probably not be the best option for those
    seeking long term relationship commitments.
    These sites employ advanced technology to
    help singles to connect based purely on their physical preferences.
    Most of us have been or will be in a relationship where that romantic spark has fizzled or even died out completely.

  21. The free singles site serve as a via media between the singles and other singles
    who wish to find love, via the internet.
    Upload a Nice Photo: Always chose your best picture to
    upload on online dating site. If you don’t have a difficulty with an age difference, she wont.

  22. Bartram’s Garden – As 1 of the nation’s oldest botanical gardens – Bartram’s Gardens – are steeped in history and custom. Further allowing for nearly instant set up is the slim line attachment that stays connected to the camera. You should have no reason to have a bunch of clutter or elements in your shot.

  23. Since it is about meeting new people, try and resist the urge to bring fellow lesbian friends.

    It might be easier to go out for a cup of coffee first and pick up that bill.
    Online dating sites take some of the stress out of “getting your foot in the door”.

  24. It’s really essential to know that you have the most essential possibility to begin upon the road of enjoyment if you can have a holiday rather than just go to the beach or invest intimate time indoors together with your lesbian mate. If you are over 40, and you have spent much time scouring online dating sites, you may be wondering whether there are any lesbians your age who seriously want to find a long term relationship. Sometimes, Lesbian are considered overlooking who are not as respectful as other folks.

  25. Should you wish to use a phrase like ‘lol’ though, most people find that OK because it is difficult to indicate
    that you are amused by any other means. The fighting at Fort Anderson was
    also referred to as the Battle of Deep Gully and was a
    part of Longstreet’s Tidewater Operations initiative. If you make too many movements, it is an indication that you are not confident about yourself.

  26. Rarely did Subaru worry so much about soft touch plastics as they
    did about whether certain interior pieces could withstand
    the rigors of daily abuse year after year. In the narrative, the readers introduction to Ueno is one of cultural insensitivity and blatant sexism.
    Motivated by the hope of advancing his career, Olivier married Jill
    Esmond, a closeted lesbian and member of
    .

  27. The person who is transgender may identify as gay,
    lesbian, bisexual or heterosexual. Before
    we let the negatives rule, the positives deserve a reasonable hearing.
    Will & Grace: Although it is a sitcome, Will & Grace provided a
    mainstream outlet for the gay and lesbian community by featuring both a
    stereotypical and non-stereotypical gay male on Primetime
    television.

  28. A: I personally do not miss the touch and feel of a man, as I’ve never been with a man. First, you’ve got to
    do a full analysis of the site. If the surrogate is through a
    surrogate agency then both the partners will be matched with a surrogate.

  29. Thanks for another fantastic article. Where else could anyone get that kind of information in such
    an ideal way of writing? I’ve a presentation subsequent week, and I’m on the search for such information.

  30. They protect it from heat and split ends, even rejuvenating already damaged hair.

    Since this hair product can penetrate deep, it helps reverses the damage caused by chemicals, leaving your hair safe and protected despite it
    being color treated. Even though there exists a saying ‘Do not judge a book by its cover’, we human beings are very insecure creatures when it comes
    to our physical flaws and hence we rely on beauty products to cover
    them or get rid of them.

  31. It’s nearly impossible to find experienced people about this subject, however, you sound like you know what you’re talking about!
    Thanks

  32. Attractive section of content. I just stumbled upon your weblog and in accession capital to assert that I get actually enjoyed account your blog posts.

    Anyway I’ll be subscribing to your augment and even I achievement you access consistently rapidly.

  33. Hi, i think that i saw you visited my blog so i came to “return the favor”.
    I’m trying to find things to improve my website!I suppose its ok to use a few of your ideas!!

  34. I love what you guys tend to be up too. This kind of clever work and exposure!

    Keep up the great works guys I’ve incorporated you guys to blogroll.

  35. Hi! I could have sworn I’ve been to this site before but after reading through some of the post I realized it’s
    new to me. Nonetheless, I’m definitely happy I found it and I’ll be book-marking and checking back often!

  36. Performance anxiety is the commonest cause
    of erectile dysfunction that there is. It is now time for you to try this incredibly
    powerful combination of energy-giving herbs, which has extremely potent natural aphrodisiacs that stimulate blood flow.
    Many leading pharmaceutical companies sell them online through some reputed online portals.

  37. Hiya! I just discovered your internet site: 30 years of PrisonerHe used to bring me roses | gerry’s blogistic digression when I was surfing around reddit.com. It looks as though someone liked your site so much they decided to bookmark it. I’ll
    undoubtedly be returning here more often.

  38. Several hackers are distributing it through various
    means. A few days later, though, she called me to tell me that while the computer
    was running just fine, she could not seem to get to any
    of the major search engines. Both of them have wide selection of graphics cards
    that are especially designed for laptops.

  39. I don’t even know the way I stopped up right here, however I thought this post used to be good. I do not know who you’re
    however certainly you’re going to a famous blogger when you aren’t already.

    Cheers!

  40. It’s very simple to find out any matter on web as compared to books, as I found this post at this site.

  41. Hi! I just would like to give you a big thumbs up
    for your great info you have got here on this post. I will be returning to your web site for more
    soon.

  42. Online suppliers give year long discounts because it is simpler to run an electronic online shop than to run a shop in the market place that to your shop which
    offers you everything beneath the sun that can be purchased.

    Also these online stores like Overstock.com give particular discount including overstock coupon signal for promotional and publicity purpose.
    Though a traditional Overstock promotion is hard to find but when you pay money for it be sure
    to be dazzled.

    Overstock Coupon is of very great use, because it has
    improved the trend of online buying by many times among your head of
    individuals. It’s also many obtaining things which improve its need. Several kinds of promotion rules are there Free Ship Coupon Code, particularly Money Saver Coupon Code and several more; all are employed for various reasons.
    Today these rules are being sold-out to complete business. This is also comfortable for that customers as they are now free from the danger of advertising using a large amount of income. Also some charge internet sites and web sites have started the Overstock Coupon process. They offer schemes like on a re-charge of Rs.10 only one can get 200-400 concession on looking for Rs 999 and above. By utilizing these techniques, even the small-scale web sites are increasing their sales. Several shopping sites have set a perimeter such that shopping beyond that certain amount would bear no shipping charge. Coupon codes are actually available to even reduce the transport fee.

  43. Pretty component to content. I simply stumbled upon your weblog and in accession capital to say that I acquire actually enjoyed account your weblog posts.

    Any way I will be subscribing in your augment and even I achievement you get admission to persistently quickly.

  44. Hello to all, it’s genuinely a fastidious for me to go to see this web page, it includes important Information.

  45. I’m really enjoying the design and layout of your site. It’s a
    very easy on the eyes which makes it much more
    pleasant for me to come here and visit more often.

    Did you hire out a developer to create your theme?
    Great work!

  46. When Michael Kors Bags saw your favorite San Francisco Socialite dressed to impress the first thing he asked
    was Is that one of mine? michael kors bags handbags can be found in places like Saks Fifth Avenue and Harrods and through its own company-operated shops.

    For the special occasion be sure to carry your Hobo bags.
    These watches are based on reasonable assumptions,
    you should purchase one for your own personel at $200 or lesser.

  47. I am not positive where you’re getting your info, however good topic. I needs to spend a while studying much more or figuring out more. Thank you for wonderful information I used to be searching for this info for my mission.

  48. I’m not that much of a internet reader to be honest but your blogs really nice, keep
    it up! I’ll go ahead and bookmark your site to come back later on. Cheers

  49. Hey! Someone in my Myspace group shared this site with us so I came to check it out.
    I’m definitely loving the information. I’m bookmarking and will be
    tweeting this to my followers! Fantastic blog and wonderful design.

  50. The posts is amazingly fascinating.

  51. I read this article completely about the comparison of most up-to-date and previous
    technologies, it’s amazing article.

  52. What’s up to every one, it’s really a nice for me
    to go to see this site, it includes helpful Information.

  53. Hey just wanted to give you a quick heads
    up. The words in your content seem to be running off the screen in Opera.

    I’m not sure if this is a formatting issue or something to do with
    web browser compatibility but I figured I’d
    post to let you know. The design and style look great though!
    Hope you get the problem fixed soon. Cheers

  54. These are in fact enormous ideas in regarding blogging.
    You have touched some pleasant points here. Any
    way keep up wrinting.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

%d bloggers like this: