Friday, December 2, 2011

Number 96 (1972 & 1980)

One of the most controversial television shows in Australian history was this night time soap opera. It was about the lives of the residents of 96 Lindsay street in Sidney. It was a hot-bed of scandalous activity and inappropriate behavior, with more than enough trysts and intrigue for the sexy seventies. The show ran quite a long time - from 1972 to 1977 - and was something of a national obsession during its run. It has the distinction of including in its story lines the first stable and accepted gay couple on television.

Above are the opening credits for the show, uploaded to YouTube by SilentNumber96. Below, also uploaded by SilentNumber96, is one of the scenes with a gay story line. Remember, this is the mid 1970's.

As with many successful shows from Europe and Australia, this show spawned an American remake. Unlike All in the Family (1971) (based on British series 'Til Death Do Us Part [1965]) and Sanford and Son (1972) (Based on British series Steptoe and Son [1962]), this series didn't fare well. Only 6 episodes were produced and aired from October 1980 to January 1981.

Above is the credit sequence for the American series, embedded in a collection of show openings from 1980 by bobtwcatlanta. Note the similar graphic conceit with the numbers 9 and 6. The original Australian series is available on DVD, but not for region 1 players. The American series has never been released.

Obscurity factor: 5 (well known in Australia, almost completely unknown in America)


  1. I don't remember it. From 1979 until 1985 we only had two network channels. ABC & NBC. The NBC affiliate in Bakersfield switched to CBS sometime in the early '80s. Or was it the other way around?

    Looks like a good show :)

  2. The original Australian show was good, I think, but the American version was too watered down to have any real impact. It only lasted for 6 episodes, so even if you had an affiliate, it would have been easy to miss.

  3. I see that the Australian version produced a 1974 feature film spin-off. The original looks appealing. Odd that the US remake premiered in October 1980, with the "second" installment in December, and the remaining episodes "burned off" within weeks. That scenario sounds like a contractual obligation by the network.

    The gay scene in the Australian version is a bit confusing, at first - the two men look so much alike, I thought that a mirror was involved...

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  5. It's hard to overstate the importance of Number 96 here in Australia, it was nothing short of a phenomenon. I was in primary school school when it aired but was allowed to stay up and watch it, which was lucky for me as it was incredibly racy. Of course the drama of the Sydney block of flats provided great playground talk fodder for those of us fortunate enough to be able to watch it. Famous for nudity, progressive sexuality, crime and all manner of drama - 96 had it all. One of the most famous story arcs was the "Knicker Snipper" ( which is kind of hilarious now but wonderful. 96 made household names of its stars such as "Abigail" (one name only) whose fame also permitted her an unlikely music contract and she scored a hit with a cover of Serge Gainsbourg's "Je T'aime Moi Non Plus" (trading on her sex bomb image). 96 also spawned a record (the Number 96 Party Album) and even a cook book!

    Sadly very little of the long-running series survives as much of it was wiped in the 1970s when TV shows were often not considered worth preserving. As Ben mentions there has been DVD releases which include some of the surviving material, but sadly the bulk of it is gone forever.

    Number 96 also paved the way for the short-lived soap The Box which attempted to translate the saucy goings-on to a TV studio setting, but was unable to reach the immense popularity of 96. Some decades later a TV called Chances was a revival of sorts of, at least in spirit, of 96 - and even boasted Abigail in the cast.

  6. I remember the American show! Looking back on it, I had always thought the title was a play on "69" as part of TV trying to be all sophisticated and risque. I had NO idea it was based on an Australian show...and yowza...if I had seen that bit on US TV I would have come out of the closet a lot earlier!

  7. Thanks for the input on the Australian version, Wayne. It's nice to hear about it from someone who lived through the phenomenon.

    I expect the "96" was something of a play on "69", V.

  8. You could be right about the 96/69 title!

  9. The sexual association of the title Number 96 was a deliberate reference to 69. Another Australian soap of the same period - The Box - used a sexual association it its title too. When The Box debuted (on the 0/10 network right after Number 96), newspaper advertisements announcing the fact said 'After No.96 what else can we show but The Box?'