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The Box (Australian TV series)

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The Box
GenreSoap opera
Created byIan Jones - Tom Hegarty
Written by
Country of originAustralia
Original languageEnglish
No. of series4
No. of episodes611
Running time90 minute premiere, 474 x 30 minutes - 128 60 minutes
Production companyCrawford Productions
Original release
Release11 February 1974 (1974-02-11) –
11 October 1977 (1977-10-11)

The Box is an Australian soap opera that ran on ATV-0 from 11 February 1974 until 11 October 1977 and on 0–10 Network affiliates around Australia.

The Box was produced by Crawford Productions who at the time was having great success producing police drama series in Australia. The Box was Crawford's first soap opera, and was launched as a reaction to the enormous success of the rival adult soap opera Number 96.[1]



The Box was a drama set in a fictional Melbourne television station, called UCV Channel 12, and explores the day-to-day working's of the company and the professional and personal lives of the staff who work there. It featured elements that satirised the Australian television industry.

Characters in the series were said to be modelled on Australian television figures and personalities of the day. Sir. Henry Usher modelled on both media mogul Sir Frank Packer and aviator Sir Reginald Ansett. The tea lady Mrs Hopkins (Lois Ramsay) was based on the company's own tea lady.[2]

The Box featured many self-referential elements. Like Number 96 it was famous for its adult storylines, frequent nude glimpses, and sexual content. Also like Number 96 it was spun off into a feature film adaptation, The Box.



Along with constructing characters modelled on real-life Australian television figures of the day, The Box presented various fictional programs produced by UCV-12 that commented-on real-life Australian programs. Police procedural Manhunt, which was lumbered with a dim and accident-prone lead actor Tony Wild (Ken James), was much like the police series produced by Crawfords at that time. Variety program Big Night Out was an In Melbourne Tonight style production. Later the medical drama Mercy Flight seemed connected to early British series The Flying Doctor (1959). Other programs produced by the station included children's show Holliday Farm and period drama Gully Rider.

The initial episodes of The Box emphasised sex, scandal, the political machinations of station personnel, and featured several nude scenes. The first episode showed a sexy young woman named Felicity (played by 20-year-old Helen Hemingway) seduce Big Night Out host Gary Burke (Peter Regan). Felicity then announced she was a 15-year-old schoolgirl, causing the station to try to cover-up the scandal. Scheming bisexual television magazine journalist Vicki Stafford (Judy Nunn) exploited the situation and had Felicity pose for a nude centerfold with Tony Wild. Vicki also kissed Felicity, in Australian TV's first ever lesbian kiss.[3][4] Felicity was soon revealed to be over 18, and schemed her way into the station to appear on Big Night Out. Vicki later switched to working for the station, producing and presenting daytime chat show Girl Talk.

The Box also featured an openly gay television producer, the flamboyant Lee Whiteman (Paul Karo), and gossipy tea lady Mrs. Hopkins (Lois Ramsey). Mrs. Hopkins' son Wayne (Bruce Kilpatrick) was released from prison during the show's first year. When he fell in love with Lee, Mrs. Hopkins was forced to accept that her son was a homosexual. Lee also clashed with Gary Burke upon taking over as producer of Big Night Out. Gary continually schemed to retain his position on the show.

A feature film adaptation of The Box produced at the end of the first year of production featured most of the regular series characters but had a stand-alone story. The film emphasised comedy to a greater degree than the series version at that time.

The program's second year (1975) increasingly emphasised comedy, much of it focused on Tony Wild. Enid Parker (Jill Forster) arrived as a jolly but frumpish spinster secretary. Enid was perturbed when her glamorous sister, the scheming Emma (also played by Forster), showed up and impersonated her. Lee had a brief relationship with closeted newsreader John Barnett (Donald McDonald). Cheryl Rixon appeared on a recurring basis in 1975–1976 as television starlet Angela O'Malley, and appeared nude in the series several times.

For the 1976 season, Jock Blair returned as the program's producer and announced his plans to refocus the series to emphasise adult drama as it had done in its first year.[5]



The Crawford Productions series was created and written by Ian Jones and Tom Hegarty and commenced at the studios of Melbourne's ATV-0 (now ATV-10) in October 1973. The first premiere 90-minute episode screened on ATV-0 on 11 February 1974 at 9.00pm. The program was initially shot in black and white, before switching to colour production in late 1974.

Initially, The Box was proposed with the title The Dream Makers, however Crawford's head executive Hector Crawford, had believed network owner Reginald Ansett would reject the series, based on its adult themes and risque content. The series was therefore offered to the Seven Network who turned the offer down, and the series as put on hold for some time, re-pitched to the 0-10 Network under new title The Box, it was purchase in adeal by Ansett on 14 July 1973, it proved a huge hit, ranking as Australia's second most popular show in 1974. (Number 96 was Australia's highest rating television production that year.)[6]

A feature film adaptation of the series was produced in January 1975 and released later that year. It placed a greater emphasis on comedy than the series at that time, and featured several scenes featuring full frontal nudity. The film's sets were later moved to the television studios to be used in the series. In the show's storyline an office fire in October 1975 explained the change in appearance.

Production of the series was in half-hour episodes for the first two years. In some regions two episodes were aired consecutively in one-hour blocks. Other regions broadcast the serial as five half-hour installments each week, stripped across each weekday evening. Starting with the 1976 season, episodes were compiled in one-hour installments.

In Melbourne episodes screened as two, one-hour episodes each week throughout 1976.

Production on the series ended 1 April 1977 due to declining ratings and the closing episodes screened through 1977 in a late-night timeslot. The final episode was broadcast in Melbourne 11 October 1977.

Regular cast 1974-1975

Actor Role
George Mallaby Paul Donovan
Barrie Barkla Max Knight
Ken James Tony Wild
Fred Betts Sir Henry Usher
Peter Regan Gary Burke
Belinda Giblin Kay Webster/Kay Webster-Brookes
Paul Karo Lee Whiteman
Judy Nunn Vicki Stafford
Briony Behets Judy Donovan
Fred 'Cul' Cullen Eddie Holliday
Helen Hemingway Felicity Baker
Kay McFeeter Cathy Holliday
Graeme Blundell Don Cook
Monica Maughan Jean Ford
Lois Ramsay Mrs. Hopkins
Ken Snodgrass Jack O'Brien
Luigi Villani Mick Maloney
Lynda Keane Barbie Gray/Barbie Cook
Vanessa Leigh Fanny Adams
Carol Passmore Chris Burke
Margaret Cruickshank Marion Knight
Shane Porteous David Warner
Syd Heylen Vern Walters
Owen Weingott Phillip Bailey-Smith
Bruce Kilpatrick Wayne Hopkins
Patricia Stephenson Susie King
Delvene Delaney Penny O'Brien
David Downer Brad Miller
John Krummel Frank Roberts
John Waters (actor) Michael Brookes

Guest cast


Colleen Hewett appeared as herself resident singer on 'Big Night Out' singing Roberta Flack song "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" in the TV pilot movie episode. Hewett was also featured in episode 351 in 1975, again as herself singing on 'Big Night Out'.

Deborra-Lee Furness appeared as a recurring one-line extra in episodes produced in late 1974.

Cast notes


Judy Nunn, Barrie Barkla, Ken James, Ken Snodgrass and Lois Ramsay appeared throughout the series' entire run. Barrie Barkla actually worked at a TV station (CTC-7 in Canberra) before moving to Melbourne to play his role as the station manager in The Box. After The Box finished up, Barkla moved to Perth where he worked as a presenter for the Nine Network station STW-9

Peter Regan, who played the part of TV host Gary Burke, went on to become host of ABC's Quest variety series in 1976–78.



Key writers for the early episodes included Tom Hegarty (born c. 1934-1935 - 22 September 2023),[7] Don Battye and Jonathan Dawson.



George Mallaby won the Best Australian Actor-National Logie Award in 1975 for his portrayal of television executive Paul Donovan in The Box.

Paul Karo won the Best Australian Actor-National Logie Award in 1976 for his portrayal of gay producer Lee Whiteman.

Feature film


A 1975 feature film, The Box, was produced based on the series, and featuring much of the same cast. The film also features Graham Kennedy playing himself, and Cornelia Frances in the key role of Dr. S. M. Winter, an efficiency expert brought in to improve operations at UCV-12.

A DVD release of the feature film was announced in 2023 and was made available on 1 February 2024.

DVD releases


In late 2014 Volume 1 of The Box, featuring a selection of episodes from the first year, was released by Crawford Productions. In 2015 Volume 2, which features another selection of episodes from the first year of the series, was released. The releases are described as containing a "selection" of episodes due to a small number of episodes that are excluded as the original tapes were missing or damaged. Each release contains the equivalent of 50 thirty-minute episodes (the first episode is feature length). From the first DVD of 50 episodes, six are excluded as they were missing or damaged. One episode is missed in volumes 2's run of 50 episodes.

The run of episodes continues in Volume 3 which was released in September 2015. Volume 3 contains 50 episodes and there are no missing episodes in this run. Volume 4 was released in January 2017, also with no missing episodes.

After more than a six year hiatus, Crawfords released Volume 5 at the end of September 2023. Volume 6 of the series was released through Crawfords in October 2023 and Volume 7 was released in December 2023. A further seven volumes are still to be released as of February 2024. The Box movie was released in February 2024.

Title Format Ep # Discs Region 4 (Australia) Special Features Distributors Notes
The Box (Volume 01) DVD 44 07 2014 None Crawford Productions Six Episodes are Missing.
The Box (Volume 02) DVD 55-105 07 2015 None Crawford Productions Episode 57 (Missing) original tape damaged.
The Box (Volume 03) DVD 106-155 07 September 2015 None Crawford Productions None
The Box (Volume 04) DVD 156-205 07 16 January 2017 None Crawford Productions None
The Box (Volume 05) DVD 206-255 07 29 September 2023 None Crawford Productions None
The Box (Volume 06) DVD 256-305 07 31 October 2023 None Crawford Productions None
The Box (Volume 07) DVD 306-355 07 29 November 2023 None Crawford Productions None
The Box (Volume 08) DVD 356-405 07 1 March 2024 None Crawford Productions None
The Box (Volume 09) DVD 406-455 07 3 April 2024 None Crawford Productions None
The Box (Volume 10) DVD 456-491 07 30 May 2024 None Crawford Productions None
The Box (Volume 11) DVD 492-519 07 24 June 2024 None Crawford Productions None
The Box (Volume 12) DVD 520-547 07 August 2024 None Crawford Productions None
The Box (Volume 13) DVD 548-575 07 September 2024 None Crawford Productions None
The Box (Volume 14) DVD 576-603 07 October 2024 None Crawford Productions None

See also



  1. ^ Albert Moran, Moran's Guide to Australian TV Series, AFTRS 1993 p 91-92
  2. ^ "The Box".[dead link]
  3. ^ Monaghan, Whitney (February 2020). "Lesbian, gay and bisexual representation on Australian entertainment television: 1970–2000". Media International Australia. 174 (1): 49–58. doi:10.1177/1329878X19876330. ISSN 1329-878X.
  4. ^ O'Meara, Damien; Monaghan, Whitney (12 March 2024). "We studied two decades of queer representation on Australian TV, and found some interesting trends". The Conversation. Retrieved 19 June 2024.
  5. ^ Webster, Allan. Box Turns on the Heat. Observer TV. 28 December 1975, pp 4–5.
  6. ^ Beilby, Peter. Australian TV: The First 25 Years. Cinema Papers: Melbourne, 1981. p 45.
  7. ^ David Knox. "Vale: Tom Hegarty". TV T.