The era of Aussie soaps: Scott Goodings
'Catch up with everybody who's catching up with everybody else at Number 96'. (History of Television website 'Advertisement').
On Monday 13 March 1972, Sydney's TEN 10 screened the first episode of a new 'soap opera' that changed the face of Australian television. On that night, Australian television lost its virginity.
Australia's first prime time soap opera - Number 96 - commanded the attention of viewers with a blend of sex, suspense, and situation comedy. Set in a fictional apartment block in Sydney, it traced 'the lives, loves and emotions of ordinary people'. The series brought taboo subjects like sex, rape, infidelity, drugs, racism and homosexuality into many homes for the first time. It was a form of education for families, dressed up as popular entertainment. When Lucy had her breast-cancer scare, Australian women rushed to their GPs en masse and had their first-ever screening for breast cancer. And Don Finlayson, a lawyer who happened to be openly gay, developed as the sanest resident in the block of flats.
Number 96 broke new ground for commercial television. the attraction was not just the show's raunchiness: its mix of drama and comedy made it widely appealing. Number 96 exploited 'the cliff-hanger' as a dramatic device like no other show, with subplots involving the 'knicker-snatcher', the 'pantyhose strangler' and the 'hooded rapist'. Despite the largely 'adult' content of Number 96, at one point the series was the No.1 rated show with children aged five to 12. While viewers loved the show, media commentators and 'the establishment' criticised it, and censors scrutinised its every move.
Number 96 screened on weeknights for five-and-a-half years - a staggering 1218 episodes.
'Number 96: 30 Years On'. History of Australian Television. 13 March 2002. Accessed 25 February 2005 Online: www.televisionau.siv.net.au