The Mike Walsh Show: Number 96 - the bomb blast
In 1981, 4 former Number 96 cast members (Sheila Kennelly, Pat McDonald, Joe Hasham and Johnny Lockwood) appeared on The Mike Walsh Show to celebrate the groundbreaking 1970s soap and its director Brian Phillis.
This excerpt from the show relives the dramatic bomb blast in the Number 96 building that killed off 4 popular characters in one hit. This upset some fans so much that they petitioned Channel 10 to bring the dead characters back.
Read more about this epidode of The Mike Walsh Show in the Curator's Notes by Nigel Giles below.
In 1981, I was a Year 10 student at Croydon High in Melbourne’s outer east. One day my class was let out half-a-day early for some reason so I headed home and switched on the telly to watch The Mike Walsh Show.
When Mike announced that his next guests would be former cast members of Number 96, I thought I’d hit the jackpot. I’d grown up watching Number 96 during the 1970s and it had soon become my favourite TV show.
It ended in 1977, so this episode of the The Mike Walsh Show was a reunion for former cast members Sheila Kennelly (who played Norma Whittaker), Pat McDonald (Dorrie Evans), Joe Hasham (Don Finlayson) and Johnny Lockwood (Aldo Godolfus). They were there to pay tribute to director Brian Phillis (1939–2016) who was then celebrating his 25th year in the television industry.
In this clip the cast members reminisce about their time on the show and working with Brian.
During his career Brian had worked as a director on Number 96, alternating for five-and-a-half years with fellow director, Peter Benardos. Brian would do one week in the studio and then it would be Peter’s turn. Brian was now working as director of The Mike Walsh Show.
Before Mike Walsh’s move to Channel 9 in 1977, he recorded his weekday afternoon talk show at Channel 10’s studios in North Ryde, Sydney.
The Number 96 studio was right next door to The Mike Walsh Show studio and on many occasions Number 96 cast members would turn up as guests on Mike’s show, often when a pre-booked guest had pulled out at the last minute.
Two Number 96 actors (Mike Dorsey who played Daddy and Chard Hayward who played Dudley) were even invited on as guest hosts of the show when Mike went on holiday.
Mike and the cast developed a friendly bond and he travelled with them on the Spirit of 96, the special train that was arranged by TEN publicist Tom Greer to take the cast to the annual TV Week Logie Awards in Melbourne.
At the time this segment went to air in 1981, Mike Walsh had been at Channel 9 for a little over 4 years. Home video recorders had only recently been made available and my family never had one until a couple of years later, so there was no way for me to record the segment. I just enjoyed it as it went to air and was thankful I’d somehow managed to be home to see it.
Fast forward 30-something years and I’m in the Melbourne office of the NFSA one day when Helen Tully, then manager and Broadcast Curator, made a passing comment about having recently acquired a substantial collection of episodes of The Mike Walsh Show.
The next time I was in the office I asked Helen about the collection and she got to work on tracking this particular episode down. It wasn’t straightforward, but somehow she found it. And not long after I got to see it again for the very first time since I’d been that kid at high school.
There was a lot about it that I didn’t remember and I was surprised to discover that the tribute to Brian ran over 2 segments, arguably a demonstration of the regard Mike held for Brian.
Also included in the segment was the infamous moment when the bomb blast in the deli in 1975 killed off four popular characters in one hit. This upset some fans so much that they petitioned Channel 10 to bring the dead characters back.
As well as these dramatic storylines that had viewers hooked, there were also a lot of comical aspects to the show, some of which are captured here in this highlights package, which also includes some of the eye-popping nudity that the show was famous for.
It was this blend of comedy and drama, together with memorable and beloved characters, that made Number 96 the incredibly popular success that it was.
It has been my pleasure to finally be able to share these excerpts from The Mike Walsh Show as we celebrate Number 96’s 50th anniversary.
Notes by Nigel Giles
Nigel Giles has been recording oral histories for the NFSA for over 20 years. His book 'Number 96: Australian TV’s Most Notorious Address' was released in 2017. He also edited the book 'Number 96: 50th Anniversary Album' due for release in March 2021.