Number 96 debuted on Australian TV on 13 March 1972, promoted by Network 0 (the forerunner of the Ten Network) as ‘the night Australian TV loses its virginity’. Forty years later, the Australian Film Festival in Sydney is celebrating the anniversary with a screening of two episodes, DVD launch and a Q&A with creator David Sale and cast members Elaine Lee and Vivienne Garrett (details below).
Number 96 was the hit show everyone was talking about in Australia in the early ’70s. No one knows it better than Andrew Mercado – author of Aussie Super Soaps (2004) – who has curated three episodes and a lively series page for ASO.
The series is most remembered for its bombshells and bombs. Abigail was Australian television’s first sex symbol, the first of several actresses heavily promoted by Network 0 to titillate male audiences and boost ratings. She features in Number 96 – Episode 35 (clip two), one of the earlier surviving black-and-white episodes from 1972, the show’s first year.
The show didn’t just feature sex bombs. During the 1975 season, a bomb blast destroyed the building’s delicatessen and killed off five characters. It was one of several outlandish plot threads designed to keep Number 96 in the news and audiences watching. The 1975 cliffhanger even featured a character apparently returning from the dead (see Number 96 – Episode 910, clip 3).
The bomb episode is one of several episodes held in the NFSA and now available on DVD through Umbrella Entertainment. Extras include commentary from Andrew Mercado and NFSA oral history interviews with principals involved in the show.
Details for the Australian Film Festival 40th anniversary celebration on 13 March.