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Let the Blood Run Free (1990 - 1992)

26 episodes x 30 minutes

Series synopsis:

A soap opera spoof set in a hospital called Saint Christopher’s.

Curator’s Notes:

Let The Blood Run Free featured one of television’s earliest examples of audience interactivity. Each episode ended with two alternative story directions, which audiences could phone in and vote on. This was more than a decade before reality shows like Big Brother (2001-08) popularised audience voting on Australian TV. It was derived from the series’ beginnings as an improvised theatre show, in which each performance stopped at regular intervals to allow the audience to vote on what should happen next.

The theatre show grew out of Melbourne’s 1980s live comedy scene based in comedy-cabaret venues. Many in the cast were stand-up performers who cut their teeth at these venues and became fixtures of Australian screen, stage and radio comedy for decades to come. The show started at Le Joke, later appearing at The Last Laugh, the Adelaide Festival and the Melbourne Comedy Festival. There was also a radio version. In 1989 Ian McFadyen approached the ‘Blood Group’, its core team, about adapting Let the Blood Run Free for television. The TV show, executive produced by McFadyen, featured the same directorial, writing and performance team, and ran for two 13-episode seasons.

McFadyen points out on his website that audience interactivity made 'tremendous demands on the skills of the cast’:

The show was taped on Saturdays and broadcast on Monday night. The phone poll closed on Tuesday night which meant that the cast did not know until Wednesday what was going to happen on next Saturday’s episode. This gave the writers one day to adjust scripts for rehearsal on Thursday and Friday.

The TV series of Let The Blood Run Free wears its improv and comedy-cabaret origins on it sleeve. It is gleefully chaotic, tacky and over-the-top. The sets and props bring to mind a primary school play and the cast revel in their broad brushstroke roles. The comedy draws on parody, slapstick, faux-melodrama and wordplay, with double entendres involving surgical gloves and futile attempts to run down a corridor that is actually just a painted backdrop.

McFadyen also produced, wrote for and performed in comedy hit The Comedy Company (1988–90), which Let the Blood Run Free performer Peter Rowsthorn also appears in. Rowsthorn is also well known for his later role as Kim’s hapless husband Brett in Kath and Kim (2002–current). Cast members Lynda Gibson and Jean Kittson both appeared in the TV variety show The Big Gig (1989–91), which also had strong ties with Melbourne’s live comedy scene, as well as numerous other comedies. Kittson later teamed up with Comedy Company member Mary-Anne Fahey for the series Kittson Fahey (1992–93). Performer Brian Nankervis presently co-hosts the SBS music trivia show Rockwiz (2005–current).

Other Australian comedy and drama series that have experimented with audience interactivity include Fat Cow Motel (2003), TwentyfourSeven (2002) and Going Home (2000–01).

Titles in this series

Let the Blood Run Free – Episode 2 1990

Let The Blood Run Free is a medical soap opera spoof set in a hospital called Saint Christopher’s. In this episode, orderly Warren Cronkshank (Peter Rowsthorn) races to the aid of ‘tragically short’ Nurse Effie (Helen Knight), who is threatening ...