Quite some time ago I stumbled across the complete collection of the original Australian TV series Prisoner Cell Block H on youtube. All 692 episodes are available and worth watching. They are all available online through youtube at no cost to you.
When Prisoner was on Channel 10 at prime time (8:30pm), I was 5 years of age and it used to scare the absolute crap out of me. When it came to watching the complete collection as an adult, I anticipated the same fear until I started watching it. As I watched Prisoner as an adult, the thought that continued going through my mind was; “What the hell was I afraid of?” The acting is at times poor, but actually quite entertaining too. The poorly lit sets look like they are about to fall over and some of the story lines were quite weak. Such as the failed prison escape through an underground tunnel during a play held for kids at the Wentworth prison. Would you really bring little kids to a womens prison to watch a play? There were some story lines that actually are still relevant to this day, such as Lizzie Birdsworth’s alcoholic problem, power, greed, corruption, domestic violence, organised crime, drug abuse, revenge and murder. However despite all of that, I was suckered into the entire series from start to finish. That’s right, I’m admitting it right here, right now. Over a period of 2 years, I managed to watch every single episode of Prisoner in chronological order. Keep in mind, I have the same claim to fame with regards to the Australian tv series Blue Heelers too.
There were some well known actors to pass through the Channel 10 gates of Wentworth, such as Kerry Armstrong, Ian Smith (AKA: Harold from Neighbours), George Mallaby, Sigrid Thornton, Vincent Gil, Steve Bastoni, Bill Hunter, Andrew Clarke, Ian McFadyen, Charles ‘Bud’ Tingwell, Nadia Tass (Director of Malcolm), Jeremy Kewley (AKA: The newspaper reporter in Blue Heelers and he was in Janus), Michael Carman, Shane Bourne, Frankie J. Holden, Nadine Garner and the famous movie reviewer Bill Collins. Many of the episodes were written by Ian Smith and John Wood (AKA: Sgt. Tom Croydon in Blue Heelers). Although the list of names is a lot longer than what I’ve depicted here.
There were two memorable prison guards characters that stood out above the rest, Vera Bennett and Joan Ferguson. Both were absolutely hated by the prisoners and brought a lot of tensions to the story line, making the show more interesting. However these two characters never shared the screen together, as both operated at Wentworth at different times, so their paths never crossed. This part is for the true dedicated fans of Prisoner Cell Block H. I am certain these two characters would not have gotten along at all. They both had their own different methods to getting the job done. Vera Bennett seemed to be more strictly by the book, but Joan Ferguson was anything but by the book (except when she was acting Governor). My guess would be having the two characters together would not likely have worked, and Joan Ferguson was introduced to bring more tension back into the story line after Vera Bennett’s departure.
If you are an Aussie expat and miss some good old fashioned 1980’s Australian TV drama, take a look at the original Prisoner Cell Block H. Obviously there is a lot of better quality material out there to choose from, such as Wentworth (the official remake of Prisoner Cell Block H – Which is very well done) House of Cards, Dexter, The Shield, etc etc. Give Prisoner Cell Block H a go, you’ll be amazed how much the characters are either drinking tea, smoking or drinking alcohol in scenes.
Once DVD sales come to an end, I highly encourage other Australian TV production companies to upload their shows to official online channels at no cost to the viewer. Youtube videos can be monetized. So I am asking Crawfords with regards to Cop Shop, please make it available on DVD or youtube. I hope you enjoy viewing the classic Australian TV series Prisoner Cell Block H.