Crawford Productions is best known in the UK for its hit television serials The Sullivans and The Flying Doctors, but from 1974 until 1977 the company was breaking new ground and blowing traditional taboos sky high with its raunchy adult soap opera The Box.
The series followed the lives, loves and passions of the staff of Channel 12, a fictitious television station in Melbourne. When the programme launched newspaper advertisements warned viewers to prepare themselves for the ‘hottest and most provocative series on Australian television.’ Expectant audiences were not short changed, from day one they were treated to an array of deviants, bare backsides, ample breasts and outrageous happenings.
Programming director Paul Donovan (George Mallaby) began having an illicit affair with secretary Kay Webster (Belinda Giblin) but she was already having a sexual liaison with his superior Max Knight (Barrie Barkla) – unfortunately for her both men were already married! Meanwhile Paul’s troubled wife Judy (Briony Behets) had secrets of her own and would have to face life as a cripple following a tragic accident.
The homosexual Lee Whiteman (Paul Karo) produced the stations top rating variety show Big Night Out, he was as camp as Christmas but was straighter than the show’s bed hopping heterosexual host Gary Burke (Peter Regan) who took bribes in the form of upmarket call girls.
Meanwhile washed-up vaudeville comic Eddie Holliday (Cul Cullen) was in a constant battle to stay off the grog, the uptight middle aged virgin Jean Ford (Monica Maughan) was intent on getting some bedroom action, and a vicious mongrel got stuck into free thinking Fanny Adams (Vanessa Leigh) – he got stuck in with his fists that is! Even the loveable tea lady Mrs Hopkins (Lois Ramsey) had problems; her son turned ‘queer’ after a spell in prison and was caught red handed loitering in a public lavatory with another man.
Former Skippy star Ken James was cast as the dim witted Tony Wild, the star of Channel 12’s police drama Manhunt. Unfortunately Tony would find himself being bashed within an inch of his life by a group of heavies over unpaid gambling debts. Judy Nunn who later played Alisa Stewart in Home and Away and who is now a top selling author, starred in The Box as the conniving bisexual television journalist Vicki Stafford who threatened to blow the lid on the perverts who were employed at the television channel. It was the long suffering head of security, Jack O’Brien (Ken Snodgrass) who had to try and deal with a cavalcade of sordid matters including a female dancer (Lynda Keane) who began stealing from all and sundry in order to finance a backstreet abortion.
The Box was a run-away success, it was full of twists, turns and outrageous plotlines but it was also believable because it featured characters which the audience actually cared about. The high drama was beautifully balanced with plenty of comedy and amongst the producers to help make it a ratings smash was John Dommett who later joined the cast of The Young Doctors playing Dr Jim Howard.
The Box was never screened in the UK, probably because the square programming executives felt that it was too close to the bone for audiences in Great Britain. Fortunately the complete series is now being released on DVD and it’s certainly worth watching – you’ll be hooked in no time. The first two volumes are now on sale but disappointingly are only available for purchase by those who reside in Australia – if you have any friends or family over there ask them to order you a copy and get stuck into The Box, it will blow you away!
The Box dvd cover. Copyright Crawford Productions/WIN Corporation.
The Box opening credits. Copyright Crawford Productions/WIN Corporation.
Judy Nunn as the bisexual Vicki Stafford. Copyright Crawford Productions/WIN Corporation.
Tea lady Mrs Hopkins (Lois Ramsey) listens to the ramblings of alcoholic Eddie Holliday (Cul Cullen). Copyright Crawford Productions/WIN Corporation.
In happier times from left are The Box producer John Dommett, Darren Gray, and actor Brian Moll. John and Brian have sadly since died.