Prisoner, retitled Prisoner: Cell Block H in the UK after ATV sued aussie production company Grundy Television over the name being too similar to ITC cult saga The Prisoner, was devised by former Crossroads boss Reg Watson. It ran from 1979 through to 1986 and clocked up almost 700 episodes.
While revisiting Wentworth Detention Centre proved to be popular with fans of the original at first, the finer details have proved to leave some baffled. Producers, instead of just setting it in modern-day Wentworth, are using the names of old characters such as Bea Smith – which will draw unnecessary comparisons to the original character.
“I find the whole using old names bizarre, just recall the comparisons between the Crossroads Hotel remake in 2001 and the Crossroads Motel of the 70s and 80s. It did the new show no favours and it had three of the old cast in it!” says telly expert Queenie Trout, adding, “Surely it would have been better to just return to Wentworth 25 years later, maybe even Joan ‘The Freak’ Furgusion’ could have still been there!
“Unfortunately television bosses, as seen with Crossroads, want it to be a ‘new show’ never a continuation and for most of these reboots its the kiss of death as fans want the latter.”
The new series is made in a much more glossier format and has been described as a “graphic, edgy reboot”of Cell Block H which, in the UK, was originally aired on ITV in the 1980s before being repeated on Channel 5 in the late 1990s.
Just like the original the series follows the life of inmates at Wentworth Detention Centre and their daily companionship and rivalries with each other as well as the wardens. Danielle Cormack steps into Val Leaman’s shoes and stars as lead inmate, ‘top dog’, Bea Smith.
Katie Keenan, Head of Acquisitions at Channel 5, said: “Wentworth will be a great addition to Channel 5’s drama output this autumn.
“This compelling cast of female characters packs an emotional punch and will appeal to the Channel 5 viewers who love our range of crime output from dramas to factual series.”
Reg Watson based the idea for an Australian jail saga on the successful 1970s ITV series Within These Walls which was produced by London Weekend Television.
Initially devised as a 16-part mini-series, the original Prisoner: Cell Block H ultimately ran for 692 episodes between February 1979 and December 1986. After 16 episodes Network 10 extended the run and it became a regular twice weekly saga, all be it in a forty five minute slot.
Meanwhile, Channel 5 has come in for some criticism of its treatment of iconic American oil saga Dallas, shunting it to a late night slot when ratings initially proved low, partly thanks to the broadcaster giving the series’ return no publicity.
“They’ll invest in low rating, way past its best Neighbours, but snubs a great drama like Dallas?” Mark posted on ATV Today.
Steve added, “I am totally unsure about the whole channel 5 performance regarding Dallas. For a show to get nearly a million viewers (11pm) – this shows that they should move it to 9pm. I spoke to several people who had no idea that Dallas was comming back (little advertising) and then people missed episode three because they did not realise that the show was now on at 11pm.”
Jo on our comments section said, “Please move it back to 9pm. I love Dallas but seriously missing out on my sleep every Tuesday eve so having to watch it on demand now a day late which is just terrible”
“Just hoping a decent channel will buy the rights, other than crapy Channel 5” added Suminloui
Denna noted “Disgusted that Dallas has been moved to 11pm slot, when a repeat has been put in its place. What’s the point it should of been left at 9pm, the ratings would of gone up!Channel 5 Controller hasn’t got a clue!”
“Why do CH5 give life support to the awful Neighbours? They have lost a ratings hit with Dallas by putting on a Tues in a difficult slot. Kids must be running the network. And the press office is useless, there was no promotion!” said Tim.
Wentworth will air on Channel 5 later this year.