40 years since The Box

It was 40 years ago that a TEN soap about the machinations of a television station shocked the nation.

2014-02-10_1531Tomorrow marks 40 years since the premiere of Aussie soap The Box on the 0-TEN Network.

The series was set inside the fictional television station UCV-12, full of sudsy storylines involving television networks, stars and families.

Like Number 96 which had preceded it, it included plenty of racy content including nudity, sexuality and adult themes.

TV historian Andrew Mercado told TV Tonight, “The Box is memorable for having TV’s first lesbian kiss (Judy Nunn and Helen Hemingway) and the acting debuts of Delvene Delaney, Geraldine Turner, Noni Hazlehurst and Tracy Mann”.

The Box always worked on two levels – as a saucy soap and to those within the TV industry it was a flat-out satire of the business because it was all based on real people and situations. It’s outrageous that its first commercial break featured a naked underage schoolgirl seducing the star of a variety show in his dressing room but given the Jimmy Saville scandal, this storyline doesn’t seem so far-fetched anymore (although it should be pointed out that it was later revealed that the girl was lying about her age for blackmail purposes and was indeed of legal age … just!).”

The series ran from 1974 until 1977 and spawned a feature film (pictured) with Graham Kennedy playing himself, and a young Cornelia Frances. The show’s content copped such criticism that Hector Crawford took out newspaper advertisements saying: “I believe our responsibility is to the TV audience at large, not to vocal, and sometimes highly organised minority groups which try to dictate what people should be allowed to see on their screens.”

The series is still owned by Crawford Productions but finding footage -and even photos- of The Box is not easy.

“I live in hope that Crawfords DVD will release it on DVD given the success they have had with Homicide, Division 4, The Sullivans and Carson’s Law. I would describe The Box as an incredibly well-made show and an important social document of the 70s particularly since it’s about the way TV used to be made before investment bankers took over and made it all about money instead of instinct.

“Over 500 episodes of Number 96 were destroyed but Crawfords have preserved every episode of The Box so why not show how Australia once led the world when it came to adult content and smashing taboos on TV.”

Tomorrow morning Wake Up will screen scenes from the first episode after 8am.

2 Responses

  1. The thing I didn’t like about The Box was the flamboyant, limp-wristed character Lee Whiteman. After all the hard work done by the producers of Number 96 in having a normal gay character (Don Finlayson), along came this character which undid all that good work. David Sale, producer of Number 96 said as such in his book. Also the hostile, anti-gay storylines in the show were disturbing, particularly the homophobic comments by the tea lady when her son linked up with Lee Whiteman. CTC7 in Canberra took the show off the air in late 1975 and I wasn’t too upset. I got sick of being called Lee at school and being told to flap my wrist like the Whiteman character.

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