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Prisoner (TV series)

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Prisoner was an Australian television soap opera set in Wentworth Detention Centre, a women's prison. The series was produced by the Reg Grundy Organisation[?] and ran on Channel Ten[?] from 1979 to 1986. Storylines concentrated on prisoners, officers and other prison staff and their relationships with one another inside and outside the prison. However the main storylines focused primarily on prisoners' relationships amongst themselves; their power struggles, friendships and enmities.

The series made good use of cliffhangers, often involving dramatic escapes, crimes, and catastrophes befalling the prison and its inhabitants. Sometimes non-prison related storylines concerning officers occurred, and some periods of the series also extended the action to a halfway house for recently released prisoners. As the series progressed increasingly outlandish stories occurred. Several lesbian characters were featured throughout the show's run, most notably Franky Doyle, Judy Bryant, and Joan Ferguson. The lesbian angle was never used for titillation but instead for thoughtful and realistic storylines.

One of the earliest Australian soap operas exported to the UK where it was screened as Prisoner: Cell Block H. It achieved enduring success there despite much negative criticism from reviewers.

Principle cast included:

  • Elspeth Ballantyne[?] as kind officer Meg Jackson (later Morris), the only character to continue the show's entire run
  • Betty Bobbitt[?] as prisoner Judy Bryant, initially tough and later motherly lesbian prisoner
  • Sheila Florance[?] as Lizzie Birdsworth, an elderly, cigarette puffing, alcoholic recidivist prisoner
  • Maggie Kirkpatrick[?] as Joan Ferguson, a sadistic corrupt lesbian prison officer
  • Val Lehman[?] as Bea Smith, the tough and uncompromising top dog (unofficial leader of the prisoners)
  • Patsy King[?] as well-meaning Governor Erica Davidson
  • Gerda Nicolson[?] as Governor Ann Reynolds who succeeded Erica for the second half of the series
  • Colette Mann[?] as Doreen Burns, a dim-witted and easily led prisoner
  • Judith McGrath[?] as sarcastic and ambitious Officer Colleen Powell
  • Joy Westmore[?] as inept Officer Joyce Barry
  • Fiona Spence[?] as Vera Bennett, an acid-tongued officer convinced that Erica's progressive methods were wrong and never missed an opportunity to relish Erica's failures
  • Gerard Maguire[?] as Deputy Governor Jim Fletcher a stern authoritarian ex-army man with a tendency to fall in love with the "nicer", "innocent" prisoners
  • Lois Collinder[?] as prisoner Alice Jenkins late in the show's run. She started out a dim-witted thug but later softened
  • Louise Siversen[?] as prisoner Lou Kelly, a vicious thug during the show's later years
  • Pepe Trevor[?] as prisoner Lexie Patterson, loud-mouth punk and card-sharp in the show’s later years
  • Reylene Pearce[?] as dim-witted prisoner Phyllis Hunt
  • Anne Phelan[?] as prisoner Myra Desmond, a thoughtful but strong woman who took over as top dog after Bea left
  • Amanda Muggleton[?] as prisoner Chrissie Latham, tarty and lascivious prostitute who turned over a new leaf after the birth of her daughter
  • Maxine Klibingaitis[?] as prisoner Bobbie Mitchell a rebellious and street-wise youngster
  • Jane Clifton[?] as prisoner Margo Gaffney, a thug who often operated as prison bookie
  • Glenda Linscott[?] as spirited biker Rita Connors who became the show’s last top dog
  • Judy McBurney[?] as flighty romantic Pixie Mason in on bigamy and fraud charges
  • Janet Andrewartha[?] as scheming toughie Reb Kean
  • Lisa Crittenden[?] as wise-cracking young biker Maxine Daniels
  • Jackie Woodburne[?] as Julie Egbert, a young prisoner in the later years, plagued by self-doubt and low self esteem

Carol Burns[?] who played tough lesbian biker Franky Doyle was the show's first big star, capturing viewer's hearts despite the fact she appeared in only the first twenty episodes.

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