1 9 5 9 (Australia)
16 x 30 minute episodes
Sponsored by BP, this early Australian half-hour drama series was produced by Melbourne’s GTV-9 from February to June 1959.
Dr Geoffrey Thompson (Brian James), Thompson’s trusted assistant, orderly George Rogers (Syd Conabere), Nurse Jill Adamson (Judith Godden), Matron Evans (Moira Carleton). Natalie Raine played May, the hospital switchboard girl who had a soft spot for George Rogers, and Nevil Thurgood appeared as an Ambulance Officer.
GTV sent a programme executive to London to learn about the production methods on the British series, Emergency – Ward 10 and a large set was constructed in GTV’s Studio One, the same studio where the variety programme In Melbourne Tonight was recorded. The Emergency team had to vacate the studio by 6:00 PM so that the huge set could be removed to allow the IMT set to be moved in, ready for rehearsals at 7:00 PM.
The Royal Melbourne Hospital loaned various medical equipment items and provided training for the actors in its usage. The Victorian Civil Ambulance Service supplied an ambulance and an ambulance officer.
The show was recorded on kinescope (videotape was not available at that time), and each half of each episode (there was a commercial break at the halfway mark) had to be shot continuously with no breaks. If an actor fluffed a line or missed a cue, or a set shook, the scene could not be re-shot. This inability to remove errors from the finished episode was one of the primary criticisms of the series.
But Emergency was very much a pioneering effort. Regular production of Australian drama series didn’t happen until 1964 with Homicide, by which time videotape was available.
The show’s demise was due almost entirely to a scathing attack in a Sydney newspaper that ran a half-page article ridiculing the series. BP executives announced almost immediately that they were withdrawing their sponsorship and production ground to a halt after the 16th episode.
Dr Geoffrey Thompson
Orderly George Rogers
Nurse Jill Adamson