1 9 7 4 – 1 9 7 7 (Australia)
335 x 50 minute episodes
A controversial new night-time drama debuted in Australia on the 0-10 network on 11 February 1974.
Hungry for a series even more outrageous and salacious than the runaway ratings success Number 96, Crawford Productions unleashed The Box in February 1974.
As its name implies, The Box was set at a television station (the fictional Channel 12) and followed the lives of various station personnel, both behind the scenes and in front of the camera.
It was a bare excuse to parade an endless array of naked breasts and bums, but – although picketed by the Festival of Light and slammed by some TV critics as “garbage” and “pornography” – the viewing public loved it.
Heading the cast was the ubiquitous Ken James who played Tony Wild, an actor who played a TV policeman and had difficulty remembering where fiction ended and reality began in his series, Manhunt. James’ character gave the writers of The Box the chance to settle the score against the egotism of some of the actors in Crawford’s real police series.
Another Channel 12 programme was a ‘live to air’ show called Big Night Out which was hosted by Gary Burke (pictured below left).
A typical episode had Burke missing his cue after an ad break as he was in his dressing room with a woman. It later eventuated that the woman he slept with was a schoolgirl, and thus, under the age of consent.
A journalist from Tele View decided to investigate why Gary was not on screen after an ad break. At the end of the programme, one of the show’s stars stumbled onto the stage and collapsed as he was drunk . . .
Sex was a principle emphasis in the early episodes and we were treated to bisexuality, promiscuity and adultery.
As an adolescent at the time, I relished any chance to see The Box and actively lusted after Belinda Giblin (pictured at left as secretary Kay Webster) and Briony Behets.
My parents felt otherwise and consequently, I missed more episodes than I actually saw.
Notable characters were: Sir Henry Usher; station manager, Max Knight (married to Sir Henry’s daughter, Marion); Paul Donovan (harassed station executive); resident “homo,” producer Lee Whiteman (pictured below right) and the tea lady, Mrs H.
Other roles parodied talk show hosts and television executives of the day. Probably the most interesting character was that of Vicki Stafford, a bed-hopping bitch reporter who – as a bisexual – was able to entrap both men and women.
Judy Nunn gave a superb performance – and was the first actress to kiss another woman on Australian TV – that’s right, she kissed a woman on The Box . . .
The series calmed over time and the comical nature of the characters and situations moved to the fore.
The Box was the first successful venture by Crawford Productions into soap opera and showed in an adult time-slot, five nights a week, for three and a half years.
The Box ended three months before Number 96, and Australian TV has probably never since achieved the levels of raunchiness and vulgarity again.
Sir Henry Usher