1 9 8 9 – 1 9 9 3 (Australia)
404 x 50 minute episodes
This soap opera from Network Ten Australia was set in a tough (fictional) inner-city district of Sydney called Westside. Actual location shooting was filmed in real inner-city suburbs Balmain, Rozelle and Newtown.
Original core characters included the bombastic but fair cop Sergeant George Sullivan (Les Dayman), local legal aid lawyer Sarah McKillop (Katrina Sedgewick), district nurse Martha O’Dare (Cecily Polson) who worked at the medical centre with Dr Elly Fielding (Penny Cook), gruff publican Ernie Patchett (Vic Rooney), and the very hip Levi-wearing Reverend Bob Brown (Tony Martin).
The main attraction for younger viewers was trendy Lisa Bennett (Alyssa-Jane Cook), who was from the wrong side of the tracks and destined for a troubled love life.
Early ratings figures for the series were not brilliant and changes to the cast and style were introduced, beginning a four-year bumpy ride.
The turning point in the storyline came six months into the show’s run when original character Rhonda Berry (Melanie Salomon) was shot dead while being held hostage.
Shortly afterwards came the shocking rape and strangulation murder of key character Sarah McKillop by the evil Sam Bulmer (Serge Lazareff) after he had developed a fixation on her.
1990 ended with the “christening massacre” (pictured) which saw crazed Sonny Bennett (Richard Huggett) unleash Rambo-style firepower on the innocent residents of Westside in which four of the regular cast made dramatic exits and one was left seriously wounded.
A pair of hour-long episodes for the year’s finale were filmed at a cost of $350,000 with explosives experts, stuntmen, professional weapons handlers, firefighters, ambulance crew, police and security personnel doubling the size of the regular production crew.
The 1991 season was dominated by an extensive and convoluted plot featuring a sadistic serial killer with his face painted half black and half silver, nicknamed ‘Mr Bad’.
Mr Bad’s reign of terror began with the shocking murder of Dr Virginia Travis (Julieanne Newbould) followed soon after by Sheridan Sturgess’s brother Michael (Graham Harvey).
When Sheridan finally uncovered the truth about Mr Bad – it was Clare Fielding’s karate teacher, Vince Martin (Stephen Richardson) – she blew his face off with a shotgun while he was in custody at Westside police station.
Mr Bad survived his severe injuries, but remained unable to speak and spent most of his time in a hospital bed with his face covered – allowing the character to continue with a different actor (Olav Evensen) in the part.
The preposterous storyline was a huge success, driving the series to #1 in the Australian ratings.
The soap’s popularity also led to short-lived pop careers for Melissa Tkautz, Toni Pearen and even Bruce Samazan, who, with his adorable dimples, became a beloved 90s pin-up boy.
Sergeant George Sullivan
Reverend Bob Brown
Constable Max Simmons
Dr Elly Fielding
Penny Cook (1)
Diane Craig (2)
Dr David Fielding
Craig ‘CJ’ Jones
Constable Sam Farrell
Stanley ‘Wheels’ Kovac
Jennifer St James
Dr Virginia Travis
Vince Martin/Mr Bad
Stephen Richardson (1)
Olav Evensen (2)