Characters and Storylines
Storylines of the series explored the relationships of the residents of a small, inner-city apartment block named Number 96, after its fictional street address, 96 Lindsay Street, Paddington (actually 81-83 Moncur Street, Woollahra). Stories focused on topics such as racism, drug use, rape, marriage problems, adultery and homosexuality, along with more prosaic romantic and domestic storylines. The building's two ground floor businesses - a delicatessen and a chemist (later to become a winebar) - along with a nearby launderette, provided venues for the various characters to meet. The show featured a multiracial cast, had frequent nude scenes, and featured a long-running gay male relationship that drew no particular interest from any of the show's other characters. It is believed that the series was the world's first to include a portrayal of a gay couple as normal people fully accepted by and integrated into their community.
Playing the role of malapropping gossip Dorrie Evans, actor Pat McDonald won the Best Actress Logie Award in 1973, 1974, 1976, and won the Gold Logie in 1974. Playing the part of Bev Houghton, Abigail quickly emerged as the show's most famous sex symbol. She left the series suddenly in June 1973 in a burst of publicity. Grasping magazine editor Maggie Cameron (Bettina Welch) became part owner of the building and sustained acrimonious enmities with several of the residents and the other owners. Her friend and sometimes rival was Flat 7 resident Vera Collins (Elaine Lee) who would be perpetually unlucky in love. Lawyer Don Finlayson (Joe Hasham) was revealed as gay in an early episode and had several boyfriends over the course of the series; his most enduring relationship was with film buff Dudley Butterfield (Chard Hayward).
As the series progressed it increasingly focused on comedy characters such as brassy winebar proprietor Norma Whittaker (Sheila Kennelly), her inventor husband Les (Gordon McDougall), no-nonsense Flo Patterson (Bunney Brooke), and the bookish Arnold Feather (Jeff Kevin), who proved irresistible to the ladies. Reg and Edie MacDonald (Mike Dorsey and Wendy Blacklock) and their bubbly daughter Marilyn (Frances Hargreaves) arrived at the start of 1974 as three more comedy characters.
The series made good use of end-of-episode and end-of-year cliffhangers, and whodunit type storylines proved particularly popular. These included a panty snatcher dubbed the Knicker Snipper, and a serial killer called the Pantyhose Murderer.
During 96's lifetime the show attracted many complaints. The Broadcasting Control Board repeatedly santioned Channel 10. In an effort not to have the show taken off air Executives agreed to come in each morning at 7am and view that night's episode prior to it going to air, to ensure that it complied with the Control Board's guidelines.
Many cast members were amazed particularly when visiting Asian countries to see Number 96 so popular with the locals - and equilly amazed to see the characters that they had played, dubbed in the local language.
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“No one of the characters in my novels has originated, so far as I know, in real life. If anything, the contrary was the case: persons playing a part in my lifethe first twenty years of ithad about them something semi-fictitious.”
—Elizabeth Bowen (18991973)