The Prisoner Files
So who’s who on both sides of the bars at Wentworth Detention Centre? TV Times presents a special guide to the prisoners and officers in the new 0-10 Network series.
Karen Travers (Peita Toppano): Deeply religious, Travers is convicted for the murder of her brutal husband. Sentenced to life behind bars. Peita Toppano, the daughter of showbusiness couple Enzo Toppano and Peggy Mortimer, was a singer in many stage productions before turning to acting.
Bea Smith (Val Lehman): A former hairdresser, Smith was convicted for the murder of a co-worker. Having served ten years behind bars, she is released on parole but returns to Wentworth after murdering her husband. Val Lehman has had extensive acting experience in both Australia and the United Kingdom, including touring with Children’s Arena theatre and appearing in four movies.
Jeannie “Mum” Brooks (Mary Ward, pictured): A well-spoken, gentle woman who befriends new inmates and is well regarded by both officers and inmates. Brooks was convicted for murdering her husband but, while on parole, is caught shop-lifting. Mary Ward has worked in Australia and the United Kingdom, and before Prisoner had appeared in Bellbird and performed for the Melbourne Theatre Company.
Doreen Anderson (Colette Mann): A victim of child abuse, Anderson becomes easily led into crime and is serving four years in prison for breaking and entering. Colette Mann’s career began in the musical Godspell in 1971 and has since worked as a singer, dancer, actress and choreographer.
Marilyn Mason (Margaret Laurence): Serving twelve months for soliciting, Mason has a history of soliciting and stealing, and is known to have worked in a pornographic movie. Margaret Laurence did her early theatre training in the United Kingdom and later worked in the US in dramas including Days Of Our Lives and The Young And The Restless. Since coming to Australia, Laurence has appeared in Number 96 and worked for the Melbourne Theatre Company.
Freida “Franky” Doyle (Carol Burns): A former shop assistant, convicted for armed robbery and murder, Doyle has a record of association with bikie gangs. She is a lesbian with an unrequited passion for Karen Travers. Carol Burns has worked extensively in the theatre since 1970 and has worked as a senior lecturer in drama at the Darling Downs College of Advanced Education (Queensland). In recent times, Burns has appeared in a number of ABC plays.
Lynn Warner (Kerry Armstrong): A naive country girl, serving ten years for the kidnapping and attempted murder of a child of an employer, though maintains her innocence of any crime. Kerry Armstrong began acting while still at school and later became a weather girl at GTV9 Melbourne. She has recently appeared in Cop Shop, The Truckies and The Sullivans, but Prisoner is her first ongoing role.
Elizabeth “Lizzie” Birdsworth (Sheila Florance, pictured): A housewife and mother of four, Birdsworth is a kleptomaniac and an alcoholic with a long string of convictions for theft. She is sentenced to life in prison for the “accidental” killing of four shearers when she laced their food with arsenic “to teach them a lesson.” Sheila Florance has more than 45 years experience in showbusiness across both Australia and the United Kingdom, and has appeared in many Australian TV productions including Consider Your Verdict, Division Four, Matlock Police, Bellbird, Homicide and Bobby Dazzler.
Meg Jackson (Elspeth Ballantyne): Born inside prison, Jackson is a warder that is sympathetic to the inmates. A happy marriage to prison psychologist Bill (Don Barker) ended abruptly when he is murdered during a prison riot. Elspeth Ballantyne is an established television and film actress with roles in dramas including Bellbird, Power Without Glory and Cop Shop.
Vera Bennett (Fiona Spence): A harsh prison warden who is ruthless with the prisoners. Is hopeful that her strong rule with get her the prison governorship. She is single and lives at home with her elderly mother. Fiona Spence is a recent graduate from 680 Playhouse and has appeared in the drama series Glenview High and in several television commercials.
Erica Davidson (Patsy King): The prison governor whose academic approach sometimes keeps her remote from the inmates and fails to understand their passions and frustrations. Is married but her private life is kept a mystery as it is known she does not see her husband, being either separated or divorced. Patsy King has worked extensively in Australia and New Zealand, including roles in Matlock Police, Homicide and Division Four, as well as appearing as a presenter on ABC’s Play School.
Greg Miller (Barry Quin): The prison doctor who is re-united with a former romantic interest when Karen Travers enters the prison. Barry Quin is an actor with over ten years experience in the United Kingdom. He met co-star Peita Toppano when touring Australia with the Chichester Festival Theatre Company and the two are now engaged to be married later this month.
Eddie Cook (Richard Moir): The electrician who is often called to the prison and spends a lot more time there than he should after falling for prison inmate Marilyn Mason. Richard Moir is a former film assistant from ABC’s Four Corners and later became a reporter for A Current Affair before moving into acting. Moir has appeared in Chopper Squad and The Restless Years as well as the movie The Odd Angry Shot.
Certain Women stars return to TV soaps
Three former stars of ABC’s Certain Women are returning to TV with key roles in The Restless Years and The Young Doctors. Shane Porteous joins The Restless Years as businessman Andrew Nelson who becomes involved in what is being described as “the love story of the year.” Also joining The Restless Years is Ivar Kants as the rough-but-gentle Ken Garrett, a friend of Peter Beckett (Nick Hedstrom). Actress Carmen Duncan, who has also starred in Number 96, joins The Young Doctors as a widow who checks into the hospital for a minor operation but ends up vying for the affection of Dr Rod Langley (Chris Orchard).
Bert hits the jackpot
Bert Newton (pictured) has hit the jackpot with the signing of a five-year contract with a Melbourne radio station for a reported $1 million. But the Don Lane Show sidekick and New Faces host has also had reason to celebrate with wife Patti giving birth to their second child, Lauren Elise. The Newtons already have a son, two-year-old Matthew.
New ABBA special
The 0-10 Network and British broadcaster BBC have just completed a one-hour TV special ABBA In Switzerland – despite two of the pop group’s performers, Agnetha and Bjorn, having recently divorced. The special, which also features Kate Bush, Leo Sayer and Boney M, is expected to screen in Australia later in the year.
Easter is a time for telethons – as Melbourne’s HSV7, Brisbane’s BTQ7 and Adelaide’s ADS7 prepare for their annual children’s hospital appeals. The Melbourne and Brisbane appeals will go to air on Good Friday, while Adelaide’s telethon is held on the Saturday before Easter.
The star of ABC’s Patrol Boat, HMAS Bombard, has been towed back to Sydney for repairs after a fire onboard caused extensive damage. ABC is now rescheduling filming as the stand-in boat, HMAS Advance, is about to be recalled for official duty.
The Nine Network’s million-dollar documentary series, The Africans, has been sold to 18 countries ahead of its screening in Australia later this month. The two-part series was filmed over four months in Algeria, Kenya, Zambia, Tanzania, Rhodesia and South Africa.
Viewpoint: Letters to the Editor
”Once again I’ve missed the start of a program because channels won’t stick to their timetables. I watched ABC’s The Onedin Line until 9.20pm and the news until 9.30, then crossed to WIN4 for The Sweeney only to find it well-started, although it was due to begin at 9.30 after Roving Eye. Why do they do this?” E. James, NSW.
“Why is there not a TV channel which shows only sport? They could show Test matches, races and re-runs for seven days a week. The rest of us could then be informed and entertained without constant interruptions by meaningless contests.” P. Casey, NSW.
“I would like to say how much I enjoy watching The Waltons during daytime viewing. Grandma Walton passed a comment on putting strawberries and cinnamon on a rhubarb pie. I cooked it this way and found it delicious, a nice change from apples.” D. Pratt, NSW.
What’s On (April 7-13):
On Saturday afternoon, GTV9 presents live coverage of the Golden Slipper Stakes from Sydney’s Rosehill Racecourse. ABC has Sydney Rugby League’s Match Of The Day.
On This Week Has Seven Days (HSV7, Saturday afternoon), host Honor Walters, with studio guest furrier Stephen Dattner, studies how a fur coat is made. Interior Designing is the subject of the careers segment, and this week’s medical topic is dermatology.
The Australian Beauty Quest ‘79, the selection of the Australian representative for the Miss Universe pageant, is telecast on GTV9 on Saturday night, live from Perth.
On Tuesday night, GTV9 presents a delayed telecast of the 51st Academy Awards. Best Picture nominations include Coming Home, The Deer Hunter, Heaven Can Wait, Midnight Express and An Unmarried Woman. The awards presentation is hosted by Johnny Carson.
ABC’s motoring history series Marque, with Peter Wherrett (pictured), looks at the era of the 1930s featuring some of the industry’s great names such as Duesenberg, Packard Bentley, Rolls-Royce, Hispano-Suiza and Alfa-Romeo.
Friday is Good Friday, and HSV7 presents its annual Royal Children’s Hospital Good Friday Appeal. The telecast starts at 8.30am and, apart from news updates at 8.45am and midday and Seven National News at 6.30pm, continues through to midnight. The all-day appeal features celebrities from across the Seven Network (including Shirley Strachan, pictured with hospital patient Narelle McKenzie) and guest artists including Johnny Farnham, Colleen Hewett, the Australian Children’s Choir, Christie Allen, Russell Morris and TMG. Players from all VFL teams also appear during the day. The telephone numbers for donations are (03) 630 291 in Melbourne and (052) 21 3333 in Geelong.
Sunday night movies: The Salzburg Connection (HSV7), Catch 22 (GTV9), The Arrangement (ATV0).
Source: TV Times (Melbourne edition), 7 April 1979. ABC/ACP