MILESAGO - Television
|CLASS OF '74 / CLASS OF '75|
CREATORS: John Edwards, Alan Coleman
PREMIERE: 18 March 1974
This nightly soap-opera series followed the lives and loves of the staff and pupils of Waratah High School. The title was modified for the second year to become Class of 75. Devised by John Edwards, who previously worked at Crawford's, the series was developed and overseen by Alan Coleman who would later work on Grundy's The Young Doctors. By concentrating on teenage students, teachers, parents and other adult figures, Grundy's were amongst the first to recognize that a young segment would be a vital part of the overall audience for soap opera.
Class of '74 was Reg Grundy's first venture into TV drama. He had scored huge success quiz and game shows, but Class of '74 proved to be a hit with teenage audiences and the Grundy Organisation went on to become one of the most successful television production houses in Australia. It was also the first prime-time soap in the world to adopt the five-night-a-week 'strip' format. This production format, and a number of shows tailored to it, were successfully sold by the Grundy Organization to Europe in the 1990s, where it has since become an industry staple. It was also the first soap opera tailored to a teenage audience and it became the model on for all the many successful Australian soaps that followed, like Home And Away, Neighbours and Sons and Daughters.
Intended as a gentle boundary-pushing exercise -- a sort of toned-down, schoolyard version of Number 96 -- the first episode, written by Ted Hepple and directed by Peter Maxwell, featured an 'explicitly portrayed' affair between a teacher and student, a hint of devil worship, pornography, a teenage tryst in which the school virgin is deflowered and an illicit flirtation between English teacher Miss Dunstan (Drynan) and school chaplain Father Paul Kennedy (Lander). "There was a lot of fuss," Jeanie Drynan recalled in a recent interview, "but in a way it was fairly innocent."
The cast was a mix of older and younger actors. The adult cast were all experienced stage, radio and TV veterans. Teale had been one of the longest serving cast members of Homicide; Drynan had appeared in many TV and stage productions and co-starred in the ill-fated 2000 Weeks (1969), directed by Tim Burstall and the first locally made feature since Jedda). Hamblin (a Playschool regular) and Glenwright were both familiar faces; Glenwright, who played the pipe-smoking handyman, had supporting roles in scores of local TV productions (including Number 96) as well as many stage shows.
The student cast (mostly in their twenties) were a mix; many were relative newcomers but some like Samuel and Hoogeveen had previous experience. The biggest success story was of course Anne-Louise Lambert (known simply as Anne Lambert back then) who shot to international fame the following year when she starred as a very different kind of schoolgirl, the mysterious Miranda, in Peter Weir's Picnic At Hanging Rock. Llewellyn had also recently made a major impression with her portrayal of Meg Woolcott in the ABC's hugely successful mini-series Seven Little Australians.
Class of '74 was an instant hit -- on its first night, it rated 37, the highest figure ever recorded for a 7pm show up to that time. By the third night, it had been moved to 7.30pm because of its 'controversial' content. The Broadcasting Control Board (precursor to the Australian Broadcasting Authority) soon stepped in and started vetting scripts. The producers dealt with the problem (like Number 96) by introducing comedy, an element that remains strong today in Grundy's Neighbours. But, by the second series, Class of '75 , the standard had dropped considerably; it featured former Number 96 siren Abigail as a French teacher with a double life, and Peta Toppano as an Italian rock star called Gina Ferrari. Predictably, the show was not picked up for a third series.
Class was produced at Seven's Studio A at Epping and was taped with four black-and-white Marconi Mark III cameras. The series went to colour from the episode 192, to coincide with the introduction of colour TV in March 1975. The Seven studio is still used today to produce Wheel of Fortune and 110% Tony Squires.
Two rookies on the production woh went on to much bigger things were Mike Murphy, one of the team of four directors, and John Holmes, then a stage hand. Murphy is now head of drama for Grundy's parent company, FremantleMedia; Holmes is now head of drama at Seven and executive producer of its flagship dramas Blue Heelers, All Saints and Home and Away.
Class was the main target of the classic parody serial sketch "Checkout Chicks", one of the best-loved segments in the ABC's mega-successful The Norman Gunston Show. This even featured Anne Lambert herself as one of the eponymous Chicks, playing a girl who discovers she is half Maori.
|REFERENCES / LINKS|
Aussie Soap Archive