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First prime-time Soap Opera

From the website From Wireless To Web.
Video clip synopsis – Scott Goodings links the popularity of Number 96, first screened in 1972, with the post-Menzies liberalisation of society and media content.
Year of production - 2005
Duration - 4min 28sec
Tags - audiences, broadcasting, censorship, changing communities, family life, identity, media and society, media influence, script writing, soap operas, teenagers, television drama, see all tags


First prime-time Soap Opera

For copyright reasons this clip is not available as a download.

About the Video Clip


The video clip excerpt from the popular TV series Number 96, produced in the 1970s, is used courtesy of Network Ten.

Scott Goodings is a self-proclaimed “TV freak” and walking archive. You can view his full biography at From Wireless to Web
The website is a selective history of broadcast media in Australia. Decade by decade, from radio and newsreels to TV and the internet, this history shows how the Australian broadcast media developed and shaped the way Australians see themselves.

From Wireless to Web is a Film Australia production in association with Roar Film.

Curriculum Focus


In this English unit students will learn to:

  • observe the characteristics of a prime-time TV soap opera
  • work individually and in groups to apply these characteristics to argumentative-persuasive and to creative purposes
  • construct alternative viewpoints about an issue

Reading Standard: students view, analyse, critique, reflect on and discuss contemporary imaginative texts that explore personal, social, cultural and political issues of significance to their own lives. They also view, analyse and discuss informative texts and identify the multiple purposes for which they are created. They compare and contrast the typical features of particular texts and synthesise information from different texts to draw conclusions.

Writing Standard: students write sustained and cohesive narratives that experiment with different techniques and show attention to chronology, characterisation, consistent point of view and development of a resolution. They write persuasive texts that support the presentation of different perspectives on complex themes and issues. They proofread and edit their own writing for accuracy, consistency and clarity.

Speaking and Listening Standard: students compare ideas, build on others’ ideas, provide and justify other points of view, and reach conclusions that take account of aspects of an issue. They draw on a range of strategies to listen to and present spoken texts, complex issues or information imaginatively to interest an audience.

The activities in this unit are relevant to the Interdisciplinary Learning strands of Level 6 Communications (Listening, Viewing and Responding standard; Presenting standard), and Thinking Processes (Reasoning, Processing and Inquiry standard; Creativity standard).

The activities are also relevant to the Physical, Personal and Social Learning strand of Level 6 Interpersonal Development (Building Social Relationships standard; Working in Teams standard), and Personal Learning(The Individual Learner standard; Managing Personal Learning standard).

This material is an extract. Teachers and Students should consult the Victoria Curriculum and Assessment Authority website for more information.

Background Information


“Catch up with everybody who’s catching up with everybody else at Number 96”. (advertisement on History of Television website)

On Monday 13 March 1972, Sydney’s TEN10 screened the first episode of a new 'soap opera’ that changed the face of Australian television. On that night, Australian television lost its virginity.

Australia’s first prime-time soap opera – Number 96 – commanded the attention of viewers with a blend of sex, suspense and situation comedy. Set in a fictional apartment block in Sydney, it traced 'the lives, loves and emotions of ordinary people’. The series brought taboo subjects like sex, rape, infidelity, drugs, racism and homosexuality into many homes for the first time. It was a form of education for families, dressed up as popular entertainment. When Lucy had her breast cancer scare, Australian women rushed to their GPs en masse and had their first-ever screening for breast cancer. And Don Finlayson, a lawyer who happened to be openly gay, developed as the sanest resident in the block of flats.

Number 96 broke new ground for commercial television. The attraction was not just the show’s raunchiness: its mix of drama and comedy made it widely appealing. Number 96 exploited the 'cliff-hanger’ as a dramatic device like no other show, with subplots involving the 'knicker-snatcher’, the 'pantyhose strangler’ and the 'hooded rapist’. Despite the largely 'adult’ content of Number 96, at one point the series was the No. 1 rated show with children aged five to twelve. While viewers loved the show, media commentators and 'the establishment’ criticised it, and censors scrutinised its every move.

Number 96 screened on weeknights for five-and-a half years – a staggering 1218 episodes.

Classroom Activities

  1. Getting started
    In class, view the accompanying video clip interview with Scott Goodings, and the short extract from the 1970s Australian soap opera Number 96, then discuss and write notes on the following:
    1. Define what Goodings regards as significant and important about Number 96.
    2. Describe both the obvious and the suggested character relationships, themes and plot-lines presented in the video clip from Number 96.
    3. What important function does the setting, or location, fulfil during the scene presented in the clip from Number 96?
  2. Letters to the editor
    Imagine it is 1972, and an evening soap opera episode has been screened, showing for the first time a scene featuring full-frontal nudity. Plan, draft, edit and proofread the following letters to a newspaper editor, 200–250 words each:
    1. from a parent arguing that the program is unsuitable viewing for teenagers and children, and should be censored
    2. from a producer of the soap opera arguing against censorship of the program, and in favour of greater freedom of expression
  3. Magazine promotion
    A television channel is soon to screen a new, prime-time soap opera about characters in the fashion industry, aimed at an audience they term ‘young adults’. In small groups prepare a two-page article in a popular magazine for teenagers promoting the new soap opera. Include headlines, pictures and captions, interviews with some of the actors, and information about the story and setting.
  4. The real story
    Imagine you are a star — male or female — in a sensational, prime-time soap opera. Is your fame too much of a burden to carry in real life? Do people confuse the real you with your on-screen role? Write a secret diary in which you convey your private, inner self.

Further Resources


Go to From Wireless to Web for more about the history of broadcast media in Australia.

Number 96, From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Number 96 home page

Louise Alexander and Alison Cousens, Teaching TV Soaps, British Film Institute, 2004

Tips on writing letters to the editor, The Wilderness Society, 12 February 2003