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This Australian series has, after 692 episodes, received cult status all over the world. The series takes place in Wentworth, a prison in Australia. Wentworth is a high-security female prison. The women are there for all sorts of crimes. We get to follow how they got there, their life in the prison and what becomes of them afterwards. We also get to follow the staff, their work in the prison and their personal relationships. Written by
By the time prisoner graced our screens in 1988 it had already been canceled in its native Australia after a seven-year run (ending in 1986). In the UK it was not aired on prime time but found itself relegated to the post 11.00pm watershed probably because of it's risky and controversial story lines. Depending on what region you lived in, could be found any time after midnight.(In fact quite often Thames would screen it from 11.00 -12-00 and if you could pick up Anglia TV they would show it from 12.00 - 01.00 but a couple of seasons ahead.) Fortunately for prisoner by 1986 the four terrestrial channels had finally entered the 20thC and began broadcasting all through the night, therefore, shows such as prisoner became the ideal type of television to fill these new slots.
Needless to say this Aussie import like all the others soon developed it's own cult following. Unlike most of the other goody-goody Auzzie soaps that were located in middle class locations with spoiled teenagers and dopey grown ups working in coffee shops, prisoner by contrast was mostly broadcast in a windowless claustrophobic environment of a correctional facility.
Wentworth prison as with most prison TV shows had all the stereotypes. Those included were the heartless senior members of the staff who were totally committed to punishment and discipline who were of course held in check by the jelly-spined social workers and the well intentioned Governess who not surprising clung to the hope that these women could be rehabilitated. The inmates too had there's, the 'Top Dog', 'the dike', the gang leaders with their 'wenchmen', the hard cases, the old timer the whiner, the non conformist and last but not least the 'nark' or 'snitch'.
The main theme of the prisoner story lines broadly focused on the inmates standing up to the seemingly petty and inflexible rules of the prison system, (i.e. don't let the bastards grind you down scenarios). Yet prisoner also grappled with some of the every day problems that many of the women were forced to come to terms with, lesbianism, bullying, sadistic guards, prison gangs, and drugs.
For some viewers this no doubt provided a refreshing alternative to the bland political news shows that were broadcast after the pubs closed. Having said that, a few pints of lager was probably the order of the day as the Wentworth inmates at best were not easy on the eye and at worst just plain scary! As any warm-blooded male with tell you after alcohol consumption a lot of homely women begin to look respectable. In all fairness without a decent hairdresser or make up, denim overalls and dungarees are never going bring the best out of any woman, so perhaps that's what made many of the actors believable, no Charlie's angels here.
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