HOMICIDE

Australian Crime Series

Homicide was one of the first drama series produced in Australia, and one of its most historically significant and successful. First broadcast in 1964, Homicide ran for 509 episodes until production ceased in 1975, establishing the police drama as a staple of Australian-made TV in the 1960s and 1970s, and revealing an enthusiasm among Australian TV viewers for local programming, of which there had been very little prior to the success of Homicide.

Homicide was produced for the Seven Network by the Melbourne-based Crawfords Productions, whose founder Hector Crawford has been a pivotal figure in Australian radio and television. With Homicide, Crawfords pioneered long production runs for serialised drama on modest budgets, and had established the importance of the external production house as a source of local drama material for the commercial networks. Crawfords also pioneered outdoor location filming in Australia, which was an important part of Homicide's popularity with Australian audiences, who for the first time saw drama taking place in familiar urban locations.

Homicide was an episodic crime drama, invariably involving a murder, with most episodes following closely a narrative structure in which the detective team would investigate and, in the final segments, resolve the murder and arrest the perpetrators. The program was thus "realist" in both narrative and visual representation. Still, the team of male detectives was detached from their social environment. They were always presened as part of a stable hierarchy, and bound by thorough professionalism and no consideration was given to their private lives. These factors place Homicide in an older tradition of TV police drama. Here dichotomies between law and crime, the police and the society in which they operate, their professional work and private lives, and the relationship of hierarchical authority to individual initiative remain stable and largely uncontested. Homicide can be seen as a program which defined the generic conventions of police drama in Australia, drawing upon the codes and conventions established in police dramas such as Dragnet in the United States and Z Cars in Britain, with more emphasis upon the narrative of crime-solving than on the development of character and the generation of conflict.

The peak years of Homicide were also the peak years of police drama on Australian TV, with it and other similar programs consistently rating highly with local, particularly male audiences. When production of Homicide ceased in 1975, the police drama had already declined in significance in programming schedules and popularity, giving way to the rise of the serial drama and, later, the miniseries.

The significance of Homicide to Australian television perhaps lies less in its textual innovations than in certain institutional factors. It demonstrated a capacity to present familiar environments and character types to Australian audiences on TV for the first time. It created an environment more conducive to policy measures that promoted local drama production and restricted imported material. And it exemplified the innovations in program production necessitated by the need to produce an on-going drama series. In many ways the program demonstrates the ways in which Australia's international reputation as a country with a competitive advantage in low-budget strip programming has its origins in the production techniques developed at Crawfords in the 1960s.

-Terry Flew

 

Homicide
Photo courtesy of Crawfords Australia


Homicide
Photo courtesy of Crawfords Australia

CAST

Inspector Jack Connoly.......................... John Fegan Detective Frank Bronson................. Terry McDermott Detective Rex Fraser.............................. Lex Mitchel Senior Detective David Mackay............ Leonard Teale Senior Detective Bill Hodson ...............Leslie Dayman Senior Detective Peter Barnes ...........George Malleby Senior Detective Bert Costello .................Lionel Long Inspector Colin Fox ................................Alwyn Kurts Senior Detective Jim Patterson........... Norman Yemm Senior Detective Bob Delaney ...............Mike Preston Senior Detective Phil Redford .....................Gary Day Inspector Reg Lawson ......................Charles Tingwell Senior Detective Pat Kelly .....................John Stanton Senior Detective Harry White ...................Don Barker Senior Detective Mike Deagan........ Dennis Grosvenor

PRODUCERS Ian Crawford, Paul Eddey, Paul Karo, Nigel Lovell, David Stevens, Igor Auzins, Don Battye

PROGRAMMING HISTORY
507 One-hour Episodes
2 90-minute Episodes
1 Two-hour Episodes
1 90-minute Documentar

Seven Network
October 1964-January 1977            Tuesday 7:30-8:30 21 October 1975                            Tuesday 7:30-9:00 5 February 1976                            Tuesday 7:30-9:00 5 June 1976                                  Tuesday 7:30-9:30 21 November 1970 (Documentary)   Tuesday 7:30-9:00

FURTHER READING

Hall, Sandra. Supertoy: 20 Years of Australian Television. Melbourne, Australia: Sun Books, 1976.

Moran, Albert. Images and Industry: Television Drama Production in Australia. Sydney, Australia: Currency Press, 1985.

_______________. Moran's Guide to Australian TV Series. Sydney, Australia: AFTRS/Allen & Unwin 1993.

 

See also Australian Production Companies; Australian Programming; Crawford, Hector