Through the late 1960s and the first half of the 1970s, the Crawford Productions police procedural drama series Homicide, Division 4 and Matlock Police had dominated Australian television schedules. These programs ran on each of the commercial channels, Seven, Nine and Ten respectively, and all generated popular success, television awards, and critical accolades.
Stylistically they followed the same formula: generally episodes were of a one hour duration with a self-contained story which focused on a police investigation. Much of the episode's footage was shot on videotape in the studio, with about ten minutes of location footage shot on film in exterior locales. Personal aspects of the lives of the (nearly always male) police personnel would sometimes be featured, but generally the emphasis was on their professional activities.
However during 1975 and 1976, Division 4, then Matlock Police, and finally Homicide, were all cancelled. With the demise of Homicide in 1976, The Box stood as Crawford Production's only long running series in production until The Sullivans began in late 1976. Declining ratings by the end of 1976 had forced The Box to close, and production on that series ended in April 1977. Later in 1977 the relatively long running serials Number 96 and Bellbird were also cancelled.
During this same period the Grundy Organisation had been busy launching new youth oriented soap operas The Young Doctors and The Restless Years. These produced a higher output than the Crawford police procedurals, and with a lower budget. These programs proved to be popular successes.
Apparently borne of this reorganisation of Australian television drama with its shift in emphasis to videotaped soap opera came Cop Shop. Crawford Productions stayed within the police drama genre they specialised in, here reworking the formula within a soap opera format and with an increased emphasis on family drama. Indeed Cop Shop featured the conspicuous inclusion of young policewomen, personal storylines concerning station personnel and their families, and comedy.
Cop Shop also incorporated the upstairs-downstairs relationship between the uniformed and plain clothes policemen and women as had been seen in Division 4. Cop Shop's suburban police station setting allowed a wide range of crimes to be investigated.
The series producer and head writer was Terry Stapleton. Cop Shop screened at a rate of two one hour episodes each week. The two episodes would feature a main story - a police investigation of some sort - alongside the ongoing story threads following the personal and professional lives of the show's regular characters.
The weekly main story would form a self-contained narrative block concluded at the end of the week's second episode, and would feature its own batch of guest stars. Within this formula there would also be single episode stories with a guest who appears in just one episode. The wider, open ended narratives of the show's regulars brought the series into more standard soap opera territory and dealt with such topics as family problems, romances, weddings and births.
Cop Shop debuted 28 November 1977 - at the end of the 1977 television ratings season. This meant the opening episodes of the series would screen out of ratings allowing it to settle in and gain an audience free of high rating competitors and ratings scrutiny. [i] (Shortly after this, on 6 December 1977, Channel Ten would similarly premiere new series The Restless Years out of ratings.)
Cop Shop proved to be a big success, and several of its cast became major celebrities through their roles in the series. Perhaps most popular was Peter Adams who played tough and resourceful detective Jeffrey "JJ" Johnson. Initially referred to as JJ (pronounced "Double J") but later commonly called Jeff, Detective Johnson differed from the detectives seen in earlier police dramas in that, while not at all corrupt, he was not totally squeaky clean either.
In charge of CID at the fictional Riverside police station was the assertive professional, Detective Senior Sergeant Glenn Taylor (George Mallaby), and his family life was a key aspect of the series. At home he had a sometimes fractious relationship with scheming wife Pamela (Rowena Wallace).
Pamela was from a wealthy family and conspired with her father to lure Glenn from the long hours and dangerous elements of the police force into a lucrative corporate job. Their teenage daughter Gayle (Joanne Moore) was reaching the age where she wanted to attend rock concerts and stay out late with friends. This led to several domestic squabbles - which the calculating Pamela usually attempted to settle with yet more underhanded scheming.
Accomplished but sensitive young Detective Danni Francis (Paula Duncan) was the original female representative on the force. In the initial stages of the series she might not have dealt with the tough crimes that her male colleagues did, but she was nevertheless a key character through many storylines and one of the program's most popular figures. Indeed Paula Duncan would win several Logie awards for her leading role in the series. Another key character at the start of the series was Senior Detective Don McKenna (Tony Bonner).
In charge of things downstairs at the charge counter was the crusty and officious Sergeant Eric O'Reilly, a comedy character well played by Terry Norris. He ordered around Senior Constable Tony Benjamin (Gregory Ross) and Constable Peter Fleming (Patrick Ward) and made sure station rules and regulations were adhered-to in his section. Tony and Peter squabbled amongst themselves, providing the comedy relief in the series.
The opening episodes featured a convoluted storyline involving a spate of gay bashings. Detective Tom Foster (Peter Sumner) seems implicated in these crimes having been shown apparently stalking local gay men through the streets in the dead of night. Foster, a widower, also struggles to raise his teenage son Gary (Andrew McKaige) and grapples with the recent scandal where Gary was molested by one of his teachers at school.
Also introduced is Colin Kavanagh, a fearful young man who is working in a music store and apparently protected by the sinister owner, businessman Mr Dimonicus (Tommy Dysart). Dimonicus is in turn served by an equally intimidating chauffeur/bodyguard Bailey (Roger Ward).
Investigating the gay bashings, JJ calls in to visit a witness, stripper Valerie Close (Joanna Lockwood), who is billed as "The Big V" by her strip club. Valerie reported seeing a man stalking her camp pal Ronny, a gay male colleague from her club. JJ shows up in time to view Valerie's strip tease and clearly likes what he sees.
Alongside this Glenn returns to work after recuperating from a recent shooting injury, while manipulative wife Pamela conspires with her wealthy businessman father Edmond Eliot-Smith (Walter Sullivan) to manoeuvre Glenn into the safer and more genteel job as manager of a shopping complex.
Detective Danni Francis also pounds the beat even if her main duties are tracking a female teenage runaway. She is certainly a respected and accomplished police woman, but she is shown to be more sensitive, and to suffer greater regret over injustices and police bungles, than her more jaded male colleagues.
The program's formula of building drama and intrigue by presenting a series of interwoven and apparently disparate story lines and then gradually revealing how they link together becomes apparent in the opening episodes. Drama increases as the various threads converge and it is revealed (in a well written and expertly acted scene with Peter Sumner and Andrew McKaige) that Gary's liaison with the teacher was a love affair between consenting participants.
It is soon made clear that the teacher in question is Colin Kavanagh, the same mysterious young man working in the music store, who we learn abandoned his teaching post after the scandal. There is further intrigue after Colin has a violent argument over a delivery of music tapes with a delivery man from Valerie's strip club, and later that night Colin is killed in a bashing attack in a dark alley.
The various threads mesh to present a riveting mystery whodunit, and viewers are left with multiple questions at the cliff-hanger. Detective Tom Foster might be the gay basher, but did he also murder Colin Kavanagh, his son's school teacher and one time gay lover?
There is also the soap opera type intrigue of Pamela's secretive plots to manipulate husband Glenn into leaving the force. Mixed with all the drama are lighter moments such as the evolving romance between Jeff and Valerie, and the ongoing comedy gags of the officious and irascible Eric O'Reilly.
Stripper Valerie Close who had caught JJ's eye in the first episode emerged as a bold, brassy and fun figure in the ongoing storylines. The fiery romance between the two led to marriage and Valerie continued as a key character in the show's storylines.
In 1980 after reaching two hundred episodes, her portrayer Joanna Lockwood described for The Sun newspaper columnist and future Prisoner actor Kim Trengove the formation of the character at the start of the series.
"My contract was for 13 weeks but I always thought it would go longer. I didn't know how to scheme or to make up to the right people and influence them. I had turned in an honest 13 weeks performance."
Lockwood admitted the most difficult thing for her was having to do a strip tease in front of cast, crew, and television cameras.
"Coming from Sydney I didn't know a soul. But there was no point in getting upset about it... it was a case of head down, bottoms up." [ii]
Constable Peter Fleming was a vegetarian (as evidenced by the fact he munched on a raw carrot for his lunch) and seemed slightly dim in a "gee whiz" kind of way. Apart from that, however, he seemed much too similar in character to Tony Benjamin.
Soon Peter had departed and in his place came Roy Baker (Gil Tucker). An eager, polite, and conscientious young officer known for his many minor bungles, Roy quickly formed a popular comedy double act with the bombastic Sergeant O'Reilly. Their antics behind the charge desk provided much of the show's humour.
Roy Baker perhaps exhibited many similarities to Number 96's popular Arnold Feather character but the resemblance was passing and Roy emerged as a unique and believable figure. On paper the somewhat na´ve but always eager to please Roy might sound like a caricature, and he could have easily become an annoying prig. However, as played, Roy was a pleasant, believable and amusing person; his playing off the various other characters rang true and was enjoyable to watch.
As early jolt came when Detective McKenna departed just 13 weeks into the show's run when his portrayer Tony Bonner opted to leave the series. Danni Francis had begun a romance with McKenna and was devastated by his death in the line of duty. John Orcsik came in as his replacement: a hunky Greek detective named Mike Georgiou. Orcsik had actually auditioned for Bonner's character of Detective McKenna during the planning stages of Cop Shop. [iii]
Danni enjoyed a romance with the returning Tom Foster, then formed a close association with local do gooder Father Joe Carroll (Neil Fitzpatrick) before embarking on a secret romance with work colleague Sam Phillips (Nicholas Eadie). Finally, Mike Georgiou became Danni's main romantic interest, and this union became highly popular with the show's fans. A romance also started away from the set and the actors soon started an intense affair, which in 1982 led to a much publicised real life wedding. Mike and Danni followed suit with an on screen wedding in 1983.
A key cast addition in the series was sex symbol Lynda Stoner as buttoned down police constable Amanda King. Amanda soon became a detective allowing her to ditch her neat uniformed appearance in favour of flowing blond locks and street clothes that showcased Stoner's famous figure. Cop Shop's sexiest female cop had been unveiled and Amanda King remained a key character in the series for several years.
Stoner had joined the series in early 1979 and by 1980 her role had been suitably augmented while Stoner told TV Week that "the Cop Shop cast must be the closest in this country. It's like a big family - it would break my heart to leave it." [iv] By June 1980 Stoner's live in boyfriend, actor John Walton, was signed to Cop Shop for six months playing aggressive journalist Terry Lindford Jones - a character previously seen as a guest in one December 1979 episode. [v] Like their portrayers Terry Lindford Jones and Amanda King were soon involved in a love affair.
Original cast member George Mallaby was no stranger to long running television roles. He played in Homicide for six and a half years, then spent 13 months playing a leading role in The Box. Ongoing in to the Cop Shop role Mallaby had explained his stance to TV Week.
"I hope that Crawfords have learned something through their experiences on doing The Box and The Sullivans. They should now recognise that the human brain is capable of just so much pressure, and that they should allow for rest periods and not let the bulk of the show fall on any one person's shoulders. My contract is for an initial 13 weeks, and I'll know by the end of that time whether thing shave improved. If the show and the working conditions are tolerable, of course it will extend beyond the 13 weeks." [vi]
A few months later Mallaby reported on the production conditions of Cop Shop:
"There have been a few teething troubles with the show, but that's inevitable with a new project and a team of actors and crew who haven't worked together before. In some of the early episodes, we were working until the wee small hours of the morning to maintain our output of two hours a week. That was largely because the directors would have certain ideas about how scenes should be played, and we'd rehearse along those lines, only to find that, when we got into the studio, those ideas were not possible. So precious time was lost while we had to plan everything all over again. Now, everyone is familiar with the show, and it's running smoothly. If we find we've slipped behind schedule in the afternoon, we can now pick up the time in the evening so that we finish more or less as scheduled." [vii]
In response to some negative reviews given by television critics Mallaby stated:
"I don't agree with them, and I don't believe the public agrees with them either. I know from the sort of public reaction I'm getting that the show is going down well. And I think we've also broken across some viewing barriers with Cop Shop. We got some of the audience for both crime shows and serials. In other words, some people who ordinarily don't like cop shows, but who enjoy serials, are watching us. And some fans who in the past have avoided serials are being hooked. The audience is quite different from the avid Homicide fans." [viii]
Mallaby continued, describing his hopes for the character he portrayed in the series:
"I would like to see the character developed more as a human being - to look into the other side of Glenn Taylor, not just the cop. He has had problems with his wife (Rowena Wallace) and his daughter (Jo-Anne Moore), but I think there are other areas that can be explored outside the police station. Of course, the direction in which Glenn's life is headed will depend on whether Rowena and Jo-Anne stay with the show. If key cast members such as those were to choose to leave the show, the writers would have to devise a whole new set of circumstances for me." [ix]
In the event it was ultimately the decision of actors Rowena Wallace and George Mallaby to resign from the series in mid-1979 that prompted the Taylor family's departure. With her character's parents leaving, cast member Jo-Anne Moore who played Gayle Taylor found herself written out of the series. The entire Taylor family made their on screen departure in August 1979. [x]
Mallaby later explained that he left the series because he had been suffering high blood pressure caused by stress and over work.
"Too much of my time was spent working at the studio. I worried about scripts and I worried too much about problems some of the cast were having." [xi]
Mallaby had expressed similar sentiments on leaving The Box; and at this time he admitted that he was a workaholic. Shortly after leaving Cop Shop Mallaby accepted an ongoing role in Prisoner, with hopes that the greater flexibility the new role allowed would mean the problems of over work would not resurface. This flexibility would also give Mallaby the time to write four Prisoner scripts as specified in his contract. [xii]
In the event, an undisclosed health scare prompted Mallaby's abrupt departure from Prisoner in June 1980. At the time of his departure Mallaby's contract was soon to expire and his character was in the process of being written out of the storyline. But the unexpected illness prompted Mallaby's disappearance four episodes earlier than expected, and with no proper farewell scene in the can scripts had to be urgently rewritten to explain his character's premature disappearance. Mallaby himself wrote what was originally to be the "farewell" episode of his character Paul Reid, who still left the series in the manner originally planned, but his final onscreen appearance had occurred four episodes earlier. [xiii]
In December 1980 it was revealed that it was a heart attack that forced Mallaby's sudden exit from his on screen Prisoner role. By this time he was back before the Cop Shop cameras, but only to tape a brief two scene cameo where he coaches Roy Baker who is about to compete in a bike race. At the time Mallaby explained his attitude to resuming TV work.
"I feel as if I'm ready to tackle more TV work, but not at the heavy work load that existed before I left Cop Shop. I will not allow myself to work that heavily again. It would be foolhardy." [xiv]
There were even a few minor problems getting those two scenes in the can.
"We had three trips to the Northcote Cycling Club rink before we were able to get anything down on tape. We were washed out twice, but lucky the third time around. [...] Nothing's changed. It's all exactly the same as it was when I left it - panic stricken! I'm pleased to see the boys are doing their jobs as well as ever. It really is nice to be back. I don't feel as if I've been away at all." [xv]
Episodes 109 and 110 of Cop Shop, recorded in December 1978, are notable in that their guest cast features actors Mel Gibson, Steve Bisley, and Joanne Samuel. The three were leading cast members of the cult 1979 Australian feature film Mad Max.
In their storyline the three are employees at a fabric factory that is the scene of a payroll robbery. After security is tightened, a second payroll grab using a slightly modified technique occurs. The episodes present an engaging and intriguing whodunit, involving a complex network of alibis and character associations for viewers to attempt to untangle.
The episodes also present a double reunion: the building that in location shot footage represents that fabric factory is actually Crawford Productions' Abbottsford headquarters on Southampton Crescent - which had previously represented the Channel 12 studios in The Box. A factory security guard is played by Ken Snodgrass, previously the security guard in The Box and here he even seems to be wearing the same grey uniform he had worn in that series. Then when episode 110 presents a new self-contained story, that of a lonely widow with a drinking problem, the prim matron in question is portrayed by former The Box regular Monica Maughan.
By 1981 the show was still achieving high ratings. In the first two weeks ratings of 1981, Cop Shop was the only one of the six Australian soap operas on air to win its timeslot. [xvi] As 1981 played out there were several major cast changes.
Glenn Taylor's replacement as head of the CID had been new character Vic Cameron, played by Terence Donovan, a veteran of Crawford Productions police drama series Division 4. Cameron stayed two years, finally departing when his portrayer Terence Donovan, who had become hot property through his appearance in feature film Breaker Morant, asked to be released from his contract to take up a movie offer.
Terence Donovan told TV Week at the time that:
"I've had several offers over the past two years I've spent with Cop Shop but because of the program's heavy work schedules I haven't been able to take them up. I have one film to do and I'd love to get back into theatre work. I know Cop Shop has had many changes recently [the departure of Peter Adams and Joanna Lockwood] and they had enormous problems trying to replace Peter. Now to find someone else going... it must be difficult for them. They're now looking for someone to replace me and I have said I'll stay around until May  to help them." [xvii]
Indeed after three years and winning two Logie Awards for Best Actor, Peter Adams had left to pursue other roles. In the story the scriptwriters had Jeff transferred to the United States, with wife Valerie and their baby daughter Erica in tow.
Of his former series Adams told TV Week:
"I will never apologise for working on a soap opera. They are a very popular public form of entertainment and the public must come first." [xviii]
After leaving the series Adams played in a theatre tour opposite his real life wife, actor Kirsty Child, in the play Same Time Next Year in June-July 1981. [xix] Back at Cop Shop, Jeff's replacement was Detective Tom Shannon (John McTernan), a stereotypical Guinness loving Irishman.
As for Joanna Lockwood's exit TV Week was unsure of the true reason for her departure at the same time Adams left the show. Though Valerie's only real link to the show's main storyline was her union with Adams' character, TV Week nevertheless speculated that with Lockwood's prominence and popularity in the role - which had netted her three Logie nominations, two Sammy Award nominations, and one gold Sammy Award nomination - she would have been kept on if she wanted to stay. In the end TV Week concluded that stress on her Sydney based marriage and the strain of weekly commutes to Melbourne for taping were large contributors to what was assumed to be Lockwood's own decision to leave. [xx]
Joanna Lockwood herself expressed no clear future plans at the time of her departure.
"The fact is, I haven't anything definite... and despite the experience I've had in cabaret and the tremendous chance I have had to learn TV on Cop Shop and the nominations I've had and so on, people who employ actors seem to think it counts for nothing. Agents and casting people say 'But you've only been doing a soap opera'." [xxi]
In the second half of 1981 the popular character of Peter Fanelli (Bill Stalker) was transferred in from Crawford series Skyways when that show was cancelled after a two year run. In the story Fanelli, who in Skyways had been written as a former police detective, returned to the force and was appointed to Riverside CID.
Soon Fanelli was promoted to become head of the CID. However it would not turn out to be a long term appointment as Bill Stalker elected to leave Cop Shop just nine months after moving across to the serial.
"I've had six years of full time serial work - three in New Zealand and three in Australia. I've been with Fanelli for three years and I think that's enough for one character. The next thing viewers will be expecting me to turn up in Dallas! I was ready to leave Fanelli behind at the end of Skyways but I thought I'd take the professional compliment of being transferred from one show to the other. It was an historical precedent with quite a bit of kudos. But now it seems possible for me to move on without damaging the program at all." [xxii]
It had been hinted early on that Fanelli's departure would be a happy one - possibly involving marriage. It was soon revealed a new girlfriend for Fanelli, Yvonne Holmes (Annette Andre), would be introduced. During Stalker's run in the series his real life girlfriend,actor Catherine Wilkin, had also signed on for a recurring role in Cop Shop as a lawyer. [xxiii]
Catherine Wilkin and Bill Stalker had started their relationship and had acted together in New Zealand before immigrating to Australia together. Wilkin enjoyed her role of Kate McGrath in the series, and explained that acting with her real life partner presented few problems as their characters rarely shared any scenes. Catherine Wilkin was contracted for six months in the series.
"The good thing about this role in Cop Shop is that there's some length to it so besides the fact that you can explore different avenues to the character, you also get the chance to find out where your mistakes are." [xxiv]
Tragically actor Bill Stalker was killed at age 33 in a motorcycle accident in Melbourne on 28 November 1981. Just days before the accident he had filmed what was to be Fanelli's final ever Cop Shop scene - his wedding to Yvonne. In the story Fanelli was to leave with his bride for Darwin straight after the wedding. At the time of his death Stalker had one week of studio taping yet to complete. [xxv]
The accident occurred on a stormy Saturday evening on Alexandra Avenue, a roadway running by the Yarra River in inner suburban Toorak. Stalker was killed when his motorcycle was in a collision with a car. His passenger, girlfriend Catherine Wilkin, was injured in accident. She was hospitalised with serious leg injuries and a broken hip.[xxvi] [xxvii]
On the show Fanelli's wedding went ahead as his final scene. Sadly for those working on the production, also being taped at the time of Stalker's death was the fictional death of regular character Claire Benjamin (Louise Philip).
Claire was Eric O'Reilly's paraplegic daughter who had married Tony Benjamin and had often been caught between the squabbling between Eric and Tony. When Louise Philip finally decided to leave the series her character Claire was killed instantly in a bus crash while returning from a holiday in Canberra. Baby daughter Prue was thrown clear and survived the smash. In the story Eric hears the news first, and must inform his son-in-law Tony. Roy Baker, one of Claire's closest friends from the station, delivers a three minute eulogy at the funeral. [xxviii]
The original taping of Claire Benjamin's funeral on location at St Peter's Church in Toorak had been pre-empted by Bill Stalker's funeral that was held the same day. The recording of the funeral was therefore put back a week. Having to enact attendance at the funeral of a friend and family member was a traumatic experience for the cast who, just one week earlier, had gone through the same thing for real. [xxix]
TV Week reported that due to the circumstances, filming was severely scaled back to the minimum possible time. The cast avoided the church for as long as possible, coming near the location only when necessary. Several cast members openly wept in breaks between taping. Paula Duncan was quoted as saying:
"It's one of the hardest scenes I've had to do. The memories of Bill's funeral just kept rushing back to me." [xxx]
Claire's funeral went to air in Melbourne and Sydney in the first week of April 1982. The episodes of the week following this featured the wedding and departure of Peter Fanelli. [xxxi]
Initially Tony Benjamin was the third uniformed officer downstairs. Early in the series he was promoted to the rank of detective, continuing in that role to the end of the series. After Tony's move upstairs Roy Baker was the show's main younger uniformed cop, and he had a succession of partners who would be drawn into the show's comedy storylines.
These comedy cops were Scott McGregor as Constable Stephen Waters, Nicholas Eadie as country boy Sam Phillips, and later Alan Kennedy as Frank Rossi at the end of the series. Sam Phillips had a secret romance with Danni Francis, who at the time was doing a stint in uniform too. Ultimately Sam would be killed in the line of duty.
Frank Rossi's portrayer Alan Kennedy played against Jackie Woodburne who guest starred as Frank's sister Gina. Years later they would be reunited playing husband and wife Karl and Susan Kennedy in Neighbours. Of their Neighbours casting, Kennedy said in 1995 that his discovery that Woodburne would play his screen wife was "the happiest day of my working life. We always had great fun on Cop Shop, it was the happiest cast I ever worked on." [xxxii]
Terry Norris continued in the role of irascible buffoon Eric O'Reilly for several years. In the program's personal stories Eric had had the family interactions with Tony and Claire, and had later married Valerie's mother, Lorna Close (Moya O'Sullivan).
In March 1980 Norris won the Logie Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Series. Norris and main co-star Gil Tucker had succeeded in being funny in their roles as comically officious but eccentric characters behind the charge counter; TV Week magazine described their rehearsals as sometimes becoming a comedy show all on their own. [xxxiii] Aside from the comedy Norris could also play drama brilliantly: his scenes with Gregory Ross where they cope with Claire's death and with looking after Prue are stunning.
Norris finally left the series when he was elected to Victorian Parliament. He had won the seat of Noble Park for the Australian Labor Party at the Victorian Election in April 1982. Norris finished up work on the show in late April. As Cop Shop production was 10 weeks ahead of broadcast, Eric O'Reilly was seen on screen a number of months after this. [xxxiv] Veteran Crawford's actor Alwyn Kurts came in to replace him, as Sergeant Reg Wallis.
Before leaving the series and while Kurts' appearance was still being negotiated, Terry Norris told TV Week he approved of his potential replacement.
"He's very professional and hard working. He's a good example to young actors. I've worked with Alwyn in The Last of the Australians and he's very good to work with." [xxxv]
At the time, much the same was being said of Norris himself. Norris also admitted that "I'm going to miss the cast and crew of Cop Shop because they are the happiest team I've worked with." [xxxvi] Norris returned for the show's final episodes taped in late 1983.
Linda Stoner had also decided the leave the series at the end of 1981. Glamorous former Arcade cast member Olga Tamara came in as her replacement, Detective Julie Mitchell.
Olga Tamara had been appearing in another Crawford Productions series, Holiday Island, in late 1981 when that series was cancelled. Just hours after learning she was out of a job with Holiday Island's cancellation, the role in Cop Shop came up. Tamara started work on Cop Shop in January 1982 and her episodes began on air several weeks after that. [xxxvii] Tamara's character would ultimately killed off while Linda Stoner returned to Cop Shop and continued through to the final episode.
Popular actor Peter Adams also returned to his role of Jeff Johnson after a one year absence. Joanna Lockwood who played Jeff's wife Valerie did not return. It was explained that Valerie had remained in the US to pursue a showbiz career. She retained custody of their daughter Erica.
Peter Adams' on screen return in May 1982 was a major plus for the series with the departures of cast members Nicholas Eadie, Terry Norris and Lynda Stoner imminent at the time. Adams reported that Jeff would now be "a bit more aggressive, less tolerant of his co-workers. It's a hangover from his time in America." [xxxviii]
Of Valerie's non-appearance, Adams said:
"The relationship had become very repetitive. It had reached the stage when at times we'd both say, haven't we said this or done that before?"
In the story Jeff returned as head of the criminal investigation unit at Riverside. This new position meant Jeff spent less time on the road, resulting in a less gruelling schedule for his portrayer.
"I still clock on and off at the same times but I'm not doing as much location work which means I have more time off during the day." [xxxix]
Cop Shop is notable for taping one storyline overseas in August 1982 when Jeff Johnson and Mike Georgiou follow their leads to an investigation in Rome, Italy. The outdoor scenes of the storyline were shot on location in Rome using an Italian film crew and local extras. The interior scenes of the storyline were shot in Melbourne in the usual studio. The Rome shot story was part of an unsuccessful attempt to sell the series to overseas markets.
Producer Graham Moore organised the one week shoot in Rome. He had to choose locations and sign up a local cast of extras for the footage, which would be featured over two episodes of Cop Shop. With 300 to 400 movies being made in Italy each year, and the extensive national heritage to protect, Moore said that the authorities required several weeks' notice for "everything and anything." [xl]
Producer Graham Moore explained organising the shoot to The Age newspaper's Green Guide.
"It's a different world. They're just not used to our methods. It was quite an experience dealing with the Italian bureaucracy - definitely not the sort of thing you can handle over the phone." [xli]
Apart from being one of the most ambitious and adventurous efforts undertaken by an Australian television production, it was also one of the most expensive.
"Without mentioning dollars it will be very, very expensive, but it is so exciting. Rome is such a romantic city and I'm so taken with it as a location." [xlii]
Previously, in September 1980, the Melbourne based show had set some of the action in Sydney. That story had featured specially shot location footage in that city in a bid to boost the show's ratings there. [xliii]
Production was finally wound up in December 1983 due to declining ratings. Though it had once rated 46 in Melbourne - an astronomical ratings figure - Cop Shop's ratings had by 1983 dropped to 21. While 21 is still a quite a respectable viewing figure, with the decline in ratings Cop Shop was not renewed. [xliv]
The final episode was recorded 22 December 1983. Due to the backlog of episodes the closing episodes went to air in Melbourne in the first half of 1984. Cop Shop had a total run of 582 one hour episodes.
By the end of the series Reg Wallis was gone and the popular Terry Norris was back behind the charge counter playing Eric O'Reilly as if he had never left. There's a small transformation for the officious Eric when he decides to adopt a relaxed, flexible approach to the fundraiser he is organising with Roy's mum, Iris Baker (Monica Maughan).
The straitlaced and serious Inspector Ian Timms (John Lee) is now in charge of CID. Detective Tom Shannon, still recovering from a work related leg injury, is making up his mind whether to leave for an extended return trip to his native Ireland. With his potential departure, Mike Georgiou and Tony Benjamin become rivals for the promotion to fill the vacant position. When caught in a shootout after a robbery Mike puts himself in the line of fire to capture the escaping robber. Tony, previously disparaged by Mike as too by-the-book, earns his respect by courageously firing on the escaper, saving Mike.
There is extra tension on this stakeout as Mike's wife Danni is at home and about to give birth to their child. Previously she had tearfully begged Mike not to go on the dangerous stakeout, and then she goes in to labour before his return. Amanda gets Danni to hospital but Danni tearfully frets over Mike's absence.
Luckily Mike manages to make it to Danni's beside soon afterwards to meet his new baby daughter, who is named Amanda Claire. She is named Amanda after the attending Amanda King, and Claire after Eric's late daughter Claire. With the highly popular returning character of Eric also present in the scene where the baby's name is revealed it seems odd that none of her names are Erica, however Jeff's daughter had already been named Erica, after Eric.
In the end Tony and Mike have made peace over their rivalry for promotion, however Tom Shannon announces he is not leaving after all. However, Jeff is resigning. He has finally given in to the demands of his latest love, Kate Ryan (Lyn Semmler), and resigned from the force.
Things end with a farewell party for Jeff in the Riverside CID office where the cast of characters raise a glass and call out three cheers for their departing colleague. Finally Jeff experiences a lengthy sequence of flashbacks, before happily leaving the station to catch a taxi off to pastures new.
Over its run the series basically stuck to its original formula of light comedy mixed with crime mystery, with occasional action sequences involving car chases or shoot outs. Over the program's many cast changes the general mix of character types was always maintained: departing characters would conveniently be replaced by someone else who was essentially the same character.
Perhaps the key thing that generated the show's high levels of popularity was the charismatic cast (especially with their soap opera style romances) and the essentially believable characters.
Cop Shop was repeated by Channel Seven in a week day afternoon slot in the late 1980s. The rerun later switched to a late night timeslot to play out the remaining episodes through the early 1990s.
Originally uploaded May 2000
Last updated 13 February 2013
[i] Moran, Albert. Moran's Guide to Australian TV Series. Allen & Unwin: St Leonards NSW, 1993, page 127-8.
[ii] Trengove, Kim. "200 Reasons Why Valerie Wont Go." The Sun. 21 February 1980, page 6.
[iii] Johnson, Jackie. "Fantasy World of a Top Cop." TV Week. 29 November 1980, page 12.
[iv] "Lynda Finds Love at Last." TV Week. 21 June 1980, page 18.
[v] Johnson, Jackie. "On the Beat Together." TV Week. 30 August 1980, page 5.
[vi] "George Cops Top Role in New Series." TV Week. 3 September 1977, page 15.
[vii] Murphy, Jim. "George the Family Man is Home to Stay." TV Week. 14 January 1978, page 6.
[viii] Murphy, Jim. "George the Family Man is Home to Stay." TV Week. 14 January 1978, page 6.
[ix] Murphy, Jim. "George the Family Man is Home to Stay." TV Week. 14 January 1978, page 6.
[x] "Cop Shop Star's Stage Debut." TV Week. 26 May 1979, page 19.
[xi] "Here's Health, George is Back." TV Week, 1980.
[xii] "Here's Health, George is Back." TV Week, 1980.
[xiii] Morrow, Richard. "Doctor Orders George to Quit." TV Week. 28 June 1980, page 27.
[xiv] "Heart Attack Can't Stop George." TV Week. 27 December 1980, page 12.
[xv] "Heart Attack Can't Stop George." TV Week. 27 December 1980, page 12.
[xvi] Groves, Don and Jacqueline Lee Lewes. "Soapies down the drain?" Inside TV column, The Sun-Herald. 8 March 1981, page 51
[xvii] Fraser, Jill. "Donovan Drops Cop Shop Contract." TV Week. 14 February 1981, page 34.
[xviii] "Cop Shop's Joker is No Longer Wild." TV Week. 18 October 1980, page 81.
[xix] Fraser, Jill. "Logie Winner on the Road." TV Week, 2 May 1981, page 42.
[xx] "Joanna Faces the World." TV Week. 22 November 1980, page 8.
[xxi] "Joanna Faces the World." TV Week. 22 November 1980, page 8.
[xxii] Fawcett, Tony. "Fanelli's Leaving Cop Shop." TV Week. 3 October 1981, page 5.
[xxiii] Fawcett, Tony. "Fanelli's Leaving Cop Shop." TV Week. 3 October 1981, page 5.
[xxiv] Webster, Allan. "Catherine's Cop Sop Problem." TV Week. 14 November 1981, page 15.
[xxv] Fraser, Jill. "Bill Stalker's Last Cop Shop Scene." TV Week. 19 December 1981.
[xxvi] Robertson, Fred. "The Gentle Side to Big Bill." TV Week. 12 December 1981, page 37.
[xxvii] "Actor with film hopes is killed." The Age. 30 November 1981, page 5.
[xxviii] "On Screen Tragedy for Cop Shop." TV Week. 3 April 1982, page 5.
[xxix] "On Screen Tragedy for Cop Shop." TV Week. 3 April 1982, page 5.
[xxx] "On Screen Tragedy for Cop Shop." TV Week. 3 April 1982, page 5.
[xxxi] "On Screen Tragedy for Cop Shop." TV Week. 3 April 1982, page 5.
[xxxii] Jenkins, Jeff. "Dr Kool!" TV Week. 23 September 1995, page 25-6.
[xxxiii] "Terry Triumphs!" TV Week. 22 March 1980, page 13.
[xxxiv] "Now It's Terry Norris M P." TV Week. 1 May 1982, page 76-77.
[xxxv] Johnson, Jackie. "Alwyn Tipped for Cop Shop Role." TV Week. 20 March 1982, page 35.
[xxxvi] Johnson, Jackie. "Alwyn Tipped for Cop Shop Role." TV Week. 20 March 1982, page 35.
[xxxvii] Webster, Allan. "Olga Joins Cop Shop." TV Week. 16 January 1982, page 11.
[xxxviii] Lewes, Jacqueline Lee. "JJ's back but now he's one mean cop." The Sun Herald. 2 May 1982, page 57.
[xxxix] Lewes, Jacqueline Lee. "JJ's back but now he's one mean cop." The Sun Herald. 2 May 1982, page 57.
[xl] Hooks, Barbara. "'Cop Shop' in Italian caper" The Age - Green Guide. 22 July 1982, page 1.
[xli] Hooks, Barbara. "'Cop Shop' in Italian caper" The Age - Green Guide. 22 July 1982, page 1.
[xlii] Hooks, Barbara. "'Cop Shop' in Italian caper" The Age - Green Guide. 22 July 1982, page 1.
[xliii] "Cops Move Shop." TV Week, 6 September 1980, page 53.
[xliv] Duncan, Paula with Maggie Strike. The mother of my son: the moving story of an against-the-odds relationship. Harper Collins: Pymble NSW, 1994.