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E Street

1989-1993 - 404 x 60 minute episodes - Produced by Westside Television Productions for Network Ten

Contents

Premise and characters

Production notes

Location

Major Revamps

The Car Bomb

Elly Departs

Middle Period

Jo-jo, Wheels and Joey

Mr Bad

The Later Stages

Awards

Evaluation

The Legacy

E Street began life in January 1989 as an urban-based soap opera that explored social issues but with a hip and trendy slant. Much like Richmond Hill - the rather lightweight series it effectively replaced on Channel Ten - it examined the lives of a broad range of community figures in a working-class milieu. An important change was that E Street was set in a tough inner city area. E Street also closely resembled the era's more popular rural based drama series, A Country Practice, which had begun on Seven in late 1981.

E Street was created by Forrest Redlich, who had previously served as script editor and then producer of A Country Practice, and Bruce Best, also a former A Country Practice producer. Both had left their roles as producers on that series in mid-1988.

With its examination of a community from the perspectives of the local medical centre and police station, plus the sustained habit of casting former A Country Practice actors in keys roles, E Street exhibited many similarities to that show. (A Country Practice continued its run on Channel Seven until November 1993. This was followed by a short run on Channel Ten in 1994 - after E Street had finished its run.)

As E Street progressed it would increasingly diverge from its original style, making such comparisons less meaningful in the show's later years.

Premise and characters

E Street was set loosely around Eden Street in the fictional inner city suburb of Westside, a tough area with lots of street cred.

At its launch, positioned as a central figure in E Street was actor Penny Cook, who had become immensely popular to viewing audiences through her long running role of veterinarian Vicki in A Country Practice. In E Street she would portray Westside's GP, Dr Elly Fielding, the bright and assertive single mother to young Claire Fielding (Brooke "Mikey" Anderson).

Reviewer Robin Oliver observed that in the two hour pilot program previewed,

"Cook brings an interesting new presence to the screen. It is a strong role with great depth." [1]

This was not the only praise for Penny Cook. "If E Street is going to be a hit - and based on the opening two hours it deserves to be - then a lot of credit will go to Cook," said reviewer Kevin Sadlier. [2]

"Dr Fielding has a wry, laid back sense of humour and Cook is brilliant at delivering her lines with deadpan panache." [3]

Of the opening episodes Sadlier said that "the characters are warm and sharply defined and the script is a cut above the usual soapie style." [4]

Those characters included such civic types as members of the local police force, most notably the bombastic but fair older cop Sergeant George Sullivan (Les Dayman), local legal aid lawyer Sarah McKillop (Katrina Sedgewick), district nurse Martha O'Dare (Cecily Polson) who works at the medical centre with Elly and is romantically involved with George, gruff publican Ernie Patchett (Vic Rooney), and the very hip Reverend Bob Brown (Tony Martin). Heroine for the younger viewers is trendy Lisa Bennett (Alyssa-Jane Cook), who was from the wrong side of the tracks and destined for a troubled love life.

Other original characters were Police Constable Paul Berry (Warren Jones) and his wife Rhonda (Melanie Saloman), newlyweds settling in to Westside, and Ernie's son Chris (Paul Kelman).

In terms of storylines, Forrest Redlich said at the show's launch that "we are pushing 7.30 as much as we can. We are trying to be as adult as we can be." [5] Yet with this a balance needed to be struck.

"You've got to be very careful that the audience doesn't become depressed or disenchanted in any way. There has to be warmth in the characters - and hope. I think that's very important. You can't leave your audience 'down' at the end of the period. That's another A Country Practice lesson. No matter how serious the story, you lift it at the end." [6]

Particularly popular was the Levi-wearing and ever-wise Reverend Bob roaring around town in a cool 1960s Ford convertible and romancing Dr Elly. Of the Reverend Bob character, Best explained that,

"Obviously we have no intention of preaching. That is not the aim of the show at all. Bob's background is that he was a street kid himself at the age of 15. It also gives the character rough edges, for occasionally you see the street boy break through the veneer. If push comes to shove, Bob is quite capable of pushing." [7]

Production notes

The series initially employed 12 scriptwriters to devise drama for the 11 regular characters. Each writer had two weeks to write their one hour script. Redlich said their demands on the writers were "not as comprehensive as those of Grundy storylines, rather than do 70 scenes an hour, we do 30 big scenes." [8]

E Street took over the 7.30 pm mid-week slot occupied by Richmond Hill the previous year, and had the teen oriented serial Neighbours as a lead in. During pre-production E Street in fact had created two additional younger characters geared to interesting young viewers, after pressure from Channel Ten. [9]

Of the makeup of the regular original cast of characters Bruce Best explained that,

"We must also pick up that middle audience. And that includes the older end of that audience. They are vital to our success. All the characters are designed to overlap. They are not what I call kid-cult characters. We will still deal with social issues." [10]

The series did have an aura of realism and grittiness in its earliest episodes. Shot on video, production included use of two special solid state video cameras that could operate in low light. Bruce Best elaborated on aspects of the new program's look.

"We are getting away from the flat lighting that has dogged Australian serials, it always astonished me that Grundy went to enormous lengths on Richmond Hill to achieve that flat lighting, whereas I spend a lot of time trying to get away from it." [11]

Location

Bruce Best explained prior to the program's debut that,

"We think we've got the working-class stories right, but the actual locale and characters are just slightly romanticised. The reality is that exterior scenes are shot in Balmain and Rozelle (two old inner Sydney working class suburbs), while a church in Newtown is used as Bob Brown's headquarters. This is harbour side life in a working class suburb. We are not shooting the Bridge, the Opera House, the glitz. We are shooting the working class end, the container berths, tug boats rather than yachts. In fact we are going to a lot of trouble to leave yachts out." [12]

Through the show's run Ernie's pub, Patchett's Pacific, remained a primary meeting place for the show's characters. Many of the regulars were incorporated into the series by their working at Patchett's. With its dining area serving meals from morning to night some characters seemed to never leave.

Other high traffic locations were the church, Bob's manse, and the medical centre. While like all soaps it was mainly studio shot, the series also featured a considerable amount of location shooting in Sydney's rustic looking but gentrified Balmain. To further open out the feel of the series the brief bits of breaker of footage shown as the show resumes after an advertisement break would feature establishing shot style images of the more picturesque or bustling areas of Balmain.

Major Revamps

Early ratings figures for the series were not brilliant. On 26 March 1989 it was reported that in the past five weeks since its debut, E Street had received the ratings: 11, 13, 13, 11, and 10 - figures unlikely to satisfy the network accountants or advertisers. Richmond Hill, meanwhile, had been rating in the high teens when it was cancelled. [13] Changes in the show's cast and style were plotted out, beginning a bumpy ride for the residents of Westside as they begin a four year journey down a slippery soapy path.

By April, Peta Toppano made her debut as Micki Fallon. Micki was the latest girlfriend of Elly's newly introduced former husband, the caddish Dr David Fielding played by former Sons and Daughters regular Noel Hodda. Ten had reportedly made a "fuss" over the addition of popular actor Peta Toppano to the cast, but commentator Robin Oliver felt the guest role was over-hyped rather than played to advantage, and was ultimately a "let-down". Oliver observed that E Street seemed to lack the warmth of A Country Practice. E Street, he opined, did deal with important social issues, but "the resulting storylines are continually too savage to make this a compelling series", with too much misery and gloom. In addition, he said, the storylines were presented in a rushed, conveyor belt manner, with the issues "frequently made unreal by the script treatment". [14]

Following Toppano's arrival, bolder changes were planned.

Did Forrest Redlich really enlist the secret and anonymous input from an American scriptwriter on a trip to the United States in May 1989? Reported gossip at the time suggested so, but this idea was refuted by the show's Associate Producer Dennis Phelan. Phelan said that "Forrest wouldn't do that - the Writer's Guild would shoot us." Although by the end of a roughly week long trip there with the new owner of Network Ten, American Bob Shanks, Redlich had more than ten weeks of storylines mapped out, there was a perfectly logical explanation. Phelan explained that Redlich and Shanks locked themselves away for a week and came up with the new material together. [15]

It was also suggested that E Street would be converted into a sort of "Neighbours Mark II" and move more in the direction of a serial rather than a series. There was a two week break in production to allow E Street to catch up on post-production and revamp stories and characters. To accommodate this pause, the broadcast rate of the series briefly switched to a single one hour episode a week. Rumours that E Street would change format to run as 30 minute installments stripped on week nights were quickly scotched by Dennis Phelan. "Heavens no," said Phelan. "We are definitely two hours a week." [16]

The turning point in the storyline came about six months into the show's run. Original character Rhonda Berry was killed by being shot dead in a siege. Shortly afterwards came the shocking rape and strangulation murder of key character Sarah McKillop. Sarah was killed by the evil Sam Bulmer (Serge Lazareff) after he had developed a fixation on her.

These changes coincided with a revamp of the program's opening titles sequence, and shortly afterwards the theme tune was redone with a livelier arrangement. The original simple title logo became animated and gained a brushstroke motif. The original titles sequence had featured a slow jazzy tune over clips from the opening episodes where the main cast members were credited under shots of their character. Now there was a faster arrangement of the theme and a pacier crosscut of clips with brushstrokes transitions showed the main regular cast members as their portrayers were credited.

Airline pilot Daniel Windsor (Chris Orchard) and his young family arrived, and Daniel started a romance with Elly. A replacement lawyer, Jennifer St James, came in. Played by Virginia Hey who was known for appearances in action film Max Mad 2 and the soap Prisoner, she was notably sexier and more glamorous than her predecessor. Daniel was soon cheating on Elly by conducting an affair with Jennifer. Lisa's romance with Chris ended and she got a provocative new lover, the wheelchair bound rock singer Wheels (Marcus Graham).

George Sullivan got free spirited teenage daughter Alice Sullivan (Marianne Howard) who worked at the pub and became Lisa's flat mate. Ernie's son Chris (Paul Kelman) ended-up marrying his pregnant high-society girlfriend, the neurotic Megan Bromley (Lizbeth Kennally), and they endured a fraught marriage.

Bob got a rebellious teenage son Harley (Malcolm Kennard) who enjoyed a turbulent romance with Daniel's eldest daughter, trendy teenager Toni Windsor (Toni Pearen). Toni would continue in the series several years, continuing long after her father Daniel and her siblings left Westside.

As the popularity of Wheels soared he miraculously arose from his wheelchair and engaged in a daring bathtub love scene with Lisa. Wheels' rock chick pal Jo-jo (Kelley Abbey) also arrived. Wheels and Jo-jo soon departed again, but the popular duo would later return, becoming enduring regular characters. Ernie Patchett got a sexy American mistress Abby Rossiter (Chelsea Brown) while his gruff Auntie Vi (Bunney Brooke) joined him at the pub. Lisa got a menacing and evil brother, Sonny Bennett (Richard Huggett), who would be responsible for much murder and mayhem in Westside.

Another new character, destined to be a popular long running regular, was bumbling but beguiling new police recruit Max Simmons (Bruce Samazan). Max lived upstairs at Patchett's Pacific.

Further cast additions were Nikki Spencer (Melissa Tkautz) and her younger brother Zac (Daniel Knight), squabbling siblings who came to live with George and their aunt Martha. Television producer Michael Sturgess (Graham Harvey), the black sheep from a wealthy family, also joined as a regular. Michael would embark on an on-again off-again romance with Lisa.

The revamped series was decidedly livelier. The initial serious drama style would slowly give way to lighter comedy storylines, more of a youth focus, and trendy gimmicks.

The Car Bomb

Even with all these changes further cast shakeups would soon be arranged, most notably the sacrificial demise of several major characters who were callously disposed of in a shocking Number 96 style bomb blast episode. The evil Sonny Bennett was behind the deaths. First he murdered journalist Kim Talbot (Rebecca Saunders) who had employed Lisa on the local paper, after becoming fixated on her.

Then a vengeful Sonny plants a time bomb in Bob's temporary replacement car (not the yellow convertible!) Chris, Megan and Abby leave the celebration party following the christening of Chris and Megan's baby, borrowing the car to go view the land they plan to buy for a new restaurant venture. While they are sitting in the car the bomb goes off, and all are killed in a spectacular explosion.

Soon afterwards, during a confrontation with Bob, Sonny would commit suicide in a jump from a high bridge.

Long running E Street storyliner, script editor and script writer Alexa Wyatt described the formation of the Sonny Bennett storyline in an interview for the E Street tribute site.

"He was brought in largely for the reason to shake up the show and get rid of a lot of characters in one fell swoop who weren't really working for us anymore." [17]

Wyatt said that producer Forrest Redlich also wanted to blow up Chris and Megan's baby in the explosion. "It was one of the few arguments we won, thank goodness." [18] As a result, the baby survived to be raised by Ernie.

Elly Departs

In addition to this exodus, this period of the series is marked by further cast instability.

Ernie Patchett departed Westside leaving Auntie Vi in charge of the pub. However it was the loss of Dr Elly Fielding that was the most noticeable loss.

Sonny had rigged a gun to the door of Bob's car but Elly had been shot and injured when the booby trap was triggered. She was saved by neurosurgeon Dr Susan Franklin, who was played by Anne Tenney in a guest stint. Tenney had of course been a major player in A Country Practice as the immensely popular Molly Jones during the period Penny Cook had been in that series.

With Elly's recovery she and Bob planned to marry. However Bob then became involved in the case of abused and mistreated child Dylan Molloy (Adam Lloyd) who was kept chained-up by his father.

Bob attempted to protect Dylan by taking the blame for the accidental homicide of his cruel father Gus (Rob Steele) - actually committed by Dylan trying to protect Bob during an attack by the father. This left Elly feeling betrayed by Bob's willingness to throw away their future together, and she left Westside with David and Claire.

To cover the loss (another) former A Country Practice cast member, Kate Raison, came in. Raison would portray sexy rich bitch Sheridan Sturgess, Michael's sister. Sheridan emerged as one of the more memorable characters in the series and would become the focus of many major storylines.

Middle Period

Sheridan brought wealth and glamour to Westside; as owner of television station WTV8 she hired Lisa as top reporter on her early evening current affairs program The 5.30 Report (hardly a top timeslot) allowing the characters to strut around playing ladies in a series of big collared power suits. Bob's son Harley was employed as her personal assistant and WTV8 camera operator.

Sheridan ran a series of inflammatory stories about "confessed murderer" Bob on her show, leading to her arrest after breaking an injunction to cease broadcasting the stories. After the truth of the case emerged Bob was released and Sheridan sentenced to community service - to be supervised by Bob. A rather improbable conclusion to a rather unpopular storyline.

The community service required Sheridan to coach struggling basketball team The Homeboys which included Max, CJ (Adrian Lee) who was by now working at Patchett's Pacific, and Zac as team members, a storyline that saw her more sympathetic side emerge. Sheridan would later rehire her brother Michael as a producer on The 5.30 Report where he would clash with Harley, and would revive his romantic involvement with Lisa.

The younger characters were not left out in the romance department with Nikki and CJ joining Max and Toni for a series of mix and match romantic tangles. Meanwhile when Sheridan arranged a new secretary for Michael, she hired her old friend - and Michael's former fiancé - the hedonistic Fiona (Gabrielle Fitzpatrick). Fast-living Fiona soon embarked on an ill-fated cocaine-dusted lust affair with an obedient Harley, who battled to keep his promise to Bob and Sheridan to stay away from the drug. Eventually he weakened and in a drug-crazed romp with Fiona, Harley suffered an overdose. He was last seen in a coma being sent to the Unites States for specialist care.

In a bid to recapture the more stable footing of the earlier episodes the character of the local GP had been reinstated. The new doctor was Virginia Travis, an old friend of Elly's played by one time The Restless Years favourite Julieanne Newbould. The character was warm and sympathetic and she fitted-in well in the series and was popular with the other characters. It seemed she was being groomed as a permanent fixture in the show, and with her slowly emerging back story involving a husband who had left her and disappeared with their son, she seemed destined for big things. However this did not eventuate and Virginia met a shocking demise after only a few months in Westside.

By the time of Virginia's departure Dr Elly had been returned to the series but with new actor - well-known film and television performer Diane Craig - taking over the role. This potentially problematic recast ultimately proved successful and Craig would portray Elly until the end of the series.

Auntie Vi had also left the show. On hearing that Ernie planned to remain in England and sell the pub she had decided to leave Patchett's and return to the country. When her old suitor Johnny Little (Johnny Lockwood) whisked into town with a marriage proposal she quickly accepted, promptly leaving Westside with Johnny.

The pub briefly fell on hard times, with CJ reduced to offering rooms at drastically reduced rates to a bunch of European backpackers who soon turned the place into an antipodean German beer hall. The regulars returned when Ernie's cousin, the formidable Mary (played by yet another former A Country Practice star, Joan Sydney), arrived to take charge of the pub just as it was learned that Sheridan planned to become its new owner. Sheridan's initial announcement that she would demolish the pub in favour of the more lucrative option of building an office block on the site horrified the staff and regulars, prompting various campaigns to avert the sale and a startling 5.30 Report exposé by Michael and Lisa that a sly Sheridan quickly sabotaged.

Finally the day of the auction arrived. During the auction, a last-minute phone call to Ernie saw him change his mind: he would retain the business that with Mary as manager was sure to soon show a profit. The warm but no-nonsense Mary stayed on for several months as manager until Ernie's eventual return.

Meanwhile Alice had not been so concerned about losing her job at Patchett's. She was at this time more focused on her turbulent romance with her creative writing teacher, cynical alcoholic and one-time playwright Adam Lucas (Mark Owen-Taylor). She had weaned him off the bottle and helped him to write another play, but was shocked by the return of his estranged wife and two children.

Adam's play attracted the interest of a New York producer. Alice and Adam were both to travel to New York indefinitely to mount the play, but Alice pulled out at the last minute believing that she was breaking up a family. This at least meant she could attend the wedding of her best friend and flatmate Lisa to Michael Sturgess a short time after. Alice would later find that she was pregnant to Adam, who never returned from overseas. Alice chose to not inform Adam of the pregnancy and raised the child single handed.

Jo-jo, Wheels and Joey

More upbeat storylines ensued as Wheels returned (now fully upright with no need for the wheelchair), along with his former singer, the chirpy Jo-jo (Kelley Abbey). Jo-jo would this time become a permanent fixture in the show.

Wheels and Jo-jo moved in with Westside's resident busker Joey Valentine (Lorry D'er Cole) who had mysteriously decided to stop speaking at age fifteen. Joey became the deepest character in the series. Despite his ideological decision to never speak, he communicated through his music, while his earnest looks and pained facial expressions were accepted as important advice by the other characters.

The series had increasingly become an unashamed vehicle for clothing fashions and commercial-dance singing groups such as Euphoria , girl-group The Teen Queens, and dance singles recorded by cast member Melissa Tkautz (as "Melissa"). Music videos and musical performances were incorporated into episodes of the series. Two of Melissa's videos (Read My Lips, and later Sexy Is The Word) popped up in convenient fantasy sequences where her character day dreams of becoming a singing star. Love You Right by Euphoria was seen where Wheels watches a music video on TV and is shocked to discover that Jo-jo is one of the dancers in the clip. The Teen Queens were often mentioned as Max's favourite group and finally performed in person as entertainment in a wedding reception sequence.

Fairy tale storylines such as the rocky romance of CJ and Toni were included. This happy romance was, (of course) complicated by a lengthy stint were CJ goes blind. Naturally his sight is miraculously restored on their wedding day as he casts his glassy eyes toward his blushing high fashion, hot pants-wearing bride during the ceremony.

Neither the characters nor the viewers at home should have been the least surprised by this development. It is totally in keeping with the fantasy style of the E Street of this period.

Mr Bad

Alongside these changes emerged one of E Street's most memorable (and long running) storylines. This was serial killer Mr Bad, the evil alternate personality of nice guy architect and Claire's karate instructor Stephen Richardson (Vince Martin).

When Sheridan meets Stephen there's a psychic connection as a long ago murder is mysteriously recalled. In a storyline involving psychedelic dream sequences and flashbacks Sheridan seems to recall witnessing as a child the murder of a little girl called Becky Campbell by a boy with his face painted half black and half silver. It is revealed Stephen is the murderous boy grown up, and the killings resume.

Stephen's first victim was Virginia Travers who ended up in a shallow grave in an isolated rural field. Then creepy but charismatic Stephen enshrines a brain-washed Sheridan in a fantasy of domestic bliss where she becomes as a passive Stepford Wife. Converted from tough and ambitious TV executive to timid hausfrau, Sheridan's brother Michael becomes suspicious and begins to investigate.

As a result, Michael became Mr Bad's next victim. Left for dead in a shallow grave, Michael had actually survived. In a shock development he clawed his way out of the grave but, staggering along a country lane seeking help, he was accidentally killed after stumbling into the path of a passing truck.

Finally Stephen had his face shot off by a gun-wielding Sheridan. Sheridan went on the run with lover Wheels. Meanwhile, Mr Bad had survived his severe injuries, but thereafter remained unable to speak and spent most of his time in a hospital bed with his face covered - allowing the character to continue with a different actor in the part.

We now meet Stephen's devoted nurse, Amy Preston (Rebecca Rigg, another former A Country Practice actor), who is also the girlfriend of new Westside cop Sam Farrell. This new policeman was played by Simon Baker, credited here as Simon Baker Denny. He had already been seen in E Street having appeared in both the Read My Lips and Love You Right music videos shown during earlier episodes. (Baker and Rigg first met on the set of the show and later married, a union still going strong as of 2010. [19] )

After some brief introductory scenes where it is indicated the romance between Sam and Amy is definitely kaput, she gets involved in a haunting storyline reminiscent of Australian shock film Patrick (1978). Amy becomes slowly influenced by the apparently psychic Mr Bad and begins to inject him with a wonder drug that allows him to go out and do more killing.

Naturally the atmospherically shot storylines that follow result in several more chilling sequences and a few more murders. Then, to gild the lily, when we meet Amy's mother Dr Julia Preston, the part is played by none other than Chantal Contouri who had enacted the key role of nurse Tracey Wilson in the famous Number 96 Pantyhose Murderer storyline many years earlier.

The Later Stages

With the Mr Bad storyline the program hit new heights of popularity, and the series won the Logie Award for Most Popular Series in 1992. After the Mr Bad storyline was finally wound-up there was a return to the lighter teen romance storylines typical of the earlier part of the series.

There was the rocky romance between Max and the rebellious and defiant teenage rich girl Bonnie Tate (Melissa Bell) he was hired to protect. A fun storyline was the staging of The Mikado by the residents of Westside. This storyline was to include Bonnie but when her portrayer was taken ill, her duties here were taken by a specially introduced replacement character, local resident Rebecca (Melissa Thomas). In the story Rebecca simply showed up at the auditions for the play and won a major role in it, did the role, then promptly disappeared.

Wheels would meanwhile engage in a lengthy love affair with sexy Sheridan, one of the more interesting plot twists. Bookish young lawyer Jamie Newman (Scott McRae) arrived to reopen the legal centre. Finally Josephine Mitchell came in as vivacious Penny O'Brien, single mother of cute daughter Charlie (Pru McGuire). Penny would endure the sort of turmoil previously suffered by Alice, and would move in to Lisa and Alice's flat.

This later period included the much maligned story where Max turned into a werewolf. Nikki attempted to cure him by participating in a bizarre ceremony - she was eligible to participate, she learned, as a virgin was required. Ultimately the werewolf transformations were revealed as Max merely playing an elaborate prank.

Anonymous unseen radio announcer Dr Rock became a leading character in voice-over. Many Westside residents quickly became fans of this announcer's thoughtful ponderings, yet his true identity would be kept secret from the characters and viewers of the show for some time. But given the hints that piled up in the series it was not too difficult for regular viewers to guess his identity: it was the otherwise mute Joey.

Max's ward Bonnie was paralysed in a car accident. The storyline examined her frustrating attempts at learning life in a wheelchair while romance with thoroughly decent Max blossoms. Another thoughtful storyline involved Ernie's new girlfriend Sally McKinnon (Joanna Lockwood), who was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Bob's mysterious, whiskey swilling brother Jack Brown (Andrew Williams) had also arrived in Westside. Living upstairs at the pub, brooding Jack was quickly embroiled with a clichéd fable involving an organised-crime mob, and he attracted the attentions of a sexy young admirer, Melanie (Pippa Grandison). This story ended with a major gun battle and the death of Melanie, while original lead character Reverend Bob was killed in a car smash. In reality, Bob's portrayer had left the series after his request for a pay increase was denied. Jack was revealed to actually be an undercover cop, not a villain, and he continued in the series as a good guy.

Geeky Jamie started romancing the sexy rocker Jo-jo. Despite the mismatched nature of the pairing they fell in love. However Jamie soon reluctantly left Westside after his mother arrived and, disapproving of Jo-jo, urged him to accept the offer of a job in the family business. So the romance ended and Jamie bid Jo-jo and Westside a sad, and abrupt, farewell. (In reality Jamie's portrayer Scott McRae was fired after criticising the werewolf storyline: his comments had been picked up by an on set microphone and word got back to producer Forrest Redlich.)

Leading characters Lisa Bennett and Alice Sullivan had also made their exits during the program's final year. Wheels and Sheridan departed for a life of domestic bliss together. CJ and Toni also left prior to the end of the series. After some hurdles after their wedding they finally patched things up and had happily settled on a rural farm together.

At the end Martha O'Dare and her policeman partner George, Ernie Patchett, Nikki, Jo-jo, and the recast Elly remained. Max and Bonnie became engaged. Alice returned for the program's final five episodes.

In the penultimate episode various characters were left in dramatic, cliffhanger situations. Jo-jo was being pursued by a loan shark, several characters were trapped inside the burning Patchett's Pacific pub, and Bonnie relapsed and slipped into a coma.

The final episode, number 404 first screened 13 May 1993, revealed that everyone had survived, though not entirely unscathed: a new regular character, photographer Laura Fielding (Antoinette Byron), was revealed to have been blinded in the fire. And Bonnie was still in a coma. There was some good news however: Jo-jo's troubles were over and she has opened a café which is doing thriving business.

Finally the cast gathered around the comatose Bonnie in her hospital room and each read a line from a poem Max had found in Reverend Bob's prayer book. As the last line was read by Max, Bonnie opened her eyes and said "Max!". This was capped off with an effective compilation montage of various major events from over the run of the series, including shots of Elly as played by Penny Cook. In the end was the shot of Elly (played by Diane Craig) placing a single rose on Bob's grave.

While E Street went out with this bold finale, things could have been very different. E Street's producer Forrest Redlich later said that in the early 1990s Network Ten had considered re-working E Street as a direct replacement for their older serial Neighbours, which had by then entered a ratings slump. "They were going to axe Neighbours, give us their studio and strip us to five nights a week," said Redlich. [20]

Awards

As E Street's popularity climbed, the series received several Logie Award nominations, and a few major wins. In 1992 it won the Logie for Most Popular Series, and Bruce Samazan won the Award for Most Popular Actor for his role of Max. Awards for Most Popular New Talent went to Richard Huggett in 1991 and Simon Baker in 1993.

Bruce Samazan received a nomination for the Gold Logie, in 1993. Other nominations were:

Most Popular Actor (Marcus Graham in 1992; Bruce Samazan in 1993)

Most Popular Actress (Kate Raison in 1992; Toni Pearen in 1993)

Most Popular Series (1993)

Most Popular New Talent (Marcus Graham in 1990; Melissa Tkautz in 1992) [21]

Evaluation

E Street was certainly an interesting pop phenomenon with its crime, horror and fantasy elements mixed with comedy, music and fashion. In the centre characters like George and Martha remained as a realistic anchor. E Street seemed to have no qualms about killing off major characters and throwing in unashamedly commercial and gimmicky ideas - anything to keep the show interesting.

There was a good mixture of comedy, romance and drama, and a nice mix of brief stories sometimes lasting just two episodes, with much longer, slowly building story arcs. Importantly the series largely managed to sustain its slightly fantastic, fairy-tale tone. This meant that when stereotypes (and there were many), such as the character of alcoholic and embittered playwright Adam Lucas appeared, the clichéd elements of the character and the portrayal seemed acceptable. Then when he embarked on a turbulent love affair with hopeless romantic Alice Sullivan, again the clichés did not seem out-of-place.

Same goes for the comedy mobsters sometimes seen in the show, such as the Fischer brothers in the comical tale of Nikki's cash-filled briefcase. The show never took itself too seriously or ridiculed its audience - rather they were let in on the joke. So even if the stories sometimes seemed outrageous, they worked.

The series also managed to handle some serious issues in a mature and thoughtful way. Harley's cocaine habit was one instance of this, as was another storyline from the same period where Max attempts to help homeless heroin addict Laurel Ferguson (Melissa Kounnas).

Resisting the efforts of Max and Virginia to help her and desperately seeking drugs, Laurel held up Virginia with a blood-filled syringe, an incident that left Max with a needle stick injury. In a storyline that eschewed moralising and pat clichés, the HIV positive Laurel died of a heroin overdose while Max endured the terrifying ordeal of awaiting the result of his HIV test. Never a series to drag things out, E Street did provide a quick resolution once the story had essentially been told: Laurel's discarded syringe was quickly located and its contents revealed as animal blood. Nevertheless the intervening scenes had been well-handled.

The Legacy

E Street was for many years the final Australian soap opera to be broadcast in the format of two one hour episodes a week. This arrangement had become common for Australian serials in the late 1970s when The Box and Number 96 switched to this format in their later years, and the format was used for many new soaps launched in the late 1970s and the 1980s.

In November 2005 new Network Seven serial headLand premiered with the two one hour episodes a week format, the first new soap in that format since E Street. However headLand attracted low ratings and after only a few weeks it was reformatted as five half hours a week and moved into the timeslot vacated by the popular Home and Away when that serial went into its summer hiatus.

In 2003 E Street was repeated by Channel Ten in Australia at 1.30 pm weekday afternoons, until being taken off in December as the school holidays commenced. Stephen Richardson (the friendly alter ego of Mr Bad) had just entered the storyline when repeats ended.

In 2007 there were two DVD releases of episodes of E Street through Umbrella Entertainment, covering the Mr Bad storyline. The Best Of Mr Bad: Part 1 features 20 consecutive episodes on five disks. Volume two features the next 20 episodes, also on five disks. Volume two takes things up to episode 292 and the end of the Mr Bad storyline.


Originally uploaded May 2000

Last updated 23 November 2013

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[1] Oliver, Robin. "New names to lather with." The Age Green Guide. 5 January 1989, page 9.

[2] Sadlier, Kevin. "Bank on Penny's E Street." The Sun Herald TV Magazine. 22 January 1989, page 9. link

[3] Sadlier, Kevin. "Bank on Penny's E Street." The Sun Herald TV Magazine. 22 January 1989, page 9. link

[4] Sadlier, Kevin. "Bank on Penny's E Street." The Sun Herald TV Magazine. 22 January 1989, page 9. link

[5] Oliver, Robin. "New names to lather with." The Age Green Guide. 5 January 1989, page 9.

[6] Oliver, Robin. "New names to lather with." The Age Green Guide. 5 January 1989, page 9.

[7] Oliver, Robin. "New names to lather with." The Age Green Guide. 5 January 1989, page 9.

[8] Oliver, Robin. "New names to lather with." The Age Green Guide. 5 January 1989, page 9.

[9] Oliver, Robin. "New names to lather with." The Age Green Guide. 5 January 1989, page 9.

[10] Oliver, Robin. "New names to lather with." The Age Green Guide. 5 January 1989, page 9.

[11] Oliver, Robin. "New names to lather with." The Age Green Guide. 5 January 1989, page 9.

[12] Oliver, Robin. "New names to lather with." The Age Green Guide. 5 January 1989, page 9.

[13] Mitchell, Alex. "A Slip on E Street." The Sun Herald. 26 March 1989, page 11. link

[14] Oliver, Robin. "Why names won't save E Street." The Sydney Morning Herald - The Guide. 24 April 1989, page 8s. link

[15] Jacqueline Lee Lewes. "Antennae." The Sydney Morning Herald - The Guide. 15 May 1989, page 2S.

[16] Jacqueline Lee Lewes. "Antennae." The Sydney Morning Herald - The Guide. 15 May 1989, page 2S.

[17] Interview with Alexa Wyatt - writer on E Street: http://www.edenstreet.net/alexainterview.htm, E Street - The tribute site: http://www.edenstreet.net, Accessed 5 March 2013.

[18] Interview with Alexa Wyatt - writer on E Street: http://www.edenstreet.net/alexainterview.htm, E Street - The tribute site: http://www.edenstreet.net, Accessed 5 March 2013.

[19] Enker, Debi. "Fallin on his feet". The Age. 22 May 2003, URL: http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2003/05/22/1053196674398.html accessed 7 March 2010.

[20] "Ramsay Street's ratings slump." The Sunday Telegraph / News.com.au. 18 March 2007, URL: http://www.news.com.au/ramsay-streets-ratings-slump/story-e6frfour-1111113173052 accessed 15 January 2012.

[21] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E_Street#Awards . Accessed 3 March 2013.