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The Restless Years

1977-1981 - 781 x 30 minute episodes - Produced by the Reg Grundy Organisation for Network Ten


Background and Premise

The Opening Cast

Early Developments

Later Storylines

Villains and Killers

The Restless Cast

New Characters Emerge

Further Cast Departures

New Villains and Serial Killers

The Young and the Restless

The Restless Years Continue

1981 Revamp

More New Characters

A Final Exodus

The Cancellation

Final Storylines


Famous Alumni


The Restless Years was the Reg Grundy Organisation's third successful excursion into soap opera. The show was made in Sydney for Channel Ten, and after its premiere in December 1977 it quickly became a ratings winner.

The Restless Years continued to develop the general formula with which the Grundy Organisation had recently found success: like school room drama Class of '74 and hospital based romance serial The Young Doctors, this was clearly aimed at a teenage audience and chiefly concerned with the family and relationship dramas of a bunch of young adults. The serial eschewed the comedy and the risqué elements of Number 96 and The Box, which had ended their runs just months before, sticking more closely to straight drama and angst. The Restless Years emerged as probably the most earnest and intensely dramatic Australian soap to that time - or since.

As it progressed The Restless Years would feature murder, suicide, prostitution, amnesia, serial killers, blackmail, divorce, mental illness and kidnapping in its various storylines. In some ways The Restless Years was the straight romance drama with a large proportion of youthful characters that Number 96 seemed to be trying to become in its later period.

The Restless Years debuted 6 December 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. (The week before Cop Shop had similarly received an out of ratings premiere on Channel Seven.) The Restless Years screened in one hour episodes, on Tuesday and Wednesday at 7.30 P.M. each week.

Background and Premise

At its inception The Restless Years followed the divergent lives of various school leavers, a premise developed by Reg Watson who had previously spent ten years as producer of popular UK serial Crossroads. Each episode's opening and end title sequence featured a rather melancholy piano tune over a shot of rolling clouds while an angelic chorus would intone It's only a journey, through our Restless Years, let our hearts run free...

This rather maudlin tune and refrain set a pensive, sad tone. The title recalled US daytime serial The Young and the Restless which had begun production four years prior. The Restless Years title card showed the show's title over a shot of rolling clouds and in a florid typeface both of which recalled the title sequence of another US daytime serial Search for Tomorrow. This all served to anchor The Restless Years in the gloomy milieu of the daytime melodrama.

As pointed out by academic Lesley Stern in her contemporary critical analysis of The Restless Years, the style of the title sequence serves to firmly set the series in the tradition of television serials [1] - the opening sequence clearly telegraphs what the viewer should expect from the episode that follows.

Indeed the show's unfolding storylines explored several rather fraught family and romantic relationships, much like a daytime soap opera. However in terms of the show's pace and rhythm Stern sees the series as far more action packed and lively than the standard US daytime drama, placing it in the same category as Number 96 and The Box. [2]

Like The Restless Years these shows were broadcast in an evening timeslot up against police dramas and situation comedies. In order to compete their plots moved at a fast pace with clearly motivated action and a regular rotation of climaxes and breaks through the episode, helping ensure that viewers remained hooked. [3]

The Restless Years had been big gamble for Network Ten with its nebulous premise and a cast dominated by unknown young novice actors. Meanwhile in a bold promotional move Network Ten had popular singer Renee Geyer record a funky rock ballad based on the show's theme music. This song was then used as Ten's station identification tune. [4]

Reg Watson explained the development of The Restless Years to TV Week.

"The format came under a great deal of detailed discussion within the company (The Grundy Organisation). Then we went out and spoke with parents, teachers, social workers, teenagers and even kids who had run away from home. But don't think we were setting out to make some great social comment. We weren't. If the programs highlight problems existing between parents and teenagers today, that's good, but our priority is purely and simply entertainment."  [5]

In theory the loose social network of disparate individuals that made up the show's cast of characters did not seem like a strong premise for an ongoing serial. Reg Watson, explained to TV Week that it was settled on,

"...because we found the scope of this format tremendous. Following the lives of people as they leave school gives us great flexibility and enables us to go anywhere with anyone. You will see that one will leave home. We have given him his own scriptwriter to make his roamings strong and significant. Others will marry, have children..."  [6]

Unusually, the series did not focus upon a defined physical locale like serials such as Coronation Street, Bellbird, and Number 96. Even The Box, set in a fictional television station, was essentially anchored to the station's physical locale with a shot of the studio building used in the show's closing credits. In any event the concept of the station organised the character interactions of The Box.

In contrast The Restless Years presented a loose set of relationships where frequent telephone calls defined the links and facilitated interactions. Meetings would frequently occur in foyers of the various apartment buildings where different characters lived. While most other contemporary Australian soap operas used shots of the program's physical setting for titles sequences, here only a shot of the sky with fast rolling clouds as the sun sets would be seen. Certainly there was the working class bar Thommo's, a much frequented café, and later a youth refuge and the Beck and Call café, but their physical relationship to the various residences was unclear, and the patronage of each establishment logically would be restricted to just a sub set of the regular characters.

Certain episodes feature extensive location shooting in assorted shopping streets, suburban parks and gardens, and at the beach. Other large sections of the narrative are shot entirely in the studio and feature many more telephone conversations, chance restaurant meetings, and scenes that start with the opening of a door. But either way the nexus of the narrative remains nebulous, unknown, and unknowable, [7] perhaps contributing to the ongoing sense of tension that pervades the story.

Technically the show presents a rather prosaic style where camera work and lighting remains proficient but artistically unremarkable so as to appear invisible. The most noticeable technical flourish is the occasional habit of starting a scene on a tight close up on a prop before zooming out to reveal the situation.

The Opening Cast

The cast contained many attractive and charismatic newcomers in the key roles as the various school leavers, though there was also a sturdy foundation of more experienced professionals to back them up. The opening storylines explored a range of outcomes for the school leavers.

Elegant brunette Penny Russell (Deborah Coulls) ditched her hunky boyfriend Alan Archer (Jon Blake) and became a photographic model before taking up with another fellow school leaver, the ambitious Barry King (Graham Thorburn). An early prototype for Wayne Hamilton in Sons and Daughters and Paul Robinson in Neighbours, Barry quickly developed into a mercenary upstart who alienated both friends and work colleagues with his desire to get ahead at any cost.

Alan was the only child of successful businessman Clive (Stanley Walsh) and housewife Louise (Tina Grenville). Alan was one youngster to continue his studies as the series began, and he clashed bitterly with his father who had conducted an extra marital affair with his sexy and assertive secretary Jean Hutton, played by former Bellbird veteran Lynette Curran.

The thoughtful and conscientious Alison Clarke (Julieanne Newbould) would soon be badly burnt by a range of bad experiences. When the series began she was conducting a clandestine romance with her former teacher Richard Dawson (John Benton), who was married. Alison witnessed his murder at the hands of his ex-wife, with the trauma inducing amnesia, leading to her being briefly suspected of committing the crime. Alison later began a troubled romantic relationship with Penny's dependable older brother, medical Doctor Bruce Russell (Malcolm Thompson). Alison proved to be the first of his girlfriends the sometimes snippy Penny approved of.

Meanwhile class clown and rebel, Peter Beckett (Nick Hedstrom), would hold a continuing grudge against their former teacher, Miss Elizabeth McKenzie (June Salter). A new arrival in the show's early days was Olivia Baxter (Zoe Bertram) who became a prostitute before enduring several fraught romantic attachments, starting with Peter Beckett.

Initial publicity focused on the attractive newcomers playing the school leavers, many in their first ever acting jobs. Singled out for attention was Nick Hedstrom who portrayed young trouble maker Peter Beckett in the series. His shock of blond hair and a natural lisp made him an unlikely sex symbol, but his intense performance as the rebellious Peter won him several fans.

As reported in TV Week Hedstrom would prepare for his dramatic scenes using the method acting techniques he had learned from Hayes Gordon, artistic Director of the Ensemble Theatre in Sydney.

"Before I play an aggressive scene I go off into a corner and throw a few lefts and rights into the air or even hit a few punches into a chair. And all the while I am reliving some traumatic incident from my past."  [8]

TV Week highlighted the method actor's credentials for the part of an impoverished and frustrated school leaver, reporting on how his initial dreams of becoming a park ranger were abandoned after he failed to obtain the necessary marks to enter the required university course. This was followed by a string of short lived and unfulfilling factory jobs and night time acting classes at the Ensemble before his successful audition. [9] Indeed Hedstrom was so broke, the magazine reported, he had to hitchhike to Sydney's TEN10 studios for his audition. [10]

Hedstrom tried to remain down to earth about his sudden brush with fame, explaining to TV Week that:

"Of course it's nice to get good press and it is also great to get fan mail from viewers, but the one thing I am not going to do is get big-headed about it."  [11]

Like most of the cast Hedstrom was learning his craft - and making mistakes - under the glare of public and critical scrutiny.

"I am learning all the time and I am getting there. Each of us progresses at a different rate."  [12]

Likewise his young co-star Zoe Bertram admitted to TV Week:

"I was terrified the first day I was on the set of The Restless Years, but it was a matter of getting in and doing my best. I thought after seeing a run-back of some of my first scenes, my best wasn't that good! I feel lucky to be in the serial. It has helped me as an actress, and I have watched myself improve, especially working with such talented people as June Salter."  [13]

Indeed the matriarchal character portrayed by Salter, dignified middle aged spinster and former teacher Miss McKenzie, would emerge as the heart of the series seemingly holding the story together through the turnover of youngsters in the cast. It had been Miss McKenzie who had earlier brought up the orphaned Bruce and Penny Russell, and more recently she had taught the show's opening batch of school leavers.

In the opening scenes she retired from her teaching job due to ill health just as the students left school for the real world. Depressed and fearing her condition was terminal she attempted suicide by sealing her flat and leaving the gas on. However at the start of episode two she was saved by Peter Beckett who had arrived to confront her over her refusal to write him a complimentary reference.

The tension between Peter and Miss McKenzie would endure for much of the show's run and the two had frequent heated clashes as the story continued. However it was Dr Bruce Russell who would ultimately become the show's longest serving character. His portrayer, the then 28 year old, English born Malcolm Thompson, had previously acted in UK soap opera Coronation Street as the roughneck Thomo for ten months. After visiting Australia with his Australian wife Roxanne in 1976 they decided to stay permanently. Thompson's first Australian acting job was as student Toby Buxton during the dying days of Number 96 in 1977. [14]

Shortly after this came the role in The Restless Years. Bruce emerged as the hero of the piece, and Thompson would be the only original cast member to last the show's entire four year run. Thompson had high praise for his fellow cast members and the technical crew.

"The technicians are some of the best I have ever worked with, even better than their English counterparts in some respects."  [15]

Early Developments

Sexy secretary Jean married the company boss to become Jean Stafford and promptly left the series. Jean returned for several months in 1979, and then unexpectedly resurfaced again much later as a deranged patient in a mental hospital. Clive Archer announced his plans to divorce Louise and later departed for work overseas. In the storyline his brother Jeff (Noel Trevarthen) moved in to the Archer's spacious beachfront home, bringing in his own family: wife Carol (Peggy Thompson) and son Shane (Michael C. Smith).

Another key The Restless Years character of the older age group was officious and beleaguered advertising executive A. R. Jordan (John Hamblin, practically recreating his Class of '74 role) whose gruff outward manner hid a heart of gold. Jordan, working for the same company as Clive Archer, gave young Barry a start in the business, even if he sometimes regretted the appointment.

Jordan would later start up "The Refuge", a new enterprise that cared for homeless waifs and which served as a convenient mechanism to move new youngsters into the storyline, while irritating neighbour Mervyn Baggott (Richard Gilbert). One of the many who passed through its doors was Mervyn's rebellious niece Nancy James, played by former Class of '74 student Sharon Higgins. Sharon's attempted romance with the irresponsible Mickey Pratt (Tom Burlinson) faced much opposition.

Peter Beckett took a job at the refuge, and when Miss McKenzie was employed under him tensions between the two continued. Jordan himself would start a romance with Heather Russell (Jill Forster), Bruce and Penny's warm hearted aunt. After running out on a planned wedding to Miles Dunstan (Bruce Barry), Heather learned she had a terminal illness. She married Jordan shortly before her death.

Meanwhile the embattled Jeff and Carol endured a cycle of marital upsets, arguments, and tensions. Jeff was perturbed when Carol took an office job offered to her by his returned brother Clive, and was then furious over her affair with Ken Garrett (Ivar Kants).

Their son, immature womaniser Shane, would settle down to marry Raelene Geddes (Victoria Nicholls) the vivacious barmaid from the local hangout, Thommo's bar. Somewhat childlike with a romanticised view of the world, Raelene emerged as a standout character and an enduring comedy figure in the series, providing a much needed antidote to the show's generally grim, earnest and pessimistic tone.

Later Storylines

The program's storylines continued with an unrelenting cycle of marital problems, affairs, romances, and domestic squabbles in the share households of the younger crowd. A recurring situation was a returning school friend, back in town seeking work and a free bed for the night in one of the show's busy share houses. Another recurring storyline was that of the naive youngster employed by the ruthless businessman, the latest of which was Craig Garside (Vince Martin).

Garside hired young Shane Archer, who spiraled into financial strife after being thrust into the unfamiliar world of big business. Garside also employed Olivia as his assistant, frequently making sexual advances and unreasonable work demands, which she coldly rebuked.

In a pattern that had been established in the later years of Number 96, parents were apparently dispensable. They could become subordinate players in the proceedings or even disappear from the story, allowing their children to take centre stage. In this case Alan Archer would last longer than his parents, sticking around to take snipes at his uncle Jeff over his suspected affair with Alan's university tutor Gail Lawrence (Diane Craig).

Alan was later accidentally shot in the neck by the exuberant and often thoughtless young Mickey Pratt in a hunting accident. Alan survived the shooting but soon left the series, making his onscreen exit in March 1979. Taking his place in the house was Jeff and Carol's daughter Diane (played by Lenore Smith, in her first ever professional acting job) who left her boarding school in Melbourne to follow her blinded boyfriend Tim Watson (Jamie Gleeson) to Sydney.

Incoming cast member Jamie Gleeson was cast in the role of the blind Tim Watson by the program's then producer Don Battye, when Gleeson appeared as a non-speaking extra on the show. Battye approached Gleeson, asked his name, and declared "I want you in this show." At the time Gleeson's work with The Restless Years had included two stints as a non-speaking extra in the background, and one as a thug who attacks Miss McKenzie. [16]

Gleeson desbribed his work on the serial for TV Week.

"I had no real experience in TV and I was playing the part of a blind bloke. I spent some time in Melbourne training with King, the seeing-eye dog, and watching blind people in everyday situations. On set, I would focus on something about four metres away and not divert my gaze, no matter who came near me. The reaction to the character was tremendous. I enjoyed the challenge."  [17]

Co-incidentally the portrayer of his screen girlfriend, Lenore Smith, had also appeared as an extra in the show prior to scoring a regular lead role. Lenore Smith had learned through actor friend Michael C Smith, who played Shane Archer in the show, that the role of his screen sister Diane was soon to be cast. [18]

Lenore Smith herself called the show's casting director Kerry Spence, who arranged an audition in front of producer Don Battye, however she was initially passed over due to her sophisticated appearance. Spence then called the Ensemble Theatre, where Lenore Smith was studying, to arrange further auditions. When Lenore Smith was suggested for the role at this time, Spence explained she didn't think Smith was suitable - with Smith suspecting her made-up appearance at the first audition had cost her the part. However another audition was arranged and this time Smith went along dressed and made-up as she imagined Diane should look, and she got the role. [19]

Lenore Smith had at the time been studying at the Ensemble for two and a half years, and in that time had refrained from auditioning for professional acting jobs until she thought she was ready.

"I wanted to know certain things before I jumped in at the deep end. Others who haven't had drama training are still learning and are making their mistakes on the show for everyone to see. I made mine in class in front of students. I've been through all that."  [20]

Villains and Killers

To break up The Restless Years' routine there were also a few flashy Number 96-style villains, blackmailers and murderers to provide story high points. Perhaps most fun was sly schemer Rita Merrick, icily enacted by Joy Chambers in a big black curly wig.

Rita was a calculating madam who ran Regal Escorts and enlisted both Olivia and Alison to join her stable of prostitutes. Maurice Brown (Peter Whitworth), Alison's apparently generous boss in her hotel job, was revealed as a psychopathic murderer who stole Rita's address book, stabbing to death her working girls one by one. In chilling scenes he would brandish a large hunting knife while crossing off each name in the address book in turn, until finally reaching the names of Alison and Olivia. When Maurice learned that Olivia had fled town he decided to roster Alison on to the late shift at the hotel and make her his next victim. Alison, Olivia, and Rita herself would all successfully evade his clutches, and would stick around in the series to suffer further turmoil, or in Rita's case, to cause it.

Rita later hired young David Harker (Chris Bell) to impersonate Miss McKenzie's long lost son in a scheme to get their hands on her savings. Her fortunes had been significantly bolstered by the success of her secretly autobiographical novel The Boy Who Never Was. After pushing Rita down the stairs in a shock cliffhanger that suggested she could have died, David continued to insinuate his way into Miss McKenzie's affairs.

Miss McKenzie eventually twigged that David was an imposter, tipped off by his outrage when she announced her intention of signing over the book royalties to The Refuge. Before she could reveal her suspicions or sign over the royalties David attacked her and placed her into the large crate of old books that Miss McKenzie had packed ready to be shipped out to a fund raising sale. In the end of year cliffhanger he was seen burying the box in a field; when the series resumed the following year it was revealed that Rita had survived her fall and had secretly rescued Miss McKenzie from the crate before it was buried.

Joy Chambers, who played the scheming Rita, was wife of production company boss Reg Grundy. Chambers told TV Week she had got the role "all by herself" and without her husband's help.

"Being married to Reg, I can't just be good. I have to be the best, or people will say I only got the job because of his influence."  [21]

The Restless Cast

By 1979 several key cast members had grown restless and departed for other projects.

Miss McKenzie's portrayer June Salter had in July 1978 been offered the role of Queen Mary in Crown Matrimonial on stage. [22] Though work on The Restless Years took up five days a week and the Grundy contract stipulated no outside work, Salter requested permission to work on the stage production at night while taping The Restless Years during the day. After assuring the producers there would be no laxness permission was granted. Soon she had suggested former The Restless Years actor John Hamblin for a part, and he was cast as Edward VIII in the play. The play proved to be a huge success winning Salter rave reviews [23] and she won the 1978 Glug's Award for her performance in the production. By April 1979 the play, which had initially been scheduled to run for 32 performances in Sydney, had toured several states of Australia and played 190 performances. [24] To participate in these tours Salter was given time out from playing Miss McKenzie.

The popular Julieanne Newbould would also soon depart. In The Restless Years story, Bruce Russell had been swept away in the surf and feared drowned. However after some episodes it was revealed that he had been washed up on an isolated beach suffering amnesia. He was returned home where he was isolated in his apartment and nursed back to health by beautiful psychiatrist Gillian Vaughn (Ros Spiers), who, rather predictably, became personally involved in the case.

Finally reunited with Alison he failed to recognise her, though Bruce's memory would later return allowing the relationship to continue. They eventually married but a pregnant Alison was soon being pestered by a blackmailing author of poison pen letters in a Number 96-style mystery whodunit. After suffering a traumatic miscarriage her father Don (Keith Lee) bought her and Bruce tickets to an ocean cruise. When Bruce opted to remain in Sydney due to his work, Alison and her father took the cruise instead.

In reality, Alison's portrayer Julieanne Newbould had finally decided to leave the series. She told TV Week that she originally only planned to stay in the role six months, but became complacent and stayed a year before announcing her intention to quit. The producers asked her to delay the decision until after the summer break in taping, but when she returned and still wanted to leave they convinced her stay a few months more as they felt they owed the public the wedding between her character Alison, and Bruce. The cruise left the door open to allow Alison's possible return, something Newbould at the time did not completely rule out. [25]

"I would consider returning to The Restless Years for a few weeks but not on a long-term basis again. I feel it is time to do some stage acting. Towards the end it became more or less like going to the channel and taping scenes as if I was almost automatic. I've never been in a job or had a part for that long before. I guess the challenge had gone."  [26]

In the event Newbould's return didn't eventuate, so in the story news eventually came through that Alison's tour bus had been taken over by terrorists and that she was missing. Miss McKenzie and Bruce travelled to the fictional South East Asian city of San Ching to rescue her, only to discover that Alison had been killed.

Soon after this another original cast member, Graham Thorburn, elected to leave the series.

"I asked to be written out of The Restless Years. I want to try other things but I may have to bury Barry first. I'm terribly typecast as the villain because of the role and I want to get away from that."  [27]

At the end of 1979 several other key cast members made their departures from the show. Leaving the series were original cast member John Hamblin, Vince Martin who played callous businessman Craig Garside, and Tom Burlinson who had portrayed Mickey Pratt for eighteen months. [28]

New Characters Emerge

Miss McKenzie enjoyed a romance with absent minded university Professor Greg Denning (Ron Haddrick). Widower Greg was oblivious to the secret lascivious life of his apparently dutiful daughter Suzy (Penny Cook), while his forgetfulness was presented as a comedy element in the storyline. Also helping to counter balance the show's generally serious and dramatic tone was a special Brisbane shot story where Diane Archer, accompanied by her bright and vivacious aunt Sandy Miller (Geraldine Turner), travelled north for a swim meet where they would be billeted with the Moran family in their elegant Queenslander style home.

To their surprise, the Moran family turned out to consist entirely of hunky teenage son Rick Moran (Peter Mochrie), whose father had traveled to New York on business (as The Restless Years' fathers were wont to do). Rick debuted bare chested, before spending the majority of his first episode in Speedos as he assisted in Diane's swimming training.

Despite initially making a pass at sexy and sophisticated older woman Sandy, the show's storyline would see Rick move to Sydney for a long term romance with Diane who had broken up with Tim - his sight by this stage restored by an eye operation. Later, peripatetic Rick would again be on the move when he was featured in a special Melbourne based storyline complete with travelogue footage shot in the Victorian capital: an apparent bid to appease the show's southern viewers.

The role of Diane's aunt - Carol Archer's sister - was originally to have been played by elegant US based actor Dana Wynter, who had portrayed the demure wife of Burt Lancaster's character in the 1970 film Airport. After Wynter had accepted the role, which was planned to last between four to six weeks, the casting was scrapped by the network when Actors Equity registered their opposition to the use of a non-Australian performer. [29]

Meanwhile new cast member Peter Mochrie made history of sorts in the series when in August 1979 he contributed the program's first full back nude scene, albeit in a night time comedy sequence. The shot featured Rick running naked through some bushes after a prank by Peter Beckett and Tim Watson. Said series producer Peter Benardos,

"The scene was shot in the best of taste because it is meant to be an amusing situation and nothing sordid at all. Viewers won't see all that much as it was filmed at night. It is a long shot and a rear view of him."  [30]

Eventually Rick's romance with Diane ended, and she conducted a clandestine affair with her father's rather brusque business associate Sidney Dalton (Barry Creyton). Sidney was the show's latest debonair cad of a businessman, with Diane naively falling in love with him. When Sidney coldly dumped a smitten Diane, describing her as a "dime a dozen" diversion, she furiously sped off in his car and was severely injured when she crashed.

Her subsequent coma resulted in the most intense round of arguments and recriminations yet for parents Jeff and Carol. When Diane recovered the family opted to move away to less stressful environs.

Further Cast Departures

In reality actor Lenore Smith had in January 1980 advised the show's producers of her intention to quit the series. With the character of Diane's brother Shane already out of the series and his portrayer, Michael C Smith, showing no signs of ever returning, the scriptwriters could see no way to continue the storyline of the parents without their children, and with Diane's departure they were forced to write out Jeff and Carol as well. They made their onscreen exits in April 1980. [31]

Miss McKenzie also left the series at this time when actress June Salter was allowed a two month break to take the role of Mamma Rose in a production of Gypsy for the Queensland Theatre Company in Brisbane. [32] The role of Gypsy Rose Lee in the production was performed by former The Restless Years actor Julieanne Newbould; the actors only learned they would be working together again when they arrived in Brisbane to begin rehearsals. Julieanne Newbould explained the situation to TV Week.

"It was a most wonderful surprise. June taught me such a lot on The Restless Years, especially about how to economise, and keep still, and it is a real joy to work with her."  [33]

Unfortunately a Queensland heat wave, intermittent air conditioning, and a viral infection hardly helped Salter's untrained voice survive playing in a musical where, in the three hour production, her character is only off stage for about 15 minutes. After losing her voice, Salter, who had no understudy in the role, was forced to miss eight of about 20 performances she was scheduled to give. Salter was devastated that she, as she saw it, let down both the audiences and her colleagues working on the production. However on those nights she could go on she played to packed houses and won rave reviews. [34]

There were other significant cast changes during this period of The Restless Years. A new extended family was developed around the character of Anne Hunter. Anne was played by Jan Kingsbury who had previously appeared as John Hamblin's sniping wife Maureen in Class of '74. This time she would play a warm and friendly school teacher with a daughter, Robyn (Rosemary Paul), who was a beautiful and conscientious high school student.

A reluctant Robyn was under pressure from her boyfriend Tim Watson to consummate their union; when Robyn sought her mother's advice the resulting scene was written and conducted in a mature, realistic and thoughtful manner. Anne later embarked on a romance with her friendly brother-in-law Chris Hunter, played by busy film and television actor John Ewart. Chris and his daughter Kate (Katie Thorpe), a ballerina, soon moved in with Anne and Robyn.

Meanwhile after two-and-a-half years in the role of the exuberant Raelene Archer, actor Victoria Nicholls opted to leave the series. Raelene, who was reportedly one of the show's most popular figures, made her on screen exit in May 1980. [35] Her portrayer Victoria Nicholls, a versatile singer and actor, would soon find even greater fame displaying her natural flair for comedy as the vivacious co-host of top rated quiz show Sale of the Century.

Prior to Raelene's departure she had been joined by her brassy older sister and fellow barmaid Charmaine Weston (Mary-Lou Stewart). Buxom Charmaine presented herself as a bubbly but straight talking, seen-it-all good time girl. Charmaine soon took the place of the departed Raelene in the share household nicknamed The Bakehouse whose inhabitants included Peter Beckett, Tim Watson, and Rick Moran.

Nevertheless Charmaine also enjoyed playing the big sister role to several of the many naive young girls drifting though the story. One of these was Tim Watson's sister, the sprightly Julie Scott (Kim Lewis). Julie was waitress at the Beck and Call café who fell in love with knockabout jokester Hodgo (Ned Lander), another new Bakehouse resident.

New Villains and Serial Killers

As the 1980 episodes played out Charmaine Weston was soon also offering support to Sally Kennedy (Anna Hruby), a naive girlfriend of young Brett Gibbs (Brock Perks), when Sally announced she was pregnant to him. The impoverished and unassuming Sally only wanted some money to help her set up a small flat and to care for the baby. She was later revealed as a scheming gold digger who was not really pregnant, and after her subsequent strangulation murder Brett was briefly in the frame.

Sally's murder came shortly after the June 1980 reappearance of Miss McKenzie who returned from overseas and surprised her friends with the revelation that she had not married Greg Denning as intended. She now had a new fiancé, the apparently sinister art dealer Colin Strauss (Tony Blackett), and many of her friends disapproved of this union.

Colin was revealed as a sly schemer apparently trying to poison a duped Miss McKenzie as the date of their planned wedding approached. Then a young blind and paraplegic woman named Karen moves in to The Bakehouse and reports a prowler in the area, while someone seems to be stalking a terrified Robyn in yet another Number 96-style whodunit murder mystery. It seems sinister Colin could have other intended victims aside from Miss McKenzie?

The actual culprit was ultimately revealed to be the embittered Karen who was actually masquerading as a paraplegic and had invented her prowler claims. Unmasked and unrepentant, she whipped off her dark glasses to reveal a large scar across her face, and confessed that she despised beautiful young women and murdered them out of jealousy.

Meanwhile Miss McKenzie was not out of the woods. Colin was secretly lacing her food with hypnotic drugs in a bid to gain power of attorney over her affairs to ultimately gain access to her fortune. As Miss McKenzie battled a series of mysterious illnesses and inexplicable tiredness, Colin was always close at hand with her medication or a soothing cup of warm milk - all of which he had adulterated - while keeping her isolated from her friends. They eventually married but the law caught up with Colin before he could succeed with his plan, and Colin Strauss was ultimately sent to prison for attempted murder.

The Young and the Restless

The series usually had a large number of youngsters with a reasonably high turnover of new characters. In August 1980 it was reported that young actor Ned Lander had opted to leave his role of Hodgo after a ten month run in the serial. TV Week magazine described Lander's character as one of the most popular in the show, as evidenced by the decision to write in the character of his sister Marilyn (Maureen Elkner). TV Week explained that Lander chose to leave to avoid becoming typecast, and that he planned to return to acting classes with Hayes Gordon at the Ensemble theatre. [36]

This turnover of youngsters fitted the program's usual formula. In mid-1980 two other youngsters had been written out, the characters of good hearted country boy Brett Gibbs, and the romantic cad Ronny Maguire (Allen Cribbs). It was the first professional acting role for Brett's portrayer Brock Perks, and he was reportedly "distressed" by the decision.

"If I knew why they were getting rid of my character it wouldn't be so bad. I don't even know how I finish with the show. But I guess it is just part of the business that you have to accept whether you like it or not. I've appreciated my time in T.R.Y. and the experience has been invaluable."  [37]

Allen Cribbs had been signed to play the character of loafer Ronny Maguire for thirteen weeks, and this had been extended by another three prior to the announcement he would be leaving the series. Cribbs said at the time,

"The decision to not continue was really a joint one. I felt Ronny had gone through enough and he goes out on a tragic note, but showing a good side to his character."  [38]

These plans for Ronny, however, would be quickly amended after a fan protest prompted the producers to bring the character back. As soon as TV Week reported that Ronny would be leaving, the Network was reportedly besieged by callers threatening to stop watching the serial if Ronny departed, and hundreds of letters protesting the decision were received. Even Cribbs' mother was inundated by phone calls expressing regret at the character's impending demise. These outpourings demonstrated to the show's makers that the character clearly was very popular, so they relented and devised a new storyline to keep Ronny in the series. [39]

"It's great. I didn't really want to give the character up. At first I thought the way the character was going it had run its race but now the writers have come up with a whole new storyline and Ronny has a new lease of life. I couldn't be happier - I love working on Restless and I'm grateful for this chance to stay with the show. [40]

In March 1981 it was announced that Ronny Maguire really would be written out of the series, after problems in the personal life of his portrayer Allen Cribbs affected his work on the show. Producer Ross McGregor explained the situation to TV Week.

"When young people come into acting, with no previous experience, sometimes they find that their personal lives suffer because they haven't got the maturity to handle it. If this happens the job should be given up in preference to the personal life. I think it is best for Allen that he is going."  [41]

Cribbs had a 16 month old daughter and was to marry the mother of the child before the wedding was called off. Cribbs explained that:

"When I came into The Restless Years these problems were there. I've been in the show 12 months and they're still there. My personal life did creep into my work and I became very agitated and unsettled. It was showing through. The pressure from the show and my personal life was something that I was neither prepared for nor could I handle."  [42]

In the end, TV Week reports, Cribbs took on aspects of the character of Ronny. He was playing him 24 hours a day.

"I couldn't turn off. I took Ronny home with me and lived him day and night. I became short tempered, very frustrated with life and, in the end, I couldn't talk to people. I also related to Ronny because of the uncanny storylines - they bore a great resemblance to incidents that had happened to me. The fact is I let myself be taken over by the character and I couldn't split myself from him."  [43]

Cribbs' troubles of his character impinging on his personal life were not over on departing the series. In December 1981 he was attacked in a Kings Cross street by a car load of men armed with iron bars.

"They must have recognised me. A car pulled up beside me and before I knew what was happening about 12 blokes attacked me. I'm no super hero and, as there were so many of them, I didn't try to fight. But I managed to get away before they did more damage."  [44]

Cribs spent the night is hospital under observation, nursing severe head lacerations, concussion, and swelling to the head.

"Ronny was pretty tough, a real fighter. Unfortunately, a lot of people believe actors are really like the characters they play. I guess the group of blokes who attacked me thought this way. That's why I used to visit schools and talk about an actor's job when I worked on The Restless Years. I tried to explain that people shouldn't associate actors with the characters they play. Unfortunately many still do."  [45]

The Restless Years Continue

Meanwhile back on the show, long running characters Bruce Russell and Olivia Baxter had survived a multitude of failed relationships and other catastrophes, so it seemed inevitable they would end up together. Indeed they enjoyed a romance and eventually married, yet this union too would be doomed to failure. Olivia fell pregnant but it was learned that the pregnancy could jeopardise her health, and Bruce had no choice but to arrange an abortion for her, leading to the disintegration of the marriage.

An embittered Olivia held Bruce responsible for killing her baby and for the situation of her never being able to have another child, and declared she wanted an immediate divorce. Mentally unbalanced, Olivia snatched a baby from a shopping centre and went on the run.

Meanwhile, with Raelene gone, now taking care of the mad cap comedy schemes was Anne Hunter's dim but effervescent niece Wendy Price (Sally Cooper) who had moved down from the country. With the dramas now more depressing than ever, the comedy relief that whiny Wendy provided was sorely needed, and she lasted out the run of the series. Meanwhile other new characters were Rick's divorced parents Clare (Benita Collings) and James (Kerry Francis), and Clare's stepson Stephen Moran (Simon Burke). Stephen began a romance with Julie, a union that faced much opposition.

A short time after completing a sellout season with the play Crown Matrimonial in Perth, June Salter announced she would be quitting The Restless Years altogether. Her departure came a couple of months after the production celebrated its third anniversary on 4 October 1980, and just weeks after the exit of fellow original cast member Nick Hedstrom, and of Peter Mochrie who had been with the series eighteen months.

The losses were a blow to the series and the exits of Salter and Hedstrom left Malcolm Thompson as the show's only remaining original cast member. Mochrie too was a popular figure in the series and his departure prompted the show's makers to scramble for a replacement hunky male surfer character - blond this time.

Of Salter's departure TEN10's publicity manager Lorraine Willison said "We are sorry to see her go but wish her all the best." Hedstrom taped his final scenes on 24 October, Mochrie on 21 November, while Salter finished work on 6 December, with the episodes going to air in the early months of 1981. [46] Salter's final scenes were shot on the last day of production for 1980, and were broadcast in episode number 600. [47]

In the story, Salter's character Miss McKenzie finally accepted the wedding proposal of returned former fiancé Greg Denning on the eve of his posting to a University in Germany, and they promptly departed after some rushed farewell scenes.

1981 Revamp

In Melbourne, when the series returned for 1981 it switched to airing as five thirty minute episodes Monday through to Friday each week at 7.00 P.M. This later period of the show features a high turnover of new characters, although the overall style and tone of the serial remains consistent with its earlier period.

As a replacement for the departing Rick Moran, the show's new hunky surfer was Shaun Williams. The producers had actively been seeking a blond surfer this time, but after seeing more than a hundred hopefuls, the dark haired Warren Blundell was cast in the role. [48]

Mail man Blundell was discovered while plying his route in Sydney's Bondi and Rose Bay areas by one of the show's storyline writers who suggested he audition for the role. Crucially, Blundell's favourite pursuit was surfing, allowing the tanned and muscular unknown to be seen Speedo clad in several beach scenes where he rode the surf. While he was an experienced surfer, Blundell's only previous acting experience was in one television advertisement. To avoid confusion with famed Alvin Purple actor Graeme Blundell, Warren altered his name to Warren Blondell for The Restless Years. [49]

Soon an entire family would be built around the character of Shaun. The various members of the Williams family would become central to the storyline for much of the show's final year.

Shaun's parents were Bill and Fran Williams, played by Don Barker and Judith Fisher. For the role of Shaun's younger sister, the easily led teenager Sarah, the show's makers signed up Gold Coast-based singer Joanne Stanley. Stanley had been invited to audition for the role after producers spotted her in a TV Week photo spread which included a shot of the curvaceous youngster in a revealing crocheted bikini. Stanley's previous performing experience was as a nightclub singer, as a singer and dancer in Brisbane produced children's television programs Happy Go Round and It's Time, and she had recorded a couple of singles. [50]

In the storyline Bill and Fran soon took in the show's latest, and youngest, waif Artie Wilson (Mark Spain). Artie had previously lived with Miss McKenzie. They also had a briefly seen older daughter, the snobbish Tracey (Antoinette Byron), who was away at university much of the time.

As the 1981 season got underway there were further cast changes in an attempt to revitalise the show. Key characters Anne and Chris Hunter were written out of the series. John Ewart (Chris) finished work on the show in March 1981 while Janet Kingsbury, who had been in the series 18 months as Anne Hunter, finished up in April. [51]

More New Characters

Several new actors were drafted in and would make their on screen debuts in April 1981. These were former Number 96 regular Bunney Brooke who played the ongoing role of Amy Blake, a bitter, lonely and combative old woman. Meanwhile Jennifer Hagan portrayed the bitchy Maggie Edwards, mother of Stephen Moran. Young actor David Franklin joined the cast playing Bernie Harper, an apparent no-hoper who had just been expelled from school. Also in April original cast member John Hamblin made his onscreen return as A.R. Jordan, having signed on for a 26 week return run in the serial. [52]

Closely following these cast additions former The Sullivans actor Lisa Crittenden joined the series playing the bitchy compulsive liar Briony Thompson. Briony enters the storyline when Tim Watson saves her from a bunch of thugs at the beach. Then the popular Lynette Curran, in her role of recurring The Restless Years schemer Jean Stafford, made yet another return to the show. This time Jean would be back for six weeks from May 1981. Also returning was Mary Lou Stewart who had left her role of Charmaine the year before. Charmaine's onscreen reintroduction came in July. [53]

Also joining the cast was the blond and muscular Peter Phelps. Phelps had originally auditioned for the role of Shaun Williams when the call went out for a blond surfer type. Though that role went to dark haired Warren Blondell, Phelps was later recalled for a second reading, and was cast in the new role of promising young boxer Kevin Ryan. [54]

Like Blondell, Peter Phelps would regularly be seen at the beach in his Speedos. Then, a new storyline would see him go completely nude. During a visit to the beach with young Vikki Boyd (Maria Jones) and Tim Watson, Kevin was approached by a woman who invites him to pose for a nude centrefold in a women's magazine. Kevin accepts the $2000 fee and poses nude for the photo spread - with a spear gun and a plastic flipper as props to preserve the novice model's modesty. Of taping the nude photo shoot sequence Phelps admitted his embarrassment. "Everyone was around and I felt a bit self-conscious. Luckily, it was all over in about 10 minutes." Of posing for a real life centrefold Phelps told TV Week "No one's asked me. If I got an offer I'd do it."  [55]

Further beefing up the ranks of handsome young men was Martin Sacks who made his on screen debut as Adam Lee in June 1981. His character was described in advance publicity as a drifter whose virile masculinity makes him very successful with women. Though intelligent, Adam could neither read nor write. [56] Also in for the show's final stretch was Craig Pearce as medical student Michael Lee who became Wendy's boyfriend.

A Final Exodus

After Bill Williams finally settled his enduring feud with father Rex (Don Crosby) a speeding motorist slammed into the car carrying Bill, Fran, Shaun and Artie, leaving Artie as the only survivor of the smash. Sarah went off the rails and was sent to boarding school, but quickly ran away with fellow student Kim Barnett (Jacqui Gordon), a mischievous trouble maker.

Bill, Fran and Shaun had been killed off in further attempts to revamp the storyline, with their exit going to air in August. Shaun's portrayer Warren Blondell, who at the time of his sudden departure still had several months to run on his contract, explained to TV Week that the show's producer Ross McGregor had given the reason that the writers had run out of storyline ideas for his character. Warren Blondell admitted to TV Week that:

"I was very disappointed because I enjoyed my time with the show, they were some of the best months of my life."  [57]

This exodus closely followed the departures of long running characters Olivia Russell, Tim Watson and Stephen Moran. The TV Week report on the changes noted that a recent slump in ratings in Sydney had fueled rumours the program is "set for a time change."  [58]

The Cancellation

Despite all these changes, declining audience figures ultimately resulted in the show's demise in mid-1981 after a run of about four years. It had been announced in July 1981 that the program would not be renewed for 1982 due to poor audience figures in the major television market of Sydney - where the series was produced. At the time, in Melbourne, The Restless Years had regularly rated higher than Seven Network current affairs program Willesse '81. However its audience there was less than half that of its Channel Nine competition, quiz show Sale of the Century. At the time of this announcement, Sydney's TEN10 had just switched to running The Restless Years as one, hour long episode each week. [59] The single one hour episode broadcast in Sydney went out each Wednesday at 7.30 p.m., up against new Channel Nine quiz show Ford Superquiz. [60]

TV Week later surmised that The Restless Years had been a ratings success until the format change from two one hour episodes a week to five half hour segments. With the switch to five half hour segments came the move to the 7.00 p.m. slot - up against the highly popular Sale of the Century - and this led to the drop in ratings for The Restless Years. [61]

Of the program's cancellation Malcolm Thompson, the show's only remaining original cast member, said that The Restless Years,

"Had a good run. I never thought when I signed up four years ago that it would last this long. But as the ratings began to drop, especially up against Sale of the Century, I just treated each day as a bonus. It's given me tremendous exposure and the chance to work with some very fine actors, for which I am grateful."  [62]

TV Week reported that the announcement by the show's producer Ross McGregor caused some in the cast to break down and cry. Said Malcolm Thompson,

"I was surprised when it was axed because I thought the popularity compared favourably with that of a lot of other programs on air at the moment [...] the standard was as good as it ever was, so that can't be the reason [...] The cast as a whole took it calmly because the rumours had been flying for so long it wasn't such a shock."  [63]

According to TV Week the ratings had been in steady decline for a few months prior to the cancellation. When the show came up for renewal in the first week of August the Ten Network opted to not renew it due to the dwindling viewing figures. The final day of production on the series was Friday, 25 September. [64]

In Melbourne, starting Friday 23 October 1981, The Restless Years moved to the earlier, less ratings-crucial slot of 5.30 pm, replacing repeats of The Brady Bunch. ATV10 had moved The Restless Years out of its usual 7.00 p.m. slot to make way for new Melbourne focused magazine program Together Tonight hosted by popular radio host Greg Evans, former Prisoner and Skyways cast member Kerry Armstrong, and Louise Phillip who had enjoyed long running roles in Bellbird and Cop Shop.

In this new timeslot younger viewers could thrill to the show's adult and increasingly turgid incidents. Particularly extreme was the graphic backyard swimming pool murder of the villainous Gary Fisher (James Healey) who was brutally stabbed by an unseen assailant while nibbling on a cheese platter between laps. The subsequent shots of his Speedo clad corpse bobbing in the blood tinged pool were as grisly as his stabbing had been violent, and were not the sort of images traditionally screened in that timeslot.

The Restless Years ran in this slot in 30 minute installments until 10 November. By Thursday 12 November The Restless Years was removed from schedules and the 5.30 pm slot again occupied by The Brady Bunch. After Monday 16 November the slot was taken by repeats of US disco dance talent quest series Dance Fever.

In Melbourne, the final four episodes of The Restless Years were broadcast as a two hour installment on Thursday 19 November 1981 at 7.30 pm (with The Age synopsis explaining: "worn-out Sydney-made soap slides back into its old time-slot.") The last ever episodes restored the original rolling clouds opening shot.

In Sydney the series had switched to the reduced broadcast rate of just one hour a week in mid-1981. As a result, after the finale had screened in Melbourne there was still a large backlog of episodes yet to be seen in Sydney. These final episodes were broadcast in Sydney in the program's previous 7.00 p.m. slot, starting Monday 11 January 1982.

The TV Week report on this scheduled return for the cancelled series revealed that The Restless Years would conclude with a three hour "blockbuster program" on Friday 12 February 1982 - just days before the first official ratings survey for 1982. [65] The title of this TV Week article - "Bowing Out In Style" - seems rather a disingenuous one given that rather than going out in style, TEN10 Sydney clearly wanted all the episodes of the faded show rushed out before ratings began.

Final Storylines

In the closing stages of the series glamorous singer and Brisbane television personality Kerri-Anne Wright joined the cast playing the plain and repressed brunette Melinda Burgess. Melinda's storyline involved her transformation into a beautiful, blond coiffed swan. Wright explained her role to TV Week.

"The make-up people at TEN10 put a spray on my hair that's like glue. It makes it dark and I have it flattened down, parted in the middle and tied in a bun. I don't wear any makeup and have a few extra lines drawn on my face. My wardrobe for the show consists of tame, plain clothes and I generally look dowdy and unattractive."  [66]

Wright explained she did not mind the unattractive appearance of her character.

"Looking ugly didn't bother me because it's a very interesting part - being able to play a character with two sides. At first Melinda was a very coy, detached and nervous person, but knowing how to handle herself. Then she develops a bit more and has to learn how to deal with the real world."  [67]

Shortly after this Wright married to become Kerri-Anne Kennerley and emerged as a major national television presenter.

In the story Melinda's brother, school teacher Neil Burgess (played by Rod Weaver, the brother of actor Jacki Weaver), was suspected of murdering Gary when the murder weapon was discovered behind his locker at work. His girlfriend Claire, a recovered alcoholic, falls off the wagon with his arrest. Claire remains convinced the gloating Maggie actually murdered Gary. Eventually the returned Anne Hunter (Jan Kingbury) confesses to Claire that she herself had murdered Gary, and turns herself in to the police.

Meanwhile after a series of failed relationships with poised and demure young women, Bruce Russell would eventually become engaged to bright barmaid Charmaine as the storyline inched towards its conclusion. Kevin and a hospitalised Briony also hastily marry in the program's final installment.

Departed regulars June Salter and Nick Hedstrom returned for the show's concluding episodes. Their reappearance allowed a hasty resolution to one of the key storylines through much of the show's run: the enmity between their characters Miss McKenzie and Peter Beckett.

Peter calls in to visit Miss McKenzie to clear the air over their latest misunderstanding: her reduced returns from the Beck and Call. Peter admits he can be stubborn, but provides a simple explanation for Miss McKenzie's lower amount, and an explanation was all she wanted. With that conflict quickly diffused Peter mentions he has discovered that his long lost father was Senator Lindsay. However the only hint to the identity of his mother, a woman Senator Lindsay was having a love affair with, is the initial E in the man's diary. Miss McKenzie reveals that she was having the affair with Senator Lindsay: Peter was Miss McKenzie's long lost son all along. "Now I understand why you've been so stubborn," she sobs as she embraces her son.


There could be several potential reasons for the show's appeal. Certainly the youthful cast were appealing and charismatic, and while Number 96 and The Box always seemed to have at least one frequently (semi-)nude female sex symbol at any given time, here muscular male hunks would regularly parade around shirtless in domestic scenes and in Speedos for the many beach scenes. And slim and compliant females in bikinis were not a rarity either. Perhaps too there was some appeal in the ease in which the - usually impoverished - youngsters nevertheless managed to have fun on the beach, in their romances, and with their various whacky schemes.

Scenes sometimes showed how they successfully thwarted their parents' wishes to get their own way. Perhaps too there was some appeal in the recurring tension presented in the show's succession of fractious - and fractured - families where parents would depart leaving their children to fend for themselves, or where there would be more traumatic estrangements of parents and children. Such constructs tap into feelings of rebelliousness in the youthful audience, and could appear reassuring to viewers with distant and apparently uncaring parents.

Crucially, the program's most recognised figure, Miss McKenzie, was explicitly unmarried and officially childless yet acting as surrogate mother to so many of the youngsters in the story. She had no official children, yet acted as mother to many, with so many of these estranged from their parents. [68] Later Charmaine Weston, only marginally older than the program's then current batch of school leavers, would assume this mother role. No matter what happened, The Restless Years showed that even without parents around, there would always be somewhere to go and someone to look out for you.

Like Class of '74, adult and parental figures in the series were often presented realistically and as rounded characters, not just as one dimensional killjoy figures of authority. Story events would be pitched both from the perspective of the teenage characters and the adult figures in The Restless Years' well integrated weave of differing plotlines, giving the proceedings an air of authenticity and presenting both sides of the story. Aside from this the sometimes intense travails of the adult characters could reassure the youthful audience that having a nice home and car and well paid executive career hardly guaranteed happiness.

Famous Alumni

Several notable actors and recognisable faces appeared in the show over the years. These included Vince Martin as the tough, womanising businessman Craig Garside, long time Playschool presenter Benita Collings as the kindly Clare Moran, former child actor Simon Burke as Stephen Moran, Australian Playboy centrefold Rosemary Paul as conscientious student Robyn Hunter.

Meanwhile such youngsters as Peter Mochrie, Lenore Smith, Penny Cook, Anna Hruby, Martin Sacks, Kim Lewis, Warren Blondell, Joanne Stanley, Peter Phelps, Lisa Crittenden, Jacqui Gordon and Kerri-Anne Kennerley would make some of their earliest television appearances in the show.

Tom Burlinson left The Restless Years and soon played the lead in feature film The Man From Snowy River (1982). Margie McCrae who played Emma Taylor, an apparently sweet young protégée of Barry King, went into the 1981 film Winter of our Dreams. David Argue moved from the cast ofThe Restless Years to appearing in acclaimed film Gallipoli (1981). Kim Lewis played a key role in Squizzy Taylor (1982) while Rosemary Paul took a role in Dead Easy (1982).

Shortly after the demise of The Restless Years cast members Peter Phelps and Kim Lewis were quickly snapped up as regulars in new serial Sons and Daughters. David Franklin, a final year addition to The Restless Years cast, subsequently enjoyed a busy career acting on Australian television and in feature films. In 2007 Franklin appeared in several episodes of US daytime serial The Young and the Restless. Craig Pearce went on to an enduring career as a successful scriptwriter.

Handsome actor Peter Mochrie overcame his reputation as a pretty boy plucked from a modeling agency to act, and enjoyed a long and busy acting career since The Restless Years. Shortly after leaving the series Mochrie explained to TV Week that:

"I wasn't plucked out of a modeling agency to do The Restless Years. I was studying drama with Mitch Matthews, a casting lady in Sydney, when I auditioned for a role. I was going for the part of Tim Watson, the blind guy, which Jamie Gleeson got. Don Battye, the executive producer of The Restless Years, liked me so much he decided to write in Rick Moran for me."  [69]

Unfortunately there was some tension with some of the older cast members.

"All they knew about me was that I'd been a model and suddenly I had a starring role in a TV series. But most of those actors respect me now because they know I'm not in showbusiness to become a star."  [70]

After leaving the series Mochrie also had a role in film Winter of our Dreams which starred Bryan Brown and Judy Davis. "I played Judy's lover. I learnt a lot from Bryan and Judy and it was great doing my first film." Despite wanting the shed his "pretty boy" image, Mochrie soon accepted the ongoing Holiday Island role of Zack the resort island's entertainment officer, because he had always wanted to work for Crawford Productions. While his muscular physique would still be on display in that tropical resort series, Mochrie tried to infuse things with a degree of authenticity by learning some Greek for the role. [71]

Among Mochrie's many subsequent roles were ongoing leads in Australian crime series Water Rats and Murder Call in the late 1990s. He has had a regular role in New Zealand soap opera Shortland Street since 2006.

Another notable young actor, Jon Blake (credited as "Sonny Blake" in The Restless Years) also got his start here. Born in New Zealand in 1958, Blake came to Sydney in 1969 where his mother, a top violinist, was based. A former boxer, the role in The Restless Years was his first professional acting job. Blake was a member of the show's original cast and he continued in the role until 1979.

Blake later achieved far greater fame playing the main character Flanagan in the 1985 miniseries Anzacs. Leading entertainment figures had tipped that Blake would become the next Mel Gibson, when, driving home from the last day of filming on the film The Lighthorsemen on the night of 1 December 1986, he was critically injured in a road accident. His car hit a broken down vehicle parked on the wrong side of the road in rural South Australia, and Blake sustained permanent brain damage in the accident. He was thereafter confined to bed, requiring constant care. He died 29 May 2011.


The Reg Grundy Organisation has since recycled the original concept of The Restless Years, producing various new international serials modelled on the original The Restless Years blueprint.

Plans of this sort had first emerged in early 1980 when the show was in the midst of its original successful run. At this time the Grundy Organisation attended the National Association of Television Program Executives, a United States television selling conference held in San Francisco, hawking the idea of a US produced pilot based on The Restless Years with an American cast. The pilot was commissioned by Los Angeles station KTLA, then successfully screening Grundy's Prisoner. Grundy Organisation executive Ian Bradley explained that "we're very excited about the pilot. We'll be using new faces in the American show, like we did here. Storylines will be much the same, although the serial has been rewritten for the American market." Also on offer was the pilot of a new men's prison drama serial titled Punishment. [72]

An American The Restless Years never eventuated, however successful versions of the serial were later mounted in Europe. The Grundy Organisation in conjunction with RTL4 in Holland has produced a version titled Goede Tijden, Slechte Tijden (Good Times, Bad Times) which has screened successfully on Dutch TV. Launched in 1990, Goede Tijden, Slechte Tijden was Europe's first daily drama serial, and in 1992 its German counterpart Gute Zeiten, Schlechte Zeiten was launched.

In both cases the shows were initially based on Reg Watson's original scripts written for The Restless Years with slight alterations to bring the show up-to-date and to match local conditions. After the first year or so the scripts increasingly diverged from their source, partly because of unpredictable cast changes, and the differing popularity of certain actors. More than fifteen years after their launch both shows remain popular successes in their respective markets.

Originally uploaded May 2000

Last updated 24 November 2013

The Internet Movie Database - logo The Restless Years cast and crew

[1] Stern, Lesley. "Oedipal Opera: 'The Restless Years'". The Australian Journal of Screen Theory. 4, 1978, page 43.

[2] Stern, Lesley. "Oedipal Opera: 'The Restless Years'". The Australian Journal of Screen Theory. 4, 1978, page 40.

[3] Stern, Lesley. "Oedipal Opera: 'The Restless Years'". The Australian Journal of Screen Theory. 4, 1978, page 40.

[4] "The Restless Years: A Series that Grows Up with its Viewers". TV Week. 25 February 1978, page 28-9.

[5] "The Restless Years: A Series that Grows Up with its Viewers". TV Week. 25 February 1978, page 28-9.

[6] "The Restless Years: A Series that Grows Up with its Viewers". TV Week. 25 February 1978, page 28-9.

[7] Stern, Lesley. "Oedipal Opera: 'The Restless Years'". The Australian Journal of Screen Theory. 4, 1978, page 42-3.

[8] "There's Method in Nick's Madness". TV Week. 25 March 1978, page 59.

[9] "There's Method in Nick's Madness". TV Week. 25 March 1978, page 59.

[10] "The Restless Years: A Series that Grows Up with its Viewers". TV Week. 25 February 1978, page 28-9.

[11] "There's Method in Nick's Madness". TV Week. 25 March 1978, page 59.

[12] "There's Method in Nick's Madness". TV Week. 25 March 1978, page 59.

[13] "Zoe's Not True to Type". TV Week. 25 March 1978, page 58.

[14] "Sabre Made its Mark on Malcolm". TV Week. 25 March 1978, page 59.

[15] "Sabre Made its Mark on Malcolm". TV Week. 25 March 1978, page 59.

[16] "There's Method in Nick's Madness". TV Week. 25 March 1978, page 59.

[17] "There's Method in Nick's Madness". TV Week. 25 March 1978, page 59.

[18] Richter, Christine. "Almost Too Pretty." TV Week. 7 April 1979, page 20; 36.

[19] Richter, Christine. "Almost Too Pretty." TV Week. 7 April 1979, page 20; 36.

[20] Richter, Christine. "Almost Too Pretty." TV Week. 7 April 1979, page 20; 36.

[21] "Being the Boss's Wife Isn't Always a Joy". TV Week. 9 May 1981, page 34.

[22] Atterton, Margot. (Ed.) The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Australian Showbiz, Sunshine Books: Brookvale, NSW, 1984, page 198.

[23] Salter, June. June Salter: A Pinch of Salt. Angus & Robertson: Pymble NSW, 1995, page 135-138.

[24] Atterton, Margot. (Ed.) The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Australian Showbiz, Sunshine Books, Brookvale, New South Wales. 1984. page 198.

[25] Richter, Christine. "Restless Years Star Makes the Break". TV Week. 16 June 1979, page 37.

[26] Richter, Christine. "Restless Years Star Makes the Break". TV Week. 16 June 1979, page 37.

[27] "Another TRY Star Quits". TV Week. 24 March 1979, page 15.

[28] "T.R.Y. Recalls Two Familiar Faces." TV Week. 8 March 1980, page 44.

[29] "Dana Plans Dumped". TV Week. 17 February 1979, page 15.

[30] Richter, Christine. "Peter Plays Full-Back". TV Week. 28 July 1979, page 11.

[31] "'I Quit'". TV Week. 5 April 1980, page 27.

[32] Salter, June. June Salter: A Pinch of Salt. Angus & Robertson: Pymble NSW, 1995, page 144.

[33] "Julieanne the Stripper". TV Week. 19 April 1980, page 17.

[34] Johnson, Jackie. "June's Upset About Show Rumors". TV Week. 26 April 1980, page 58.

[35] "'I Quit'". TV Week. 5 April 1980, page 27.

[36] "Restless Ned Quits Soapie." TV Week. 23 August 1980, page 39.

[37] "Axe Falls in Soapie Shock." TV Week. 28 June 1980, page 29.

[38] "Axe Falls in Soapie Shock." TV Week. 28 June 1980, page 29.

[39] "Ronny Returns by Popular Demand." TV Week. 5 July 1980, page 36.

[40] "Ronny Returns by Popular Demand." TV Week. 5 July 1980, page 36.

[41] Richter, Christine. "Personal Crises - Soapie Star Out." TV Week. 14 March 1981, page 35.

[42] Richter, Christine. "Personal Crises - Soapie Star Out." TV Week. 14 March 1981, page 35.

[43] Richter, Christine. "Personal Crises - Soapie Star Out." TV Week. 14 March 1981, page 35.

[44] "Allen Bashed With Iron Bars in Street Attack." TV Week. 19 December 1981, page 33.

[45] "Allen Bashed With Iron Bars in Street Attack." TV Week. 19 December 1981, page 33.

[46] "Three Restless Years Stars to Quit". TV Week. 18 October 1980, page 27.

[47] "On the Grapevine". TV Week. 13 December 1980, page 16.

[48] "Postie Treads the Path to TV Fame". TV Week. 1 November 1980, page 37.

[49] "Postie Treads the Path to TV Fame". TV Week. 1 November 1980, page 37.

[50] Richter, Christine. "Series Snares Joanne after TV Week Spread". TV Week. 22 November 1980, page 33.

[51] "T.R.Y. Shake-Up!" TV Week. 31 January 1981, page 31.

[52] "T.R.Y. Shake-Up!" TV Week. 31 January 1981, page 31.

[53] "Cast Swells in T.R.Y. Shake-Up" TV Week. 4 April 1981, page 34.

[54] "Peter's in the Pink." TV Week. 10 January 1981, page 15.

[55] "Now It's Pin-Up Pete!" TV Week. 17 March 1981, page 33.

[56] Richter, Julie. "Ex-Chef has the Right Recipe for a Plum Role." TV Week. 6 June 1981.

[57] "Soap Shock - Warren Is Out." TV Week. 4 July 1981, page 43.

[58] "Soap Shock - Warren Is Out." TV Week. 4 July 1981, page 43.

[59] Bowring, Pat. "End of the Years." The Sun. 31 July 1981, page 6.

[60] "Malcolm: First In and Last Out." TV Week. 22 August 1981, page 31.

[61] "Bowing Out With Style." TV Week. 9 January 1982, page 25.

[62] "Malcolm: First In and Last Out." TV Week. 22 August 1981, page 31.

[63] "Malcolm: First In and Last Out." TV Week. 22 August 1981, page 31.

[64] "Malcolm: First In and Last Out." TV Week. 22 August 1981, page 31.

[65] "Bowing Out With Style." TV Week. 9 January 1982, page 25.

[66] Richter, Christine. "Kerri-Anne Is No 'Ugly Duckling'." TV Week. 12 September 1981, page 29.

[67] Richter, Christine. "Kerri-Anne Is No 'Ugly Duckling'." TV Week. 12 September 1981, page 29.

[68] Stern, Lesley. "Oedipal Opera: 'The Restless Years'". The Australian Journal of Screen Theory. 4, 1978, page 40.

[69] Johnson, Jackie. "The Trouble with Being Handsome." TV Week. 28 November 1981, page 87.

[70] Johnson, Jackie. "The Trouble with Being Handsome." TV Week. 28 November 1981, page 87.

[71] Johnson, Jackie. "The Trouble with Being Handsome." TV Week. 28 November 1981, page 87.

[72] "Our Big Guns Aim for American Sales". TV Week. 2 February 1980, page 29.