Sons and Daughters
1982-1987 - 972 x 30 minute episodes - Produced the Reg
Grundy Organisation for the Seven Network
Sons and Daughters was the Australian night-time serial with, as the title song wailed, love and laughter, tears and sadness and happiness... Well, it certainly had tears and sadness.
The Grundy produced series began screening in late January 1982 on Channel Seven and was an instant hit, with half-hour episodes screening Monday through to Thursday at 7.00 pm. Clearly inspired by those earlier tales of love and angst The Restless Years and The Young Doctors, Sons and Daughters concentrated on the family dramas and romantic exploits of a group of fresh-faced youngsters making it in the big bad world. Certainly the series used the same casting format to those earlier soaps, with a sturdy bunch of experienced actors supported by a repertory of attractive newcomers.
Sons and Daughters also showed the influence of US glamour soaps like Dallas, and owed a lot to the US daytime serials which had long been airing in Australia. Like the daytime serials there was little humour or irony but a pervasively dire undercurrent. Many storylines were of the standard romantic and domestic variety, with crime and business schemes thrown in for good measure.
A key point of difference in Sons and Daughters was a strong melodramatic slant mixed with opulent and majestic settings, and picturesque rustic locations - albeit on a low-budget videotaped production. With advances in production methods, Sons and Daughters could regularly go on location to an extent not seen before on an Australian serial. Mixed with the regularly seen domestic interiors were events conducted in elegant mansions, or at rustic country homesteads with their elaborate stables and scenic surrounds. This was a sort of television soap opera in a sub-Douglas Sirk style melodrama mold.
Sons and Daughters was also unusual in that its
ongoing storyline features elements set both in Sydney, and in
Melbourne. Series creator Reg Watson told TV Week that "I
suppose subconsciously we're trying to prove that deep down we're all
the same no matter where we live." [i] It also conveniently addresses the perceived
problem of audiences in each of Australia's two largest cities
strongly favouring those programs set in their own city. While the main
production was based in Sydney, every few weeks a crew and several of
the actors would fly to Melbourne to shoot some authentic location
footage in recognisable Melbourne locales.
In true daytime tradition the main storylines centred on two interconnected families, the Hamiltons of Sydney were wealthy and powerful, and the Palmers of Melbourne ordinary and working-class. The opening storyline brought the two groups together and exposed several long hidden secrets when young working class hunk John Palmer (Peter Phelps) met and fell in love with defiant rich-girl Angela Hamilton (Ally Fowler).
As the advertisements breathlessly announced, the two were in fact twin brother and sister who had been parted at birth and raised separately. It soon transpired that their unwed parents, Patricia Dunne (Rowena Wallace) and honest truck driver David Palmer (Tom Richards), had taken one of the offspring each after their affair ended and they went their separate ways, eventually both marrying another.
John's mother Patricia was now married to successful businessman Gordon Hamilton (Brian Blain) and they lived in a sprawling modern estate in Dural, outer Sydney. Her stepson was the spiteful, ambitious and womanising Wayne Hamilton (Ian Rawlings). Gordon might have been successful in business, but as far as Patricia and Wayne were concerned, he was rather naïve. Gordon's fondness for Angela caused tensions with the jealous Wayne.
David Palmer was with warm hausfrau Beryl (Leila Hayes) and
their children together were Kevin (Stephen Comey) and Susan (Ann
Henderson-Stiers). Kevin's fiancée was Lyn (Antonia Murphy)
and Susan's fiancé was the quick-to-anger Bill Todd (Andrew McKaige).
The Palmer family lived in an older house in Melbourne's inner-city
bayside suburb of Albert Park.
The other major player was Fiona Thompson, played by former Number 96
favourite Pat McDonald. The wise and worldly Fiona was light years away
from nosey Dorrie Evans, the character Pat McDonald had played in Number
96. A former madam, "Aunt Fiona" was long acquainted with the
parted lovers Pat and David, and was a strong woman with all sorts of
powerful friends and connections while offering a shoulder to cry on
and the wise voice of reason for the show's other characters. She had
raised baby John, all the while secretly mourning the loss of her own
child, years before. Now Fiona ran a large boarding house.
Finally former The Restless Years regular Kim Lewis was Jill Taylor, a former prostitute boarding with Fiona.
A shocked John and Angela, not surprisingly, soon ended their romance. John had become a suspect in a murder investigation and fled to Sydney to stay with Fiona, and quickly formed a close bond with Jill. It was soon revealed that the murder had actually been committed by Bill Todd, who promptly left the series by being sent to prison. Now the scene was set for a torrid affair for Patricia and David though each was currently married, and this affair became a major plot driver.
While the show's storylines emphasised marriage and romance, an early TV Week article pointed-out that of the original cast only two actors - Leila Hayes and Ann Henderson-Stiers - were married. Tom Richards and Pat McDonald "have been married before but, for reasons of their own, don't care to talk about their relationships". It was also reported that McDonald had a 23-year-old son she had raised single handed from the age of 12. Brain Blain had never married and lives by himself. "I do enjoy the bachelor life," Blain told TV Week. "It's my choice and I'm not prepared to discuss it." [ii]
During the first year a major cast addition was that of Beryl's younger brother Rob Keegan (Noel Hodda), who signed on for twelve months in the series. One of Rob's main storylines was his romance with Angela. During his time with series Hodda told TV Week that Sons and Daughters had an excellent working environment.
"There's a good feeling among the cast and crew, and that's something you always look for in any acting situation - film, theatre or television. Everyone works well together." [iii]
After eighteen months of predictable soap romances and break-ups most of the younger cast members had left the series, with the exception of "Mr Nasty", Wayne Hamilton. Several fresh faced replacements joined, most notably Amanda Morrell (Alyce Platt) and Andy Green (Danny Roberts) who quickly found themselves just as popular as their predecessors had been. Danny Roberts had actually been one of the handsome young stars of Nine Network police opera Waterloo Station that was launched at the beginning 1983 but had quickly flopped.
These new characters worked well enough, though it had become obvious that the youngsters were no longer the bread and butter of the series. Patricia, or "Pat the Rat" as she became known, had quickly emerged as the show's (and Australia's) leading star. Super-bitch Pat had frequent spiteful rows with most of the other characters in the series while romances with David only seemed to wane during her frequent affairs with handsome young (or wealthy) toy-boys. One minute she would be ruined financially and on the verge of a nervous breakdown while the next a rich new husband or a business scheme gone right would return her to the top of the heap with her claws freshly sharpened.
Patricia's portrayer Rowena Wallace said that despite Patricia's nastiness, she didn't receive too much abuse from the public.
"People are more realistic about TV now. They don't get so confused between reality and fantasy." [iv]
Wallace observed that Patricia seemed to have many fans.
"I don't quite understand it. Maybe it's cathartic - people wish they could, in real life, say and do the bitchy things she does and get away with it. But Patricia does get her comeuppance. I think we're all moralistic, in the sense that we like to see characters getting their just desserts." [v]
Gordon had divorced Patricia after she had an affair with David. Gordon went on to marry Barbara Armstrong (Cornelia Frances). Barbara, a no-nonsense rural neighbour, had been introduced in the show's early days as a guest character to last perhaps three weeks. Liking the character, the producers quickly decided to make her permanent. [vi] The assertive Barbara quickly became one of the most popular characters in the series with her vehement exchanges with Patricia particularly riveting.
Eventually, healthy ratings prompted Channel 7 to increase the number of (half hour) episodes screened each week from four to five. To help fill this extra screen time an additional family was integrated into the proceedings. The O'Brien family, Mike (Ken James) and Heather (Rona Coleman) and teenage kids Katie (Jane Seaborne) and Jeff (Craig Morrison) were introduced when they moved into the house next door to Beryl Palmer. They brought with them a new romantic interest for Beryl in the form of Mike's brother Jim played by Sean Scully, while their lives were endlessly complicated by the appearance of the shady businessman Heather had worked for back in Perth, Roger Carlyle (Les Dayman), and his son Luke (Peter Cousens), also a friend of Jeff's.
Though initially successful and despite many varied storylines bringing them into contact with other characters in the series (Mike and Roger in business dealings involving Patricia, Katie's business and romantic association with Wayne - actually Wayne's double, friendship between Beryl and Heather) their storylines eventually petered out and within eighteen months the O'Brien family and all the associated characters had been written out of the series.
Finally after three years of ruining the lives of the other characters and winning the coveted Gold Logie for her riveting if melodramatic portrayal, actress Rowena Wallace finally decided to leave the series; news which no doubt gave the producers a few nervous breakdowns of their own.
After several convoluted storylines Pat eventually departed but not before former star of The Box, Judy Nunn, had joined the series playing down-to-earth doctor Irene Fisher, and much vaunted replacement bitches Karen Fox (Lyndel Rowe) and Leigh Palmer (Lisa Crittenden) appeared. Shortly after that (possibly because the fireworks generated by Karen and Leigh hadn't sparkled quite as brightly as planned) former Number 96 sex kitten Abigail was brought on board as Caroline Morrell, the recently returned mother of Amanda Morrell.
Caroline quickly took off as the most popular of the new strong women in the series, finding herself in Pat the Rat territory with scheming, bitchiness and a rocky reconciliation with her ex-husband Steven Morrell (Michael Long), who had recently been married to Patricia. Caroline blossomed into a glamorous and somewhat sympathetic would-be business woman who was nonetheless never nearly as nasty as Pat had been. The real nastiness was left to Leigh (who ended up staying with the series one year) while Caroline became more a chaotic comic heroine.
Meanwhile the icy Karen Fox found her business association with Gordon had fizzled. In love with Wayne, she plotted to make him believe he accidentally killed courier Bob 'Mitch' Mitchell. Though Mitch was merely knocked out after an altercation with Wayne, Karen told Wayne she had disposed of Mitch's body when she had actually paid him to disappear. Finally discovering that she had blackmailed him into marriage, Wayne threw her out. Karen was later found drowned in the ornamental lake on the Dural property, sparking a major murder mystery storyline.
With the murder investigation well underway, Gordon's friend, escort Liz Smith (Julia Moody), returned and was horrified to learn of Karen's recent death in the pond. A stunned Liz revealed that during a verbal confrontation in the garden she had slapped Karen, sending her off the footbridge into the pond. Liz didn't realise that Karen had been knocked out in the fall, and stalked off not realising she was drowning.
While these episodes were certainly a lot of fun to watch the decline in ratings since the departure of Rowena Wallace's Patricia convinced the producers that Pat the Rat had to come back.
With Rowena Wallace unwilling to return, in true 1980s super soap fashion the writers developed a convoluted storyline with former The Box sex symbol Belinda Giblin taking over the role of Patricia. The script had her returning from South America and plotting revenge, with a new cosmetic surgery face offered as explanation for her drastic change in appearance.
Happily emphasising the absurdity of the idea, the writers highlighted the plastic surgery angle by making it the focal point of the storyline: Patricia returned to Australia calling herself Alison Carr and did not reveal her true identity to anyone, not even her faithful socialite friend Charlie Bartlett (Sarah Kemp). This placed Patricia/Alison in a good position to exact revenge as her former enemies had absolutely no idea who they were dealing with.
Meanwhile David had tracked down a meek and tearful Patricia lookalike who had undergone plastic surgery in the same hospital at the same time, while also suffering amnesia. Mistakenly identifying her as Patricia, David married this gentle natured woman and brought her home to Australia where she tried to come to terms with her previous incarnation as an arch bitch.
Implausible as it all sounds the story generated some compelling scenes, even if these outrageous plots balanced somewhat uneasily alongside more standard soap plotlines. These included Charlie being reunited with her adult son Adam (Adam Briscombe), Adam's romance with a mellowing Leigh, and Beryl's romance with new neighbour Rod Campbell (David Bradshaw.)
Despite Belinda Giblin's excellent performance as Alison and the melodramatic dramas hitting new highs of absurdity, the ratings failed achieve their former glory resulting in further cast changes. Leigh Palmer departed, Charlie's adult children, and Rod Campbell and his daughter Jessie (Annie Jones) came and went. However there were bigger plans afoot behind the scenes, and soon a more drastic purge of characters would occur.
As the 1986 season began on air several characters were abruptly written out of the serial.
Samantha Morrell (Sally Tayler), Amanda's rather similar sister who had conveniently joined the series earlier in the 1985 season just as Amanda left, was hurriedly written out shortly after 1986 season began on air. Recent cast addition Willie Fennell, who played the comical elderly blunderer Spider Webb, also made an abrupt departure. Dr Irene Fisher, a fun character with an eye for the gentlemen, and surprisingly the highly popular Barbara Hamilton, were also hastily written out of the series in a very rushed manner.
Barbara's portrayer Cornelia Frances described her work on the series in her 2003 autobiography 'And What Have You Done Lately?' She had wanted to stay with the series, having described her work on the show as "one of the most enjoyable professional periods I have ever had." Frances says she was accustomed to the hard work and long hours associated with acting in a serial, having spent several years as a key player in The Young Doctors. The main difference was that, with the large amount of location shooting in Sons and Daughters, the early morning rises sometimes had to be even earlier for the commute to the filming locations. The main hitch arose during her final year in the series when a personality clash with a new female director developed, and with whom several "polite disagreements" were endured on set. After said director was suddenly promoted to producer on the show, Frances reports that while most other regular cast members were receiving their contracts for the following year, hers was not forthcoming. Then one day the panicked hairdresser rushed in to report that Barbara was scripted to be permanently scarred in a horrific road accident. Then another director approached Frances on set to reveal that "I think I should warn you that Mrs Producer has asked all the directors what we think of you and whether or not we like working with you, and how we think you play your part." After this Frances confronted the smiling producer, who finally revealed that she had decided to let Barbara go after the writers expressed the opinion they had reached the end of Barbara's worth. Nevertheless Frances herself reports that she received many comments of support and concern from the directors and writers, while even the head writer declared that 'We had some wonderful future storylines for Barbara, but unfortunately "Mrs Producer" just wants you out, for whatever reason.' And so Barbara was permanently out. [vii]
In the storyline Barbara was indeed scarred in the car accident while after the same smash Gordon experienced amnesia. When he "recalled" his memory only to happily believe he was still married to Patricia/Alison, a tearful Barbara accepted defeat and abruptly departed.
Meanwhile a host of new and mostly younger characters were quickly introduced. These included handsome hunks Glen Young (Mark Conroy) and Craig Maxwell (Jared Robinson), Fiona's prickly niece Janice Reid (Rima Te Waita), vivacious Debbie Halliday (Shannon Kenny), Fiona's old friend May Walters (Georgie Sterling), and temperamental young fashion-designer Ginny Doyle (Angela Kennedy). There was a new love interest for Caroline in the form of businessman Doug Fletcher (Normie Rowe), and other twists saw the return of Susan Palmer (now played by Oriana Panozzo.)
According to the producers these new characters were added in an attempt to recapture the more down-to-earth nature of the earlier episodes, while the big business intrigue and outrageous plotlines were markedly toned down. Fiona and Janice now lived together in the new boarding house they opened. Their characters began an ongoing comedy double act, while the house itself became a new vehicle to bring guest characters into the proceedings. Craig Maxwell identified Beryl as his long lost mother. It was soon learned that Craig's mother was actually Beryl's lookalike, the similarly monikered Ruby (also played by Leila Hayes), an unscrupulous tart. Craig also formed an enduring romantic association with chauffeur Debbie. Glen quickly caught Alison's eye and a turbulent love affair resulted.
Mark Conroy and Jared Robinson had clearly been cast for their model like good looks. Especially for Conroy in his opening scenes, the opportunities for showcasing these newcomers bare chested, in tight jeans, or in tiny swimming trunks were rarely missed. Clearly Conroy and Robinson were key figures in the show's attempted revamp, and unusually for cast newcomers, instantly gained a position in the show's opening titles "mug-shots" montage. Usually new characters, even much publicised key characters like Caroline and Alison, would wait several months before their picture made its way into the opening titles.
Sadly these attempts to revitalise the series were not particularly successful. Former fans did not return to the series, while young newcomers to soap viewing seemed to prefer Neighbours, a more clean-cut serial that had been launched at the start of 1985.
Towards the end Beryl and Gordon, who had stood as the more stable halves of the two original parental relationships in the series, decided to get married. They did not seem particularly well matched; the move seemed a fairly arbitrary method of revitalising the characters who had come somewhat stagnant in the evolving storylines, despite their importance to the character structure at the start of the series.
Finally the producers did manage to lure Rowena Wallace back to the series, though sadly, what would have been top news two years before seemed pallid indeed to an indifferent viewing public who had switched off in droves from a series obviously past its peak and showing no sign of improving. Rowena's on-screen re-appearance (not playing Patricia but rather Pat's long lost identical twin sister, Pamela Hudson) sadly came too late to save the series and indeed coincided with both the shift to a non-ratings time slot and the news that the series had been quietly axed. Poor Rowena played out her scenes to little fanfare and the series quietly ended (in Melbourne, at least) well into the summer non-ratings period of December 1987, shortly after Rowena's 10 week stint ended.
Though David Palmer had departed at the end of 1986, many old hands stayed on to the end. Fiona, Charlie, Beryl and Gordon, Wayne and Andy all remained, while successful characters Alison and Caroline continued their outrageous scheming.
Sons and Daughters was one series to really pick-up on the current tastes and trends of the day with the early cloning of The Restless Years before adopting the tone of the glamorous US super soaps just coming into vogue. Apart from Return to Eden which lasted just one season, Sons and Daughters is the one successful Australian soap to deal with wealthy and powerful business people and their money making schemes. While this led to successful ratings at the time it seems Sons and Daughters dated rather quickly when the vogue passed.
There are also some interesting parallels between Sons and Daughters and the grand-daddy of all Australian soaps, Number 96.
Both series were made in Sydney and two of Number 96's biggest stars, Pat McDonald and Abigail, became big stars of Sons and Daughters. Though Number 96 dealt with comedy and raunchy sex and sin storylines totally absent from Sons and Daughters, both series seemed desperate to maintain top ratings, attempting to earn them by constantly axing central characters or violently killing off less important ones in all manner of creative ways (both series used bomb-blasts, shootings and shark attacks to great effect).
Both series ran a similar length, but ten years apart; Number 96 ran from March 1972 to August 1977 while Sons and Daughters ran from January 1982, with the final episode airing in Sydney in August 1987.
Like Number 96, Sons and Daughters ran for the first few years as half hour episodes stripped in a week-night time slot, but later switched to showing two one hour episodes a week. In yet another co-incidence, in both series' final year Melbourne broadcasts, the number of episodes shown each week was reduced from two to one, so in Melbourne the final episode was not seen until December.
In all 972 half-hour episodes of Sons and Daughters were produced. The series was screened in the UK in the late 1980s to some success. Early episodes of the show were repeated by Channel 5 in the UK in 1998, however the show was taken off after the first two hundred episodes or so. Luckily for fans the show returned to Channel 5 in January 2002. The series resumed where their earlier repeat run had ended, with episodes screening at 4.00 am weekends. The final episode was reached in November 2005.
The show has also been repeated several times in Australia since its original run but has never reached true cult status. Network Seven repeated the series in an early morning weekday slot in the late 1990s. Then Australian pay-TV operator Foxtel repeated the series on the UK-TV channel (well, the series had achieved success in the UK). Starting 1997 Foxtel broadcast the entire series at the accelerated rate of five half-hour episodes a week. The final episode was reached in April 2000. In the late 1990s Sons and Daughters was repeated on the PRIME network which transmits to country regions of Victoria, and on GWN in Western Australia. PRIME had reached the late-1985 period of the series when it was taken off on 15 December 2000. Co-incidentally GWN removed the show from their schedules that same day.
PRIME viewers really were left hanging when Sons and Daughters disappeared. The various storylines all seemed to be building to a climactic high-point in preparation for the end-of-year cliffhanger for 1985. Unlike some years, this time the writers managed to place practically all of the characters in some sort-of perilous position for the year's final fade-out, with at least two involved in a potentially deadly disaster.
PRIME's final episode finished with Gordon's recently appeared brother James (Nick Tate) announcing to Gordon, Barbara, Wayne and Caroline that he was going to marry Alison and his wedding present to her was giving her control of his business involvement within the company, making the despised Alison their business partner. A worried Fiona was hiding her illness (cancer) from everyone while her doctor, Irene, was pressuring her to get treatment. Andy was enmeshed in a troubled romance with a blind-girl Kelly, while Charlie was impersonating a prim academic to impress her new beau Tom. David's new wife Sarah - initially believed to be an amnesia-suffering Patricia - had run off and left him, and Beryl had ended her romance with neighbour Rod Campbell after he had raised his hand to hit her. Had the series remained on-air, we would soon have seen that year's big cliffhanger. This included a claustrophobic Caroline locked in a cupboard during a robbery of the Hamilton mansion while Gordon and Barbara were away, attending Wayne's wedding to Mary Reynolds (Tessa Humphries). Meanwhile in Melbourne, Beryl looked on helplessly as Rod's jealous housekeeper Doris Hudson (Carole Skinner) locked herself in the house alone with Beryl's baby son Robert threatening to smother him to death. Alison had learned the true identity of Wayne's fiancée (she was actually his long-lost sister) and she and James rushed in his small plane to stop the wedding. Miles from civilisation their plane ran out of fuel, and crashed into dense forest.
In October 2006 the Seven Network began repeating Sons and Daughters at 10.30 am weekdays. This repeat run started from episode one but was discontinued in March 2007. In July 2008 the Seven Network resumed rerunning the serial, at midnight each Wednesday night (technically Thursday morning). [viii] In 2010 the series, episodes circa 1982, were running daily on digital channel 7TWO.
Two special DVD retrospectives featuring selected episodes of Sons and Daughters were released in 2006 and in 2007.
Sons and Daughters has inspired several remakes produced under license from the original producers and based, initially, on original story and character outlines. The remakes are Verbotene Liebe ("Forbidden Love"), Germany, 1995 to present; Skilda världar ("Separate Worlds"), Sweden, 1996-2002; Apagorevmeni agapi, Greece, 1998; Cuori Rubati, Italy, 2002-2003; Zabranjena ljubav, Croatia, 2004 to present. Bulgaria finally got its own version - titled Zabranena Lyubov ("Forbidden Love"), in 2009.
Originally uploaded May 2000
Last updated 9 February 2013
[i] "Meet the Relatives." TV Week. 16 January 1982, page 58-59.
[ii] Webster, Allan. "Meet the Stars." TV Week. 8 May 1982, page 7.
[iii] Cook, Stephen. "Two sign on with Sons and Daughters." TV Week. 29 May 1982, page 39.
[iv] Kusco, Julie. "TV Most Shocking Couple." TV Week. 29 May 1982, page 7.
[v] Kusco, Julie. "TV Most Shocking Couple." TV Week. 29 May 1982, page 7.
[vi] Frances, Cornelia. 'And What Have You Done Lately?' Macmillan: Sydney, 2003, page 209.
[vii] Frances, Cornelia. 'And What Have You Done Lately?' Macmillan: Sydney, 2003, page 209.
[viii] Bayley, Andrew. "'80s soap icon back for another run" Talking TelevisionAU. [Blog] 5 July 2008. URL: http://blog.televisionau.com/2008/07/soap-icon-back-for-another-run.html . Accessed: 6 July 2008.