Penny coin was an Australian television police serial comedy/drama that debuted in 1964 and was cancelled in 1964. This oft maligned serial was the show that truly defined the genre as has been cited as the true birth of Australian television that has since gone on to produce high quality internationally acclaimed television shows such as Neighbours and other high quality drama.
Penny coin takes us inside a police station located in Box Hill. It follows realistic characters whose lives are entangled through their work.
Set in the gritty reality on the 60's and the controversial youth revolution, Penny coin was on the cutting edge of drama and continuously exploring social mores and concepts that were the de rigueur of the day. It holds the pride of place as the one of the first Australian TV shows to explore controversial themes of homosexuality, prostitution and drug use in a realistic and gritty manner. It also explored controversies such as police corruption and forensics work it a gritty realism that was underlined by it's realistic grittiness.
The name of the show came from a popular children's rhyme of the day, that went "What's the colour of a penny coin? Copper, copper."
The show was produced by the then government controlled ABC as a response to the falling number of recruits into the police force, and was designed to be used as a vehicle to increase the public opinion of police of the day in order to combat what was seen as a moral decline. It harkened back to a previous set of moral values that the government were determined to reintroduce at the time.
Although this was not the first government sponsored attempt to use propaganda to control the masses, the obvious ploy by the government of the day was met initially with public outcry as this was seen as a potential form of mind control through virtual reality. As the show met with critical approval, however, this outcry soon faded.
Cast and Characters
- DET. RAYMOND "RAY JAY" JOHNSON - Bud Tingwell
- KAYLEE FRANGER - Rowena Wallace
- SNR. CNST. FRANK EARNEST - Gil Tucker
- DET. SARGEANT LAURA LAND - Paula Duncan
- DET. SNR. SGT. VIC TAMOWA - George Mallaby
- HNR. FTH. SNR. DET. CNST. CUNNA "BLACKIE" LANGAUSE - Earnest Dingo
- DR. LAWYER "BUTCHER" BAKER - Humphrey B Flaubert
- EMBRYO - Cameron Daddo
List of episodes
|Episode Title||Original air date||Brief synopsis|
|1. Pilot||23 Jan 1964||In an attempt to understand and completely miss the point of the concept of a pilot, this episode revolved around Boeing 747 that had to do an emergency crash landing in the middle of the Box Hill Hawks football ground, and the booking of the pilot of the plane for driving under the influence. This episode was noticeable for the use of green screen technology to have a marionette plane appearing in the middle of a suburban football oval. This technology was then referred to as Supermarionation, and was used a substantial amount in the film Terminator.|
|2. Tucker's daughter||30 Jan 1964||The police of Box Hill station have to scramble to find a child that has apparently been taken away in a weather balloon kept in her parent's backyard. Through thorough investigative work it is determined that the daughter was just sleeping in her parents attic, and that the entire thing was designed as a media stunt. Although popular, this episode was derided as having too unrealistic a storyline.|
|3. Shades of grey||6 Feb 1964||Blackie gets personally involved in an investigation surrounding the savage beating of 3 young aboriginal men by the local white youths. It is later determined that the black men came from a tribe that beat up a young white man. As Australian law at the time stated that twenty such black men were to be beaten for the beating of one black man, Blackie finally accepts that the law is just and round up 16 other member's of his family and himself to make up for the missing numbers to be beaten.|
|4. Blood is red||13 Feb 1964||Ray Jay is astonished to find that his identical twin brother, John Junior, (also played by Bud Tingwell) has been masquerading as him and sleeping with his wife behind his back. In the shows climactic scene Ray Jay runs into a burning building to rescue his brother, but comes out alone and naked, and seemingly suffering from a form of amnesia as he can no longer remember any of his police training.|
|5. In for a penny...||20 Feb 1964||Frank Earnest is called on to arrest his Auntie Jacqueline for refusing to sleep with his Uncle. Kaylee develops a strong bond of affection for the older lady and much of the show centres on the discussion of the woman's place in society. Finally the Aunt is sent to a rehab for unwilling wives and becomes perfectly submissive again after substantial sleep deprivation and torture methods. It is in this episode where we see the love first blossoming between Kaylee and Frank.|
|6. ... in for a pound||27 Feb 1964||Kaylee and Frank get married in St Paul's Cathedral and spend their honeymoon in Dromana, when they are unexpectedly called in to investigate a ring of potential note forgers. They finally determine that Rosebud was actually a sled, and everyone is happy again.|
|7. Life on Mars||6 Mar 1964||"Butcher" seems to have been transported forward in time after being hit by a car in a freak traffic accident. He wakes in 1975 and is unsure if he is in a coma, insane, or really there. He wonders at the marvellous hover cars and robots that have taken over the world of policing before finally waking up in his hospital bed with his Auntie Emma sitting next to him, smoking a cigarette.|
|8. Homocide||13 Mar 1964||In a misguided attempt to fully understand the nature of his work as a Homocide agent, Vic is arrested for stalking a young, polite and slightly effeminate man who works in the men's department of his local department store and continually informs all his fellow staff and clients that he is free. Vic finally shoots the young man in a bungled burglary, but still manages to get out of the house with an enviable record collection of show tunes.|
|9. Grey street||20 Mar 1964||Laura goes undercover on Grey street to explore a potential prostitution ring that seems to be exploiting back-packing tourists in St Kilda. The episode culminates in a dramatic scene where Laura hands in her badge, stating that she is to start working as a receptionist for a men's club.|
|10. Thicker than water||27 Mar 1964||Ray Jay is exposed as actually being his identical twin brother, JJ, after failing to stop at a level crossing and running over a dog. Much confusion ensues until it is finally realised that neither of the two men actually knew anything about policing anyway and so there was no real harm done.|
|11. The spider's web:Part I||12 June 1964||After a brief hiatus the show returned to the screens at a different timeslot, where Kaylee leaves Frank when it is discovered that she actually doesn't really like him much after all. Frank chases her across two suburbs and finally catches her in Nunawading where he convinces her to come back by cutting off the little finger of his right hand to show that he can be as hideously deformed as she is.|
|13. The spider's web: Part III||3 July 1964||After a brief hiatus the show returned to the screens at a different timeslot, JJ is astonished to find that his identical twin sister, Diana, (also played by Bud Tingwell) has been masquerading as him and sleeping with his wife behind his back. In the shows climactic scene JJ runs into a burning building to rescue his sister, but comes out alone and naked, and seemingly having suffered some horrible trauma that changes his/her gender.|
The shows cancellation
Due to falling ratings and the show was finally pulled off the air much to the dismay of millions. The show is seen as one of the instigators of the introduction of decimal currency, as the government then decided to produce no more penny coins in order to avoid ever having to admit to the existence of the show ever again.