From its earliest stages, Australian television looked to other source material for inspiration, from overseas works to Australian-written texts.
In this section, explore works from early Australian television plays (based on both overseas material and Australian material) to the spectacular mini-series of the middle decades.
This exhibition offers a sampling of these materials. To explore Australian television more broadly, select one of the options below.
Much of the content originally shown on Australian television screens was drawn from overseas: some were simply bought and screened, some were Australian-made adaptations of European and American plays and operas, and some were new Australian productions of work written for television in other countries.
But Australian material began appearing early in proceedings, including adaptations of other Australian works.
This tile explores some of the adaptations of Australian works on early Australian television, but is only a sampling: for a full list of Australian television adaptations between 1957 and 1970, click here.
It is uncertain to what extent, if any, this work was altered for television broadcast, but it was the first Australian play to be produced on Australian television.
Early Australian television relied heavily on overseas material, usually from the US and the UK.
Overseas programs tended to fall into one of two categories: overseas programs bought for direct screening or Australian productions of classic European or American plays, not necessarily adapted in any way.
But sometimes, Australian television staged its own adaptations of overseas plays or novels. A selection of these adaptations are included on this tile.
The first television program ever made in Australia was an adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island, with some (myriad) alterations of the text. It couldn't actually be screened in Australia, which didn't get television for another three years, and there's nothing particularly Australian about either themes or setting, but it retains the distinction of being the first Australian-made television series.
The author of this adaptation has not been traced, but contemporary reports indicated that the work was specially adapted for TV in both words and camera shots.
This Australian-Canadian co-production (which used primarily overseas script-writers) was based (very loosely) on Andre Norton's 1959 novel The Beast Master, via the 1982 film The Beastmaster (itself already a loose adaptation).
Even when Australian television broadened its scope past the one-off television play, they continued to look for other forms for source material.
No relation to the American prime-time soap opera of the same name, Dynasty is doubly adapted: Tony Morphett adapted his novel into a one-off television play, which was then picked up for this series.
This is only a sampling of television adaptations for children. To see a complete listing of Australia adaptations aimed at children, including both films and television series, click here.
This adaptation is based on two novels by Margaret Paice: Colour in the Creek and Shadow of Wings. Both novels follow a Queensland family who uproot themselves during the Depression, after the father hears rumours that someone has struck gold. A third novel in the series was published the year after this series aired.
1980s: era of the mini-series.
This is only a sampling of 1980s' adaptations of Australian works: to see a complete listing, click here.
Originally discussed as a nine-part series, Water Under the Bridge aired instead on four consecutive Wednesday nights in massive, two-hour long episodes, a decision that perhaps had an effect on its ratings, which were, contemporary reports said, neither large nor even respectable.
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