TV Cream

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Prisoner Cell Block H

"Stop looking at me condoments, yer great hoon!"ROTTEN PANTOMIMESQUE female lag epic, beneficiary of a dreadful “cult” following amongst people who should know better. No prison cliché was left unexplored, no potential for sordid melodrama left unrealised. Boss Cocky of the incarcerated femmes of the fictional Wentworth Detention Centre was Bea Smith (VAL LEHMAN), a queasy cross between a ginger-hued Miss Piggy and an Antipodean Anna Magnani, gaoled for double murder and rightfully deserving the title of “top dog”. Bea’s teenage daughter had died from a heroin overdose, prompting much decidedly dodgy “Just Say No” moralising amongst the ensemble of killers, thieves, thugs etc. Many of the most popular characters came from the early years, such as drunken old hag Lizzie Burdsworth (SHEILA FLORANCE), inserted for proto-COCOON “you’re as old as you feel” factor, yo-yo knickered cockarnee sparra Chrissie Latham (AMANDA MUGGLETON) and Judy Bryant (BETTY – ho ho – BOBBIT), token lesbian with a pacemaker powered heart of gold. The officers or “screws” were chiefly represented by genteel governor Erica Davidson (PATSY KING), hair piled into an elaborate Sybil Fawlty meringue and blissfully unaware she is administering a teeming mound of corruption; and sadistic warder Joan “The Freak” Ferguson (MAGGIE KIRKPATRICK), enforcing her will with her black-gloved fists and taking her cut on everything that happens. CROSSROADS, WITHIN THESE WALLS, St. Trinians and THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW all rolled into one and bunged out over here in the only slot it deserved: the back of fucking beyond.



  1. Adrian

    September 14, 2009 at 9:28 am

    LOL, wasn’t one of the lags called ‘Vinegar Tits’?

  2. Uncle Mex

    September 15, 2009 at 2:14 pm

    I think you’ll find that “Vinegar Tits” was the legendary prison officer Vera Bennett of the earlier years… erm, apparently

  3. MikeMCSG

    March 3, 2011 at 4:09 pm

    The dates are a bit misleading. They are when the show was made and broadcast in Australia ; it originally ran in the UK 1987-1995 ( varied between regions).

  4. Benji

    April 6, 2011 at 8:22 pm

    Prisoner is far better than that summary suggests. The big problem with people judging the show is that they focus far too much on it weaker moments early on in the show. And it way too easy to poke fun at this show! It is crazy journey for sure, it doesn’t have great production values, but it is impossible to not get very involved in the charecters, and they come at you 10 to the dozen, and many of the stories only seem mad from a distance, your too wraped up in what is going to happen to care.

  5. Peter

    April 12, 2011 at 10:34 pm

    Cannot agree with this summary at all. I love you TVC guys, but Prisoner is so much more than you suggest. Sure it’s dated now, It was dated by the time it arrived on UK screens, which was well after it finished.

    It had low production values and many faults, but it’s a show which tackled many subjects well before it’s time and had a lot to say which it did well within it’s limitations.

    I was a child viewer of PCBH and now as an adult I undersrtand it and love it so much more. Stick with it and you will begin to realise just how awesome it truly is.

  6. david

    May 13, 2012 at 3:19 pm

    I loved prisoner I now have box set my face episodes involve alf. From home and away and the freak

  7. Joanne Gray

    February 22, 2017 at 6:52 pm

    It’s tatty sets, outrageous plots, boot faced, hairy arsed truckers in drag cast were what made the show such a cult – and still vastly superior to the glamourised 21st century remake.

  8. Richardpd

    October 30, 2022 at 3:34 pm

    I remember Channel 5 tried showing it during it’s early days & sometimes it suffered from a satellite link breaking down.

    They had to apologise & admit they couldn’t repeat any episode effected as they had only bought up the rights for one screening.

    I’ve got the feeling some ITV regions were still running the later episodes in late night slots.

    Mel Gibson was in a similar soap set in a men’s prison that didn’t catch on, I think it was between the first two Mad Max films.

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