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The Sullivans was also the title of a 1944 Oscar-nominated film set during World War II and written by Eddie Doherty (later renamed The Fighting Sullivans). You may have arrived here while looking for the Sullivan brothers.

The Sullivans is an Australian drama television series produced by Crawford Productions which ran from 1976 until 1983. The series told the story of an average middle-class Melbournemarker family and the effect World War II had on their lives. It was a consistent ratings success in Australia, and also became popular in the Netherlandsmarker, United Kingdommarker, Irelandmarker and New Zealandmarker.

Main Story, Setting, and Characters

The story began in 1939, with the declaration of war against Germanymarker. From the outset the series focused on the Sullivan family of Gordon Street, Camberwell, Victoriamarker, along with their neighbourhood friends, relatives, and other close associates.

Grace and Dave Sullivan (Lorraine Bayly and Paul Cronin) were the parents of the intellectual John (Andrew McFarlane) who was opposed to the war, while his more knockabout younger brother Tom (Steven Tandy) was keen to sign up and defend his country. Next son was Terry (Richard Morgan), a young rascal still in school. The youngest, the only girl, was the shy and conscientious Kitty (Susan Hannaford). Other key characters were Dave's brother, Uncle Harry (Michael Caton) and his syruppy wife Rose (Maggie Dence).

The family's close associates were Maggie Hayward (Vikki Hammond), the owner of the local pub The Great Southern, and Jack (Reg Gorman) the barman. Norm Baker (Norman Yemm) was a close family friend, as was the gossipy but sympathetic neighbour Ida Jessup (Vivean Gray) who initially appeared to be meddling and puritantical but actually held great strength and understanding. Mrs Jessup took in lodgers, the first of which were Bert and Lil Duggan (played by Peter Hehir and Noni Hazlehurst).

WWII Theme and Episode Locations

The majority of show's storylines relate to the war, focussing either on its impact on the Sullivan family in Australia, or through locally-filmed scenes of fighting in northern Africa, Greecemarker, Cretemarker, the Netherlandsmarker, Englandmarker, New Guineamarker and Malaya. All male members of the Sullivan family enlisted in the armed forces at some point in the series; one son (John) was lost at sea but was later found fighting alongside Jewish partisans in the Middle East.

Critical and Popular Reception

The Sullivans attracted critical acclaim and was also one of Australia's most popular drama series, screening in half-hour episodes at 7.00 pm. Its popularity waned somewhat after 1979 following the departure of Lorraine Bayly. Bayly decided to leave the series, but unwilling to let such a popular actor who played a key central character leave the series, the producers of the series allowed her to take six months leave from the show. In the storyline her character Grace was sent to London, and a succession of pre-taped segments were interspersed through the period she was absent to maintain her presence in the series. These London-set segments featured actors specially imported from New Zealandmarker, so that Australian viewers would not recognise familiar Australian actors in the scenes. After the break Bayly was still adamant she wanted to leave the series and so Grace was killed by a V1 bomb during a London air raid.

Despite her departure ratings remained high enough for the series to remain in production. In 1982 the war ended in the storyline and there were plans for the series to continue with examinations of elements of post-War Australian history such as the Snowy Rivermarker hydro-electric scheme, however the decision of Paul Cronin to leave the series prompted the show's cancellation before any of this could come to fruition.

International success

The series subsequently enjoyed some success outside Australia after being purchased by networks in Britain and Europe as a daytime filler on the ITV Network. A midweek Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday 3.50pm before moving to 12.30pm slot was the most used slot when the programme was aired among most ITV contractors. When ATV became Central Television on 1 January 1982 the series was dropped in favour of contemporary Australian serials Sons and Daughters and The Young Doctors. Shortly after Central dropped the show, Yorkshire Television followed suit opting for local news programming instead.

The series was also screened on Sky Channel in the mid to late 80's before it became Sky One in 1989. It was shown at 11.30am every weekday morning. In the mid 90's, it enjoyed yet another repeat on UK Gold. Again, it was broadcast at 11.30am from 1994 to 1999.

In the early 1980s, the series was syndicated in North America. Stations included WLVI Boston and CKRD Red Deer.

Among the many short term cast members who worked on the series during its run, were several newcomers who later established successful careers, including Mel Gibson, Kerry Armstrong, Kylie Minogue and Dannii Minogue, Sam Neill, Gary Sweet and Sigrid Thornton.


see List of The Sullivans actors

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