Arcade was an Australian TV soap opera that was widely known as the biggest flop in Australian television.
The series, created by David Sale (who also created the popular Number 96) and Johnny Whyte, Number 96's script writer, took place at an arcade (shopping mall) located in a motor hotel in the northern suburbs of Sydney, and focused on the lives of those who worked there.
The series ran for only 30 episodes in 1980, although there were 50 episodes produced. Like its predecessor, Number 96, there was a mix of drama as well as some light comedy; although much of the emphasis was on the comedy and farce.
The show's opening focused on an aerial shot of a real life shopping arcade, which was filmed at the real-life Strata Motor Hotel, which was located on Military Road in the northern Sydney suburb of Cremorne. The theme song, "(Walking Through an) Arcade" was composed by Mike Perjanik performed by Australian singer, Doug Parkinson.
Walking through an Arcade
The original stores in the arcade (exterior shots were filmed at the aforementioned Strata Motor Hotel) included Kitty's Record Bar, owned by Kitty Adams (Joy Miller), a former cabaret singer who gave up her show business career to own her own business. Danny Adcock played her ex-husband and agent, Duncan Adams. They were often arguing and scrapping, but Kitty persisted in her business owning.
Aristocrat (pompously called The Dry-Cleaning Specialists) was nearby Kitty's and was owned by Walter and Joyce Blair (played by veteran actors Syd Heylens and Aileen Britton, respectively). They were comedic characters, in that Joyce was very haughty (and had a propensity to gossip) and Walter (due to Syd's vaudeville experience) tended to be more blunt, knockabout and coarse. Despite their quirks, they run the dry cleaners very professionally.
Tracy Mann (later bikie Georgie Baxter of Prisoner) joined the show later in the run as their dry and slightly sardonic daughter, Susie, who often helped her parents. Susie had returned to her mother and father after she fled a religious cult. Joyce was also known for invoking wisdom given to her by her beloved "Mumsy". Her portrayal of Joyce was quite similar to her role of Norma Whittaker's overbearing mother, which Britton played on Number 96.
Magda's Gift Shop was owned by Hungarian immigrant to Australia Magda Yokochek (Annie Semler), who was a very provocative, outrageous but well-meaning woman. She would also be the target of gossip, especially from the haughty Joyce. The babbling Magda, known for her butchering of the English language (she sold, in her own words, "Knicker knockeries") was highly comedic as well as her interactions with her tax advisor, Mr. Sponge (Brian Moll).
The Bookworm was a book store and news agency run by sisters Miriam Buxton (Peggy Toppano, the mother of 80's actress, Peta Toppano of Prisoner and Return to Eden fame) and Molly Sparks (Lorrae Desmond). Molly's son, Joey Fellows (Greg Bepper), was energetic and willing to help his mother and aunt, but was quite bumbling. Molly was thrice-divorced and was allowing her sister to live with her and her son in their apartment (most of the store owners lived in apartments above the arcade). Miriam was quite prissy and gossipy, while Molly was quite exuberant but also blunt and outspoken.
Pendleton's Health Studio was a workout and health studio located nearby Kitty's Record Bar, and was run by the grasping widow, Iris Pendleton (Maggie Stuart). She was plotting to push her late husband, Michael's brother, Norman (Garth Meade), who was the complete opposite of her masculine and muscular husband (but he thought something of his brother to leave him half of his estate) out of the studio so she could own it all herself. She tried to do this with the "help" of her muscular, but exceedingly dumb, gym instructor, Len Crosby (Bill Charlton). Iris, the villain of the piece, was a grasping and vengeful vixen who tended to rub everyone the wrong way.
Their new receptionist, full-figured Consuela McPhee (Coral Drouyn) was hated by the nasty Iris, but was well-liked by Norman. A mismatched friendship between Consuela and Norman bloomed, to Iris's disgust.
Consuela was hired after the previous receptionist, Wilma (Vera Lommerse) quits in a fury after being groped by the macho gym clients one time too many! A later hire would be Grace Horridge (Robina Beard), a very ladylike English woman.
Toby's, a sit down restaurant, located next door to Aristocrat Dry Cleaners, was run by widowed mother Si Wan Soo (Lucy Taylor) and her son, Phillip (Raymond Nock). Toby's was also the place where the rest of the arcade shop owners would congregate and take their meal breaks or have some tea and a good gossip session. Phillip, a potential Olympic swimmer, was in quite the quagmire, as he was falling in love with his long-lost sister, the spoiled Mee Ling (Sinan Leong).
The family came from Hong Kong to Australia after Si Wan's husband had a serious financial reverse (which left him ruined) and he committed suicide. After his death, Mee Ling moved to Australia. Phillip also had to contend with his swim coach/trainer, Frank Shaw (Dennis Grosvenor), who was wanting him to not work so much at the restaurant and to convince his sister to pull her weight.
Flashback Leisure Centre, located next door to Toby's, was run by Vic Marshall (Mike Dorsey from Number 96) and his paraplegic daughter, Tina (Christine Harris). Vic, a former Merchant Navy man, was more overprotective of Tina ever since she had been paralyzed. Tina was very well liked among the others, and she was willing to help those who needed it. She was often asked by the various shopkeepers to keep an eye on their shops when they had to take care of errands, with the noted exception of the gym. Tina didn't really mind helping them.
Surf-n-Ski, a sports shop which specialized in water sports (surfing, diving, etc), was run by Craig Carmichael (Patrick Ward), a conceited and rather dim-witted man who wanted to become a male model and focused his life on that goal. His girlfriend, Di Smith (Olga Tamara) ran the shop in his place, so he could focus on his goal.
Jeremy Kewley played Robbie Stewart, Craig's brother (Craig's real name was Stan Stewart, but chose the name Craig Carmichael as he thought it was a better name for a model), who was thought to have been a murderer.
In one of the most tragic of ironies, actor Jeremy Kewley would be arrested and charged with 100 counts of child molestation and possession of porn charges. He is currently imprisoned for 24 months on said charges.
They all had to answer to Mr. Henderson (Allan Penney), the manager of the arcade. Joey wanted his mother to romance him so that he could become the assistant manager of the arcade.
Stories included Robbie's troubles as he was thought to be a murderer, however, he was later cleared (it had been someone else who had done the off-screen murders); Joyce selling a beloved brooch that her mother had given her to get $500 to keep her husband out of jail after a customer accused him of stealing said money (he was later revealed to have been a "mountebank" in the haughty words of Joyce).
Magda had her own share of troubles when she is revealed to have been an illegal immigrant to Australia, and was on the prowl for a wealthy husband to secure her residency; Kitty would reluctantly allow her hated former husband to move into her apartment, and then finding out that he had abused her so dreadfully that their child had been born brain damaged. This explained their combative relationship.
Tina had been brutally attacked in the pinball parlour by three robbers, during a solo evening shift. However, one of the robbers, Teddy Pullen (Martin Portus) took her to an Ocean walk where the money was stashed, apologized to her and gave her his share of the money. Teddy was more frequent and was often in and out of trouble.
The brutal attack and robbery only served Vic to become even MORE overprotective of his daughter. A situation which Tina did not seem to mind, given that her father was all she had.
Di was revealed to be the one who was getting Craig his major modeling contracts, due to her father being a wealthy man. Craig's subsequent success made him even more conceited and over-bearing (but he was still very dim-witted), and because of his being a dim-wit, he never realized that it had been Di who had gotten him his modeling jobs. She was tempted to blab this to everyone, especially when he becomes very conceited.
Meanwhile Tina begins to have romantic feelings for Craig's brother, Robbie, although Joey thinks he is a "poof" (a contention that was never confirmed).
Iris discovers she is pregnant by Len, but viciously tries to pin the baby on her late husband in a naked grab to kick Norman out of the health studio and for her to grab her late husband's estate. The vixenish Iris, who was clearly not a loyal woman, begins an affair with Craig when he sets up a promotion at the Health Studio, which serves to anger Di.
Mee Ling and Phillip, mercifully, get over their attraction, and she is married (in an arranged marrige) to an older businessman, Chang Li. However, Phillip nearly committed suicide by swimming off into the surf. (This scene had actor Raymond Nock stripping himself completely, and there was full rear nudity!)
Despite all this intrigue and drama, not to mention the well-talented cast, the show ended in a month and a half, only showing 30 of the 50 episodes produced, and earning the show the dubious distinction of being Australia's biggest television flop. It was so bad that shows that were bad themselves found themselves improved against Arcade! The show fell to much stronger competition.
Coral Drouyn (Consuela McPhee) would retire from acting after Arcade ended, and would later become a television writer, becoming story editor for the show, Prisoner
- JOY MILLER -- Kitty Adams
- DANNY ADCOCK -- Duncan Adams
- AILEEN BRITTON -- Joyce Blair
- SYD HEYLEN -- Walter Blair
- TRACY MANN -- Susie Blair
- ANNIE SEMLER -- Magda Yokochek
- GARTH MEADE -- Norman Pendleton
- MAGGIE STUART --Iris Pendleton
- BILL CHARLTON -- Len Crosby
- CORAL DROUYN -- Consuela McPhee
- LUCY TAYLOR -- Si Wan Soo
- RAYMOND NOCK -- Phillip Soo
- SINAN LEONG -- Mee Ling Soo
- LORRAE DESMOND -- Molly Sparks
- GREG BEPPER -- Joey Fellows
- PEGGY TOPPANO -- Miriam Buxton
- PATRICK WARD -- Craig Carmichael (ne Stan Stewart)
- OLGA TAMARA -- Di Smith
- JEREMY KEWLEY -- Robbie Stewart
- MIKE DORSEY -- Vic Marshall
- CHRISTINE HARRIS -- Tina Marshall
- ALLAN PENNEY -- Mr. Henderson (the arcade manager)
- DENNIS GROSVENOR -- Frank Shaw (Phillip Soo's swimming coach/trainer)
- VERA LOMMERSE -- Wilma (the former Pendleton's Health Studio receptionist who quit)
- BRIAN MOLL -- Mr. Sponge (Magda's tax advisor)
- ROBINA BEARD -- Grace Horridge (worked at Pendleton's)
- MARTIN PORTUS -- Teddy Pullen