Plenty of Poms tune in to Wentworth

30 August, 2013 by Don Groves

Australian prison drama Wentworth has premiered successfully on the UK’s Channel 5, drawing 1.8 million viewers.

The FremantleMedia-produced series ranked second in its 10 pm Wednesday timeslot, trailing BBC News (3.2 million viewers) and ahead of ITV’s News (1.4 million), Channel 4’s The Last Leg, the talk show co-hosted by Adam Hills (900,000), and BBC2’s The Culture Show (500,000).


Entitled Wentworth Prison in the UK, it ranked No 1 among people aged 16-34 and registered strongly with women and “upmarket adults.”

That performance delighted FremantleMedia executives who hope it will encourage broadcasters in other territories, most notably the US, to buy the show. Foxtel has commissioned a second series which starts shooting in Melbourne in late September.

The re-imagining of Prisoner, which many Poms fondly remember as Prisoner Cell Block H, got mixed reviews. The Telegraph’s critic lauded the show as “edgy and gripping” and declared the final showdown between Franky (Nicole da Silva) and Jacs (Kris McQuade), was “so compelling – and the cliffhanger so agonising – that it would be a crime to miss the next instalment.”

Time Out London opined, “It’s a high-camp dog’s breakfast, even if fans of the original will find much to amuse them in incidental details including a first sight of Lizzie Birdsworth and one prisoner cheering herself up in solitary by singing On the Inside (the original Prisoner… theme) to herself. Utterly ridiculous, but an extra star for shamelessness.”

The Guardian critic said, “I can't believe this is the best drama being made in Australia right now, but I also can't believe that the only place in the whole prison without CCTV is the exact spot where Governor Jackson got knifed, shortly after snogging one of her wardens – male, surprisingly – in her office. It was also disturbing to find the lead character – wrongly banged up, obviously – looking like a young Rebekah Brooks. If you like this sort of thing, you're in for a treat.”