My fun memories of watching Prisoner: Cell Block H on WGN-TV Channel 9 in the early 1980s.

prisoner cell block h 3:9:80
Here is an ad for Prisoner: Cell Block H. First aired on March 9, 1980, on WGN-TV Channel 9.

Hello everyone. Today I will be writing about the strangest, but addicting TV programs I have constantly watched. The TV soap opera was called Prisoner and it debuted in Australia on February 27, 1979. The show lasted for eight seasons, and it produced a total of 692 episodes. It was an enormous hit and it is however fondly remembered by fans in Australia and all over the world.

The series debuted on American television on March 9, 1980, on WGN-TV channel 9 at 10:30 p.m. That particular day, I remembered the promos were shown on Channel 9 and I was very intrigued by those. I watched the first episode, and the show had the classic introduction, The sliding prison door, showing the title of the show, which was called Prisoner: Cell Block H in The United States and three prisoners having their photos taken for mug shots. The first episode was great, and I couldn’t wait to see the next episode the following evening. At the end of the episode, the credits were shown and the song that was playing was called, On The Inside sung by Lynne Hamilton.

The series reminded me of another soap opera that achieved cult status and that was Dark Shadows in the 1960s. The plots and characters on Prisoner were memorable and a little far-fetched. The prisoners came and went as well as the prison officers. They were called screws by the prisoners. If you were snitching on the inmates, that was called lagging, I love the Aussie slang and words in the show. I heard cupper, G’day mate, and fags for cigarettes. It had two governors on the show, we called them wardens in the USA.

The women’s prison was named Wentworth and over the series, the other ones mentioned were called Barnhurst and Blackmoor. The classic characters that were prisoners were Bea, Lizzie, and Doreen. They were like The Three Musketeers. They were other prisoners and have acquired memorable nicknames. The prison officers were Meg, Vera, Colleen, Jim Fletcher, and Joan Ferguson ” The Freak”. The plots consisted of fights, cleaning duties, riots, inmates put into solitaire, escapes, corruption from the officers, privileges for the prisoners, and complaints about the terrible food.

There were six paperback books published about the show in 1980. I remembered seeing them in the book department at Wieboldt’s at Ford City Shopping Center in Chicago. I bought three of the books and took them home. The series stopped on airing on WGN-TV Channel 9 in the spring of 1982. The series in Australia ended on December 11, 1986, and reruns aired frequently for years. A few years ago, I went into a Fye Store at Chicago Ridge Mall and saw two DVDs of Prisoner. I purchased them instantly. They had the best episodes of the series, and they were wonderful. 

The entire series is on DVD in Australia and other countries right now. I would like to buy them, but they are very expensive. All of the episodes are available on YouTube. I watched them all a few years ago and I was completely satisfied. My favorite character was Lizzie, who was very sneaky of getting away murder by using her old ticker excuse. I laughed at her all the time. It was a good show and even so to this day. Perhaps one day I will rewatch the series or the find best moments on YouTube. I hope all my mates will enjoy reading my story. It’s bloody good! Thank you. Pete Kastanes-Admin for Vanished Chicagoland Facebook Page.



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