Colleen McCullough's 'The Thorn Birds', about 4 generations of Irish family life in Australia's outback from 1915 to 1962, was the most popular novel during the American summer of 1977. In the American spring of 1983, David Wolper and Stan Margulies successfully turned Colleen's epic novel into the 2nd highest-rated mini-series of all time. The 10-hour mini-series attracted an average 59% audience share over 4 compelling nights. Richard Chamberlain remarked, "'Thorn Birds' verged a bit on soap opera but it was filled with compelling issues, like what withholding love does to people. And the production values were exceptional."
Later in 1983, Home Box Office (HBO), with a budget of $60 million to spend on program development, imported the Australian mini-series, 'All The Rivers Run', said to cost some $A3 million to make. Based on the book by Nancy Cato, 'All The Rivers Run' was filmed on location at the Port of Echuca in the state of Victoria in Australia. 'All The Rivers Run' became one of "the select group of Australian mini-series which managed to score ratings in the 40s." Others "big-event Australian television" included 'The Last Frontier' starring Jack Thompson and Linda Evans which "rated 40s in Australia, which is akin to the ratings the network was getting for its Olympics coverage."
One Australian network program director made the observation in 1988, "You only have to look at how well 'All The Rivers Run' went in the U.S. with Home Box Office to realize that co-productions are the future of television drama in this country. The sheer economics dictate that that is where the money and the audience is." 'All The Rivers Run' was filmed in October 1982 and first shown in Australia in September 1983. In the U.S., 'All The Rivers Run' was shown 3 times in January 1984. The premiere occupied the timeslot previously reserved for 'Movie of the Week'. Then HBO reran 'All The Rivers Run' twice the following week, once in the morning and once at night. In the United Kingdom, 'All The Rivers Run' was shown in April 1984 on Channel 4. Other countries showing 'All The Rivers Run' included Germany, Italy, Japan, Austria, Switzerland, in Southeast Asia and Scandinavian countries such as Norway.
Set in 19th-century Australia around the Murray River, Sigrid Thornton recounted, "I play a young woman of 16 called Philadelphia – as in cream cheese. She comes to Australia (from England), is orphaned on arrival and brought up by her aunt and uncle. It's the story of her life and romances, and is set at the turn of the (20th) century. It's very challenging. There's a 10-year time span (1892-1902), as it covers her life from 16 to 26."
Bruce Rowland composed the music. He made the comment in 1988, "I really love scoring movies. It's hard. Commercials are a lot of fun. In many ways I would really prefer to do commercials because you make more money out of commercials and there is less mental fatigue. It is really very tiring to do a motion picture score which takes from 6 weeks to 3 months writing. It takes one day to write about 3 minutes of music and I work pretty fast. There is a continual build up of stress until that one fateful day when you walk in and out it comes in 3 hours."
Director George Miller was born in Scotland. He came to Australia in 1948 when he was 4 and grew up in a place called Wonthaggi in Victoria. He told the press in 1987, "My father was a miner in Scotland and there was a very rigid class system. My sister wanted to be a teacher and her teacher told her she would never be a teacher because she was only a miner's daughter. My father said: 'Stuff it, we'll leave'. My attitude to film-making came from growing up in the country. I am constitutionally incapable of making an unhappy ending. I believe that in life the traffic lights are green more often than they are red. I think in spite of everything, there is hope. I am unashamedly romantic. But I think that's what people need. I was brought up in the bush in Gippsland where I now (in 1987) have my holiday house. I really think people from the country are less cynical. I think if you are going to say anything, especially with television which is universal, it is incumbent upon you say something positive. It makes people feel better."
Between 1988 and 1991, Sigrid could be seen on the CBS TV series 'Paradise' created by David Jacobs and Robert Porter. Sigrid said at the time, "It's very interesting working in another country. We're all raised in Australia to believe there's no culture gap between Australians and Americans. But there is. It doesn’t mean that I find it impossible or difficult to communicate with my colleagues. Quite the contrary. It just means that there's not quite the same shorthand as there is when you're working with people from your own culture. Not having that shorthand is really quite invigorating…having to explain yourself more. It's also quite tiring having to break down those barriers and work through them. The major difference in working here (in the U.S.) is not a cultural one. It's rather the incredible speed with which we are working."