I’ve just channel hopped my way to ITV and stumbled on an interview with Stefan Dennis and Ashleigh Brewer (Paul Robinson and Kate Ramsay) and, as anyone who is reading this should well know, this pleased me greatly. Even moreso because I didn’t know they were even in the UK doing publicity or interviews, so it was extra exciting times.
Neighbours has been a great love of mine since about 2005. I don’t know why I suddenly loved it then, nor what happened to me that meant it gave me a great escape from reality and into the sunny delights of Ramsay Street – but I’ve loved it ever since. I recall a conversation with a friend once, and their great disdain at me claiming Neighbours to be rubbish and boring, and I can only assume that my need in my teen years to feel like a valued person within our friendship group, meant I tuned in one evening and have never turned back since. Oddly, as the years have gone on I think Neighbours has got itself a reputation to be one of those guilty pleasure type TV . No-one turns up to work and says “DID YOU SEE NEIGHBOURS LAST NIGHT?” in the same way they do with Corrie or Eastenders. I even recall a friend of mine telling me, when I was 16/17 that it was typical teenage obsession, that I would grow out of my love for it and that it was all perfectly normal. And although I can say I am no longer obsessed with the show (i.e. I can no longer spout ratings for particular episodes off my head, nor tell you in depth things that are going to happen in 6 months time) the love for it has never really subsided.
So, here are my 8 reasons why I love Neighbours:
1. It’s setting. Sunny Australia, a foreign land (with a whole heap of familiar in it!) The skies are blue, the sun is out, everything is green and lush looking. They don’t wander round with big wintery looking coats on and if it rains it’s for dramatic reasons (reason number 5) and not because it’s actually bad weather.
OK, so I had to put it in here – because when they’re thought out well, and not too ‘way out there’ they can be pretty damn good. And you can’t deny there’s been some variety over the years. From stealing garden gnomes to plane crashes to character-changing brain tumours to wrestling. We’ve done it all. Quite well and not so well in some cases (reason 4).
3. Characters/actors. Fair do’s, every show has it’s characters that make the show what it is. For Neighbours for many years that was ‘Jelly-Belly’ Harold Bishop (Ian Smith), but the show continues to hang on to some all-time brilliant actors and characters. Lou Carpenter (Tom Oliver) taking on the role as grandfather to everyone on the show and the Kennedy’s (Alan Fletcher and Jackie Woodburne) still together (well, just) taking in every waif and stray that’s around (and yes, there’s been a lot!). Not forgetting the ever maturing Toadfish Rebecchi (Ryan Maloney) who we’ve watched go from cheeky teen, to family man over the years gone by. Without forgetting, of course, Paul Robinson (Stefan Dennis) and the constant ‘is he really evil?’ question that goes through every viewers minds! The show hangs on to these characters, and on the whole, do a good job of making them still included and central to the running of the show.
4. Wobbly sets/moving walls and dodgy storylines. Every show has storylines that viewers don’t agree with, but Neighbours seems fairly consistent in having genuinely laughable storylines or introductions of characters that leave the average fan seething. One of the recent occasions that sticks in my mind is the introduction of the Ramsay’s (Kate, Sophie and Harry). I’m not sure I’ve ever seen so many angry fans as when they first introduced the family and re-writing of history of the show in order to accommodate these strays on our screens. But hey, we forgave them and we moved on. Much like when we forgive them for the wobbly sets when an angry teen slams the door. And how about that suspicious wall outside number 28? Is it there or isn’t it?
5. Creating an atmosphere. I am fairly sure that all soaps and dramas are renowned for their use of weather/music to create atmosphere. That’s no secret and nothing spectacular. But I’m sure that there are also times where you think there’s overkill to make a point. Neighbours is no exception. Bad things happening? Bring out the monsoon type weather in the middle of the night. Need a serious moment? Bring out the serious music. Because we, as viewers, obviously can not tell when bad things are happening without these pointers. But it’s just another reason to love it as far as I’m concern – a good laugh over how dramatic the scene really is based on the music and other goings on.
6. No false illusions. Neighbours knows what it is. It knows it’s identity and it knows it’s a bit of a guilty pleasure. It knows it’s split up Karl and Susan far too many times, and that ‘Dr Karl’ will appear in every medical scene possible. Toadie will be the lawyer for every one on the street and I’m sure our newest resident cop Matt Turner will be involved in bringing Paul Robinson down. Instead of attempting to keep re-writing this or fixing it, Neighbours just embraces it and makes light of it and on some occasions. It also admits it’s mistakes and fixes things where it needs it. The glimpse of the interview with Stefan Dennis and Ashleigh Brewer is a sign of that, both of them admitting to the presenters of This Morning that the show had lost its way in recent years, but that they feel it’s turned a corner and is getting back to a family centred show. That’s very honest for a TV show and deserves recognition.
7. Start a career! It may be frustrating to watch that new actor on their first proper acting job in Neighbours, and a far too common occurrence but where would we be without the Ned Parker’s (Dan O’ Connor) of this world? The opportunity to talk with other fans and have a good laugh at those wooden acted moments. They make discussing Neighbours hilarious at times and provide the insight into a show that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Of course we can also thank it for kick starting careers of Jason Donovan, Kylie Minogue and others. I mean, who hasn’t enjoyed all those characters that have come by since determined to sing their way through as many scenes as possible.
8. ‘Nice’ And finally, for me, it’s just ‘nice’. I come home and flick it on. It’s sunny and happy but with a decent amount of drama to keep me interested. There’s stupid stories, serious stories, ridiculous stories and just plain daft stories. It’s that 25min escape from reality at the end of the day.
So there we go. If you’ve never watched Neighbours I seriously invite you to try it for 2 weeks – you might be missing a gem of a show. If you used to watch it but don’t anymore now is a really good time to get back to it and see what you’re missing with massive storylines on the horizon. Even Channel 5 have faith in it, giving it a prime slot and airing it at 10pm on 16th April.
There’s just shy of 2 million people tuning in to Neighbours on a daily basis in the UK. Surely they can’t all be wrong?