Greetings, Glancers! Today I begin a new niche sub series of the Sh*t I Watch posts. Recently as I have been writing other posts in the series and remembering all the other shows I used to watch, I began thinking more and more about Neighbours. I have a huge list of old and current shows which I just from at random when writing the next post in the series, and Neighbours is one of those. I added it thinking that it would be a weird one to write about due to its sheer size. One night I was arsing about on Youtube and I happened to see the 30th Anniversary of the show was coming up, so I began watching a few promo clips. This led to me watching some old promo clips and fan made videos and the more I watched it the more I realized I missed it. As the days passed I kept watching more clips and the waves of nostalgia and fondness and sadness were overwhelming – I’ve never been a huge soap fan, but I was a massive Neighbours fan for quite a few years. In fact, I wouldn’t be overstating things if I said that Neighbours has been one of the most important and most watched shows in my life.
You see, when you watch a soap, when you properly dedicate yourself to it, you become part of an extended family. You spend time almost every day of the week with the characters on screen – you go through their ups and downs and by extension it feels like they are with you as you grow up and deal with the good shit and the bad. It was a difficult but necessary separation when I began moving away from Neighbours. I can’t remember precisely when it was, but I had met my future wife and moved in with her. I was working and had less time to myself, and was rarely home in time to watch the show. I estimate that this started in the middle and 2nd half of 2007 and by the same point in 2008 I had all but stopped watching. Considering I had been watching it from the beginning (though much of this as a toddler and young kid with little memory of the early episodes), that was already a 20 plus year relationship. The separation was made easier by the fact that around this time the soap was going through many changes – a lot of my favourite characters had left and many new ones had joined who I simply didn’t connect with. I would watch episodes and forget who they were and in the end stopped caring about the show. Over the next few years I would only watch a handful of episodes or snippets.
I’ve never been a huge fan, as I’ve said, but soaps are a staple for British Television – there was simply no getting away from them. Eastenders and Coronation Street are the big two from the UK, with Emmerdale eagerly hanging on and Hollyoaks doing it for the kids. I hear there is some show called Doctors these days too. As much as I watched Eastenders and Coronation Street, it was always Neighbours which I needed to see – it was simply sweeter, more quirky and light-hearted and funnier than the others. Watching Eastenders is like a slow seductive suicide while Coronation Street doesn’t have the emotional weight I need. I mean, it does, but it has too much of the old soap cliches – everyone has had an affair with everyone else. Neighbours doesn’t escape this, but it’s much softer and when the emotional moments come they hit all the more heavily. It’s also exotic, getting away from the stinking ever grey and brown streets of Britain. Oh yeah, for those wondering, I never could get in to Home And Away – I did try.
But what the hell am I talking about? Neighbours is a long-running Australian soap opera created by Reg Watson. It started in 1985, has over 7000 episodes, and has launched the careers of many famous peeps – Kylie Minogue and Jason Donovan? Guy Pearce and Natalie Imbruglia? Margot Robbie and Holly Valance? Liam and Chris Hemsworth? Russel Crowe? Them and many others got their start or appeared in the show and the show has been as much a hit in the UK as it has been in Oz. It has had its fair share of weddings, funerals, births and break-ups, and other assorted weirdness. It’s great, it’s crap, but mostly it’s mine… again.
Full disclosure – as of 2016 I am a regular Neighbours viewer again. After all the watching of promos and hearing some rumours of one particular ex-character making a return I thought I would dive in again. As you would expect with re-connecting with old family and friends after years apart there were some nerves and awkwardness. It took a few episodes, weeks, storylines before I was up to speed with who everyone was and how the related to the characters I already knew. The atmosphere and tone and spark is all still there, helped by the fact that there are still plenty of familiar faces – Karl, Susan, Toadie, Paul, Steph, Lou to name a few. One of the best moments for me was in a recent episode where a 2 second – literally 2 seconds – snippet of an old song they used to play regularly was played during an embarrassing moment. The song is called Sea Of Love – click that link and be prepared for nostalgic tickles if you watched the show in late 90s – early 2000s. I’m just waiting for them to play One Good Reason again – that would be sweet.
Music is one of many triggers the show uses to keep audiences involved – the show knows its audience and knows that many viewers are long-standing, yet for the longest time the show has catered towards a younger audience, even though it crosses generations. The key to this is that it focuses on the families on one street – Ramsey Street, and that several generations of the same families have been appearing since day 1. When it first started the main players were the Ramseys, the Robinsons, and the Clarkes – over time newer families were introduced – Kennedy, Willis, Bishop, Daniels, Canning Rebecchi, Scully, Mangel etc etc. We get invested – when someone leaves we miss them, when someone does we mourn them, and when someone returns we tune in to see them again even if we had already left by that point.
In case you didn’t know (and depending on when I post this and when you read it) Dee Bliss has returned to Neighbours. At the time of writing this, she is only a day away from making her return. I will say that I wasn’t the biggest Dee fan in the world – I mean I like her of course, but she is more significant in that she represents that time when I was most obsessed with the show. I’m holding out that we may get a few more cameos coming back due to her return. For those who don’t watch the show this will be (at least) the second time that a character who was presumably killed off will be making a return. It’s thirteen years since her death/disappearance, making her absence longer than the infamous Harold Bishop vanishing act. Over the next few posts I’m going to indulge in more nostalgia by going over a few (a lot) of my favourite characters and sharing some of my favourite moments. I hope you’ll join me, and I hope you’ll watch the show. I mean, I know you won’t – on either account – but it would be nice if you did. I’ll be your best friend?
Let us know in the comments if you watch/watched Neighbours and what you think of Dee’s return. What are your other favourite storylines and characters in the show?