Newest Review: ... wedding, the meddling Mrs. Mangel and Madge and Harold's romance. My interest in Neighbours hit its peak whilst I was in seconda... more
Your own virtual next door Neighbours
Member Name: silverbird44
Advantages: Classic escapism with familiar characters
Disadvantages: Terrible acting, 2D characters, nutty plotlines - but who cares!
A woman in her 60s is pregnant with her own grandchild through a process of IVF, conveniently ignoring the relapsing/remitting MS that threatened to confine her to the house two months previous and unaware that her adopted son, who works in a radio station, has just been locked in a cupboard by his girlfriend's psychopathic angel faced stalker. A few doors down the road an orphaned teenager looking after her younger brother and sister agonises about a bullying girl who is hindering her efforts to organise a debutante's ball and a widowed boy struggles to look after his infant daughter. Simultaneously, another teenage girl runs away from home after being told she is not allowed to work for a major fashion designer and a relationship is on the rocks because the couple cannot afford a new house because one of them is still funding a former partner.
Such is life in the sunlit world of Neighbours - a television programme so disconnected from reality that it makes Wallace and Gromit look like cutting edge social commentary. First broadcast in Australia in 1985, it tells the stories of the residents of Ramsay Street, located in a fictional suburb of Melbourne called Erinsborough. The longest running drama ever broadcast on Australian television, it is a show that attracts equal parts affections and derision. So why can I just not help absolutely loving it?
The opening paragraph of this review is a snapshot of current neighbours storylines, and the hectic happenings are no exception to normal practice. Ramsay Street has seen it all - plane crashes, bush fires, jiltings, characters dying and sometimes coming back from the dead, affairs, marriages and the occasional attempted murder. To give the scriptwriters some credit, the occasional believable storyline does rear its head, but these storylines quickly become boring when compared to the surrounding chaos. At any one moment the Neighbours cast of characters will probably contain at least one current or past criminal, several heartrending/terminal illnesses and a few troubled teenagers. The bad point of this is that Neighbours is tends to veer towards the ridiculous: the plus point is that it is pretty much never boring.
In a soap such as Neighbours which is broadcast every weeknight, there is quite a high turnover of characters and so within a month of writing this review they will probably have changed entirely again. There are of course a few stalwarts, as with all soaps. There is Harold, the old storekeeper who disappeared at sea, was rediscovered while playing with a Salvation Army band and still periodically makes little cameos into the series. Then there is Lou, Harold's staunch friend and former love rival, who is still working in the same old general story. There are Karl and Susan Kennedy, now husband and wife again after being on and off for years and testing out between them much of the rest of the neighbours cast. And there is Paul Robinson, who sunk to the depths of being completely evil, then had a brain tumour removed and attained the heights of being only mildly repulsive. Oh, and Toady - got to love Toady!
Around these fixed points orbit a whole galaxy of other characters, all of the inevitably beautiful (unless they're unspeakably horrible, in which case they're allowed a few blemishes) and utterly two dimensional. I'm sure that somewhere there is a neighbours character design checklist: great hair? Check. Dark history? Check. Potential for romantic engagement with multiple other characters (not normally simultaneously)? Check. Find a suitable attractive actor and off we go again.
That's not to say that Neighbours hasn't conjured up some fabulous characters. I still remember the lovely Connor, and was horrified when I thought they had killed him off but it turns out he's just gone travelling around East Asia (for the past six years or so). There was also Stingray, who I absolutely adored and was heartbroken when he died of a brain aneurism. Somehow, Neighbours manages to make you identify with characters who are often entirely without character.
So yes - in technical terms I can't say that Neighbours characters are particularly good. But you spend half an hour of your day with them every week day and you just can't help but love them.
* The Song *
Special mention has to be made of the famous Neighbours song, often revamped to try and match up with the modern age, but still unfailingly cheesy. This song is rather like the Neighbours show itself - you know that it is absolutely terrible, but because of the associations it conjures up (weekday teatime, all gathered in the living room of our student house) you really don't mind at all.
* So why is Neighbours so good?*
When I tell people that I'm an avid Neighbours fan, I tend to get one of two responses. There is either the nod, smile and enthusiastic launch into chatter that marks another Neighbours acolyte, or there is the smirk and snide comment of one of the uninitiated. When I come across one of these people, I find it hard to explain why I love the programme. I know the characters are poorly written. I know the plotlines are outrageous. I know the song is the worst kind of tacky. And I know that the acting is often wooden to the point of comedy. But the thing is that when you get home from a day in lectures or in labs, you don't want to engage the weary brain again and watch some hardcore, heartrending, mind stretching programme. You want to make a cup of tea, grab a packet of biscuits, sit down with your housemates and find something brainless.
In Erinsborough, the sun always seems to be shining, except when a character is miserable and the weather kindly agrees to reflect them. People die, but nobody ever mourns for more than a couple of episodes, people argue and make up, people are endlessly falling in love. You get so familiar with the characters and all their quirks and bad acting and silly storylines, and you can jump in and completely immerse yourself in a world totally separate to your own. It's escapism, pure and simple, and sometimes that's exactly what you need.
At the moment Neighbours is in its Christmas break, and I miss the characters the same way I miss my neighbours from university. They're a key part of my day - when I'm having a bad time, I look forward to seeing them in the evening. And even though they're rubbish and I know it, I'm certainly not going to stop watching in a hurry! So it's four Dooyoo stars (just for the sake of fairness to properly decent drama!) and long may it continue.
Thank you for reading.
(Written exclusively for Dooyoo).