1 9 8 5 – Current (Australia)
As the theme song suggests, everyone who lives on Ramsay Street needs good neighbours.
Everything in sunny Ramsay Street is as clean and straight as its teenagers’ teeth. Neighbours has neat houses, quickly tidied problems, strong young bodies, strong old biddies, token grown men and the teeniest smidgen of sex.
Think of The Waltons in swimsuits with all mod cons and you’re close.
Neighbours debuted in Australia on 18 March 1985 on the Australian Seven Network. The serial was very carefully conceived and marketed, including the preparation of five different pilot scripts and two actual pilots.
Original working titles for the new series included One Way Street and No Through Road.
The show did not do well initially for Channel Seven and after six months on the air with 170 episodes in the can, the Seven Network announced that the show was being cancelled. The Grundy Organisation immediately sold the series to the Ten Network and the rest is history . . .
Neighbours underwent a face-lift. Out went the gritty, working-class focus of the original script with its emphasis on middle-aged figures, and in came more affluent homes and surroundings, quality brand-name clothing, more good-looking teenagers and professional and semi-professional workers.
Most of the original cast disappeared, and in their place came such characters as feisty mechanic Charlene (Kylie Minogue), her high school sweetheart Scott (Jason Donovan), and Mike (a pre-Priscilla Guy Pearce).
When Charlene met Scott, she punched him, they fell in love, he surfed, she moved into a caravan, and then they got married.
The on-screen wedding of Charlene and Scott (pictured below) in 1987 made nearly every magazine and newspaper front cover in Australia and was watched by 20 million viewers in the UK alone.
In 1986, Neighbours began on British television on the BBC, originally in the daytime but later (due to good audience response) it was moved to an early evening time slot. Soon, with much media hype, Neighbours fever was everywhere.
Neighbours consistently scored in the top three British television dramas and repeatedly finished ahead of EastEnders and Coronation Street in the ratings. It also screens in several other countries, including Zambia and Mauritius.
Structurally it was (and still is) the most unremarkable of shows. Although there are a smattering of fatal accidents, dramatic disappearances and mental breakdowns, much of the Neighbours plot always revolved around the mundane daily activities of the Robinsons, Clarks, Ramsays, Bishops, Willises etc etc.
There have been several dramatic departures from Ramsay Street, though, during the show’s run. Kerry (Linda Hartley) was killed during a duck-shooting protest in 1990, Harold (Ian Smith) was swept out to sea in 1991, and Lucy’s dog, Basil, drowned. But no one seemed to care when pain-in-the-butt Julie Martin fell from a balcony in 1995.
In other major cliffhangers: Madge won the lottery in 1989; Glen (Richard Huggett) fell off the roof at Lassiter’s in 1991; Hannah (Rebecca Ritters) and Beth (Natalie Imbruglia) were trapped in a burning cottage in 1992 – starting a loooooong tradition of fires in Erinsborough; and Gaby and Annalise were in a plane crash in 1993 that left them stranded in the bush.
Past characters frequently return to Ramsay Street, and the residents often travel to exotic locations (Japan, New Zealand, Adelaide).
Add to this the fact that there is often comic relief, and you can see why it occupies a particular niche in the world of international soaps.
Darius Perkins (1)
Jason Donovan (2)
Kylie Flinker (1)
Sasha Close (2)
Melissa Bell (3)
Vikki Blanche (1)
Julie Mullins (2)
Myra De Groot
Mrs Nell Mangel
Dr Beverley Marshall/Robinson
Lisa Armytage (1)
Shaunna O’Grady (2)