Neighbours (Seven, 1985, Ten, 1986-2010, Ten Peach, 2011-present)
When doing pieces about soaps, sometimes it is difficult to know where to begin, because there are so many characters, so many stories, and so many episodes that you can choose from. This is one of the more successful soaps, indeed, it is now the longest-running drama series in Australian TV history. But it could’ve been very different, as it almost didn’t happen.
This is yet another soap that was created by Reg Watson, aren’t we grateful. “Everybody needs good Neighbours“, as Barry Crocker said in the opening theme, and he wasn’t wrong. The show was set in the fictional town of Erinsborough, which was supposed to be in Melbourne. It concentrated on Ramsay Street, and originally featured some of the lives of the families that lived on the street.
These included the Ramsays and the Robinsons. Everyone did seem to be rather friendly with each other on the show, almost every scene seemed to feature someone at the door who has come from nearby because they wanted to enter and tell them something. Neighbours launched on Seven in March 1985, but it didn’t make much of an impact, and it ended after 170 episodes later in that year.
But wait, because it was at this point that rival channel Ten picked up the show, and relaunched it at the start of 1986. This was when it finally began to take off. In October 1986, Neighbours launched in the UK, when BBC1 realised that it might be a good idea to put some actual programming in their daytime schedule, instead of just showing endless hours of Pages From Ceefax, how could they.
And then in January 1988, the repeat was moved to the slot after the end of CBBC, and this was when it really became a success, even though the episodes were still about a year behind Australia at this point. Several topics were handled, along with all the heartbreaks, all the setbacks, all the triumphs, viewers became engrossed, and some episodes achieved higher ratings than the entire population of Australia. And when Clive James made a cameo as a postman, you can imagine the excitement.
There was also a lot of merchandise, including episodes being released on VHS, a board game, and endless repeats on UK Gold. It was also been shown around the world. As time went by though, the cast changed, and more memorable families came along, including the Carpenters, the Kennedys, and the ghost of Harold Bishop. It also spawned more pop stars than any other soap, but as is always the case, slowly its moment in the spotlight began to pass.
The ratings began to slump, and in February 2008, Neighbours left BBC1 and moved to Channel 5, where it remains to this day, although for many people it’s reached the “is that still going?” phase. There have now been over 8,300 episodes, and the 35th anniversary is being celebrated soon, but for a short while viewers really did think that it was the perfect blend of everything that they wanted in a soap.