Neighbours toasts 6000

Network TEN hosted its second media event in two days yesterday with a brunch to mark the 6000th episode of the famous soap.

Cast joined network execs and media ahead of the episode’s airing next month.

Drama boss Rick Maier gave his second speech (following the Offspring launch the night before) in as many days, acknowledging the show that the network purchased from Seven after it was axed in 1985 after 170 episodes.

Maier said TEN’s Bill McKenzie and Programmer Tom Warne were instrumental in acquiring the soap, but the first months were a trial.

“We got absolutely smashed. It was (rating) a seven, a third of what it had been doing at the time. I know the number vehemently because I was the Script Editor at the time. I remember talking to a colleague at the time saying ‘What’s your next job going to be?'” said Maier.

He also paid tribute to TEN’s early marketing and publicity team, headed up by Eileen O’Shea and a young Brian Walsh. The two drove a massive marketing push that turned the show around.

“Once the audience came and sampled it, they liked what they saw and we were away.

“At the end of the first year, before Kylie and Jason even, the show had critical mass.

Maier said in the mid-80s Australia was singing the Mojo song, “We love football, meat pies, kangaroos and Holden cars.”

“But Neighbours held up a mirror to society and we said, ‘Ok, that’s who we are”” he said.

“When the show popped in the UK it got over the cultural cringe and we hit markets we had never hit before.

“It’s been absolutely colossal for us and we’ve enjoyed every second of it.”

The show also a breakthrough for other Australian productions in cracking the UK market.

“Prior to Neighbours you couldn’t sell a show into the UK. They weren’t interested in our voices, they weren’t interested in our characters. Producers couldn’t sell shows. But that all changed with Neighbours,” said Maier.

“Suddenly they could sell shows.

“This show has been such a great training ground for technicians, script people, directors, actors, post production. You cannot swing a cat in a television network in Australia without hitting someone who has a direct connection to Neighbours. And it’s the same in production companies.

“If they didn’t work on Neighbours, then they were trained by somebody who worked on Neighbours.

Three people were singled out for their contribution to the show.

“Mike Murphy was the backbone of this show and very important in terms of the UK push,” he said.

He paid tribute to casting guru Jan Russ, who discovered so many young actors.

“You can get lucky with casting, you can maybe fluke it a few times, but you can’t fake it for 20 years. She was brilliant.”

And there was praise for creator Reg Watson, including a push for him to be inducted into the Logies Hall of Fame.

“He created The Young Doctors, The Restless Years, Sons and Daughters, Prisoner. He is a quiet, unassuming guy, a terribly modest man.

“Reg put the motor under the bonnet of the car that has driven us for 25 years.”

Producer Susan Bower, who thanked cast and crew, also read a congratulatory note sent by Reg Grundy before acknowledging the show’s longevity.

“We are the longest running drama in Australia and the fourth in the world. This is a huge achievement and something we are very proud of.”

Episode 6000 will air in August.

Photos:

Top L-R: Stefan Dennis, David Mott, Jackie Woodburne
Middle L-R: Eve Morey Rick Maier, Carla Bonner
Bottom: Cast (absent Tom Oliver, Kym Valentine)

18 Comments:

  1. @VMan I’m not sure I want to give the producers Zeke – there was no hint of them being part-Asian at all until their older (half-Nepalese) sister turned up. I mean Kym Valentine is of Maltese decent, but Libby clearly isn’t. But I do take your point.

  2. @ buck – Could not agree more! I’m not a huge Seven fan but to their credit they have played quite a few classic series recently. S&D is running now and a year or so ago they were playing A Country Practice but I think that’s since been moved to 72. A few years ago they even played an obscure drama from the 70’s I’d never seen called Young Ramsay which has since become a favorite. Anyway 10 must give The Restless Years another run on it’s extra ch if they do I’ll be in heaven!

  3. KFed, there is a full time non-white character on the show: Zeke.

    Despite being narrated as being half-asian on the show along with Rachel (which was ridiculous), he’s actually half Sri-Lankan….so that’s a pretty big step considering he’s been there since 2005.

  4. Ahhhh how I wish someone would repeat “The Restless Years”

    Why is it that great Aussie classics like “Sons & Daughters” and “Prisoner” can be repeated time and time again, but the forgotten classic “The Restless Years” has not been repeated for as long as I can remember.

    I am so hoping that when 10 finally launch their second entertainment channel that they will dust off “The Restless Years” and give it a repeat run so a whole new generation or two can catch this Grundy classic.

  5. @koverstreet Seriously, a few ethnic guest characters? Not quite the same thing. The last full-time non-white character was Michelle Ang in 2003. Come to think of it, I think she was the first.
    I don’t think a multicultural cast will especially help ratings, but it certainly does not look like a typical Australian neighbourhood in any way.
    (And I’m not counting characters of Italian heritage of which there have been many and post-70s hardly count as ethnic casting)
    Considering Lou has a half-Chinese daughter you wouldn’t think writing in a few grandkids would be too tricky.

  6. Agree Reg Watson should be in the logies hall of fame if only for creating this show and my favorite The Restless Years.

    As for the too white chestnut there have been some different nationalities,Sunny was Korean and there is a doctor on now who is Indian I think.

  7. So Rick thanked Eileen O’Shea and Brian Walsh … any mention of Ten spending Any money on proper publicity again? Or will it just continue to be all-but ignored and rely on cash from OS sales?

    I think a few cast changes and strong storyline and a disgusting amount of publicty would do it the world of good. In the ’80s the cast were omnipresent and it’s because they worked very, very hard at it. Now they struggle to get an inset on a TV Week cover.

  8. I’m with you Ronnie – it’s not even representative of 1950’s Australia, with the flood of European immigrants post-war! Not an accent or varied skin-tone in sight on this show. Get with it Neighbours and represent Australia – then Australia might actually watch!

  9. @J Bar – whilst I agree with your stats re: longevity of American daytime soaps, I think what the Neighbours people were saying that it’s the 4th longest running Prime Time soap in the world. There wouldn’t be any dispute over that after Coronation St, Emmerdale and Eastenders.

    As long as it continues to rate well in the U.K. I doubt it’ll be axed anytime soon – although I do agree the show definately needs a revamp – or a complete re-boot and start again from scratch.

    Plus I absolutely agree 100% that Reg Watson deserves to be inducted in the Logie Hall of Fame.

    His contribution to Australian drama has been incalculable and he definately deserves to be recognised for putting our fine shows on the world map.

  10. As long as it keeps rating so well in the UK it doesn’t matter what it gets over here. Neighbours will always be on as long as the UK is still interested. The worst that can happen over here is it will be shifted timeslots to 6pm or 10.30 or something.

  11. This cast photo is an image of an outdated white Australia. Bland and boring. It sure doesn’t look like a picture of the final 24 in Masterchef 2010! That’s why it’s irrelevant and out of touch. Where are the best ratings to be found?

  12. Not sure they can claim to be the fourth longest running drama in the world. There’s Coronation Street 1960, Emmerdale 1972 and Eastenders 1985 (by one month) in Britain but what about the American soapies?
    There’s heaps longer rnning As The World Turns 1956 (soon to be axed), General Hospital 1963, Days Of Our Lives 1965, One Life To Live 1968, All My Children, The Young and The Restless 1973. Also axed now but long running were Guiding Light 1952-2009, Another World 1964-1999 and Search For Tomorrow 1951-1982.

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