On March 18 the show marks 30 years on Australian Television -our longest running drama ever. It may not be Shakespeare, but it has struck a chord.
Admittedly it is not the ratings drawcard it once was, but the good folk at Erinsborough have an undeniable place in our hearts. Skippy is probably the only other show that has enjoyed more global adoration than Neighbours -and that only ran for 3 seasons.
Now the show returns, briefly, to TEN’s primary channel to mark three decades of domestic soap. In truth there is no actual ‘star reunion’ in this one-hour special, so much as individual interviews. Such is the success of the show that many of its graduates are busy with other projects in various corners of the world, so gathering them in one place is nigh on impossible. But there are many memorable faces who have taken the time to remember their roots.
Yes Kylie is there, so is Jason (no, not together). There are interviews too with Guy Pearce, Margot Robbie, Delta Goodrem, Ashleigh Brewer, Natalie Bassingthwaighte, Daniel MacPherson, Craig McLachlan, Ian Smith, Anne Charleston, Mark Little, Lucinda Cowden, Annie Jones, Terrence Donovan, Paul Keane. They join current cast including Stefan Dennis, Jackie Woodburne, Alan Fletcher, Ryan Moloney, Tom Oliver, Tim Phillipps.
Alas no sign of reflections from Jesse Spencer, Natalie Imbruglia, Peter O’Brien, Alan Dale, Kym Valentine, Carla Bonner, Holly Valance, Jay Ryan, Madeleine West, Dean Geyer, Blair McDonough to name a few.
But you will see some of them in clips if you look hard enough, along with others such as Janet Andrewartha, Jonathon Dutton, Jansen Spencer, Anne Haddy, Stephan Lovatt and various others. There’s a special sequence for the marvel that was Mrs. Mangel (Vivean Gray) and another for Bouncer -yes ‘Bouncer’s Dream’ is included. Priceless.
I was hoping for a glimpse of characters such as Dr. Clive Gibbons, Julie Martin, Darcy Tyler, Lance Wilkinson, Angie Rebecchi, Sky Mangel, Mark Gottlieb (that would be Bruce Samazan) but I don’t recall seeing their mugs (ok maybe Lance got brief look in). But remember, this is only a one hour special, there’s 30 years of this stuff to cram in.
Pleasingly, the show acknowledges its Channel Seven origins, if largely as a footnote to TEN smartly picking it up. There’s plenty of analysis on the early days: the fan frenzy, the international success, the fan mail, shopping centre appearances and magazine covers. Naturally much of this centres around one Kylie and Jason.
That wedding gets plenty of attention too.
“They were the most perfect couple with the most perfect love,” Ian Smith tells us.
“It was the first time I walked down the aisle. I honestly wouldn’t have wanted to do it with anyone else,” Kylie says.
“I certainly think the personal relationship that we had helped. That’s what creates magic. Great chemistry between people,” Jason explains.
Craig McLachlan recalls, “I just remember saying to Jason ‘Do you realise how huge this is going to be when this goes to air?’ And he was like ‘D’you reckon?'”
There are the romantic triangles (enter Izzy Hoyland), the stunts and explosions, the memory lapses, superstar set visits, the dramatic slaps between Susan and Karl. They missed a rip-roaring scene between the pair on the street, but there’s another between Libby and Steph over the man in the middle, Drew. Don’t pretend you don’t remember.
Harold and Madge are afforded due acknowledgment, notably around Madge’s heart-wrenching death. There’s a nod to Harold’s various hijinks such as Afro Harold. Neighbours has always had a sense of humour that Home and Away has lacked, largely due to the constraints of its G classification. But more should have been made of Lou’s endless schemes and scams.
From the video vault you will also see audition scenes for actors including Kylie, Jason and Guy. Listen for an unseen Jan Russ in conversation. Rare stuff.
The show’s springboard to international careers is also included, mostly by those who give interviews. Craig McLachlan is unstoppable with his beaming charm. Still. The show lays claim to Delta’s success but overlooks she had already chalked up some initial chart success first. I thought more could have been made of others having international success such as Jesse Spencer, Natalie Imbruglia, Dichen Lachman, Caitlin Stasey, Sianoa Smit-McPhee, Ben Lawson. Again, blame the running time.
Acknowledgement of creator Reg Watson is also fleeting, along with Barry Crocker’s iconic theme song performance. Celebration is also no time to focus on any criticisms such as the constant caucasian casting.
But the special does nicely balance sentiment, cheekiness, colloquial attitudes and true blue soap. I would happily give the show 5 stars for what it has achieved in the industry, but on this occasion as a review for a one hour special will have to settle for slightly less. That said, this is a pretty lovely valentine.
Neighbours 30: The Stars Reunite airs 7:30pm Monday March 16 on TEN (simulcast on ELEVEN).