Neighbours 30th: The Stars Reunite

Famous faces, love triangles, explosions, and Bouncer's Dream. TEN toasts a TV icon.

2015-03-06_2358The song suggests you can find the “perfect blend” and while there’s no single reason to explain Neighbours‘ enduring quality, there is no denying its success.

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?'”

I 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).

24 Responses

  1. spot the wog . a more whiter cast you can not find . where is the aboriginal, Greek ,Asian, or Lebanese character. I have never watched this show because it is so far off the mark to what a typical Australian street really is ..I have lived in many towns in Australia and never have I lived in a street full of Anglo Saxon people only .total fabrication and fantasy .

  2. Delta has one single before Neighbours – it went to no.64, it was a flop. Her going on Neighbours was a marketing deal to launch her music, and it was absolutely the song appearing on Neighbours that led to Born To Try going to No.1.

    1. Point taken. But the special makes out that ‘Wow we had no idea she could really sing’ when she already had a Sony contract prior to the show. She was parachuted into the show by Glenn Wheatley rather than a Neighbours discovery.

  3. There should be a gogglebox special with the old cast watching classic clips of themselves. I was living in the UK when this series started. It was shown at 10am & 1.25pm. It was a hit straight away and everyone i knew was talking about it. I remember wanting to miss school to see it. It was a school holiday favouite. Something changed by mid 1990’s when the writers started to concentrate on character development of the children rather than plot development. I stopped watching around 1994. I notice the low ratings in Australia, seems that the UK funding is the only thing keeping it alive. Since it moved to channel 5 i’m not even sure many UK residents know its still being made.

  4. So many memories of Neighbours. I remember watching the first episode on Channel 7 and saying afterwards “It’s OK, but it will never last”! Who knew?

    And I remember when Daphne died. And Greg Fleet is probably still getting recognised for his role in her death to this day.

    Would be nice if they paid tribute to Anne Haddy who I think was the show’s longest serving original cast member, until Stefan Dennis came back. But like you say, a 90-minute special can’t really do it justice.

  5. Something’s off here. TV guides indicates a 90 minute running time for the special (though you could be forgiven mistaking it for a one hour special if the review copy had an hour-long running time).

    Nevertheless, it will be interesting to see how this rates on the primary channel.

    1. It makes little sense for Russell Crowe to appear on the show given that he only appeared in about 4 episodes some 27 years ago. Sure, he’s big beans now, but his contribution to the series was negligible.

  6. They were never going to get all the superstars to appear on the anniversary special.

    Kym Valentine left the show and is currently suing the producers. Alan Dale has been absolutely scathing about his time on the show – so has Anne Charleson but I guess she needed the money. Holly Valance has married a multi-billionaire and doesn’t need the money or the exposure. Surprised by Jesse Spencer and Dean Geyer’s refusal to appear on the anniversary show. These 2 wouldn’t have got their US success without Neighbours.

    I’ll be tuning in – and agree that a 42 minute special for 30 years of a landmark show is unacceptable. It should have been at least a 2 hour special ie. about the same amount that a normal 1 hour episode of My Bitchen Rules is.

    At least they are televising it on the main channel – just for the millions of Aussies that still haven’t figured out that there are other…

      1. So it’s quite realistic that Dean and Jesse may have had conflicting schedules and couldn’t appear? That said, I think even Margot Robbie is doing an interview for it from LA.

    1. Anne Charleston’s only complaint, if I recall correctly, was she thought the bogan family was too tacky for a show that usually wasn’t. And she got in a jab at it in one of the behind-the-scenes videos she recorded upon her recent return.

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