Farewell to Neighbours: “We are all sad, but we’re also enormously proud.”

The longest running drama in Australian history reaches its final day of filming.

Neighbours cast and crew share their last ever day of filming today at their longtime home at Nunawading.

It marks the end of a 37 year run in the Victorian screen industry, briefly on Seven, before being famously picked up by 10 in 1985.

It went on to become the longest running drama in Australian history, uncovering global superstars, training thousands of actors, crew and creatives.

Executive Producer Jason Herbison, described the mood at the moment, in this Q+A:

“The mood is bittersweet. We are all sad that the show is ending, but we’re also enormously proud. 37 years is an incredible achievement and that should be celebrated. We’ve also been incredibly touched by the response from our viewers all over the world. Neighbours is more than a TV show to many people. They see us as part of the family and we feel privileged to have been invited into their homes. Some of the letters I’ve received have moved me to tears – it’s a very special show and it has actually made the world a better place for some.”

How will things be wrapped up on the show?
My hope is to wrap everything up in a satisfying way. I see the very last scenes as being ultimately joyous, however, between now and then there are a month of storylines to play out. These have a bit of everything – triumph, tragedy, laughter and tears.

What legacy does Neighbours leave behind?
Neighbours changed the face of television both in Australia and the UK. Prior to Neighbours, a drama would commonly last 5 or 6 years – we’ve held an audience for 37 years. British soaps soon followed the Neighbours model and began airing every day, which still continues in 2022. We’ve launched the careers of thousands of cast, crew, writers and directors and we’re also the reason many tourists have come to Melbourne… it’s more than a show, it’s a cultural phenomenon.

What are you most proud of with respect to the show?
I think the most meaningful thing has been seeing genuine change in the community around diversity and representation. For example, a few years ago when we did audience research we’d always get one or two people in focus groups saying “I’ve got nothing against gay people but I don’t want them on TV”. Over the years this evolved into people saying “I like Aaron and David, it’s good to have a gay couple” and then eventually just, “I love Aaron and David”. No commentary at all, as it should be. Then you imagine that change happening in real life – those same viewers coming to accept people in their own lives that way. I’ve seen that change first hand and it also extends to cultural representation. It’s not always easy but it’s incredibly important as television makers to try and make change because it makes a difference. As a person, the process has also helped me learn and grow.

There’s been such an outpouring of love for the show recently – how does that make you feel?
It’s been very touching. I think people underestimate the value of soaps. Very few shows are invited into the homes of viewers, week in week out, year in year out. We become part of people’s lives and there’s a comfort in us being there, even for those who don’t watch us all the time. We have always felt that appreciation from audiences though perhaps not all at once, as it has been recently. It’s been like the biggest, warmest hug you can get.

Do you have a message for the fans who’ve followed the show over the past 37 years?
Thank you for inviting us into your homes all these years. It’s been a privilege to entertain you. We know you’re going to miss us and we will miss you too.

Much-loved veteran Ian Smith “Harold Bishop” was also asked how he felt upon hearing the news the show was coming to an end?

“Oh, look, sad is the word, just sad. I knew it had to happen one day. Of course I did, but gosh, so much of my working life was involved with the show, and so much happened in that time and now it’s over. All us oldies, the ones who were together in the show, we’ve all been together. We’ve all declared our sadness about the whole thing, but sad is the word. I am in touch all the time with Jackie Woodburne and Ryan, and of course they’re sad. They’re very sad. Even though the show is coming to an end, we feel that it should be kept going in some way as a school for young actors. So many stars have come through the ranks of that show. They’ve been around the block a few times by now and they’re some of the biggest names in the business.”

Why do you think that a show like Neighbours has created so many stars in its 37 years?
Well, I suppose there’s the start, 37 years. If something doesn’t happen in that time, if you can’t pick a star out in 37 years, something is dreadfully wrong, isn’t it? And look, the more you go into the kitchen, the better cakes you make, right? Continuity of an art, it just gives you relaxing time to be able to then help others as well as yourself. I used to go around helping new people and I could do that because I was relaxed. That was my playground. I knew what I was doing.

Did the show change you in any way?
It had to, it was such a big part of my life. It certainly changed the way people reacted to me on the street. I did get street recognition with my very first thing, it was an Australian production called Bellbird, and to a degree it got me used to being recognised on the street. But nothing can prepare you for the reaction you get when you’re in a show like Neighbours, it was manic. Look, it was lovely, but it was manic! But we all enjoyed it. We were in a successful show and it was a good feeling.

Harold is such an iconic character, what’s your favourite thing about playing him?
Well, I was so lost when he was first given to me, to mould. What I did, I suppose, was I searched around. My father was a huge part of Harold. He was a fumbling man, I don’t think he was sure of one thing he said in his life. He always put it out as a question, not as a statement. He was an interesting crowd of people. That’s about the only way I can put it. By the time I’d finished making him I realised there were quite a few people within his personality. I think I counted them up once. There was about seven people jammed into one person. I loved him, he was such a fun character to play.

How do you think you’ll feel watching the last ever episode?
Oh, it’s going to be terrible. Honestly, it will be terrible. I’m the biggest sook under the sun. I’m going to be shocking on the last night of Neighbours. It really will be an end of an era.

The last ever episode will screen on 7:30pm Thursday July 28 on 10 / 10 Peach.

11 Responses

  1. Theres on person who hasnt been thanked and still doesnt know why they got rid of her and thats Jan Russ who did all the casting of the now big stars Kylie jason guy ,crow hemsworh ,margo you name she cast it she made the show with her casting and should be thanked Thank you Jan Russ
    Any chance you could get an interview

  2. Even though I haven’t watched the show in years, I’m tremendously sad that it is ending. Neighbours is part of the fabric of Australia. It’s engrained in part of our national identity. Not having the promos on 10, or hearing people talk about it anymore will be like going to New York and constantly thinking “There used to be towers there…” or going past your favourite nightclub which has been turned into a cafe yet still memories flood back to the crazy nights you spent there. I’ll be tuning into the final episodes to send off a great Aussie icon with pride.

  3. I’m certainly going to miss it have been watching right from the beginning,even through it’s up and downs.It’s going to be very strange for a long while knowing that Neighbours will no longer be screening.Neighbours should be very proud of how much talent they have matured through the show and gone on to do great things.Home and Away does not come close even there story lines are very over the top,at least Neighbours was more realistic on what topics they handled.Well done to everyone involved with the show over the years.Are we going to get another show to replace Neighbours i highly doubt it and that’s extremely sad for future actors and actresses looking for a stepping stone into the business.Thanks for all the memories 🙁

  4. I have watched Neighbours less and less over the years, but it will be very sad to see it finish.
    It’s not only the 37 years of Neighbours memories, but the fact that it has been there for such a large part of our lives.
    Remembering Scott & Charlene’s weddding, Todd being killed by the van, Karl’s affair with Izzy, Harold trying to kill Paul and everything else, takes us back to moments in our own lives.
    Thanks Neighbours.

  5. Memories indeed,
    Was there with Reg Grundy and Reg Watson when the concept was developing and aired, heady and creative days indeed. Personally, the role was managing and editing /transferring RG content. No emails we had a Fax. Written word sheet meticulously prepared for each day by RG. No wonder he became the legend he was. Group overseas calls from 4.30am not out of the question.
    The actors, concept and scripting all worthy of thanks and celebration on this the last day. Nothing however without that persistent RG driving force from above.
    Cheers to all who worked on the series,

  6. Yes it’s certainly a bitter sweet feeling today. Neighbors has certainly been a big part of my life. When it started I was a young man, just starting my working life. I got involved in the fandom in the 80s, that was huge after it started on ten with larger than life characters and relatable young ones. A couple of years ago I tried selling some memorabilia from that time, I’m glad now that they didn’t sell. In the 90s I was an extra on the show, I got to speak to Anne Charleston on her last day of her initial stint as Madge and Lucinda Cowden near the end of her initial tenure as Melanie. I got to be part of a frog race at Lassiters, where the extras got to drink real beer. I helped move Cheryl Stark into Ramsay Street. Most lovely of the actors was Alan Fletcher, who did my photos in the late 80s and always remembered me whilst on set. When DR Carl’s life fell apart in 1998 after Susan found out about his kiss with Sarah, my personal life also fell apart. In recent years the…

    1. You’re so lucky to have had those experiences.
      I loved Caroline Gillmer as Cheryl Stark and found it quite jarring when Colette Mann stepped into the role temporarily.

  7. We went to Melbourne last month especially to do the official Neighbours tour because the show was ending. I did it once before but that was back in the day before you could walk around Lassiters and the backyards, and on that day we couldn’t enter the street because they were filming.

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