Neighbours 20th anniversary show
Few things matched the intrigue, the scandal, the insanity of Neighbours at its height. Kicking off in 1985, the five-times-a-week monster quickly created momentum that would carry it through two decades of daytime drama, consuming storylines, credibility and fledgling acting careers as it rolled along.
It was with genuine affection and even grudging respect that people greeted its 20th anniversary. The episode featured trout-faced airhead Annalise (Kimberley Davies), hilariously reinvented as a successful film-maker, producing a documentary on Ramsay Street.
"The episode featured trout faced airhead Annalise, hilariously reinvented as a successful film-maker"
"What did I learn during my time here in Erinsborough?" she asked the camera. Apparently, she learnt that "good neighbours become good friends." Which is quite good going for somebody who spent much of their time in Ramsay Street on their back.
It was good to see the likes of Joe Mangle, Lucy Robinson and Doug Willis looking older, fatter and frumpier. Neighbours was never afraid to throw the not-conventionally-attractive and just plain plug-ugly into major roles.
What always defined Neighbours, though, was its unique response to social issues.
Neighbours had a unique response to feminism which was: to cast tiny women in the roles of manual labourers.
Terry Robinson ( played by Maxine Klibingaitis, 5 stone 4 ounces) was a plumber, Beth Brennan (played by Natalie Imbruglia, 4 stone 7 ounces) was a building-site labourer and Charlene Ramsay (played by Kylie Minogue, 900 grams ) was a car mechanic.
"Neighbours had a unique response to racism which was: to have absolutely no black characters ever"
The message was clear: The Sheilas could do any job a man could do. Including the ones that were plainly physically beyond them.
Neighbours had a unique response to racism which was: to have absolutely no black characters ever.
Apart from that mugger that time. In this, they mirror Australia’s attitude to race issues – a country that tries to deal with its native Aborigines by pretending they don’t exist.
Neighbours had a unique response to teenage sex, which was: we rikee!
Not a single teenager got out of Ramsay Street without getting their oats. In fact, many could be seen walking with a pronounced STI induced hobble as they inevitably disappeared off to Adelaide (the Neighbours characters’ graveyard) on the eve of their 20th birthday.
Neighbours had a unique response to religious cults which was: to invent The Children of Barabbas cult. An unfortunate period for the Neighbours producers where they apparently confused political criminal Barabbas with The Good Thief from Golgotha who Christ promises he will see in Paradise that very day. When were details ever important?
Like most of Neighbours it didn’t make much sense. It never really needed to. Emotional resonance was everything
It didn’t matter that they had Jane Harris joining Erinsborough High and being referred to as "Plain Jane Superbrain" despite being i) gorgeous ii) thick and iii) 29. Because when she made the transformation from the world’s least convincing ugly duckling to beautiful swan for the Erinsborough High dance it hit home like a punch from Kostya Tszyu.
"they had Jane Harris joining Erinsborough High and being referred to as "Plain Jane Superbrain" despite being i) gorgeous, ii) thick and iii) 29. "
Neighbours could always produce enduring ‘moment’ TV. Like when Jim Robinson and Doug Willis got stuck out in the bush, and were reduced to eating some hallucinogenic wild mushrooms propelling them on a trippy magic mushrooms episode.
And who could forget Bouncer the dog’s wedding dream sequence? Scrub your brain all you like – you know it’s still there in all its Vaseline-smeared lens glory.
That’s the power of Neighbours – you like it despite yourself. It revels in its schmaltz and is shamelessly populist. It can’t take anything seriously. It’s frequently the best pap on the box.
The best thing about it: Plain Jane still looking hot.
The worst thing about it: Annalise turding around with the camera facing the wrong way.
The verdict on Neighbours 20th anniversary show: Thrillingly pointless.
Marks out of 10: 8