One of the lasting memories of childhood for me will always be watching Neighbours on BBC One. It’s the only soap I can say I ever watched regularly. Everyone I knew came home from school to watch Neighbours at 5:35 p.m. and enjoy getting to know the residents of the sunny cul-de-sac Ramsay Street, which over the years has seen so many births, marriages, deaths and memorable moments occur in the lives of the people of Erinsborough. Everyone had their favourite characters and it was lovely to tune in each day to see these fantastic families and friends going about life in the lovely sunshine of Australia.
Now Neighbours is celebrating its 30th Anniversary (technically it’s 30th anniversary in the UK will be in October 2016, as it started to air here almost 18 months later). How time flies! I admit that as I got older and started work I drifted away from Neighbours, meaning that if I happen to watch it now I’m left clueless as to who everyone is, with the exception of the characters who’ve been around forever – Karl, Susan (the new Helen Daniels it seems), Toadie and Lou. It’s nice to see it’s still going though, thanks to Channel 5 after it left the BBC in 2008 and I’m sure those who are growing up watching it now will have their own favourite characters and moments just like those of us who were watching in those early years.
With today’s anniversary episode screening on Channel 5 and tonight’s behind the scenes celebration, it had me thinking about the moments I most remember from the series and in the spirit of television nostalgia, I’ve chosen my most memorable storylines / moments below. All clips are thanks to those who have made them available online and all rights of course belong to Grundy Television Pty Limited and Fremantle Media Operations B.V.
1. Scott and Charlene’s wedding (UK airdate: 1988)
This is probably no surprise, as the wedding of Scott Robinson (Jason Donovan) and Charlene Ramsay (Kylie Minogue) was an iconic moment of television in the 1980s and was watched by a huge 19.6 million viewers in the UK when it aired in 1988! It was such a beautiful episode for two characters that you really had grown so fond of and rooted for. I still love everything about it, her dress, the choice of playing Angry Anderson’s Suddenly over the scene rather than having the dialogue and all those old Neighbours faces in the congregation. Plus, they are still together in the fictional world of the show too which is nice! I do think it’s a pity though that neither of the stars is coming back for the anniversary.
2. Kerry Mangel is killed by duck hunters (UK airdate: 1991)
The next most vivid moment from watching Neighbours growing up has to be the tragic death of Harold’s daughter Kerry. Out on a protest against duck hunters with her friend and her husband Joe Mangel (sounds daft right?!), Kerry is unexpectedly shot. I remember being stunned by this event and Kerry being pregnant at the time made it even more sad. At least we had her daughter Sky return years later, played by Stephanie McIntosh, who looked spookily like Linda Hartley-Clark, who played Kerry.
3. Lucy Robinson’s sight returns (UK airdate: 1988)
I don’t think this was a hugely memorable plot line for the series, but it’s one of the earliest television memories I have. Lucy Robinson was suffering from blindness and in a vivid memory, I remember her being given a bowl of ice-cream (chocolate I think) and as she eats it her sight came back! I’m not sure whether it was the fact she was very young like me and was blind or the fact I just wanted ice-cream, but it’s an image that’s stayed with me ever since!
4. Libby and Drew get married (UK airdate: 2001)
Libby Kennedy became one of my favourite characters in Neighbours and she went through a great deal. I especially loved it when she finally realised she loved her best friend Drew, as the pair were so clearly suited for each other and it was nice to see them happy. Their wedding was a lovely episode, as Drew serenaded her at the reception, although I’m still not sure the kilt worked! He always seemed like the perfect guy, so loving, loyal and decent. It’s sad their happiness didn’t last but, for a while at least, they were my favourite couple.
5. The Flick, Steph and Mark love triangle (UK airdate: 2002)
This was a story that you were waiting to explode, as Flick Scully (Holly Valance) fell for her sister’s fiancé Mark Lambert. Watching him stand Steph up at the altar and for her to realise this was because of her sister was fantastic television and the showdown scene between Steph and Flick was brilliantly acted by the two actresses.
6. Anne and Billy’s happy ending (UK airdate: 2000)
Another one of my favourite couples was Billy Kennedy and Anne Wilkinson. Anne was the good girl, who worked hard and was a decent friend to Lance, Amy and co and Billy always seemed to be a genuinely decent young man. Theirs was a Neighbours relationship you wanted to work and last and it was lovely to see them leave to make a life together, with Anne heading off to join Billy. As far as we’re aware they are still together. I’d love these two to return one day.
7. Clive Gibbons in his gorilla outfit (UK airdate: 1987)
Another early memory for me is that of Dr Clive Gibbons (Geoff Paine) in a gorilla costume! It turns out this was in fact his first episode in the series and he became an early favourite character of mine, although that possibly may have all stemmed from this memorable entrance!
8. Toadie and Dee’s wedding day ends in tragedy (UK air date: 2003)
It’s nice to see that Toadie is still in Neighbours and is a link to the past for people like me who stopped watching. He certainly grew up on the show, from troubled teenager taken in by Karl and Susan to a respectable lawyer (although he never seemed to do much actual work!). Never having that much luck in love, it was lovely when Dee finally fell for Toadie and their wedding was another lovely day. She looked beautiful and everyone was so happy. However, the episode stays in the mind due to the tragic end, as they drove off a cliff, resulting in Dee’s body never being found. You really didn’t want such an end for this couple. I wonder if one day she’ll ever return?!
9. Henry Ramsey locked out in a towel! (UK airdate: 1990)
Ahh Craig McLachlan. I think a lot of young viewers at the time loved Henry Ramsay. He was fun, cute, a great friend and a hugely entertaining character in the days of Scott, Charlene, Mike and Jane. This moment is probably the one most remembered by viewers, as he is forced to run naked after being thrown out of Bronwyn’s house to avoid being caught by her aunt. Unfortunately his towel is caught in the door and he has to make a run for it, ending up hiding in the shrubbery in the greenhouse! The accompanying music is always brilliant for adding to the comedy of the scene.
10. The plane crash (UK air date: 2006)
Ten years ago, to celebrate its 20th Anniversary, the series saw a huge disaster storyline, which led to the deaths of a whole family, as the staff of Lassiter’s were treated to a night out and travel on Paul Robinson’s private plane. Unfortunately there was a bomb on board (planted by Paul’s son Robert) and the explosion left everyone in the sea fighting for survival. Harold’s son David, his wife Liljana and their daughter Serena all perished, which was quite shocking. I especially remember poor Connor desperately trying to keep Serena afloat. Yes, it may have been cheesy at times, but Neighbours could always pull off the dramatic stories.
11. Daphne dies after telling Des she loves him (UK air date: 1989)
Poor Des Barnes. He was always such a decent guy in the early days of Neighbours and when he ended up getting the woman of his dreams, Daphne, (who started way back in the very first episode as a stripper!), it couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy. That made her death all the more upsetting after a car crash. I think this death stays with you because not only was Daphne the first regular character to die, but it was the first one I’d seen where you thought the person was on the road to recovery, as she finally seems to regain consciousness to tell Des she loves him, only to die seconds later. Watching this clip back now, it still makes me sad. At least we get to see Des again in the next couple of weeks as he makes an appearance to celebrate this special anniversary.
12. The mystery of Julie Martin’s death at the murder mystery weekend (UK airdate: 1995)
Julie Martin, daughter of Jim Robinson, was always such an annoying character, always judging everyone and being fairly horrible. However, even I remember feeling sorry for her when she met her end at the murder mystery weekend some of the residents went on in 1995. It made a change to have the setting away from Ramsay Street and it was an unexpected end to the episode when Julie was found dead. I remember all the debate as to whether she’d fallen or was pushed. It was months later that Debbie revealed she’d witnessed her mother fall.
13. Farewell to Helen Daniels (UK airdate: 1998)
Helen Daniels was the mother to everyone on Neighbours, there as a shoulder to cry on for almost every character and Anne Haddy played her wonderfully throughout her time on the show. Although Helen’s (or Gran’s) death was sad to see, she had perhaps an end we would all be happy with – simply falling asleep at home, surrounded by family and friends during and happy get together for her birthday. I always thought Rebecca Ritters (who played Hannah Martin) was brilliant here, as she realised her grandmother had died. Her death certainly marked the end of an era.
14. Karl keeps a trapped Joel alive in rising water (UK airdate: 1999)
This dramatic episode saw Joel trapped beneath a truck, after he and Karl stop to help an upset Anne. As Anne rushes off through the bush for help, Karl desperately tries to keep Joel alive, as the water rises around them, through using water bottles and tubing to act as a way of helping him breath under the water. It was brilliantly tense to watch and showed Doctor Karl yet again to the rescue!
15. Shy Nina Tucker’s amazing voice (UK airdate: 2002)
Many pop stars have come out of Neighbours over the years, but Delta Goodrem went in to Neighbours with a recording deal and through her time on the show as shy Nina Tucker acquired an immediate fan base for her music. Nina was a great character, who like Delta, went off to conquer the music world. Plus you can’t deny that she can sing and it was lovely to see this career begin on the show and unlike Kylie, Delta is returning to the series that helped make her career for the 30th Anniversary celebrations this month.
So those are my most memorable moments over the years that I was a regular viewer. It’s been nice to revisit the series in the last few days in the run up to the anniversary and I’d be curious to hear about your favourite moments.
The 30th Anniversary episode screens today (18th March) at 1:45 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. on Channel 5. There is also an evening of celebration starting from 10 p.m. with The Stars Reunite, featuring interviews with famous residents from the past, followed by Scott and Charlene’s wedding and the first ever episode of the series. It’s a shame these are on so late, so don’t forget to set your recorders!