Neighbours Might Be Ending and I’m Not OK
When the news broke that Channel 5 had decided to cancel TV show Neighbours – most likely bringing an end to the show altogether – my mum immediately messaged me to ask if I was OK.
But I was not OK.
Actually, I was devastated. I still am.
The fact is, Neighbours has been part of my life now for… well, most of my life, really.
I started watching the show back at the height of its 80s heyday. I was still in primary school at the time, but I was 100% sure I was going to marry Jason Donovan when I grew up (Spoiler Alert: NO), and that Kylie Minogue was the most beautiful person who ever lived.
I was being badly bullied at the time, so Neighbours was a much-needed little slice of escapism – a twenty-minute reprieve from day-to-day life, during which it was always sunny, and problems were easily solved.
I outgrew my obsession with Jason and Kylie, and gave up on my dream of one day owning a pet galah. I never, however, outgrew Neighbours, which has been part of the rhythm of my days ever since. Sure, there’s been the odd time when life has taken over, and I’ve lost sight of it for a while; in my first year of university, for instance, when there was no TV in my dorm room, and I was too shy to demand that the one in the common room be tuned to an Australian soap opera every day. Or in the first couple of years of running our business, when I just got out of the habit.
Somehow, though, I’ve always found my way back to it, and it’s always provided exactly the same kind of comport and escapism that drew me to it in the first place. During the early part of the pandemic, for instance (And after the blip that saw it taken off air for a few weeks until they decided that social distancing wouldn’t make the show that much more bonkers than it already was…), it was one of the few things that remained familiar and constant, in a world that was suddenly insane. After pregnancy losses, bereavements and other horrific life events, Neighbours was, once again, exactly the slice of pure escapism that we so badly needed.
A lot of people make fun of Neighbours – and of people like me for loving Neighbours – feeling that it’s not serious or worthy enough to inspire such loyalty. But that, of course, is exactly why we love it – not in spite of its outlandish plots and blatant disregard for reality, but because of them.
Neighbours has always been a show which is unapologetic in its love of classic soap opera tropes: the evil twin, the secret love child, the random bouts of amnesia. The “I’m sorry, but you’ll never walk again – oh no, wait, you’re fine now!” moments. Then there were the large scale disasters: plane crashes, explosions, hurricanes, and, of course that one time a straight-up psychopath burned down an entire island, before killing Gary Canning with an arrow, and Prue Wallace with a cake. (It was OK, though, because Gary came back as a pigeon. He recently attended his son’s wedding, actually. Yes, really.)
Oh, and love triangles, of course. I mean, who could forget the time Terese Willis slept with her future stepson, Leo, who had himself narrowly escaped sleeping with his step-sister, Amy, who was shacked-up with her future stepmother’s (Terese’s) ex-lover, Gary – a.k.a The One Who Came Back as a Pigeon – at the time, having recently split up from Gary’s son, Kyle?
Actually, on second thoughts, it’s probably best if we DO forget that one…
Because of Neighbours, we know that suburban Australian homes all have Tardis-like interiors which will expand to comfortably accommodate any number of people, and that, when you enter them, it’s important not to close the door behind you. We know that one member of a set of twins is normally born evil, and that, if you have a potentially life-changing secret to share, the best place to do this is a busy cafe or bar, with the subject of the secret sitting directly behind you.
Because of Neighbours, we know that anyone who starts off bad will most likely end up good (Probably as the result of a short stay with Susan and Karl), that if you get cancer you can go to Germany to have it fixed, and, of course, that good neighbours really can become good friends. And often more than that. Like, MUCH more than that. (Yes, I’m still thinking of that weird Paul-Therese-Leo-Amy-Gary-Kyle love hexagon. It was a bit much, even for me, tbh.)
Because of Neighbours, I am part of a generation of British kids who grew up speaking Australian slang, pronouncing the word “necklace” as “neck-lace”, and thinking “moved to Brisbane” was a euphemism for “dead”.
(Oh, and, speaking of death, we also know that it, like brain tumors, is normally survivable, in that people can come BACK FROM THE DEAD. I don’t think the importance of this can be over-stated, really.)
“But nothing’s more British than Neighbours?” said Terry in confusion when I told him the show was being axed to make way for “more British programming”.
He’s right, too.
It might be Australian made (And Australia, of course, should justifiably take all the credit for it) but, for reasons I don’t think anyone could have predicted back when it first aired, Neighbours has become an important part of British culture, and I, for one, will be absolutely gutted to see it come to an end. Especially when Paul and Therese are still having the kind of marriage problems that I just don’t think can be resolved by August, when the show is scheduled to finish.
The one good thing in all of this, however, has been the discovery that I am not alone in all of this. At the time of writing, the petition to save Neighbours has almost 60,000 signatures (Please add yours, if you want to help), the #SaveNeighbours hashtag continues to thrive on Twitter, and an 86-year-old man was briefly number one in the charts. All of which is pretty remarkable, really.
So, I would like to think there’s still hope that the show can be saved. I mean, I suspect there probably isn’t, to be honest, but, look, the characters on this show are the closest thing I have to actual friends these days, so, for that reason alone, I’m adding my voice to the many who are calling for a reprieve. And if that reprieve doesn’t come, well, I guess we can all take comfort in the knowledge that Neighbours will never really die – it will just be found washed up on the rocks in 20 years time, the innocent victim of an evil twin who wanted to impersonate it.
Or else it will come back as a pigeon.