Later this month on Channel 5, Neighbours will receive a send-off to remember as the finale episode is given a prime-time slot in a special night of celebration.
Neighbours: It has been confirmed that The Finale will air on Friday, July 29 at 9 p.m., followed by two unique companion programmes that honour the long-running soap opera’s history.
Digital Spy recently spoke with Channel 5 commissioning editor Greg Barnett for an exclusive interview about everything Neighbours as we anticipate the show’s conclusion.
Since 2010, Greg has been in charge of Neighbours for the network. During this time, he has worked on some of the most iconic episodes, such as the gripping Channel 5 prime-time specials.
He discusses the finale night, Kylie and Jason’s comebacks, and the reason behind Neighbours’ ending here.
For 14 years, Neighbours has served as the centrepiece of Channel 5’s daytime programming. Is the network upset about losing the programme?
Yes, without a doubt. We have enjoyed having it, providing for it, and receiving compliments and positive reviews for doing so.
“Ben Frow [Channel 5 controller] and I introduced the 10 o’clock specials, which moved the programme out of its daytime slot and into a location where potential new and old viewers could see it and re-engage – they did!
We received praise for using Adele during a scene in Toadie’s wedding explosion episode where one of the doctors died in the hospital parking lot. These 10pms then evolved over the years we produced them, going from a simple stitch-together to “some” new material, then “all-new” material, then week-long strips (Endgame most recently), and of course the Erinsborough High My5 spin-off.
“Yes, it is sad to be losing it because we’ve given it a lot of love and encouragement.”
You’ve personally managed the programme for Channel 5 for more than ten years and contributed to the storylines. How do you feel about the show now coming to an end?
“It’s been a real honour to work with such a talented cast and crew, and I got to visit the production centre quite a bit to be involved, as you say, in thrashing out stories and adding support where I could, as well as to be shown how Fremantle were investing our portion of the funding into things like new interior sets and the Ramsay Street backyards. I’m incredibly appreciative of all those opportunities.
I’m also quite sad to see it disappear at the same time. Being a part of its send-off is once again an honour, which is meaningful and, in all honesty, fulfilling.
“This is not a show that is being cancelled due to low ratings or underwhelming performance. It’s ending on a very high note. Jason Herbison, the executive producer of “Neighbours,” and the crew at Fremantle Australia have unquestionably provided a suitable and great finish. I sincerely hope that viewers won’t be let down.
Did you participate much in the planning of the grand finale after the decision to end Neighbours was made?
“Jason Herbison and I concurred that the show’s conclusion called for something truly exceptional. We spoke about who might come back and what we might do.
Ramsay Street, for instance, cannot be destroyed since real people reside there, and doing so would also not be morally appropriate considering how well-liked the programme is, how far it has come, and the values that underpin it.
Naturally, a list was available: “Could we obtain XXX…? Do you believe YYY will return? Jason was tasked with convincing everyone to come back after we all agreed on the proper conclusion. All glory to him.
There was some doubt as to whether well-known performers like Guy Pearce, Jason Donovan, and Kylie Minogue would make a comeback. Were you taken aback when they decided to return?
“I am aware of Kylie’s real and honest love for the programme and all that it has done for her thanks to the Be A Star On Neighbours competition we ran back in 2010. She recorded personal greetings for us and graciously allowed us to utilise her footage in the feature programmes we produced. I distinctly recall saying, “That tells you something.”
We all just hoped that the stars and their schedules would line up since Jason Donovan, I believe, had always stated that he would only come back if Kylie did.
“Jason Herbison kept mentioning that he was attempting to pull it off during our Monday catch-ups, but one day he called to tell me that they had both returned to Pin Oak Court (the actual location of Ramsay Street) the day before, and their scenes had been captured. Then he called me to let me know Guy Pearce would be back for three episodes.
“I believe it is crucial to note that these returnees were adamant that the final episode of Neighbours not be focused on them. They were very aware that there was a cast of individuals that had been in Erinsborough for a lot longer than they had, and that their contributions should reflect that.
Was the finale’s primetime airing always intended? Can we anticipate it to have a special edit and pop music like prior post-Watershed episodes?
“Ben Frow came up with the idea to play it at peak. After asking me if I thought we should go ahead, he asked me for two more support programmes so we could make a night of it.
“I can say with certainty that the UK finale will be unlike any other since it is a specially-made hour with a bespoke super-tease (voiced by Stefan Dennis) and yes, there will be commercial tracks—the most we’ve ever used in one episode. a blend of classic and current styles, but each is appropriate and created to improve the viewing experience.
Can you give us any hints about the upcoming episode? Numerous rumours have been spread, but are any surprises in store?
“Sure, we’ve kept some things under wraps. There will be more returning cast members, but we have been sworn to secret.
What else about your plans for the closing night can you share with us?
Ben requested two more shows after Ben and I considered performing the finale at 9 p.m., as was already mentioned. First up is Neighbours: Made Me A Star, which chronicles how a daily Australian drama series launched the international careers of a galaxy of stars and what they went on to achieve thereafter.
“I am happy to say that there are excellent interviews and anecdotes in there, iconic clips, and even one or two audition videos. The production staff and cast have been incredibly supportive. In order to get the real scoop on how the now-stratospheric stars were once, we even spoke with the casting director. Through their fingertips, they’ll be observing. You definitely shouldn’t miss it!
Then, with an hour of pop-up videos and astonishing statistics and numbers from people like Kylie, Jason, Holly, Delta, Natalie, Stefan, etc., we’re also honouring the show’s success in the pop music industry. Neighbours: All The Pop Hits & More; Especially For You will be the title of that song.
I truly hope our fans believe we’ve done them proud since there will be a specifically made “countdown” in the last week, a custom channel ident, and Alan Fletcher (Dr. Karl Kennedy) will be the station’s continuity announcer for the night.
The finale will air in Australia one day before the UK. Would a same-day broadcast have been more effective?
“I believe that no matter how the issue was resolved, it would cause frustration for people everywhere. Since the series originated in Australia, I think it makes a significant statement for Ten to air it simultaneously on 10 Peach because that’s where it all started for them when they acquired the show.
We’ve agreed that official territory Neighbours fan sites won’t publish spoilers until everyone has done so. I hope this includes RTE and our Republic of Ireland fans, who, based on my understanding, will be receiving the episode the following Wednesday. This should give devoted viewers the chance to avoid spoilers.
Once the demise of Neighbours was revealed, there was a huge outpouring of support, including a petition, statements from famous people, news coverage, and live daytime shows. At the time, how did you interpret that?
“I think we all had high hopes for it. I recall being astounded by the amount of interest that the Be A Star On Neighbours competition received when it was first introduced. We appeared on GMTV, BBC Breakfast News, tabloids, broadsheets, radio, and many other media outlets.
It was initially not surprising that the news we were losing it would cause such a stir, but it’s a testament to all the hard work of each and every person involved with it at every level, everywhere, that it did. Support for everything we’ve ever done with Neighbours since has always been noticeably huge.
Some of the viewers believe that more could have been done to rescue the programme. Were all possibilities considered from your point of view?
“As was stated in the news, the programme had been losing Channel 5 significant sums of money every year since the broadcaster purchased it, and it had become a serious issue. The company couldn’t keep losing money.
What more specifics about your involvement in the programme over the years can you give, and what are you most proud of?
Because of all that we accomplished, there is plenty to be proud of. Actually, Channel 5 has a very small group called “Team Australia” that meets once a week to support our ongoing programmes.
They consist of professionals from the marketing, press, viewer insights, presentation, social media, and other fields. With their assistance, we produced three 10 p.m. outings, two sizable competitions, a week-long strip, and the My5 exclusive Erinsborough High.
“We flew the actors over more frequently, they appeared on press and television considerably more, and they accepted several prizes, including winning all five Radio Times Soap Awards in 2020. That was undoubtedly a high point.
They created and cast the first gay marriage in Australian serial drama, cast transgender and Down’s syndrome acting talent, and were the first to cast talent with a cochlear implant. “The production team in Nunawading pioneered continuing their operation during the COVID pandemic and sharing their intel with the UK soaps.
“So being a part of all of that has made me proud, and personally I devised the Lassiters boiler explosion 10 o’clock drama climax where Josh Willis and Daniel Robinson’s characters were both trapped by a falling beam. Of course Josh passed away terribly. It was incredibly satisfying to watch that programme dominate the Channel 5 and 10 Peach ratings charts.
On new projects, Channel 5 is still collaborating with Fremantle, the production company behind Neighbours, Channel 10 in Australia, and others. Can you give us any information about that?
“Yes, I can. Recently, we partnered with Ten and Fremantle Australia to commission two further dramas. Riptide will go into production this week, and I’m overjoyed to have Jo Joyner in the title role as Alison.
“Australian performers David Berry, Peter O’Brien, Ally Fowler, and Pia Miranda, as well as rising stars Benny Turland, Asher Yasbincek, and Yazeed Dahar, as well as recent arrivals Benjamin Samaddar and Sonya Suares, join Jo.
“It will be shot in Melbourne, and it’s a psychological thriller. When Alison’s new Australian husband disappears after a morning surf, her life is thrown into misery. Is there more to his disappearance than initially appears? Was he caught in a hazardous riptide?
“An announcement regarding the second drama project will be made soon. I can only confirm that it will once again be filmed in Melbourne this year, but since the scripts are still being polished, I must remain silent for the time being. We have a fantastic headline name for the part. It’s quite exciting.
Before Neighbours was cancelled, the choice to omit episodes and lag behind Australia during COVID as well as taking episodes off for Christmas was passionately contested by fans. What do you think about that?
“We made the choice to decrease broadcasts to make sure we never ran out of episodes since we were unsure of how the COVID outbreak would affect our ability to continue producing. Thank goodness it didn’t last long.
“Neighbours was suspended throughout the holiday season for two main reasons. We couldn’t always guarantee that we would be able to deliver Christmas week episodes since the cast and crew needed a break in production. Additionally, scheduling was never stable over the holiday season, and fans would usually gripe about the shifting time slots.
Are there any hints you can give about what’s to come in Summer Bay and does Home and Away still have a promising future on the channel?
Yes, without a doubt. We are currently in the midst of the PK murder saga, which is making Dean’s life very difficult. It’s exciting to watch how the drama develops there.
“Someone is going to get shot, and a few new faces will soon be in the Bay, some of whom will leave the locals and viewers guessing as to what their genuine motivations are.
“Major storylines involving some of our most cherished characters, like Marilyn, are scheduled to debut later this year.
“I can’t say more than that, but as we approach the show’s 35th anniversary next year, there will be plenty of teasers and snippets on the UK Home and Away Facebook page, and of course we’ll be continuing to support with promos and cast visits. Thrilling times.