Monday, May 27, 2024

Farewell to Neighbours: “This was Ground Zero for the show that would take Australia & the UK by storm”


I remarked, “That sounds so cheesy.” When I was outside Reg Watson’s office, I was listening to a cassette player. Between the neighbourhood Kentucky Fried Chicken and the Shore Motel in Artarmon, Sydney, we were on Level 3 of Grundy House, two levels above a carpet store.

The writers of “The Two of Us” and “Downtown,” Tony Hatch and Jackie Trent, had provided the theme music for the new Grundy serial Neighbours. For the most of the following 36 years, I would associate that corny tune with an earworm. I wish I had known.

They are what we refer to as “run from the kitchen” themes because they inspire audience participation. What a powerful call to action! According to the legend, breastfeeding ladies would begin lactating years later as they recalled being breastfed while their mothers watched their favourite soap opera.

This served as the starting point for the programme that would go on to rule Australia and the UK. Of course, at the time, none of us realised it. As casting director Kerry Spence approached the extraordinary ensemble that would eventually make up the cast of Prisoner, I could overhear actresses on camera asking, “What are you looking at Vinegar TITS?” in another office nearby.


At Grundys, casting talent was in high demand. On Neighbours, Jan Russ famously assembled a cast of characters who would become well-known figures. Everyone would be aware of Jan’s impact on the show, even Margot Robbie. Jan had a keen eye for talent and promise, but she also recognised the strength of the group. She may have been the catalyst for a thousand spectacular careers, contrasting inexperience with some of our best theatre and screen actors. One of the true unsung heroes.

Working at Grundys during this period was a privilege. Reg Watson is not only a genius but also a one-man hit factory. His credits include The Young Doctors, The Restless Years, Prisoner, Neighbours, and more.

Additionally, it had to be the epitome of right time, right place. What a blessing. And so many wonderful instructors, including Ray Kolle, Betty Quin, David Phillips, Hugh Stuckey, and countless more. It’s not often known that Reg Watson, a Sydney native, invented all of these performances. Additionally, the writing teams were all situated in Sydney at first.

I was requested to collaborate with the TEN story team as a staff writer and script editor for the reboot. Again, what fantastic good fortune.


There were two cast changes, as well as a modest tone change. Although the material was a little lighter, the scaffolding was always comprised of friends and neighbours. Families Ramsay and Robinson fighting, and of course, forbidden love.

The ratings were often faxed in around 10am, and Phil East and I were the show’s initial script editors. We had a record-breaking seven share for the relaunch. absolute calamity I looked at Phil and questioned him about his next event without much irony.

It’s fair to say that our chances were not good. Weeks separated the second cancellation of Neighbours.

At this point, everyone is aware of Charlene, Scott, Mike, and Plain Jane Super-Brain. However, it took some time for the audience to warm up to the play and for it to find its voice. The foundation was erected by Karl and Susan, Toadie, Harold, Madge, and Paul Robinson. Once more, it was the ten’s publicity and marketing team’s persistent efforts that turned appearances in shopping centres into military operations and battled for column inches.


We learned the background of this commission several years later. Tom Warne was eager to discover a programme that would unite the Ten network, strip five evenings per week, and support his prime time schedule. Every city had its own station back then, and they were the ones who knew their markets best. Neighbours, in Denis Spencer’s opinion, might be appropriate. For a year, the show had performed well on 7, but HSV and ATN couldn’t agree on a plan for the future.

Brian Walsh and Eileen O’Shea entered the conversation quite immediately. One big marketing, one single concert. The Network, TEN, and ATV would be united by it. Some individuals can still remember the low-cheek loader’s and the backing flats travelling around town from seven to ten in the morning. They had a new address, neighbours. The re-fresh is entirely to be credited to Eileen and Brian. Without them, the innings could have only lasted a few.

In 1997, Ross Plapp approached me with an offer to work in drama for Ten. State Coroner, Medivac, Big Sky, and Neighbors were all on Ten at that time. I believed it would be intriguing to learn the processes and justifications behind Networks’ commissioning and programming decisions. And who exactly were these geniuses writing such awful network notes? I didn’t think I’d stick around, and I wasn’t even sure I’d like it. Though I did.

Since then, all of us have had the opportunity to see Neighbours grow. the switch from the BBC to Channel 5, as well as the further growth of multichannels, catch-up television, and streaming. So many changes, yet the tiny engine that could kept making progress.

The fact that the show will end up being as innovative and current as ever is a fantastic testament to Jason Herbison. the enduring? How do you begin.

Prior to Neighbours becoming such a success on the BBC, selling Australian shows abroad wasn’t as simple. Nowadays, a considerable UK investment is made in many of our series, either as a pre-sale or a distribution guarantee. It has evolved into a really global enterprise.


Additionally, the multiplier effect of incoming migration and tourism over many years is tough to measure. Eternal Spring, a diverse and forward-thinking neighbourhood, a strong sense of family, and, hey, everyone is also wonderfully attractive.

How do you put a number on all of our technicians, writers, directors, and post producers’ on-the-job training? Not to add the outstanding performance of our group (both to date and in the future).

Or to learn that The Bold and the Beautiful was curious about how safely Neighbours could resume filming after Covid had just shut down Hollywood.

While Ten has undergone several well-documented changes throughout my tenure there, Neighbours has been a constant. In many respects, it has served as our brand. surviving and outlasting the industry surrounding it as it changed virtually daily. There are numerous alternative media formats, new channels, and streaming services. However, the fan base has always been fantastic, and we have no doubt that the show will be sadly missed.

Reg Watson, for one, would undoubtedly be extremely proud. And he’d always been a fan of that music.

Week of Neighbours’ Finale:

Monday July 25 6:30pm – 8pm 10 Peach

Tuesday July 26 6:30pm – 8pm 10 Peach

Wednesday July 27 6:30pm – 8pm 10 Peach

Thursday July 25 7.30pm – 9pm on 10 and 10 Peach

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