Former Ramsay Street cast members rejoin with the current cast to wrap up the show the same way it started: with a sincere celebration of community rather than a huge explosion.
Paul Robinson’s narration opens the final episode of Neighbours. He says, “Ramsay Street.” “Extraordinary things tend to happen on an ordinary street in an ordinary neighbourhood,”
And I’m already sobbing. That’s it. We have come to the finish.
The following items are on my Neighbours finale bingo card: Madge’s ghost; no one actually moves out; and, as previously mentioned, explosions. The episode is directed by Scott Major, a former member of the Neighbours ensemble (he played Lucas Fitzgerald), who has direct access to the show’s heart and soul. This is a solid beginning.
But what do I require at the very end? What do all of us need? How do you wrap up a 37-year-old series that has become part of our culture? How do you meld together all those threads—past and present storylines; past and present stars—into a conclusion that captures its impact on both its fans and others who enjoy saying, “I didn’t even know it was still on?”
Jackie Woodburne’s Susan Kennedy is seen pacing the street in the first shot. How could this occur, she asks with obvious disbelief? The street is breaking apart. There are “FOR SALE” signs posted on every house but her own. These appear to be Woodburne’s actual tears, therefore the fourth wall seems to have already been shattered. The distinction between the actors who portray the roles and the characters becomes hazy.
Neighbors was woven into the fabric of our existence. The majority of the time, I stopped what I was doing to make sure I was in front of the box at 6.30 p.m. I watched on a hideous green couch in our rumpus room. Like many elderly millennials, I tore Brooke Satchwell’s (Anne) and Dan Parish’s (Drew) TV Hits posters, had strong feelings about whether Carmella made a believable nun, and regularly used the word “hufter.”
However, we are not the only audience. In recent years, Neighbours has attracted a younger audience, including followers of Kyle and Roxy, Mackenzie and Hendrix, and #Chelly (the romance between newer arrivals Elly and Chloe).
It has also received legitimate criticism for its unfair treatment of marginalised groups, such as people of colour and the queer community, from pundits and the actors themselves. The last episode’s casting and plot decisions are an attempt to address this, but one is left to question what a show of this stature could have accomplished by focusing on a more representative neighbourhood and telling other tales. Of course, finding out now would be too late.
Back on the street, Lucinda Cowden’s Melanie, an Elvis impersonator, is getting married to Toadie. Cowden first appeared on the programme in 1987, and she is one of several past performers who have recently returned to the main cast, including Melissa Bell, Annie Jones (Jane Harris), and Geoff Paine (Clive Gibbons) (Lucy Robinson).
The division between “oldies who have been here forever,” “oldies who used to be here and are here again,” and “young folks I don’t really know” is startling in some respects. The latter episodes have been the Neighbours version of And Just Like That, where the nostalgic appeal is handled separately from the plot and is intended as a wink and a nudge to the viewer. A brief sight on the television is entertaining, but is it satisfying?
We have been promised a long list of previous characters in light of this. We are aware that these actors have other careers (which may include working as paramedics, in pubs, or in Hollywood blockbusters), so how much time and effort they can devote to appearing will depend on their other commitments.
As is to be anticipated, many of them “return” on a Zoom call to wish Toadie luck in his upcoming marriage: a tried-and-true soap opera trope that has never seemed more relevant. Here, we have characters like Libby (Kym Valentine), Steph (Carla Bonner), Beth (Natalie Imbruglia), Flick (Holly Valance), Stu (Blair McDonough), Tad (Jonathan Dutton, my original Neighbours crush with filthy mo’), Lance (Andrew Bibby), Nina (Delta Goodrem), and others, all the way up to Joe Mangel (Mark Little) and the much (Jesse Spencer).
The fact that such obscenely renowned performers are returning to their roots with former cast members who haven’t achieved the same fame is actually moving. Particularly Donna (Margot Robbie), who gushes about how much the neighbourhood and its residents have meant to her, doesn’t even appear to be in character. It serves as a reminder that for some people, Neighbours has truly served as a launchpad, a blessing that has changed their lives and launched their careers.
Not every visit takes place online. At his wedding, we see Toadie’s mother Angie (Leslie Baker) in the audience, and Joel Samuels (Daniel MacPherson) briefly appears in the House of Trouser in excellent physical condition. A whole storyline is played out by Mike Young (Guy Pearce), who revives an old romance with Jane and proves to fans that Sam (Henrietta Graham) is his daughter after all.
A green Mini then drives into the recognisable court. The only conclusion that can be drawn by longtime viewers of the programme is that Scott (Jason Donovan) and Charlene (our Kylie) are returning. The stereo is playing their own music. Charlene decides to break in just for fun because no one is home because everyone is watching Toadie’s most recent wife consent to her own death (he drove the previous one into the sea, another was a hoax, and he lost his soulmate to cancer).
Is the programme playing on our desire for nostalgia? Definitely. But is it also really, really nice? Sure, it is.
It starts to feel like the end as we go toward the Kennedy residence for the wedding afterparty. We will relive 37 years of love, tragedy, sadness, and friendship in this setting.
Have you prepared? neither do I.
With a few seconds left, we find ourselves where we always knew we would be: sitting on Susan Kennedy’s couch as she pauses to consider what the street has meant to her.
Therefore, Neighbours closes the same way it started: with its people rather than a fire, tornado, or affair. Susan is grinning this time as she strolls the bitumen. She adoringly scans the crowd assembled to commemorate Toadie’s wedding. They have all made the decision to stay on Ramsay Street because it has always been their home. There is a sense of serenity and cohesion. Nothing has burst into flames but my own, tear-filled face. And sure enough, Madge’s spirit is here.
A Susan Kennedy voiceover begins in a rhythm I’ll still be hearing in my old age. Everyone should have a place in Ramsay Street’s history, she asserts. Even those who kept a distance and observed us [that’s us!]. Together, we have made the ideal combination.
And the theme song from long ago starts to play.
I was ready to be pessimistic about the end of the Erinsborough era; in fact, I was delighted to be so. But I actually started crying when I watched tonight’s episode. Thank you for all the years, neighbours. I’m pleased with how well we got along.
The final episode of Neighbours will air in the UK on Friday, July 29 at 9:00 p.m. on Channel 5.