Fans all over the world were upset when it was announced earlier this year that Neighbours was being cancelled. What would the devoted viewers of the 37-year-old, internationally renowned Australian soap do without their regular trips to the serene suburb of Erinsborough?
With online petitions, social media support, prayers, and good thoughts, the crowd mobilised to prevent it from disappearing from the schedules, but regrettably, on Friday, July 29, the final episode will air. As devastated as the rest of us are, Neighbours legend Stefan Dennis, who has played venomous Paul Robinson from episode one, confesses there was a glimmer of hope for a respite before Ramsay Street’s demise was sealed. kind of
In an exclusive interview with RadioTimes.com, he tells us, “We had a nasty April Fool’s day hoax perpetrated on us that another network, Channel 7, were going to salvage the show. “That made me smile because they actually dropped us after our first year in 1985, and their competitor Channel 10 scooped us up!”
Dennis claims that the previous agreement that allowed the drama to continue for more than three decades was completed in a matter of months. However, despite producers’ and fans’ best efforts, things turned out to be different this time, much to everyone’s dismay.
Channel 10 needed a new investor to keep the show on the air, but one wasn’t found in time when UK broadcaster Channel 5 said they were pulling their sizeable funding contribution due to financial concerns.
The longer it went on, the more likely it was that we would have adapted the show for a UK and European audience, says Dennis. “Unfortunately, there is a financial connection to Australia, and ratings may not be as strong as they would like. It’s a money-related issue.
Neighbours is well known for serving as a platform for actors and actresses, giving people like Kylie Minogue, Jason Donovan, Margot Robbie, and Guy Pearce a ticket to popularity on a global scale. Dennis notes that the show’s cancellation is noteworthy for a variety of reasons, in addition to the fact that the next generation of Australian talent won’t have a platform.
The actor says, “I think losing what it provides back to the industry is the saddest thing and biggest letdown.” “I don’t understand why the ABC, our government-funded alternative to the BBC, didn’t pick it up; that way, it would be owned by the Australian people, and we wouldn’t have to worry about sponsorship or anything like that. It would have been preserved and is a famous part of television history. It’s a shame, but there are undoubtedly many reasons why that didn’t happen.
“The 200 or so individuals behind the scenes who will lose their jobs are what I’m truly unhappy about, and I’m not talking about me because I was probably going to retire in the not-too-distant future anyhow. We’re forgetting about those who won’t have work but still have expenses to pay; for almost 40 years, Neighbours has been their employer. People won’t realise the size of the void it will leave in the industry.
As much a feature of the soap opera as the Ramsay Street sign is the character of Paul. The Robinson rogue has been a part of the show from the beginning, just like Ken Barlow of Coronation Street, Ian Beale of EastEnders, and Tony Hutchinson of Hollyoaks. His eventful life perfectly captures the essence of the programme: whatever he gets up to, it’s always entertaining, frequently dramatic, and frequently leaves you in disbelief. Will Dennis be without his other self?
He chuckles, “I didn’t want the position at first. “I initially just committed to six months, but after I arrived and got to work, I began to explore the role in my innocent way, much like I did back when I was a young actor!
“At the beginning, Paul was a cheerful, carefree 20-something who was kind of a blank slate, very different from the character I’m playing now. He was a true wicked baddie when I returned in 2004 after having departed in the early 1990s.
Being able to maintain a character’s essence over a lengthy period of time in the face of constantly shifting creative people presents a special difficulty for veteran soap opera actors. Producers and writers come and go, but for devoted fans, stalwarts like Dennis must uphold integrity and a constant narrative. Does this make him protective of dear old Paul?
He muses, “I suppose to a degree. I am aware of what the public expects from him. There was a plot where he developed a brain tumour and then recovered to become a model citizen. I initially agreed with it, but I continued reminding the producers that the audience preferred Paul to be Mr. Nasty and didn’t want him to be Mr. Nice Guy.
When they finally received the message, they gradually began turning him around. I’ve always tried to be the Paul that the audience wants to see. He can be a fool at times, but that’s excellent since it shows that the character is effective!
Paul, a clever kingpin of the sleepy cul-de-sac who fans liked to hate but still have a lot of fondness for, became the suburban JR Ewing. He is still romantically associated with Neighbours’ heyday in the late 1980s.
Dennis and his cast mates were unaware of the show’s cultural phenomenon until they were flown to the UK in 1988 to appear at the Royal Variety Performance. At the time, the show was producing ratings of roughly 20 million in a teatime slot on BBC One.
He remembers, “That was a major eye-opener.” “There were screaming fans all over, rocking the bus that took us from the airport to the hotel. It was thrilling but also extremely frightful to have security personnel, publicists, and such a large entourage! None of us were ready for the level of attention in the UK because fans were less intrusive in Australia.
At the moment, it appeared as though the majority of the nation—including royalty—was watching the programme.
The Golden Girls, the evening’s main attraction, were the American sitcom’s ensemble, so we lined up to meet the Queen Mother backstage. After shaking our hands, she continued down the line. Because Australia was 18 months ahead of us at the time, the Queen Mum interrupted our conversation with them to enquire what will happen in Neighbours in the future. She avoided the Golden Girls in order to learn the rumours!
The youthful relationship between Scott and Charlene, which propelled the aforementioned Kylie and Jason to new heights, was a major contributor to the initial Neighbours craze. In November 1988, just a few weeks before the Royal Variety performance, their wedding was broadcast in the UK, and Dennis, the groom’s older brother, was there to witness the union of the couple. Did he know he was a part of television history?
He chuckles, “It was one of the most dull filming days I’ve ever had on Neighbours. “There wasn’t much conversation, and the majority of us were glorified extras, but there were many of deep glances. I can still picture me boredly sitting about that draughty church. I’m glad I brought a book with me!
Dennis acknowledges the episode’s enormous impact despite his boredom, and we can’t let him go without asking why he believes the emotional wedding clip still touches a nerve and will undoubtedly be viewed numerous times as the couple makes their long-awaited return as part of Neighbours’ emotional farewell.
“It hasn’t lost any of its iconic status just because Scott and Charlene were so well-known at the time. Whether by chance or design, Jason and Kylie were able to connect with two of history’s most well-known individuals.
There was a huge build-up to the question, “Will they? Will they? Everyone was so happy for them when they were finally able to get married. The very best happy ending occurred!
And everyone on Ramsay Street deserves that.