Neighbours is an Australian television soap opera. It was first broadcast on the Seven Network on 18 March 1985. It was created by TV executive Reg Watson, who proposed the idea of making a show that focused on realistic stories and portrayed adults and teenagers who talk openly and solve their problems together.
Seven decided to commission the show following the success of Watson’s shorter-lived soap Sons and Daughters, which aired on the network. Although successful in Melbourne, Neighbours underperformed in the Sydney market and struggled for months before Seven cancelled it. The show was immediately bought by rival network Ten. After taking over production of the show, the new network had to build replica sets because Seven destroyed the originals to prevent its rival from obtaining them. Ten began screening Neighbours on 20 January 1986, beginning where the previous series left off and commencing with episode 171.
Neighbours has since become the longest running drama series in Australian television and in 2005, it was inducted collectively into the Logie Hall of Fame.
The show’s storylines concern the domestic and professional lives of the people who live and work in Erinsborough, a fictional suburb of Melbourne, Victoria. The series primarily centres on the residents of Ramsay Street, a short cul-de-sac, and its neighbouring area, the Lassiters complex, which includes a bar, hotel, café, police station, lawyers’ office and park. Neighbours began with three families created by Watson – the Ramsays, the Robinsons and the Clarkes. Watson said that he wanted to show three families who are friends living in a small street.
The Robinsons and the Ramsays had a long history and were involved in an ongoing rivalry. Pin Oak Court, in Vermont South, is the real cul-de-sac that has doubled for Ramsay Street since 1985. All of the houses featured are real and the residents allow the production to shoot external scenes in their yards. The interior scenes are filmed at the Global Television studios in Forest Hill.
Through its entire run in Australia, Neighbours has been screened as a twenty-two-minute episode each week night in an early-evening slot. Neighbours moved to Ten’s digital channel, Eleven (later rebranded 10 Peach) on 11 January 2011, and it is currently broadcast each weeknight at 6:30 pm. The show is produced by Fremantle Australia and has been sold to over sixty countries around the world, making it one of Australia’s most successful media exports. Neighbours was first screened in the United Kingdom in October 1986 on BBC1 where it achieved huge popularity among British audiences in the late 1980s and 1990s. In 2008, it moved to the UK’s Channel 5. From 2018, the show became the first Australian drama to air all year round after securing a new deal with Channel 5.
The series was first a flop on the Australian network but the producer persevered and sold it to BBC1. It was first scheduled for the 10am and 1.30pm slots but on the advice of his school age daughter, BBC1 controller Michael Grade moved the earlier showing to a 5.35pm slot where it captured the child and housewife audience.
Probably the biggest story line the programme has ever produced was the wedding of Kylie and Jason, which was flaunted in the tabloids and helped launch both young stars to pop success.
Other story lines revolve around the Coffee Shop, Lassiters Hotel and of course their cul-de-sac Ramsay Street named after the one of the most prominent families.
Neighbours initially aired on Seven Network where it struggled to attract high ratings leading to its cancellation by the network four months after it premiered. The series was then picked up by Network Ten. After the usual break in broadcast over the summer non-ratings period the series made its debut on Ten in 1986. Ten revamped the show, adding several new, younger cast members including Jason Donovan as Scott Robinson and Kylie Minogue as Charlene Mitchell. When the show began on Ten it initially attracted low ratings, so the Network worked hard to publicise the series. Ten’s publicity drive was designed to promote the show in a star-focused campaign recalling that of the Hollywood star system where stars were packaged to feed into a fan culture. This paid off and by the end of 1987 ratings had improved for the show. The episode featuring Scott and Charlene’s wedding achieved the highest ever ratings for Neighbours and it became one of the highest rating soap episodes ever in Australia. The same episode attracted 19.6 million viewers when it was aired in the United Kingdom. By the early 1990s, Australian audiences had decreased although viewing figures had recovered slightly by the end of the decade. In 1994, Network Ten told TV Week that they would be introducing a “younger, livelier look with six regular characters under the age of 18” in a bid to generate interest. It was then that they introduced the characters of Stonefish Rebecchi played by Anthony Engelman and Serendipity Gottlieb played by Raelee Hill.
In 1996, Kimberley Davies, who played Annalise Hartman, quit the series. Then Caroline Gillmer fell ill and her character Cheryl Stark was temporarily recast with former Prisoner actress Colette Mann. This made producers nervous that viewing figures might decrease, so they implemented a series of plots to keep viewers interested. These included a cameo from Clive James and an explosion, which destroyed the doctor’s surgery in the Lassiter’s complex.
The theme tune to Neighbours was composed by Tony Hatch whose then wife, Jackie Trent, wrote the lyrics. Since 1985, there have been eight versions of the theme tune. Barry Crocker performed the song until 1992. The song has been voted the world’s most recognised television theme song and the lyrics were quoted by John Smith, then British Shadow Chancellor, in a House of Commons debate on Government economic policy. From 2007, the theme tune to Neighbours was sung by Sandra de Jong. In February 2013, Network Ten and FremantleMedia announced that they were searching across Australia and the United Kingdom for a singer to record a new version of the theme tune. The competition resulted in a tie and the new theme was sung as a duet by Daniel Boys and Stephanie Angelini. That version of the theme tune began airing from 15 April 2013. A new retro-inspired theme tune sung by Garth Ploog debuted on 5 January 2015 as part of the show’s 30th anniversary celebrations.
Neighbours has received a wide variety of awards and nominations throughout its run. The show has received 83 Logie Award nominations, of which it has won 31. It has also been nominated for “Most Popular Daytime Programme” at the UK’s National Television Awards in five of the six years from 2000 to 2006. In 1997, the show won an award for Best Episode in A Television Drama Serial at the Australian Film Institute Awards. Two Neighbours actors have been nominated for Rose D’Or awards, once in 2004 for Ryan Moloney and again in 2005 for Jackie Woodburne. Neighbours has also won four Australian Writers’ Guild awards.