So, goodbye neighbors then. After 37 years of banal stories and problematic hairstyles, the very last episode will air next week.
Although it still attracts around a million viewers a day, channel 5 canceled the show so after July 29th we can finally all chill over our afternoon cup of tea without fear of getting an Aussie accent or worse – getting a habit.
You may scoff at this, but I know what I’m talking about because I was once a Neighbors addict. I’ve been clean for more than two decades now, but the fear of slipping back never goes away. While curfewwith only a monosyllabic partner for company, there was always this temptation to return to Ramsay Street.
I lied to myself I said it was just to see if Susan Kennedy still has those rake-like bangs or if Paul Robinson is aging well, but I knew the awful truth: One episode would make two, then I would to be pulled back in.
Jason Donovan (left) and Kylie Minogue (right) will star in the very final episode of Australian soap opera Neighbors
Somehow I resisted it. I walked the 12 steps from the TV to the fridge and ate instead. I just couldn’t get hooked again.
It started when I was a young mum with a baby, stuck in London, didn’t know anyone and only had a handful of TV channels to watch. I’d spent much of the past year at home with hepatitis, sneering—yes, actually sneering—at daytime soap operas that I thought were losers, inmates, and jail.
But that was before I discovered Neighbors in the late 1980s – crack for domestics. I was there in the beginning – the mullets, the Mangels, Kylie Minogue in her jumpsuit, who played Charlene before she got lucky, lucky, lucky. And Jason Donovan, whom I actually saw in real life on a hot summer’s day in west London and wondered why he hadn’t walked up to me and greeted me by name.
Then there was nicotine-voiced Madge, plump Harold, and Mike, a pre-Hollywood Guy Pearce. They were my daily analgesics. One child, two children, three, then four: my life got busier but no less lonely. During the day, when my more glamorous peers were in the making, I’d be at the park, juggling school pickups and schedules, and longing for it to be 5:30 p.m. so I could sit down with the neighbors, who became really good friends ‘ as the theme song promised.
Saddo that I was, I think it was the continuity that reassured me. When you’re no longer in tune with life—a stay-at-home mom, in a new town that knows few people well and has little in common with those you’ve met, your partner busy, busy, busy – , that gave me something familiar to hold on to.
Sitting down for a chat with Aunt Beeb offered me a familiarity I didn’t have in real life. I didn’t want rudeness, I didn’t want literature. I wanted what I got – soft soap.
Scott and Charlene’s (Jason Donovan and Kylie Minogue) wedding 25 years ago, on November 8, 1988, on the TV series Neighbors
At one point I even stopped noticing that the characters had accents. It just sounded, well, normal. If I missed the evening appointment, I would run home from playgroup early the next day to see the lunchtime replay. My only other mom friend, Jane, was also an addict and we supported each other. In the afternoon, dead-eyed, we discussed the plans in front of the television. We were zombies, totally screwed. Even when the toddlers started calling each other ‘Dags’ and ‘Drongos’ we just said ‘Pssst’ to them which was better than telling them to ‘get away’ but it took us that half hour.
Neighbors soon no longer had enough influence. I needed a bigger hit. Next came Home and Away and even, I’ll admit, a little bit of The Flying Doctors.
I’m ashamed to admit now how far I’ve fallen. People with Netflix won’t understand the small haul we had in the 1990s. Back then I just got a VCR and streaming was what you did when you had a cold. Little did I know that my seemingly safe off-duty habit would be a gateway into the hard stuff — the gritty world of primetime soap operas.
Once the kids were safely in bed I tried them all – Brookside, Coronation Street, EastEnders. I even indulged in Emmerdale’s all-time low when that was all I could get.
So, goodbye neighbors then. After 37 years of banal stories and problematic hairstyles, the very last episode will air next week
At some point you hit rock bottom. The youngest was two. I was a mature art student struggling to appear sane in the midst of a group of young kids for whom ecstasy was more like a pill than the moment the kids are asleep and you’ve just poured yourself a glass of wine.
I knew I had to do something when dear old Helen Daniels died and I was robbed. I realized that my most enduring friendships were with people who didn’t really exist. Worse still, the actors had all done different, better things. They had pop and film careers. And where was I? Sitting at home with no life. It was time to switch off.
Stupidly, I got cold. I took up knitting, a sad accident involving a lot of disgusting sweaters. The youngest went to kindergarten. I got a job at a local newspaper.
I made a mistake once. I’ve developed an archery habit. I kept it a secret for a while, but eventually even that got out of control. I put the omnibus edition on every Sunday when we drove to my parents’ house for lunch. Then the kids refused to get in the car and my husband intervened.
It’s been 15 years since my last episode, but I still take it one day at a time. Maybe I can afford one last cheer when the final Neighbors episode airs. All the old favorites are coming back. It would be a fitting goodbye and I mean, what’s the harm? It’s cancelled, so no chance of a relapse.
On the other hand, I’m circling pretty close to retirement age when the danger of professional television beckons again. Better not. I have real good friends now and my real neighbors bring me curries.