Kylie Minogue and Jason Donovan among stars who return in Wednesday’s final episode on RTÉ
The Ramseys, the Robinsons, the Kennedys, Bishops, Rebecchis and the Nangles. Just some of the names that lived from No. 22 to No. 34 Ramsay Street over the last four decades.
Why is Neighbours coming to an end? For the onscreen characters, it seems some sort of mass exodus is afoot. Behind the scenes, however, it boiled down to Channel 5 wanting to concentrate on homegrown content as opposed to propping up an Aussie institution indefinitely. But what an institution it's been.
Hearing the original titles, with their relentlessly upbeat "dink-dinkie-dink-dinkie-dink" was a moment of reprieve in many houses across Ireland throughout the late 1980s/90s. Like the Angelus, but more fun. That's assuming you were one of those enviable sorts who had "all the channels".
For anyone under a certain age, that was usually RTÉ One, Network 2, BBC1, BBC2, Channel 4 and ITV. Unless you were fierce fancy altogether and had yourself Cablelink.
For those of us who had the complete set of two Irish channels, you probably spent the school day after Scott and Charlene's wedding in 1987 quietly nodding in the affirmative, despite possessing no notion what anyone was talking about. The closest a lot of us got to that vital TV moment was via Top of The Pops.
Some of us may have only been in primary school a wet week in the late 1980s, but TV viewing was very different back then. Most likely, it was a one-set household and what the elders in your life wanted to watch took preference, irrespective of how age-appropriate it was.
That familiar "dink-dinkie-dink" usually heralded dinner time, and Mam's moment in front of the telly, so you best get a hustle on finishing your homework for a chance glance at some semi-nudity.
While an unusual amount of filming took place indoors, whenever exterior shots were made available, you were always guaranteed a flesh-fest. From Henry Ramsay (Craig McLachlan) just casually barrelling around the neighbourhood in nothing but Bermuda shorts, to Charlene Robinson (no intro necessary) pilfering Scott and Mike’s clothes on the beach after convincing them to engage in a spot of skinny-dipping. I mean, SKINNY DIPPING at dinner time on Irish television in the ’80s – where else would you get it? Not on RTÉ anyway. Not until 2001, whereupon it took over the lunchtime and dinner time (or dinner time and tea time, depending on where you reside in the country) slots every weekday, becoming the soundtrack of illicit ‘sick’ days.
Thirty-seven years is aeons in terms of TV programming. Therefore, Neighbours is simply incomparable to any other show on our screens – apart from fellow perma-present soap operas such as Home & Away. Even then it's tricky to draw comparisons with any Northern Hemisphere counterparts given its sunny disposition and army of school-going children.
Given the sunbaked setting; nothing ever seems THAT bad. OK, so freak tropical storms have descended on occasion, resulting in the untimely demise of characters. Plus, Paul Robinson seemed to have been stricken with an unusual level of hospital visits – but doesn't the sun bouncing off Joel Samuels's luscious locks look only lovely?
If one had to compare Neighbours with a soap closer to home, it could only be Emmerdale. In addition to their collective output of deadly storms, plane crashes, explosions, and an unusual number of amnesiacs, both productions have arguably been the most forward-thinking soap, especially in terms of same-sex unions and tackling mental health issues.
Was Neighbours groundbreaking? On the one hand, yes. After all, it was responsible for depicting the first gay and mixed-race marriage on Australian TV, albeit in 2018. Mostly, however, it will be remembered as 30 minutes of necessary nonsense, often aiding the wind-down to hectic days of rainy school runs and darkness at 4pm.
It also familiarised viewers with a land many miles away, making it feasible, and therefore arguably partially responsible for the resulting Irish invasion of Bondi Beach to Coogee Bay. It also must be blamed for myriad mullets over the decades.
Naturally, this comes with a big ***SPOILER ALERT***. However, given the finale has already aired in Australia and on the UK’s Channel 5 on Friday, the chances of you managing to avoid all spoilers is nil.
In addition to Jason 'Scott' Donovan and Kylie 'Charlene' Minogue's highly anticipated arrival "home" (only to utter about five words between them by all accounts), expect to see Guy Pearce's Mike (perennially) Young smiling longingly into the eyes of Jane Harris (Annie Jones).
Also notably gracing the conveyor belt of nostalgic returns is Natalie Imbruglia's Beth and Holly Candy (formerly Valance) as Flick; Daniel MacPherson's now suitably rugged Joel Samuels and Mark Little's Joe Mangel. We also have Delta Goodrem's Nina Tucker alongside Ian Smith's Harold Bishop – and even a vestige of his dearly departed Madge (Anne Charleston), courtesy of Susan's hallucinogenic trip down memory lane as the credits roll.
Speaking of the credits; poise yourself by the mute button. Why? Well, someone in production thought it was a great idea to "mix" the myriad updated credit songs – from the original dinky-dink to the subsequently added horns and unnecessarily elaborate vibrato vocals. What results is a Frankenstein hellscape for the ears.
It may not have been an enduring hit in its native Australia (all potential viewers had to do there was open their front door to see endless sunshine and formidable physiques), but its sunbeams burrowed into the hearts of Irish people, especially throughout the noughties when RTÉ helped save it from the axe. Now, if the powers that be ever come for Home & Away, there'll be absolute uproar.