Picture the scene: Winter 1988. It’s dark outside and the Grange Hill theme tune is coming to an end.
Move over Zammo and take your dreich English comprehensive with you, because this Scottish schoolgirl is ready to lap up the sunny dispositions and questionable perms of Erinsborough’s finest.
That’s right. With a little love and understanding (and a coveted telly in your bedroom) all of us could find good Neighbours when the Australian soap opera burst on to British screens in 1985.
And every night for year after year, millions of us did just that.
So it’s come as quite the surprise to the 1.2 million viewers who still tune in daily to watch the comings and goings of Ramsay Street that the programme could be axed after 37 years.
Channel Five bosses say they want to focus on home-grown TV produce over antipodean content.
As noble as their motives sound, I fear they’re making a mistake.
There are surely fewer things on the box as family friendly – albeit barking mad at times – as a good old Aussie soap?
Scott, Charlene and maybe a surfer of my own
On that particular November night, I wasn’t on my own in scrambling for the good seat ahead of 22 minutes of televisual gold.
Because it was no ordinary episode.
I was among 20 million Brits who tuned in to see tomboy Charlene Mitchell (aka Kylie Minogue) marry hunky Scott Robinson, played by Jason Donovan.
I mean, strewth, I can still see his spiky mullet now.
It was marvellous. Iconic even.
And as I lay on my Jason Donovan bedcover later that evening I hatched the plan of a lifetime to snag me my own Australian surfer dude.
I mean, I was nine and from a mining village in Scotland.
But why should that stand in the way of true love?
I’m not sure my mum has ever recovered from the seven hours it took to perm my hair.
Or the fact I turned up to school with bottle caps fastened by elastic bands to my shoes.
The whole ensemble was topped off with knee high socks, and my papa’s braces attached to my skirt in a nod to the style icons at Erinsborough High.
Big stars and bonkers storylines
If that sounds extreme, you’re not fully understanding how formational a daily dose of Neighbours was to my generation.
This is the platform that gave us Guy Pearce, Margot Robbie, Russell Crowe and Liam Hemsworth.
For a while you couldn’t throw a shrimp on a Lassiter’s barbie without hitting some drop dead gorgeous future Stock Aitken and Waterman pop star.
— h. 🐝 #SaveNeighbours (@hayleylouisephd) February 6, 2022
A nation wept when Helen Daniels returned from an art trip to the Bungle Bungles only to die surrounded by her adoring family.
Later, a nation scratched its head when Susan Kennedy fell and, instead of regaining consciousness as the middle-aged, married mother that she was, spent the next dozen episodes thinking she was 16.
We collectively pondered the lunacy of characters named Stingray Timmins and Toadfish, while believing Harold Bishop could return from the grave as some guy called Ted.
And who could forget Bouncer’s dream?
Yep, a chunk of an episode was devoted to the Mangles’ pet labrador nodding off and envisaging a life of giant daisies in which he married his doggy girlfriend Rosie.
Neighbours is due another golden age
For me and my friends this really was the golden hour of late ’80s/early ’90s television.
When Home and Away launched in 1989 at 5.10pm you could have your fill of Alf Stewart calling everyone a ‘flamin’ galah’ on one side, and then turn over in time for Neighbours on the other.
You could set your clock by it.
So much so that I once ran away for the best part of a day, only returning when I saw bikes being abandoned and realised it was time for Neighbours.
Was it daft? Absolutely.
Did it win any awards? Who cares?
Should it be kept on our screens? Definitely.
In these crazy, monotonous Covid-dominated days, the sun-kissed escapism of our favourite batty Neighbours has never felt more enticing