When good neighbours become good friends

There is nothing like a trip down memory lane, or a memory cul de sac in this specific instance. There is also little that can compare to a nostalgic DVD boxset. Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been indulging in both, via the re-discovery of Neighbours: Iconic Episodes Volume 1 (owned for a good few years) and the purchase of Neighbours: Defining Moments (purchased for £3.99 via Amazon). [I’d have bought Iconic Moments Volume 2 too, but at £11.99, it felt less of a justifiable impulse buy.]

Any self-respecting British child of the 1980s should understand why this was such a nostalgia-fest. I’m just a bit too young to have watched the show from the start, but my 8 year old self was caught up in the Charlene & Scott/Kylie & Jason bubble. [First album owned: Kylie’s Enjoy Yourself. Not ashamed of this.] I can tell you exactly where I was when Daphne died (my friend Frances’ house – I also caught nits that day) and when Kery died (my parents’ bedroom, via our black & white portable, with my mother’s cell group friends’ offspring) and, more recently, when Madge died (2nd year university house share, while eating a fishfinger sandwich). [Yes. My memory is stupidly good at remembering these utterly inconsequential details. It’s terrifying.]

The daily 1.45pm airing of Neighbours became my default lunchtime while I was a student (or on sick days). It was (still is, sometimes) a major reason for texts between me, my sister and our next-door neighbour [how apt!]. Neighbours was how we learned about Australia and many life events – such as the fact that everyone hit by cars will die, but not until they’ve had a rallying moment in which they can communicate an important detail to their nearby loved-one. Once I’d left home, it became a daily piece of comfort-blanket viewing.

In the last two weeks I’ve watched approximately 30 episodes. I’ve retreated to the perms of the 1980s and witnessed several meringue dominated weddings; there have been dramatic births (involving picnics, ice cream vans and stables); got excited about glimpses of now-successful Hollywood actors (Alan Dale, Guy Pearce & Jesse Spencer to name but a few); and hunted Wikipedia for information to fill in the gaps. Bliss.

There really is nothing like a jovial promotional photo…

So, if next time you see me I’m sporting a spiral perm, a pair of dungarees and raising my intonation at the end of each sentence, you’ll understand why…

The case of the disappearing Australian actor

Can someone please explain to me how or why Australian TV producers think that they can get away with changing a character’s actor right in the middle of a series?

I’m sure that this doesn’t happen here. Or at least not so much. Ocassionally, in between series of fairly B grade programmes, like Ballykissangel or Goodnight Sweetheart, maybe. But never in a major series! Usually the character’s simply written out. If it’s a short-term thing (like pregnancy) they disappear somewhere, or have to stand behind things to disguise an out of character bump.

Not in Australia, and especially not in Neighbours. I know this, because (apart from the last couple of years, when grown up things like work have prevented me from watching diligently) I’ve watched the show pretty much since its inception. So I’ve witnessed the following:
  • The original Scott morphing into Jason Donovan.
  • Lucy changing form not once, but twice.
  • A particularly afflicted Martin family, with two Phils, Julies, Michaels & Debbies.
  • Not to mention numerous child actors changing over the years. (But this doesn’t really count & British soaps do it too.)
Yesterday, I was enjoying the novelty of lunchtime Neighbours when I realised that the woman being addressed as ‘Libby’ was not the woman who’s played her for the last 15 years, but an imposter. A quick text chat with my sister revealed that an announcement before the show revealed that the actress was taking a break so was being temporarily replaced. Needless to say, they had to use the character’s name more than usual to show who she was meant to be, as despite the colour of her hair, she didn’t bear any resemblance to the original!

I was rather concerned. I’ve always had a soft spot for Libby, probably because I once toyed with the idea of adopting the antipodean abbreviation of Elizabeth, kind of as a way of going back to my roots. Sadly I didn’t follow through with that one. Anyway, after a friend who’s recently returned to Oz mentioned that he thought it was a long-term swap I thought I’d better check it out. Luckily, trusty wikipedia reveals that it’s just a month long thing, so normality should return soon.

And it’s not just a Neighbours thing. It’s definitely happened in Home & Away too (not that I watch it often) when they replaced a rather hot actor (I seem to remember lovely lustrous hair) with an inadequate reserve.

The three Lucys. Do they look alike? No.

Do they think we won’t notice? Are we meant to be stupid? Who knows!

Safe to say, I’ll be much happier when the regular Libby returns and Neighbours is once again a peaceful place…in the meantime I’ll keep a look-out for my life, maybe I lost it down the back of the sofa…