Top Australian soap Neighbours makes its long-awaited debut on Five.

A daytime favourite since it began airing in the UK in 1986, Neighbours charts the lives of the residents of Ramsay Street, located in the fictional suburb of Erinsborough. Old favourites continue to rub shoulders with a new generation of characters in a show that blends lively personalities and dramatic plots with a healthy dose of humour.

Neighbours first began on Australia’s Channel 7 in March 1985, only to be cancelled months later. Fortunately, rival network Channel 10 picked up the show and has been airing it ever since. Over its 22-year history, Neighbours has become a breeding ground for some of Australia’s biggest stars. Kylie Minogue, Jason Donovan, Guy Pearce, Natalie Imbruglia, Delta Goodrem, Craig McLachlan, Alan Dale, Holly Valance and Jesse Spencer have all passed through the street. Russell Crowe appeared in a handful of episodes in 1987, while Hugh Jackman was also signed to star – only to drop out at the last minute.

Amid an avalanche of weddings, divorces, deaths, fights, fires, plane crashes, car accidents, kidnappings, ill-advised forays into the Bush and even the odd dream sequence, Neighbours has always had at its heart a set of comforting and recognisable characters.

One of the most beloved is bumbling fuddy-duddy Harold Bishop (Ian Smith), who first joined the show 20 years ago. Harold was involved in one of the series’ most audacious plotlines when he was washed off a rock into the sea – only to reappear five years later with amnesia. “Playing Harold in Neighbours has been a huge rollercoaster ride for me, but I’ve loved it,” says Ian. Although Harold is leaving the series, he will be seen on Five for some months to come, and will make guest appearances in the future. “It was my decision to take this time out, but I’m sad for Harold because I do like the silly old fool,” Ian remarks.

Another stalwart is Lou Carpenter (Tom Oliver), the show’s longest-serving continuous character. Lovable rogue Lou has charmed viewers over the years as a used-car dealer, bartender, restaurateur and air steward. Some of his finest moments have stemmed from his ‘odd couple’ relationship with
Harold. “There’s always been rivalry between Lou and Harold, particularly when it comes to women,”
says Tom. “Even when they were at school, they both had a crush on Madge. When I first came into the series, it was to try to stop Harold marrying her, but Harold won the day.”

Elsewhere on Ramsay Street, Karl Kennedy (Alan Fletcher) has resumed his relationship with Susan Kinski (Jackie Woodburne). The pair recently remarried on the London Eye and now live with Susan’s kids from another marriage, Rachel (Caitlin Stasi) and Zeke (Matthew Werkmeister). Susan and Karl have been a central part of the show since 1994, thanks to the chemistry of the two actors – who coincidentally played brother and sister in another TV series of the 1980s. The question remains, however, whether Dr Karl can keep his love life in order. “His wicked ways with women seem to be behind him,” Alan says. “He’s worked hard to get Susan back, so he’ll try to resist the temptation that
keeps coming his way…”

Upcoming storylines on the show see troubled teenager Ringo Brown (Sam Clark) developing an eating disorder. Pregnant Carmella Cammeniti (Natalie Blair) lays her heart on the line when she tells the father of her child, Oliver Barnes (David Hoflin), how she feels. Libby Kennedy (Kym Valentine) makes a surprising return. And Susan fights to clear her name after being involved in a hit-and-run offence –but her defence is thrown into doubt when Karl is forced to testify that the accident may have been her fault.

On Sunday there is a chance to get a behind-the-scenes look at the show in ‘New Neighbours on Five’. This exclusive documentary features interviews, clips and a look ahead at future events.

Peter Dodds
A Fremantle Media Australia Production

Saturday 9 –Friday 15 February

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