Thursday, March 23, 2017

In defence of Neighbours - threatened with the axe

I started watching Neighbours in 1986 when Isaac rushed home from school everyday to see what had happened in the lunchtime episode he'd recorded. That was 1986. Isaac is now a high-flyer working for Google, and I am a writer.

The heroine of two of my novels - Plotting for Beginners and Plotting for Grown-ups - is addicted to Neighbours. She is also a writer, and this is just one of the things she says about the Aussie soap that is more popular in the UK than it is down under:

You have to realise, Kit, that a writer can learn from any fiction, good or bad. It shows you what mistakes to avoid in your own writing – caricatures, poor plotting, unconvincing dialogue. Watching Neighbours is educative. You don’t think I watch it for entertainment do you?

I really haven’t known him long enough to tell him the truth: that Neighbours is fab, that I love all the stupid plotlines – the amnesia, disputed paternity, blackmail, on-off love affairs, business wars, mistaken identities, manipulative ex-girlfriends, violent ex-boyfriends, people stuck down mine shafts, plane crashes that kill off half the street. And the characters – Paul Robinson, Karl Kennedy, Lucas, Jade – they’re like family. One day I’ll confess to him, but not just yet.

Our feelings for Neighbours overlap. She also finds it the perfect mind-numbing way to relax at the end of the day. She also watches the same episode twice when she's under stress.  She also likes it because it is a 25 minute escape from the real world. It is pure fiction - as Miss Prism says in The Importance of being Earnest - the good end happily and the bad unhappily. Yes, sometimes good people die, but you can be sure that when they do the culprit is eventually found and punished (assuming it's not just the sceenwriter who is to blame.)

Currently a key marriage between two favourite characters is under huge threat. It has been like this for a couple of months and the last two episodes were deeply upsetting. The thing that keeps me watching is the firm belief that eventually everything will be sorted and solved and their faces will match the smiling credits at the start of the show.

As I said a couple of years ago  (please forgive the recap, regular readers) -

It doesn’t matter how dastardly are the plots of the villains, you know they are always, always going to get their come-uppance, so you can enjoy the ride with a happy heart.

At that time in May 2015, an internationally renowned cancer specialist was telling the resident villain (Paul Robinson, my favourite character) that he had leukaemia, and was personally treating him with chemotherapy. And it was all a lie. Paul Robinson was not ill. It was just a plot so that the visiting villain could get what he wanted – a new cancer research centre. It was hilarious! It was totally ludicrous and wonderful and we knew full well that the doughty nurse Georgia (who had been framed by the visiting villain) would somehow uncover this scam and be reinstated at the hospital. And Paul would recover and carry on being the cosy resident villain.

Neighbours is an escape from the real world and I love it. And if Channel 5 axes it - as currently looks likely - and it disappears from British telly, it will be a sad day. It is an innocuous, calorie-free, alcohol-free and drugs-free temporary escape from this nasty, nasty world where we live right now.

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