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Bristol Post
Bristol Post
Ellie Kendall

I've watched Neighbours for most of my life and here's why Channel 5 should never have let it go

Unless you've been living under a bit of a rock recently, even if you don't watch the soap, you'll probably be aware that tonight sees the end of Aussie soap Neighbours forever. It's been going for some 37 years and has birthed some of the world's biggest stars - Kylie Minogue, Margot Robbie, Guy Pearce, Jason Donovan, Delta Goodrem and even Russell Crowe to name a few.

Mind you that last one was only on it for a couple of episodes, but still we're letting Neighbours have it for the win. And, like I said, even if you've never seen an episode of the show before, we bet some of you will have at least heard of Harold and Madge Bishop, Scott and Charlene, Toadie, the Kennedys - their names alone are iconic, especially right here in the UK.

Although it's been produced and filmed in Melbourne, Australia - a whole world away - us Brits are the show's biggest fans. So much so that when there was no longer a home for it, after 21 years, on the BBC, Channel 5 jumped at the chance to make it their own - and this is where it's been ever since, with day and tea time slots. What are we going to do without it?

Read more: Soap stars coming to Bath as part of 'Neighbours Farewell Tour' in 2023

Now, I've watched my fair share of telly over the years - from back when we only had four or five channels, to the never-ending streaming possibilities of nowadays, and I can honestly say that Neighbours is like nothing else on TV. Yes, you could argue that there's Home and Away, another Aussie soap which was brought in to rival the success of Neighbours when its original broadcaster in Oz lost hope for it and let it go (only to regret the decision later), or you could even say that we have an abundance of soap operas (whether you love them or hate them) right here in Ol' Blighty, but I'd still say the same thing.

There truly is nothing like Neighbours.

I mean yes, you could say Eastenders has the 'gangster', 'mob', 'hardman' storylines - but who's a better bad guy than Paul Robinson? I mean, when he returned in 2004 he secretly burnt down a whole complex of buildings, he's just as much a casanova as Phil Mitchell (maybe even slightly more believable, no offence Phil) and who needs a 'who shot Phil Mitchell' campaign anyway, when you've got the 'Who pushed Paul Robinson' (or rather the more Dallas-esque 'Who pushed P.R') in the 6000th episode of the show, when he plummeted off of the Lassiter's Hotel mezzanine.

And then, away from all the drama - unless it's happening to them of course - you've got some amazing comic relief from the likes of Susan and Karl Kennedy, and Toadfish Rebecchi (Toadie) - the latter of which had a whole on-screen moment dedicated to the removal of his iconic mullet. Meanwhile, Karl has tried to make it as a singer, cyclist, owned a rather loud bird and could we ever forget that scene where a number of Ramsay Street residents took part in a 'naked lunch' - Karl was there!

The Kennedy's even got re-married by none other than Neil Morrissey in London and other Brits have jumped at the chance to make a cameo in the show, because that's just how loved it is here.

It's part and parcel of Neighbours to really truly mix the really tragic storylines in with some of the most genius comedy moments on TV - and this is why we love it. Because, life isn't all just death and sadness, cheating spouses and tragic losses, it's full of moments that warm the heart, make us smile and make us roar with laughter.

Kylie and Jason will reprise their roles as Charlene and Scott in the Neighbours finale tonight (Friday, July 29) (Channel 5)

And that's what Neighbours has done since the very beginning. I mean, which other show could you say that you got to go inside the mind of a dog and see exactly what it was dreaming about? Well, if you're completely clueless as to what I'm referring to, look up 'Bouncer's Dream' - a whole sequence in which the dog Bouncer dreams of marrying one of the neighbouring dogs in the street and it's amazing.

And, of course, when the show does go down the more dark and tragic route, it really delivers. I don't think there are many moments in my life which have compared to the amount of tears I have shed for some of the characters on this show.

Call me 'sad' all you want but the tragic death of Stingray Timmins back in 2007 really got to me - watching him just fall asleep in his chair in the middle of the street while the rest of his family and friends celebrated his mum's birthday, it was beautiful and tragic and really quite true to what death can be sometimes. And the aftermath - watching everyone who loved him come to terms with the shock of what had just massively transformed their day from a celebration into utter heartbreak, all in the blink of an eye - well, it was (as Stingray would say) 'Spiggin' beautiful'.

Eve Morey played Sonya Rebbecchi - the wife of none other than 'the Toadfish' (Channel 5)

And a number of former characters have ended their time on the show in similar ways - just drifting off - too. Somehow it makes it all the more sad and something more of us can relate to.

Then, more recently, the death of Toadie's wife Sonya from ovarian cancer raised a huge amount of awareness both here in the UK and the world over about the disease and just how quickly it can take a life. Sonya realising that she was going to die hit home with a number of fans who commended the show and actress Eve Morey for just how honestly her final moments were portrayed.

The show is also, not only a platform for aspiring young actors to take their first steps (and then propel themselves into Hollywood, just like Margot Robbie), but an inclusive and extremely diverse soap that has made history by airing lesbian kisses, the first on-screen same-sex wedding after marriage equality became legal in Australia (and probably one of the only drama-free weddings in soap history, aside from Scott and Charlene's), characters who identify as bisexual, transgender, non-binary, characters with disabilities, characters of different races and nationalities, religious characters - Neighbours has it all.

Takaya Honda and Matt Wilson as David Tanaka and Aaron Brennan in 2018 during the soap's first on-screen same-sex wedding after marriage equality became legal in Australia (Channel 5)

It's even brought back its fair share of characters from the dead, either in the form of hallucinations, flashbacks and even ghosts - remember Jim Robinson coming back in a bauble? On Neighbours anything is possible, which makes it all the more entertaining.

And if you ever regret a decision to lose a character from the show? Just give them amnesia and you'll know they'll make their way back eventually.

Or, better still, make them play the role of their own evil twin and you have one of the most bizarre, yet dramatic showdowns ever.

Ramsay Street, the home of Neighbours (Channel 5)

There's so much more that I could say about Neighbours, so many famous faces I'm going to miss (here's looking at you April Rose Pengilly) but I fear I'd be here for another 37 years. All I will say in this, my love letter or ode to Neighbours, is that for me it has been a comfort blanket but for many many more it has literally saved lives and, without it, I fear the world is a far sadder place.

Thanks for the memories Neighbours! You've certainly become good friends of mine.

Catch the final ever episode of Neighbours in the UK at 9pm tonight, followed by documentaries and more to celebrate this famous soap from Down Under.

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