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The Guardian - AU
The Guardian - AU
Anna Spargo-Ryan

Neighbours: the 10 best characters from Australia’s beloved soap – sorted

Lovebirds, hotties, and tumultuous marriages: Neighbour’s best characters – from a revolving door of hundreds.
Lovebirds, hotties, and tumultuous marriages: Neighbour’s best characters – from a revolving door of hundreds. Composite: Rex/Shutterstock

Drama was rife in the wilds of Erinsborough. There was the time a tornado almost killed Lou Carpenter, and the time someone tried to kill Paul Robinson, and the other times someone tried to kill Paul Robinson, and the epic love story of Anne and the guy from House. The suburb has been home to a backyard sheep, a dog in love, and a galah that was eventually eaten by Patti Newton’s cat.

Narrowing down the best moments is simple: Toadie driving his car and new wife off a cliff, Drew wearing a kilt, and, of course, the time Harold Bishop went missing at sea.

But choosing the best characters from a list of hundreds? Not so easy. With the show ending after 37 years, let’s look back on decades of extremely realistic, ordinary humans.

10. Scott and Charlene Robinson

That iconic wedding: ‘Scott and Charlene are the beating heart of Neighbours’
That unforgettable wedding: ‘Scott and Charlene are the beating heart of Neighbours.’ Photograph: Fremantle Media/Shutterstock

I honestly felt a bit of peer pressure to include them here. Scott and Charlene are the beating heart of Neighbours! They are the reason Erinsborough exists! No woman had ever been a mechanic before Kylie Minogue arrived on the street. Here’s my proposition: Scott and Charlene only work as a couple. They’re your co-dependent Facebook friend with a name like “BenAnd SarahJones”. Yes, adorable teenagers in love, but we have Baz Luhrmann for that. More drama, please.

9. Pepper Steiger

I am nothing if not pervy and superficial, and Pepper was just extremely hot. She had those 90s “I’ve probably aged out of this, and also I’m a teacher, but look how hot I am” pigtails. Sometimes she showed her bra on-screen. And she was half of Neighbours’ first on-camera queer kiss. It’s true that Janeane Garofalo in The Truth About Cats & Dogs was my true sexual awakening, but Pepper Steiger was very much up there.

8. Lyn Scully

As far as I can tell, Lyn was never a popular character among people on the street or in real life, but I related to her on a spiritual level. Everything was always too stressful for poor Lyn. Her daughters were intolerable, her career was dissatisfying, and she repeatedly fell in love with the wrong men, including notorious womaniser Paul Robinson. Never settled, Lyn came and went from the street no fewer than five times, long after her kids had married billionaire British property developers. She was, to borrow a phrase I recently heard on Twitter, the Wish version of Susan Kennedy.

7. Paul Robinson

The only original character still lurking east of West Waratah in 2022, Paul Robinson was a true soap villain. He had seven children (some murderers, some Scottish), six wives (one plumber, one who pushed him off a mezzanine) and a prosthetic leg with a reputation for changing sides. He committed insurance fraud, killed people, busted up marriages, was strangled by Harold Bishop and held hostage in a mineshaft. Paul Robinson could be a soapie all on his own.

6. Lance Wilkinson and Joel Samuels

‘Perennial hottie’ Daniel MacPherson at the 1999 Logies.
‘Perennial hottie’ Daniel MacPherson at the 1999 Logies. Photograph: Patrick Riviere/Getty Images

There was a period during the early 2000s when Ramsay Street was full of bros in share houses. Just guys half-clad, always on their way to or from a neighbourhood pool. Perennial hottie Daniel MacPherson as Joel and his dorky sidekick Lance are my pick of the bunch. With Joel as his straight man, Lance evolved into a lovable oddball, meeting a girl at a sci-fi convention and subsequently creating his own sci-fi convention in the name of love and cosplay.

5. Karl Kennedy

The philanderer to gentle ditherer pipeline: muso-medico Karl Kennedy.
The philanderer to gentle ditherer pipeline: muso-medico Karl Kennedy. Photograph: Fremantle Media/Shutterstock

Although he’s been through an image rehabilitation comparable to politicians in certain tabloid rags, Karl Kennedy will always be the man who betrayed Suze, and so I cannot, in good conscience, put him higher on the list. But as he matured from philanderer to gentle ditherer, he did grow on me. From his implausibly broad specialisation as a “physician” to his total disregard for doctor-patient confidentiality, this muso-medico will be remembered long after the tour buses stop coming.

4. Stingray Timmins

The whole Timmins family really belongs on this list, but Stingray is a character for the ages. He was, in some ways, a throwback to OG Neighbours – a bogan, a suburban bad boy who came good. And then he just bloody died in the only way a true Erinsborough local can – spontaneously at a street party after donating bone marrow to save his infant daughter from leukaemia, then donating his organs to a bit-part who was never seen again. Stingray gave us the gift of language that’s still part of our vernacular today – not in the dictionary, sure, but in our spigging hearts.

3. Sonya Rebecchi

OK, she was a slow burn, but that’s actually why she’s so high on the list. In recovery from substance use, she became a guide dog trainer, the nicest job possible. After mysteriously falling in love with Toadie, she opened her own plant nursery, where she pottered about collecting cuttings and being friendly to customers. God, she was so lovely. Outraged by a threat to the community centre, where residents could learn self-defence and pole dancing, Sonya was eventually elected to her rightful role of mayor.

So beloved was she by audiences that Neighbours gave her a whole episode that culminated in a legitimately moving death scene, ultimately another victim of the curse of Toadie’s wives.

2. The ghosts that definitely lived in Lassiter’s Lake

There are two public spaces in Erinsborough: Lassiter’s Complex, which contains every shop and restaurant in town, and Lassiter’s Lake, which contains every engagement ring from every fraught Neighbours love story. I’ve been at Lassiter’s Lake at night, and if you can drown out the sound of frogs and kids yelling at the nearby Timezone, you’ll hear the mournful song of Kate Ramsay, brutally murdered in a rotunda. RIP.

1. Susan Kennedy

Jackie Woodburne as the inimitable Susan Kennedy – along with Margot Robbie’s Donna Freedman (left).
Jackie Woodburne as the inimitable Susan Kennedy – along with Margot Robbie’s Donna Freedman (left). Photograph: FremantleMedia/Rex

It was one of the great privileges of my life to work with Jackie Woodburne, a fact I drop into conversation with friends, family and people at the dog park. Susan Kennedy was an icon. Whether she was seducing a priest, overcoming amnesia or carrying a pregnancy for her grieving daughter, she did so with grace and humility. An educator, a mentor, a leader. But being Ramsay Street’s moral compass was only part of her complex character, and she was bold when it counted. Philandering husband? Slap him in the face! Then, job done, let a few more wayward teens move in.

Honourable mentions

Izzy Hoyland: One of Erinsborough’s most memorable bad girls, Izzy, played by Natalie Bassingthwaighte, had questionable taste in men (Karl, you rogue) but at least also the good sense to move as far away from them as possible.

Helen Daniels: Portrayed by Anne Haddy, Erinsborough’s greatest ever guardian angel should be on this list, but I’m still recovering from her absolutely devastating death and might be forever.

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