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Comment > Guilty Pleasures by Ceri, Conor, David, Edd, Kate, Mike, Ryan and Steve

Perfect Blend are the first to praise Neighbours when they get things right, but we all know it's not always perfect. That said, Neighbours not getting it right can often be just as enjoyable - for all the wrong reasons. Below, we confess some of our most private thoughts and feelings on the storylines and characters that can only be described as guilty pleasures...

Ceri: Poor Philip Martin. He never had much luck. An alcoholic first wife (deceased), a neurotic, control freak for a second wife (deceased), three nightmarish children and a little bit of a weight problem. Sticky bun lover Phil was never on the svelte side, but it didn’t stop him getting cosy with the ladies; in fact the only problem was bratty Hannah acting saboteur at every opportunity. So where does my guilty pleasure come into it? Well, it all began with the legendary silver sauna suit. Ever the straight talking girl, Cody tells a perplexed Phil that his clothes haven’t shrunk in the wash, he’s just getting bigger! So as a result, tubby, loveable oaf Phil gets all dressed up like a sweaty spaceman (to quote Hannah) and attempts to sweat the weight off. Except it didn’t work, it was never going to work, much to Phil’s disappointment. Silly Phil then decides to embark upon a punishing diet and exercise schedule with the assistance of a reluctant Malcolm Kennedy but eventually ends up passing out. Bumbling old Phil finally realises, whilst gazing longingly at those lovely, sticky buns in The Coffee Shop, that he should probably just eat sensibly and exercise gently. Having to swap those mouth-watering, oh-so-tempting buns for the far less desirable carrot sticks was bad enough but Phil’s Homer Simpson-esque activities were probably a step too far for some. But not for me, it was pure comedy gold.

Edd: She’s been on Ramsay Street for over two weeks now and like most of you I suspect, I’ve forgotten she actually ever arrived. The majority of new soap characters come in with a bit of mystery and a bit of a purpose. See Nicola West for example. Sienna though, just turned up, vaguely explained why she was here and that was that. That very same day she somehow managed to land a job at the General Store, accepting Lou’s offer despite him being a complete stranger to her. It all makes sense though. Erin McNaught is hardly the most gifted of actors to have ever turned up on Ramsay Street and this may or may not have become apparent during her infamous muffin scene. Erin’s first few days on the Neighbours set were featured in Channel Five’s documentary about Neighbours moving to the station. And I quote from the great lady herself:

“I just have a quick question... erm, in the scene where we are actually eating muffins, how do you do that and talk?”

Insert appropriate smiley here.

Erin is beautiful. And that evidently justifies her existence as Sienna Cammeniti. And to be honest, am I complaining? Not at all, after all I am a young red blooded male here. Undeniably one of the most beautiful women to have walked onto Ramsay Street (although has she literally done that yet?), Sienna contributes little to the daily drama of Neighbours life. However, it’s blindingly obvious that she’s only there for one thing and that’s to look pretty. She’s a professional model who has appeared in countless numbers of men’s magazines for years, so naturally this comes easy to her. I know its early days, but maybe, just maybe she’ll get a storyline and a bit of a background. It seems unlikely though, particularly seeing as they haven’t bothered to give her anything to do as yet. Any storyline she does get isn’t going to win her an Oscar, that’s for sure, but it would be nice to think she isn’t just there to simply feed male testosterone.

Mike: Okay, so if Harold had married her and ended up reading a paper with her, and smiling on the opening credits, it would have been all wrong. But was I really the only one who held a soft spot for one Ruby Dwyer? You don’t know who she is? Harold’s 2003 compulsive gambler girlfriend of course! Thing is, Ruby was never meant to be likeable. She was Harold’s first real girlfriend after the glorious Madge. But she had her golden moments, which my young-self couldn’t help but laugh at. Like when Harold sent her out to buy a new stereo. She bought a crappy one, pocketing the money then stayed up all night because she “just felt awful about buying him that stereo”. Or the burglary of Harold’s house she arranged with two men, “Ben and Luke”, named after the famous Ben Michael and Luke Devenish. (And how she was friends with a couple of willing burglars we’ll never know…). Then she left, got better, and came back, like you do, but no-one trusted her, so she left again. I liked her though.

Ryan: There have been many unconventional and many unpopular Neighbours pairings over the years, but one that managed both was Paul Robinson and Pepper Steiger. The age-gap lovers were so un-beloved by fans, they didn’t even get their own internet board combined name (although considering that would make them ‘Pauper’, it’s probably just as well). There was so much to potentially dislike about their lustful trysts; not least the damage they could have caused to Pepper’s friendship with Rosetta, who’d had her own dalliance with Mr Robinson. So why did I love every minute of it? It was unlikely, over-the-top and more than a bit tacky at times, but like the proverbial car crash, I couldn’t help looking at it. For me, it worked because Stefan Dennis and Nicky Whelan played the whole thing for laughs, Stefan in particular hamming up his 80s throwback charmer role. The scriptwriters clearly had fun with it too – who can forget Paul throwing his prosthesis over his shoulder in the heat of passion, or Pepper’s infamous ‘steam train’? Yes, long-term it would have been a disaster, but as a few weeks of indulgent daftness, it was marvellous. Pauper forever!

Steve: She may have gone down in history as one of Neighbours' most pointless characters, but I couldn't help but love Lisa Elliot. The only actress ever to be cast after being spotted in a television audience, Kate Straub certainly wasn't the worst performer ever to hit Ramsay Street (step forward Erin McNaught) but was never really given a chance to shine. Her stories ranged from the dull (a netball obsession) to the equally dull (a suspected overactive thyroid) but just as things were starting to get interesting, and she resigned from her teaching job and realised her feelings for housemate Ben, she was gone as quickly as she'd arrived. I miss her. lol

Conor: Let's face it, although we all love Neighbours and it has produced countless classic characters, occasionally the odd duff character appears now and then. But Katya Kinski is legendary. The idea behind the character was fine. The Kinski family were hardly the most popular of characters back then, so perhaps adding another daughter to the mix was designed to shake things up. And the role was created especially for Dichen after she impressed during an unsuccessful audition for Elle Robinson, so she was bound to be good. What could possibly go wrong? Well... just about everything.

Katya was a catastrophe from day one. She arrived and quickly made an enemy of Susie K, and thus, an enemy of us all. It was a train-wreck of poorly-conceived storylines and less-than-stellar performances, but I loved her for it. Bless her for trying, but Dichen slipped between half-decent and awful, often in the space of a scene and heap after heap of silly nonsense was thrown at the character. Even better, Katya's past was so unbelievable and convoluted, you couldn't help but laugh at the melodrama. In the brief few years since she was thrown out of the family home for slapping Rachel (the woman deserves our respect for that alone) the adaptable Ms. Kinski presumably was a prostitute (it was never explicitly stated, for as we all know, sex doesn't exist at tea time), a drug addict, a model for adult magazines, a car thief and still found the time to kick her habit, train and become a successful nurse. What a woman.

Katya's 'finest moment' was when her old acquaintance, Guy Sykes arrived with an incriminating video of her doing 'something bad.' In true Katya Kinski fashion, we never did find out what. Desperate, and being blackmailed for cash, Katya started stealing cars to pay him (which she seemed to enjoy a little too much) and resorted to murder in the space of a fortnight, when she decided to shoot Guy. But she accidentally shot herself instead, so was rushed to hospital, where she awoke from her coma just in time to shock Guy with her defibrillator before going on the run, spending a brief spell in jail and then returning to testify against her psycho ex-boyfriend. Pure campy crap, of course, but you've gotta love it - it was Katya gold. Sadly, she left with a whimper when she moved to Adelaide and began dating Paul McClain. Aww. Yes, Dichen did improve towards the end, but even the finest acting couldn't have saved the character. Katya is the ultimate guilty pleasure. A character that was so incredibly bad, she was bloody brilliant.

David: There aren't many soap operas that would be brave enough to tackle a hard hitting social issue such as dog love, but Neighbours did just that way back in 1990. While EastEnders and Coronation Street took on pedestrian topics such as gay and interracial relationships, the Aussie soap was breaking new ground with it's pioneering depiction of the romance between Bouncer the Labrador and Rosie the sheepdog. It wasn't just that this challenging subject was broached, it was also the way it was explored. With incredible artistic flair and psychological insight, Bouncer's deepest romantic fantasy was depicted through a dream sequence which carried such weight and depth, it burnt itself into the minds of everyone who ever witnessed it. The dream itself was a result of Bouncer listening in to Joe and Kerry reminiscing about their wedding, so as he lay at their feet, he drifted off into his dream world and we the viewers followed along into the inner recesses of the canine's mind. There we witnessed the beautiful "wedding" of our heroic blonde and his beloved collie dog. Neighbours costume and art department had clearly spared no expense as Bouncer sported a debonair bow tie and the ceremony was set against an incredible scenic countryside backdrop. You would think this marriage to rival Scott & Charlene's would have been enough for viewers to digest, but no, they pushed the boat out further by divulging that Bouncer also dreamt of having his own litter of puppies!

Incredibly, some viewers didn't go for the idea of canine romance being depicted through doggy dreams, and "Bouncer's Dream" as been sited as one Neighbours first low points. I guess it was a bit too edgy for more staid fans, but give me the choice between watching Oliver's latest love triangle or exploring the thoughts and emotions of a kipping Bouncer, I know I'd go for the pooch fantasy every time.

Kate: Oh, to have been a fly on the wall at the script-writing meeting which led to the infamous Nick and Laura kidnap storyline. Which genius came up with the idea of having murdered Gus Cleary's sister and her money-grabbing boyfriend kidnap poor Declan Napier?

Were you to think I was being sarcastic in employing the word 'genius' in the above paragraph, I'm afraid you'd be wrong. This kidnap storyline was such a fine example of what I like to call 'so bad it's good' that when I sat down to write about my Guilty Pleasure, it was the first (OK, only - it's recent and my memory's rubbish) thing that came to mind. For me, what it lacked in realism, it more than made up for in entertainment value.

Like all of us at one point or another, Declan found himself on the run from the police for an alleged hit and run incident. Hiding in the Lassiters complex, he bumped into Nick Thompson, a man whose intentions were as evil as his eyebrows were bushy. Determined to get revenge on Paul Robinson - boyfriend of Declan's Mum, Rebecca - for murdering his girlfriend's brother, Gus (keeping up?), Nick decided to offer Declan a place to hide, all the while plotting to kidnap him and demand ransom money from Rebecca's older, wealthier and more-acceptable-to-lust-after-due-to-him-not-being-of-school-age son, Oliver. When Paul "it's hardly worry o'clock" Robinson eventually tracked the haphazard crims down to Lassiters, Laura knocked him out with a vase before taking off with Nick and Declan to a conveniently-located remote caravan. But when Declan was caught trying to escape, Nick decided the time had come to demand his ransom and he arranged to meet Oliver. Of course, Oliver did not turn up alone and instead showed up with Paul, Rebecca and half the Erinsborough police force - cleverly disguised by some exceptionally long weeds - in tow. The guilt got to Laura, however and, prior to the meeting, she allowed Declan to go free. But not wanting to miss out on the cash, Nick forced her to dress in boys clothes and pose as Declan until the bag of notes was in his hand. Unfortunately for him, Declan's family spotted the imposter (could it have been the long blonde hair blowing in the wind that gave it away?) and...I don't actually remember what happened but the very fake-looking notes went skywards, leaving Oliver poor and Nick a bit peeved. Declan was later found near a railway line where he had collapsed from exhaustion. Much like the viewers who had followed the storyline.