> The Hancocks:
The Eldorado of Neighbours? by
I begin I should clarify a few things. For those of you that
are unfamiliar with Eldorado, allow me to explain.
Eldorado was a "super soap" that the BBC
commissioned back in 1992. It was set in Spain, and was about
a bunch of ex-pats living with the locals. The idea behind
it was to create a soap with plenty of sun, sea, sex and sangria
so that it would appeal to British viewers during the dull
winter months. A year later, the show was axed. Despite the
ratings picking up when a new producer took over, and despite
the fact it was selling well in other parts of Europe, the
BBC pulled the plug on a programme that, given time, could
have gone on to be bigger than the BBC's flagship show
many ways, the Hancock family were exactly like Eldorado,
in that they were never given a chance. When Anne Charleston
(Madge) handed in her notice, it gave the producers a lot
more money to spend on other things (she was one of the highest
paid cast members). They decided, I assume, to bring in a
new family. The producer Peter Dodds wanted a family that
would "change the demographic of the show", so they
decided on a family with young children. When news of the
Hancock family broke to the Neighbours fan community,
they were excited. Here was a new family, who could stay on
the show for many, many years. We learnt from the character
profiles that were released that they were a step family,
who had a very deep and interesting history. Evan was married
to Genevieve, and together they had Matt and Chris. He divorced
her and later married Maggie. Together they had Leo and Francesca
(deceased), and then later Emily. The family arrived as Evan,
Maggie, Matt, Leo and Emily - Genevieve and Chris had yet
to make an appearance. We all thought that the family would
be somewhat similar to the Martin family, another complicated
step family from the early 90s which were a huge success.
However, something was not right from their first scene.
and Emily? Where had we heard those names before? A few months
before the Hancock clan arrived, Susan and Karl had to look
after their friend's children - named Leo and Emily Hancock.
Although Leo was now played by a new actor (Anthony Hammer),
Emily Hancock was still played by Isabella Oldham. Great,
we thought, they're connected to the Kennedys. An instant
link to the show, should fit in perfectly, could maybe be
old friends from when the Kennedys lived in the country. However,
this was not the case. When Evan entered Lou's Place to pick
up some wine to celebrate the move, he bumped into Libby Kennedy,
who had no idea who he was. So before they had even unpacked
their bags, the Hancocks' only ties with the street had already
been severed. Maybe it was intentional, maybe it was bad writing.
Whatever it was, it shouldn't have happened.
their first few months on the show, the fans couldn't help
feeling that the Hancocks were somewhat isolated from the
rest of Ramsay Street. Their house was on the end of the street,
and the only people who socialised together were Maggie (with
Toadie) and Evan (with Susan). Matt, granted, hung around
Toadie et al, but Leo and Emily had no one to talk with except
themselves. It was a full six months before the Hancocks had
a substantial scene with the Scullys - something wasn't right
here. The point of the show is that everyone gets on with
each other, everyone knows each other, everyone pops into
each other's houses. This didn't happen with the Hancocks.
came the issue of the storylines the family received. Or didn't
receive, to be more precise. The only notable storyline they
had in their arrival was Emily going missing, and Leo feeling
guilty when Louise Carpenter nearly drowned in the pool (that
was how Francesca died, and he held himself responsible).
But were the writers really to blame for this? The grapevine
informed me that the idea of the Hancocks were to have a "happy
Brady Bunch style" which could act as some sort of contrast
and relief to the dramas of the Kennedys and the Scullys.
It seems to me that the people in charge need to re-evaluate
and work out what soap operas are all about - the bottom line
is conflict. Without it, people get bored. There was nothing
the Hancocks did that would interest the casual viewer.
wasn't until the Hancocks did get a storyline (Toadie and
Maggie's affair and Matt's court case) that we were able to
see how great they really were. I mean, if I was hired on
Neighbours and just walked around my house all day
smiling I'm sure I would be considered 'unpopular', as they
were. Give them a storyline, people like them. It was evident
within the fan community that the Hancocks were liked - many
were outraged to hear of them being axed after only one year,
especially after Nicholas Opolski (Evan) said on Neighbours
Revealed that he was looking forward to playing husband
and wife with Sally Cooper (Maggie) for "the next few
would suggest something more sinister was going on. Maybe,
like when the Scullys arrived, they were initially signed
for longer than just one year. Sally Cooper wrote in a letter
to a fan that they were "asked to leave", so maybe
they left before their time was initially up? But why?
can think of several reasons. It was a known fact that some
of the crew read the message boards as a form of feedback
- when the Hancocks arrived, many people didn't like them.
But they were for silly reasons. For instance, people claimed
Sally Cooper was a bad actress because her voice was "too
high", which is a pathetic reason. Her acting was fine.
Just because someone has a high speaking voice doesn't classify
them as a bad actor. People also said Nicholas Opolski grated
on them - but they failed to understand that that was the
point of Evan. People then slated Anthony Hammer and Isabella
Oldham, saying they weren't good actors, yet forgot that Oldham
was five, and Hammer was fourteen, you can't be expecting
Oscar® winning performances from children. And personally,
I thought they were two of the best child actors to ever be
in Neighbours, and they had the potential to be like
the new Todd and Katie, or the new Hannah - we could have
watched them grow up on screen. So maybe the producers acted
on people's initial reactions and decided to axe them there
Hancocks proved that they were as capable as all the other
actors on Neighbours during their last few months on
the show. Cooper and Opolski have been in the business for
years and didn't deserve to be given such a wasted opportunity
on the show - it is also debatable that they threw away two
of the best child actors they have ever had in Hammer and
what's my conclusion? Personally, I know the Hancocks had
the chance to be one of the most interesting and compelling
families on the show. For the first time in years the street
was back to three core families, just like when it began,
with the Ramsays, Robinsons and Clarkes, finally there was
a chance of bringing the community feel across. For instance
when Maggie, Lyn and Susan started their book club - arguably
some of the best episodes of 2001 - and the rivalry between
Evan, Joe and Karl was great viewing. Nothing springs to my
mind except a huge vat of 'if onlys' if only they remembered
the Kennedy link, if only they let them interact, if only
they were given strong storylines, if only they were given
longer to prove themselves... the list goes on.
not denying that the Hancocks were a mistake - in all aspects
they were. Through no fault of the actors, but because of
the reasons listed above. If more time and effort was spent
on the family, there would have been no reason why they couldn't
have fitted in like everyone else has managed to before them.
They were wasted. I only hope the same mistakes aren't made
when the producers decide to bring in a new family.