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Comment > Love Thy Neighbour: Kyle Canning by Carol Ann Wood

Kyle Canning, school bully, partly responsible for a canoeing accident in which classmate Zeke Kinski went missing and suffered amnesia; blackmailer of brainy pupil Sunny, to get her to write his English essays; class clown. Whilst newer Neighbours fans might easily believe in a past as class clown, the rest is harder to digest. Because Kyle, played superbly by Chris Milligan for eight years, is generally an affable bloke, even if he is stubborn and sometimes makes stupid decisions. It’s taken a while, and the firm guidance of gran Sheila, to change Kyle into a responsible adult. Sheila arrived on a visit to her grandson to keep tabs on him, but ended up staying, and with hindsight, it’s probably a good thing she did. She’d already played a big part in Kyle’s formative years, due to his erstwhile father Gary’s disappearing act, and flighty mum Sharon’s preoccupation with her string of boyfriends. If it wasn’t for Sheila’s presence, who knows if Kyle would have gone down the same dodgy route as Gary! As with all characters whose stay in the street has been lengthy, it is impossible to collate his every storyline into one tribute. Instead, I’m going to look back at some of my own favourite moments with Dial-A-Kyle.

Kyle first appeared as a guest character, rather like present day Jayden Warley. His early scenes saw him in trouble for school Muck Up Day offences and other misdemeanours. Kyle didn’t excel academically, and we assumed his behaviour was related to feelings of inadequacy. That was all we had to go on, as it would be some time yet before we could piece together his familial backstory. By the time he became a regular, his character had started to change. Young Kyle morphed from being a bit of a bad lad, into a laid-back, down-to-earth bloke whose heart is in the right place. A good looking guy, he was never short of girlfriends, initially mainly brief flings and one-night hook ups. Playing the field was part of Kyle’s teenage lifestyle – and there’s nothing uncommon in that – but it was annoying to realise that whilst he prided himself as being a bit of a babe magnet, he tended to expect his girlfriends to be sweet and innocent. His tenure in the street has since included several brief romances, an inadvisable fling with Kate Ramsay, a girlfriend’s pregnancy (ending in a miscarriage), a marriage, a break-up, a new romance, and a reconciliation.

Kyle is a home bod, and whilst he has successfully fulfilled his dream of setting up a handyman business, that’s the extent of his horizons. A good, honest living and a few cold tinnies with his mates suits him fine. As he got older, it was clear that he also wanted to find the right girl, and settle down to raise a family. His first serious romance was with Jade Mitchell, Sonya’s younger sister, with whom he shared a house with at one point. They were just friends, then gave in to their passions and spent the night together. Kyle, however, ran scared, and decided he didn’t want anything heavy, so suggested they become ‘friends with benefits’. Like Kyle, Jade had never had a serious relationship before, and she agreed to this arrangement. It was soon clear, however, that the two had deeper feelings for one another than they cared to admit. When they finally acknowledged their love, it was met with opposition from Sheila, who saw Jade as a bit of a bossy boots. (Just who was the family dog named after, again, Sheila?) As it turned out, the relationship came to its own natural conclusion. Jade’s ambitions were bigger than Kyle’s and she left, following a lucrative job offer in America. This big career break happens a lot in Ramsay Street; clearly Erinsborough is a stepping stone to great things!

Enter nurse Georgia, who was engaged to country boy Scotty, before it was discovered that Scotty had been secretly gay all along. By then, Georgia was harbouring feelings for Kyle, and those feelings were reciprocated. The two had an on-off relationship. Scotty had been Georgia’s only previous boyfriend, and she was emotionally traumatised by the break-up. Georgia and Kyle blew hot and cold, and at times you wanted to yell, for goodness sake, just get it on! Even when they did, the path to marriage was full of obstacles. Sheila, despite approving of Georgia in a way that wasn’t the case with Jade, continued to interfere in her grandson’s life. Meanwhile, Kyle had attracted the attention of Georgia’s friend, Kate Ramsay, a girl he had briefly dated, now a teacher at Erinsborough High. (Study, qualifications and securing a job take around half the time in Ramsay Street as they do in the real world.)

Kate was at an especially complex emotional stage of her sadly-short life. Neighbours fans all knew that she was in love with ex Mark Brennan, whom she believed to be dead, until he made a shock return to the street. (As you do in soap-land.) She projected those confused feelings onto Kyle, who was on one of his ‘breaks’ from Georgia. Kyle had stupidly ignored advice and looked directly at the sun during the total eclipse, so was temporarily blinded. Doctor Karl told him that he had to wear protective glasses, and what with the Georgia situation, and losing business while incapacitated, he was in a dark place in more ways than one. And, apparently, he was also incapable of resisting the charms of pretty Kate. The deed done, both felt remorseful and agreed it should never have happened. They kept the moment a secret, but we all know that secrets in Ramsay Street have a habit of jumping out of the closet at the most inopportune moments.

Kyle and Georgia reunited, and Kyle proposed. We sensed trouble ahead, knowing what poor Georgia didn’t. Meanwhile, secretly jealous of Georgia’s happiness, her mentally unstable cousin Gemma blew the secret wide apart, with malice aforethought. Having discovered the truth of Kyle’s infidelity, she chose to print out an e-mail in which Kate told Kyle that they should forget what happened between them, and then slip the print-out in with the engagement congratulation messages that Georgia was reading out to party guests. Oops. Georgia had been betrayed by fiancé and best friend in one fell swoop. The engagement was off, and Kyle had a face like a puppy who’s chewed his owner’s shoes.

Fearing that Georgia would never forgive him, Kyle started openly dating Kate. It was evident that, deep down, their hearts weren’t really in it, but they clung together for comfort, each continuing to try and reconcile their differences with Georgia. Sheila’s interference may have served to prolong their romance, as she made it clear that she preferred Kate to Georgia. Although Bossy the dog didn’t agree, refusing to accept Kate’s affectionate tickling, and turning her head away. Dogs tend to pick up vibes!

And then, Georgia discovered that she was pregnant. This gave Kyle some hope that she would eventually forgive him for the indiscretion. Keen to show how thrilled he was to be a dad, and his desire to be involved, he concentrated on mugging up about pregnancy and restoring a traditional rocking horse – one suitable for the still unborn child at the age of three. But hey, he meant well. And who wouldn’t smile at the tiny ‘Dial A Kyle’ babygro presented to Georgia? Even my husband, who knows little about the characters or plot, remarked on it with an ‘Aw.’

Kate was devastated to learn of Georgia’s pregnancy, as she’d just been diagnosed with premature menopause symptoms, and told that she was unlikely to conceive children, although she kept the news from Kyle. By then, Kyle realised he wanted to end things with Kate, which he did. Shortly afterwards, Georgia miscarried. That was when you felt genuine compassion for all three characters. Kyle had messed up, but the prospect of being a father had shown him what he really wanted from life. In one of his sweetest, most tender scenes, we saw him and Georgia plant a tree in memory of their lost child. I cried buckets, and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one.

It was in the face of further tragedy that Kyle and Georgia were finally reunited. Kate and Mark reconciled, and Mark proposed. As Georgia learnt of their engagement, Kate’s last words to her friend would resonate with her. Do what makes you happy, she said, follow your dreams. Moments later, Kate was gunned down, leaving Georgia to reflect on the frailty of life.

After Kyle’s brief absence from Ramsay Street – in Thailand to rescue a cousin in a pickle – Kyle and Georgia got together again, properly. They married and settled down to the life that Kyle had always wanted, and all seemed rosy until we saw signs that Georgia might have regretted the union. She wanted to travel, she said. She didn’t want children yet, partly because she was scared that she’d miscarry again, and needed time to heal. Then her mum’s cancer returned, so she was off to Germany to be with her throughout the specialist treatment unavailable in Australia. We sensed that this would be the end for the newly weds, as Saskia Hemple (Georgia) had left the show. Lo and behold, Amy Williams appeared. Not only was she attractive, she was a fellow tradie looking for work, and a feisty single mother. Oh, and the long-estranged daughter of Paul Robinson, which was bound to be a bit of a hurdle for Kyle to overcome. But, give him his due, he eventually got Paul onside. No mean feat.

The predictions of the viewers were correct, and Georgia reappeared briefly only to tell Kyle that she had things she wanted to do in life, effectively setting him free and giving him license to get together with Amy. This romance took time to get off the ground, with Kyle devastated by Georgia’s decision, and Amy wary of men after a bad relationship with the father of her son, Jimmy. However, Sheila encouraged Kyle and Amy from the off, believing her to be the perfect antidote for Kyle’s broken heart. I didn’t want to see Kyle and Georgia split up but, after a while, I got used to him and Amy together. Indeed, many fans argued that they were better suited. Amy is down to earth, sensible and level-headed. She isn’t really into heels and dresses, but more of a shorts and tee-shirt kind of girl. Sadly, happiness doesn’t usually last long in Ramsay Street. Georgia had physically left, but perhaps her memory always lingered. And, we learned, she apparently regretted leaving Kyle. But, we cried, you can’t just hurt Amy and Jimmy like that, Kyle. Amy’s good for you, she loves you unconditionally. Kyle was torn, but in our hearts, we knew that as Chris Milligan was leaving the show, Georgia would be the winner who takes it all.

There have been so many amusing moments involving Kyle, and I have loved them all. My favourite has to be when, during the tornado, he went missing, only to turn up the next morning trapped in a portable toilet cubicle. Georgia, relieved to have found him alive, swept in for a hug, but gagged in horror, wishing she had waited. Kyle’s expression was hilarious. What do you think I’d smell like, I’ve been in here all night, he reasoned. Fair point, Poo Boy! Another scene which had me in stitches, was Kyle dressed as a naive Bell Boy to fulfil one of Georgia’s sexual fantasies. I also remember with affection the time Sheila caught her grandson about to bathe in the spa, starkers. Well, go on then, she said, it wasn't as if she hadn’t seen it all before, as she’d powdered his bottom many a time as a baby. To which Kyle’s response was that he might have changed a little since then. Again, fair point!

Kyle is one of those characters who reminds you of someone you know in real life; the bloke at the bar of your local pub, the everyday grafter, scratching a living and being content with his lot. He’s had a lot of knocks, not least inadequate parenting, and having to face the truth of his father’s criminal activity. Latterly, Kyle discovered that he had a younger half-sister, who shared the same dad, and although he was initially resentful of rebellious drama queen Xanthe, you could tell that he realised she wasn’t dissimilar to himself. She may have had more of their father, Gary’s, attention than him, but they share the background of a dysfunctional upbringing. And who better than gran Sheila to help make Xanthe’s life more stable?

For Kyle, the love he had for Georgia had never died. After her brief visit to talk things through, and with the hotel explosion having left some Ramsay Street residents devastated, Kyle made his decision. We waved him off to join Georgia in Germany. It was an odd feeling; we felt desperately sorry for Amy, so gracious and dignified in the loss of her man. We felt sorry for Jimmy, as he and Kyle had developed a father-and-son relationship. We felt for Sheila, who had already lost daughter Naomi to the American Dream. We felt for Xanthe, who might have benefited from a bit more plain speaking from her new big brother. But in another way, we understood that Kyle wanted one more chance to make it work with his wife. Even if it did mean moving away from his comfort zone.

This article would not be complete without a special thank-you to darling Bossy, the pooch who fans have loved since she was a puppy. Even though Sheila sometimes cursed her for making a mess, or for causing problems in the neighbourhood by going on a bra-stealing rampage, she’s going to miss that dog. We will miss her too. We worried when she started uncharacteristically biting folk and we learned that she had a life-threatening brain tumour. We were relieved when she survived an operation. Somehow, Bossy always seemed to convey what the viewer might be thinking about a character, but which the character didn’t always see. That dog has that air of ‘knowingness’ about her. It was obvious that Kyle wasn’t going to leave his best friend behind, and so it was a case of bye bye Bossy and a lot of tears.

Chris, thank you for playing Kyle Canning, and for making us laugh and cry so much over the last eight years. Dial-A-Kyle may be somewhere in Germany – enjoying a lager – but I know he’ll always think of Ramsay Street as his home. And as he thankfully survived Hotel Death Trap, I know many fans would welcome him back at the tap of a hammer. Just as long as he brought Bossy with him!

This article originally appeared on Carol's blog, Levelling The Playing Field.