> Happy 25th Birthday Neighbours by
Today marks the 25th Anniversary of Neighbours.
For a show that was first broadcast with the intention of appealing only to an Australian tea-time audience, it is nothing short of phenomenal that the inhabitants of Ramsay Street, through three decades, have become household names in over 50 countries around the world and Neighbours now holds the record for being the longest-running drama in Australian television history.
To mark the occasion, Reg Watson, the creator of Neighbours, has composed a special anniversary tribute:
“I'm amazed that the serial has reached this incredible milestone and I congratulate the actors and directors past and present, who helped achieve this.
We sometimes forget the writers who live with the characters every day of the week and who have contributed so many stories, both humorous and sad, over the years and also the studio crews who ensure that the serial's quality continues to improve.
The Robinson and Ramsay children have all grown up now, with families of their own, as have millions of viewers who started watching the serial as teenagers. I'm sure all those viewers have fascinating stories they could tell.”
- Reg Watson
THE STORIES BEHIND THE SCENES
To mark the 25th anniversary of Neighbours, Reg Watson and former script editor Luke Devenish have shared some behind the scenes anecdotes from the history of the show.
Reg Watson is the creator of Neighbours and was executive producer from episode 1 in 1985 until 1989. He also wrote many episodes of the series.
A crisis erupted when the actor playing Max Ramsay suddenly announced that he wanted leave in two weeks to get married and go on his honeymoon. Now all scripts are written six weeks ahead and if actors want leave they must notify the producer well before those six weeks. The producer and I had a meeting and we told him he couldn't go because it would completely disrupt the serial and he was in a major storyline. But he was in love and wanted his marriage on the date he specified. His agent warned him he was breaking his contract and he should postpone his wedding. He seemed to reluctantly accept that he had to change the wedding date.
Then, he 'accidentally' slipped on the studio floor and hurt his back. We knew he was faking but his doctor gave him a certificate stating that he was in such pain that he couldn't work and we were forced to write him out - at great expense and writers threatening to cut their wrists.
Of course the actor walked happily down the aisle to his bride and off overseas on his honeymoon.
HAROLD AND THE STRIPPER:
We had a scene years ago in which Harold confronted a beautiful stripper in the coffee shop. She was wearing a light overcoat and the argument between the two became so heated, because of Harold's pomposity, that the girl whipped open her overcoat and Harold almost fainted with shock as she flashed him.
It was very funny because the girl had her back to the camera when she flashed Harold and the comedy was his shocked expression. But, in those days censorship was so strict that the woman from the network told us the scene had to be cut. We argued and lost.
Luke Devenish is well known to readers of The Perfect Blend - during his time as Script and Story Editor in the mid 2000s, he oversaw a number of key moments in the show's history, such as the return of Paul Robinson, the introduction of the Timmins and Bishop families, and the much celebrated 20th anniversary epiodes. He shares his memories with us of putting together those iconic episodes back in 2005...
I must be getting old. It seriously feels like yesterday that I was part of the team that put together the 20th anniversary, and before that, Episode 4,000. I've got a very vague memory of being there for Episode 3,000, too, some time around 2001, but it could well be the drink talking. We had a lot of fun putting the 20th anniversary together, that I certainly remember. There were many behind the scenes shenanigans getting the old cast members back. We drew up a big list of those we most wanted. Characters that were dead couldn't be considered, sadly, although I've no doubt I half-seriously suggested we do a cut away to Heaven to show Drew, Cheryl, Dee, Daphne etc toasting Ramsay Street with Jesus.
Some actors said no outright, which was fair enough. Having departed the Erinsborough womb myself, I can now understand this. The past is the past. Others gave tentative yeses but required protracted romancing in order to commit. Mark Little was one of those - he ended up on the show for months as a result. Great shame when he later decided he'd had enough again - Joe Mangel is a marvellous addition to any cast in any era.
The larger proportion of the actors said yes without hesitation and treated the whole thing as a big party - which was exactly what we hoped they would do. Particularity when we actually had the big party, which was a lot of fun indeed. An indelible memory of that night was Steph McIntosh turning up with footy star Nick Riewoldt. He looked a bit bewildered by what must have been a very surreal evening.
We couldn't stretch the budget to include every actor who was keen, unfortunately. I got phone calls from at least two old cast members offering themselves long after we'd already put the whole thing together. Very awkward conversations they were. One respected actress we approached who had been popular in the late 80s/early 90s demanded such an absurd amount of money that we could only laugh and slip her reply into the bin. I suppose it says volumes that I can't actually remember her name now. I honestly can't.
Craig McLachlan ran around telling everyone that he would be "putting on the overalls" - everyone except us. I recall we wrote quite a lot of Henry Ramsay material, certainly a detailed storyline and quite possibly a number of scenes, too, which were all sent to him for his approval. He was the only actor we did that for, by the way. But he still never gave us confirmation that he was going to do it. He just confirmed it to the Herald Sun! It went right down to the wire without getting any official word from his management at all, so Henry just got dropped. Big shame.
The oddest one of all was Kylie Minogue. It will surprise no one to learn that she was the very first actor we approached. We said to her (or to her management) that we were prepared to go anywhere in the world in order to film 30 seconds of Kylie doing a Charlene cameo. That's all we wanted. We were actually very hopeful that she would agree because she'd just done her star turn on 'Kath & Kim' with a character that was basically Charlene revisited. But we never got any reply. Zilch. Then - and this really annoyed us - when the press started running stories about the big reunion episodes ahead of the actual broadcast, there were quotes from Kylie in the papers saying that she was hurt at not being asked to contribute, and that she would have said yes if she had have been! Just as we were contemplating firing off a salvo with the real story the announcement came that she was battling breast cancer. Dreadful. Needless to say we just went quiet after that and chalked it all up to experience.
Of all the returnee cameos, my personal favourite was probably Jesse Spencer's. One of the first actors we approached, he said yes without hesitation, didn't care what the script was and was just happy to acknowledge old friends by doing something fun. He has very positive memories about Neighbours, and it was obvious in the little cameo he did from LA, waving happily at the camera. Summed the whole thing up beautifully for me. The Ramsay Street denizens are spread all about the globe but the spirit of the place - and the show - stays with them. And with the fans.