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Features > PB's All-Time Loves & Loathes

Each month, we look back at some of our highlights and lowlights from recent weeks in our PB Loves & Loathes feature, but in this feature, we reveal our favourite, and least favourite, stories and characters from the past 24 years...

CERI Love: I found it almost impossible to narrow down to my ultimate Neighbours ‘love’. How could someone that has watched the show for almost 20 years find it that easy? In the end, I simply thought of my all-time favourite character, Joe Mangel. Joe was just that, an average Joe, a ‘typical’ Aussie bloke in a checked shirt and overalls that loved a beer and a laugh. At first he seemed boorish, he was the complete antithesis of his mother Mrs Mangel but when he teamed up with Henry Ramsay, a comedy legend was born. Joe’s spats with Harold were a sight to behold and cemented Joe in my heart forever. I laughed at his antics and felt for him when tragedy struck in the form of a man with a gun mistaking Kerry for a duck. Which was clearly an easy mistake. When the time came for Joe to finally move on, at least he was happy again with the hyena-laughed Melanie but it was a sad day for Ramsay Street. Obviously you can imagine my utter joy at the return of Joe in 2005 for a guest spot and he didn’t disappoint. Well, apart from not staying on forever that is. So here’s to Joe, my ultimate Neighbours love. You little ripper.

Loathe: I’m sure I’m not the only one who completely failed to find the point of Joanna Hartman. Of course, being the hastily thought-up half-sister of the wonderful Annalise would instantly give her links on Ramsay Street but it failed to produce. At all. Maybe it would have worked if they’d hired someone whose range of expressions went further than ‘perplexed’ or ‘constipated’. It was probably no coincidence that she irritated literally everyone in Erinsborough too. I certainly sided with Cody when she called Jo a ‘waste of space’. I thought she’d hit a low when she started dating Annalise’s ex-fiancé Mark Gottlieb and stuck pictures of her head over photos of Annalise but it just got worse and worse, probably peaking with the Flakey the Clown story. I can’t even begin to describe that one. I’m not saying that Jo is the only badly acted character ever to have existed but at least the others have some endearing qualities, Katya was beyond bizarre and Sienna, well, it’d be like kicking a puppy to really lay into her. Jo was just like a horrible rash that wouldn’t go away. And how I rejoiced when she did.

CONOR Love: I had only begun watching Neighbours around 1999/2000, and for me, as much as I loved it, the show was nothing more than a bit of fluff that passed the time. Sure it was entertaining, but it was hardly gripping television. But it wasn't until the arrival of one character in particular, that Neighbours became must-see tv. From the moment Izzy Hoyland stepped out of that taxi, sunglasses and heels, you knew that she was something never seen before. She was a bitch with a heart, a character so complex that had rarely been seen before or since. You wanted to slap her for destroying the relationship between Karl and Susan, but you felt intensely sorry for her when she lost her baby. She completely revitalised the show and whether it be a bitchy conversation with Susan or a huge confrontation with Karl, Natalie Bassingthwaighte never failed to deliver. Izzy had an effect on just about every character and in her three years on Ramsay Street, was responsible for some of the most thrilling, exciting and best storylines in the show's history.

Loathe: Take one character who was fast becoming the resident pantomime villain and another who is probably one of the most hated in the show's history, put them together and you have a recipe for disaster. The saga of EvilPaul™ and his apprentice, Ned, was one of the most awful storylines ever featured on Neighbours. Words can't actually express how bizarre and utterly ridiculous it was. What was the worse part? Well, to be honest, I don't know. Was it Paul's moustache-twirling idiocy, Ned's two-week gambling addiction, the scheming to break up Elle and Dylan, the bizarre 'bonding' scenes between the two men playing computer games or Dan O'Connor trying to act 'evil'? It's a tough call. But it was poorly-conceived, poorly-acted and not remotely entertaining. It was yet another desperate attempt to breathe any sort of life into Ned and the latest in a long line of insufferable antics from Paul - the vegetable van bombing being the definite low-light.

DAVID Love: I love the Robinsons and I love the Ramsays, so it's no surprise that my ultimate love would be the story of the on/off feud between the two clans. The history of the families stemmed back through most of the twentieth century - if not longer - as they were both pioneers of the suburb of Erinsborough. The Ramsays had always been fiery (usually to comic effect) while the Robinsons more even-tempered, but both could be stubborn and thus the feud lasted such a long time. One of the main sticking points between them was the name of the street they lived on. "Black" Jack Ramsay had won the chance to name the street after himself when he beat "Great Grandfather" Robinson in a game of poker. The Robinsons later claimed Jack had cheated and in the 80s, the game was replayed between Scott Robinson and Henry Ramsay. The Ramsays won again - thanks to Charlene's card dealing. Scott and Charlene themselves provided a fantastic Romeo and Juliet style story within the Robinson/Ramsay legend and in many ways put an end to the worst of the squabbles on the day they married. However in 1997 things fired up again, this time between the Martins and the Bishops with young Hannah hanging a cardboard placard saying "Robinson Street" in place of the Ramsay sign. Fortunatley right thinking Helen Daniels smoothed things over by playing Scott and Charlene's wedding video and then, her work done, promptly popped her clogs. It was a fitting finale to a plot that had been going since day one.

Loathe: Over the years, there have been several surprise axings made by Neighbours producers. Most recently we've seen popular characters such as Rosie Hoyland, Sindi Watts, the Bishop family and Janelle Timmins getting the chop, but as sad as it was to see them leaving, nothing matches up to the bizarre decision in 1991 to axe the legend that is Harold Bishop. Since 1987, Harold had become one of Neighbours most popular and recognisable characters; one half of the best couple on the street and a huge part of the soap's comedy. And yet producers felt they'd run out of stories for the Bishops and Madge could last a bit longer on her own. Big mistake. Smith's booting was probably the primary cause for the decisions of Mark Little (Joe Mangel) and Anne Charleston (Madge Bishop) to quit soon after. It was bad enough that we'd lost Harold, but the domino effect meant two more comedy legends went soon after. It may just be speculation on my part, but I wouldn't be surprised if Stefan Dennis (Paul Robinson) and Alan Dale (Jim Robinson) also jumped ship, in part, due to a lack of familiar faces. Thankfully Smith returned as Harold a few years later, but it still baffles that such a star could have been sacked.

EDD Love: Robert Robinson’s reign of terror had more twists and turns in it than an Olympic diver. I recognise that the whole plot wasn’t very Neighbours, but with a storyline arch spanning nearly 18 months and some of the most shocking and dramatic scenes we’re ever likely to see on Neighbours, mad Robert Robinson’s ways will always hold a place in my heart. And I have it to thank for why I’m probably writing this. Had there never been a bomb on that plane then I wouldn’t have scoured the Internet countless numbers of times trying to find out ‘whodunit’. The storyline could have easily had its own spin-off series. Such was the complexity of it all; it could have even become a movie. It’s not particularly easy to ‘sum up’ either. I’ll give it a go though. Robert wanted revenge on his father, so staged a car accident that put his identical twin brother in a coma, allowing him to return to Ramsay Street and assume the identity of his twin. Then over the next few months plotted away with everyone thinking he’s the ‘nice’ twin before kidnapping Paul and burying him alive in an abandoned mineshaft. *Breathes*. Oh yeah and how could I forget that he put a bomb on a plane that killed Harold’s family, is responsible for the suspicious disappearance of Connor, tried to blow up his sister and attempted to push his girlfriend off a cliff. We haven’t even scratched the surface yet. For many fans Robert Robinson is the most far removed Neighbours character you could have ever had. He’d perhaps fit in better on Albert Square, but despite all this, there’s no denying that when Adam Hunter came on screen as the creepy Robert Robinson, you just didn’t know what he’d do next. And this made for compelling viewing.

Loathe: Scary Mary’s laughable attempts to stalk and scare young Pepper Steiger, somehow worked. A lonely middle aged woman sought to stalk her son’s ex-girlfriend of about 8 years ago because of their miscarriage. Why the hell not? Pepper received some horrifying gifts from her stalker, including an inflatable clown. She ended up visiting Mary herself, who gave her some cake which had been duly drugged and later, poor Pepper passed out at Janae’s annulment party. Pepper went round Mary’s again for some reason and found herself locked in a bedroom that had been decorated as a nursery. Interesting. Then Mary’s son Kevin arrived to save the day, but he was overpowered by his own mother and ended up getting locked in too. Then the room spontaneously combusted leaving Pepper and Kevin trapped! Eventually Pepper and Kevin were rescued and Mary carted off to the mental asylum. But that’s where you’re wrong. Mary ended up at Goodwood women’s hospital and surprise, surprise ended up sharing a cell with Sky! (Who was there for murdering fake psychic Terrence with a sugar dispenser.) Mary befriended Sky as she was having awful trouble with prison bully, Krystal. A prison ‘riot’ ensued and Mary attempted to steal Sky’s baby, Kerry. It didn’t work and that was the end of the Scary Mary debacle. Hopefully forever.

MIKE Love: We all love a bit of comedy, and Neighbours is renowned for having some of the best comedy storylines out there. One in particular that stood out for me is when Lyn Scully passed over her house, and her family, and her dignity to the jaws of reality TV in the form of Makin’ Mansions. The idea of the show was for the Scully’s to refurbish their house, and be filmed whilst doing it. Over those few weeks we were treated to absolute chaos in the Scully household, and Lyn’s stress levels rising and rising, which is always fun to watch. There wasn’t a dull moment – whether it was Jack pertaining he definitely did not have a Ricky Martin poster, or Valda walking green footprints everywhere, you smiled whenever it was on screen. In fact, we at PB thought it was so good, it was celebrated with it’s very own Magic Moment, which you can read here.

Loathe: Fighting robots? Really? Yes really. There seemed a period of the show where the Number 30 boys just had nothing to do, and to emulate this, we were blessed with this gem of a storyline: Seamus, an old rival of Connor’s, met him in Lou’s Place. For a reason, which escapes me (was there even one?) he challenged him to a Robot fight (eh?). With the usual laws of physics and mechanics brushed to one side, he built the Cake-Taker along with Toadie and Stingray. There was a fight. I don’t remember/care what happened, but Cake-Taker won. Major lolz! Then Sindi built a robot and hers beat theirs. More major lolz! Seriously, what was all this about? Soon after Connor and Toadie began their glut of ridiculous storylines (dating agencies, Bounce, stalkers, wrestling) and Sindi started shagging someone else.

RYAN Love: When it comes to Neighbours, I'm an unashamed 80s junkie; in fact, I could easily have picked the whole of 1986 - 1988 as my all-time love. Much has been written on the classic characters and storylines of that era, so for my favourite moment, I've picked a long-forgotten but briliant comedy scene. Although Madge and Harold were one of the great partnerships of Neighbours history, people forget how well Ian Smith also worked with Vivean 'Mrs Mangel' Grey. Throw the wonderful Myra de Groot into the mix as Mrs Mangel's partner in gossip, Eileen Clarke, and you have comic gold. When Harold rented a video, 'Hot Cargo', for the three of them to watch, he thought he'd picked an informative documentary. However, a few seconds in it became obvious that this hot cargo had nothing to do with smuggling... This being Neighbours, viewers didn't actually see anything, but thanks to some superb comic acting, we didn't need to; a small incline of the head from each of the unsuspecting watchers was enough to tell us what was on screen. As Mrs Mangel slipped into catatonia, a horrified Harold exclaimed, 'when the man in the shop said it was discerning viewing, I thought he meant... well, discerning viewing!' However, both women used the mix-up to their advantage, a 'shaken' - and smitten - Eileen needing Harold to escort her home. Less than impressed, Mrs Mangel later claimed to see the sign of the centaur - half man, half beast - in Harold's tea leaves to put Eileen off, pointing to the video as evidence of his animal streak. As Mrs Mangel so memorably put it, 'No wonder he shaves twice a day!'

Loathe: Back in 1997, Sarah Beaumont and Marlene Kratz were sharing the receptionist's job as Karl Kennedy's surgery - and when the two heard about a Receptionist of the Year competition, each saw it as their chance to get the job to themselves. The typical overkill of cake-baking and errand running began; but while this sort of fluff is usually done so well by Neighbours, something went very wrong in this case. While the plot might have been okay as a filler, for some reason it ended up filling up whole episodes, for about 93 years - at least that's how it felt. Who won? Who knows; who cares? All I know is who the losers were - us poor viewers. Luckily, a few months later Sarah found another way to prove what a good receptionist she was, and things got a lot more interesting for her, Karl and the show overall...