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Features > The Best of 2003

The 2003 season of Neighbours has seen its fair share of drama, comedy, heartache and intrigue. And with the show coming to an end this week in both Australia and the UK, it's a time to reflect on the most entertaining aspects of the show in 2003. In this final feature for the year, the team from Neighbours: The Perfect Blend remember their favourite characters and storylines from the past season and share their hopes for the future...

Aaron: There were many highlights for me this year - too many to mention - but the season was finished off nicely in Australia with a Ramsay Street Christmas! After years without any sign of Christmas it was amazing seeing the neighbours putting up Christmas trees, singing carols on the street and enjoying big family lunches. Combined with the drama reaching its climax for the year, the last few weeks of the season have been unmissable television. There were also many hilarious moments during this Christmas period involving Sky, Boyd, Summer and the Bishops - all of whom are relatively new characters but have definitely found their own place in the show. I hope Neighbours features Christmas every year!

Barry: 2003 has been tremendous for long term fans of the show, who have relished seeing some familiar names and faces return to the show. While my interest in Neighbours will always be with the senior cast members, I have enjoyed seeing some of the younger actors shine this year, particularly Michelle Ang. The Hoylands have been incredible for Neighbours. With Maggie Millar setting the high standard for the latest clan in Ramsay Street, the rest of her family have certainly not disappointed us.

In recent years, I have been worried about the huge percentage of characters who could be deemed as ‘nice’. Harold, Lou, Lyn, Joe, Susan, Karl, Stuart, Toadie etc, almost the entire cast can be put into this bracket. It’s so refreshing to see Natalie Bassingthwaighte as Izzy put a spanner in the works, and help to bring out the weaknesses of all these characters. She’s so unpredictable, unlike some of the others. Every soap needs a bitch, but it would be nice to see more characters like her in the future, so she doesn’t stand out from all the others so much. I’m thrilled to see more conflict and confrontation in Neighbours. Given the new cast line-up and promises of more returnees, 2004 should be awesome.

Billy: Overall 2003 has been one of the greatest years in Neighbours - with improved continuity, countless past references, fresh new characters and racier storylines. Since the arrival of Ric Pellizzeri, the show has been on the constant up. I think that Jamie's letter was one of the best things 2003 has seen. Who would have thought that the past would be the future of Ramsay Street? Already we had the returns of Sky Mangel and David Bishop, both of whom have been excellent cast additions, and now Jamie Clarke has returned too. The mentions of Des and Daphne have been incredible for the long-term fans. I think had we been asked a year ago if we thought Daphne would ever be mentioned in 2003, we would have laughed and made some sarcastic comment - but now, anything is possible. My faith and confidence in Neighbours has been restored, and I'm so looking forward to what's in store for us next year.

Jamie: The highlight of 2003 for me was the Hoylands' status rise considerably on the soap. From the second the season returned we had Steph and Max dating, a storyline which has given us some magical moments over the past twelve months, most noticeable during Steph's cancer diagnosis. The other string to the Hoylands' bow came in the arrival of Izzy, the freshest breath of air the soap has had for a while. Whether flirting with Karl or sleeping with Jack, Izzy has made Erinsborough in 2003 a much racier place, and her plots surrounding Steph's ostracision and Susan's infuriation have been a joy to watch. Even Boyd improved incredibly once his relationship with Sky developed.

It seems that those at Neighbours are keen to avoid repeating the mistakes made with the Hancocks, namely not integrating the characters into the existing community enough. The Hoylands are now one of the main players in the street, despite losing Rosie, and the progress they make in 2004 will be interesting to watch.

Jay: Being unable to pick just one best bit from 2003, I'd be forced to whittle it down to three the first of which occurred before Ric Pellizzeri's fresh approach came into being. Darcy robbing the Kennedys and his subsequent cover up was one of the best, most tightly plotted stories Neighbours has ever produced. The way in which it involved virtually the entire street and brought about forced interaction between Lyn and Darcy was a master stroke.

More recently would be the storyline involving Lyn's parentage and her reunion scenes with Valda on the beach when her mother professed to never being loved. As a former Valda hater, I was forced to eat humble pie watching the emotions unfold. Last but not least is the one and only vixen Izzy Hoyland who has breathed fresh air into every aspect of the show she's involved in. If she's a symbol of things to come, we're in for a great 2004.

Joe: 2003 for Neighbours has been a great year, full of dramatic moments and storylines that will be remembered for a long time. Events such as Dee's death, Steph's cancer, Oscar's birth, and Lori's shock pregnancy are things that stand out in the year, but for me it is not one of the storylines that made 2003 such a good year for the show. Ric Pellizzeri promised to bring in new, different characters, and at the same time explore the current ones so that reactions to situations varied from one character to another. Now the show is full of very different and interesting characters, and some of the more 'lifeless' characters that were introduced in 2002 were given their own personality. Izzy, Sky, David, Lilijana and Serena are all very different people with their own personalities, and now characters Nina and Stuart have had their characters mature into more 'real' people. It is now very easy to see the different sides of the residents of Erinsborough.

In bringing in new residents with links to the current characters, the street is now full of family groups: The Bishops, the Scullys, the Kennedys and the Hoylands, and to a lesser extent upon Nina's return, the Tuckers. It's great to see interaction between families of Ramsay Street, with one 'spare' house (number 30) instead of houses full of people with no real connection to one another. Neighbours in 2003 went from strength to strength, and I'm sure it will continue its success in 2004.

Lucy: 2003 was full of highlights. It has, in my opinion, been one of the best years for Neighbours in recent times. Undoubtedly, Steph's cancer storyline has been the one that has produced the most drama, and coupled with Lyn’s PND, has made it a hard year at times for the Scully Family.Who can forget Dee and Toadie’s happiness at their wedding, only for it to disappear hours later when the car crashed into the sea. This has shown just what a good actor Ryan Moloney is, and I only hope he gets more storylines of merit next year.

I’ve loved the returnees this year too. Angie, Big Kev, Stonie and Sky have brought a much needed boost to many of the show’s older viewers, who have craved for much-loved characters to return for so long. Long may this continue. 2003 has been full of highs and lows, but if Neighbours can continue in this vein, then I can’t wait for next year!

Moe: 2003 was a year full of many great moments on Neighbours. An increased attention to detail, stronger stories, great new characters, and much more continuity and past referencing meant that the year was truly one to remember. One highlight for me was the Toadie/Dee wedding, which saw the return of old favourites Stonie, Angie and Big Kev Rebecchi, as well as one of the most senastional episodes of the year when the newlyweds' car crashed into the water and a fruitless search for Dee began. Ryan Moloney's acting in those scenes, and the mourning period which followed, were quite possibly the best work he's done since he joined the cast all those years ago. Other highlights include the arrival of the Bishop family in the final month of the year, the Steph/Max relationship, the Jack/Nina/Taj/Lori quadrangle, Darcy robbing the Kennedys and the drama that flowed from it, Jamie Clarke's letter being unearthed in the Kennedy house and Lyn really coming into her own discovering Valda was her real mother and then having to cope with PND.

But above all else, the biggest highlight for me was the introduction of two characters who are the most exciting, watchable, and really unique people Neighbours has seen for many years - Sky Mangel and Izzy Hoyland. Played excellently by Stephanie McIntosh and Natalie Bassingthwaighte, Sky and Izzy have given so many characters and situations a whole new lease of life. On top of it being fantastic to see the character of Sky Bishop being brought back after 11 years, she's an amazing character - fun, unconventional, and basically different to the standard teen character that tended to pollute the series in recent years. Izzy, meanwhile, is just what Neighbours has needed for years - a pure bitch! She's deliciously evil, and seeing her manipulate people and situations - particuarly the Kennedys - has been a joy to watch. I can't wait to see what happens next year!

Rhys: As I look back over the past twelve months, by far the most memorable characters that spring to mind are Harold, Rosie and Ruby. Although by summer time the aforementioned women had left the series, their dominance of a major part of it up until that time greatly entertained me. It was pleasing to see three mature actors in Ian Smith, Maggie Millar and Maureen Edwards, all renowned in the world of Australian performing, playing out a storyline which was risky to a programme like Neighbours, the flagship of the primarily youth-driven Network TEN. Ruby’s encounter with Harold at a dating agency, early in the year, and their relationship which followed was severely tested when Ruby’s addiction to gambling became apparent, and she robbed Harold’s home to pay debts. Rosie, battling with her own, undeclared feelings for the Coffee Shop owner was put in a morally challenging position when Ruby confessed all to her as a minister. Rosie battled with her conscience, and broke the sacred rule of the Church by telling Harold and Lou. Although she risked her entire career, Rosie’s love for Harold guided her, and she believed he had a right to be told. Although Harold tried his hardest to help Ruby and her problem, his efforts were largely in vain, and the beshawled Ms Dwyer left Erinsborough. Rosie, although she made an effort to declare her love for Harold, sadly left Erinsborough to help with cyclone relief abroad. Harold lost two of the most important women in his life in the space of a month or two, and Neighbours was, again, left with two dominant males as its ‘offering’ of older characters. This was a particular favourite storyline of mine, from a year which under the guidance of Ric Pellizzeri, and a renewed strength in the story department, brought about some of the greatest episodes the show's produced for a long, long time.

Steve: One of my biggest highlights of 2003 was the character of Lori Lee, played by Michelle Ang. Although things began rather mundanely for her, following Jack around, unaware that he was cheating on her with Nina, it soon began to pick up. An accident at the pool left Lori temporarily paralysed, a storyline which really allowed Michelle Ang to show what a capable actress she was. After moving out of the Scully home and breaking out on her own, the character showed how strong she could be. When Lori found out she was pregnant, after a one-night stand with Connor, it seemed that Miss Lee had become the new target for tragic storylines. Lori and Connor’s reactions to their situation were beautifully written and acted, but Michelle Ang’s decision to leave after only six months in order to concentrate on her studies meant that they wouldn’t all be living happily ever after. For once in Neighbours, a departure left more questions open than it answered. Lori suddenly decided to go home to New Zealand after not going through with a planned abortion, leaving only a vague note for Connor. Her on-off relationship with Jack was also remembered as she admitted that she still loved him, before leaving. The news that Lori will be returning briefly to Ramsay Street next year is very welcome and hopefully, she’ll be bringing a baby along with her.