> Ric Pellizzeri
the start of the 2003 production block, Riccardo Pellizzeri
took on the huge task of Executive Producer on Neighbours.
Last year he shared with us some of his visions for the programme
and the thoughts he had on the state of the show when he took
over. Now, a year on, Ric kindly gives us further insight
into the programme as well as some exciting glimpses into
year on from your appointment, how much 'healthier' do you
show is now compared to the end of 2002?
drama must evolve and grow or it will wither on the television
vine. The pressure on a show that is now in its 20th year
is even greater. The question is at what pace do you make
changes and what are they going to be?
What we've done over the last 12 months is build on the bedrock
that has always been here and utilised the imagination and
skills of the team to develop the content and condense the
timeframes of the stories. We are striving to be a little
bigger and to do things a little quicker. This has occurred
hand-in-hand with intensifying the conflicts in the lives
of our characters. We want to continue to surprise and delight
our audience, to come up with the unexpected, the challenging,
the witty and the warm.
So I would hope that the leaner, fitter and more courageous
Neighbours of 2004 is a 'healthier' show.
the 'developments' and 'improvements' you wanted to implement,
have been adopted already and which remain to be fully seen
think that most of what we set out to do at the beginning
of 2003 has been put in place in one form or another. We are
still evaluating how 'big' some stories should be and exploring
the types of stories we haven't told in the past and whether
they can be told in a Neighbours' framework. There
are a number of form and episodic structure issues that we
are working our way through, exposition needs and styles,
placement of stories, comedy/drama balance and so on, but
these will always be an area of on-going debate, scrutiny
I see development as a continuous process. I made a half-joke
once when I ripped off Phil Spector's 'Wall of Sound' saying
that we are doing a similar thing but I call it 'Wall of Story'.
Coming to your screens soon, a bigger, better, stronger, taller,
the situation with Nina's absence resulted in a shorter state
of wedlock for Lou, now that Wendy Stapleton has departed
as Trixie? Would you consider the return of Lou's biological
children in order to inject some more life into him?
sudden exit forced us to re-think many of the plans we had
in place, but it was always intended that Lou's marriage would
be a rocky affair. The path of serial love can never run smooth;
it is a basic staple. Everything is possible with any of our
characters; we don't close any doors. We are story sluts and
emotion junkies, so we will consider anything that gives us
a first-class, touching story. Then you have the practical
realities of cast availability, how it fits with other stories
etc. We have discussed Lou's kids, but there is nothing pinned
to the 'wall of story' at this point
the news that Todd MacDonald is back on set as Darren Stark,
is his return solely to interact with Libby now she's a widow
and does this story in anyway have links with the publicised
spoiler that a returning female character will cause trouble
for an established set of characters?
don't know the spoiler you are referring to… Lori and Michelle?
But whatever it is, it has no connection with Darren and Libby.
With Kym Valentine coming back onto the show after being away
on maternity leave we threw around a couple of ideas for a
romantic liaison and bringing back Darren was one of them.
Todd was contacted and pitched the story and he was happy
to come back, so we went ahead and plotted the story and it
is working a treat. Kym is doing wonderful work and she has
returned to the show with some very strong storylines and
this is one of them and Todd is just a standout. I'm sure
that fans of the show will love seeing them together again.
year I wrote an essay entitled "A Woman's Place is in
the Show?" and recently co-wrote one about the lack of
a central matriarchal figure in Neighbours. Perhaps
viewing the show's set up as an outsider for a moment, would
you agree there is a lack of a strong older female in the
show along the same vein as Helen, Madge, Cheryl, Dorothy
understand the need for the show to have a strong matriarchal
figure. It's a long-standing tradition. To a certain degree
Valda has been performing this role on a semi-regular basis,
but not in the same way as the characters you mention.
We have plans in place to redress this, but it will be a while
before it hits the screen; at this point it's only in the
planning stage. But you're right, Neighbours needs
a new matriarch. Mrs. Mangel; where are you when we need you!?
interviews we've conducted with writers and storyliners on
the show, all are aware of the greater range of stories they're
allowed to plan out and the freedom they can have when constructing
episodes since your arrival. There's also been quite a regular
rotation in the story lining team this year with Piet Collins
and Elizabeth Packett returning to the show after a few years'
absence. What alterations have occurred in the story and writing
staff/freelancers and the way their work is conducted?
think that creating the show is more like jazz than an orchestra
with a pre-written score. The team tends to improvise more
and let the stories play out. In good story telling nothing
should be off-limits; we let things play and are sometimes
surprised where they go; good and bad. You never know you've
gone too far until you've gone too far: then you just pull
it back a fraction and it should be perfect: or you hope it
The team changes are mainly driven by practical necessity.
People want to take breaks or move into different areas for
a change and if we can accommodate them, we do. It appears
that no one has the stamina to churn out thousands of stories
day-in and day-out for forty-eight weeks. What a bunch of
wimps! Seriously though, we have an unstructured system where
we turn people around when they think they are going to start
chewing the carpet and murdering their families in their sleep.
It is the least we can do to keep Melbourne safe from demented
increase in pace and depth to the stories this past year has
been largely welcomed by Neighbours fans, however,
we have sadly seen the break up of Karl and Susan, Harold
is still a widower, Max and Stephanie are not yet married
and with Joe and Trixie now off air there will be no married
couples living in the street. Will happy families be restored?
forgotten Liljana and David! Max and Stephanie may not be
married but they are almost the ideal couple and you never
know what the future may bring them!
Families are today more complex than just Mum, Dad and the
1.7 kids. There are blended families, single parent families,
and friend families. Our stories should reflect and deal with
these complexities. Marriage doesn't necessarily make a stable
relationship and a more grown-up Neighbours is reflecting
this. These are happy families, just not 'traditional' happy
families. We want the show to be more complex and layered
and therefore it will deal with a number of variations that
mirror the real world; society as it is today.
you concerned that taking Harold down the 'change of character'
route after his stroke could spark off a similar negative
reaction to the amnesia story with Susan in 2002?
have seen the results of the story and they are a delight.
Ian Smith is such a fine actor and he has had a ball with
the material. I wasn't concerned because again we based the
story on real changes that occur in some peoples' personalties
after they have had a stroke.
wasn't here for the negative amnesia reaction, but I would
be surprised if an audience doesn't enjoy the story as much
as we have.
was fantastic to see the return of the Rebecchis for Dione
and Toadie's 'big' day; the interaction of the Bishops and
Sky with the new Neighbours and seeing Lou get some
much needed material in the form of marriage. What stories
and/or characters are you most proud from the past twelve
an impossible question. You want to be proud of all the characters
and you want each new story to be the best one. I have my
own personal likes and dislikes but you try to maintain an
objective viewpoint because it is a complex and varied world
out there: one person's poison is another's caviar. You have
to be as impartial as possible and judge what is happening
on its merits and not let your own tastes rob an audience
of what might be a significant or moving experience.
do have to give a special mention to Ryan Moloney for the
work he did after Dee's tragedy. It was very moving, emotional
work. We have a truly wonderful collection of actors who have
proven they can do anything that is thrown at them; therefore
it is hard to pick and choose.
finally, out of interest, do you know why the opening titles
of 2003 with the split screen device were dropped for 2004
in favour of abstract geometry and rather intense colour filters,
especially after last year's titles were so well received?
Do you agree that the graphical presentation of Neighbours
should be consistent for a few years - e.g. the 'map' titles
of the eighties and house stills closing credits?
do not believe in change for change's sake. Change must be
a process that is introduced with purpose and for a particular
do want Neighbours to achieve a more contemporary look.
It is important that the show talks to its audience from a
modern viewpoint in both story content and visual appeal.
Neighbours has to be relevant to an audience in 2004.
You will see the beginning of this when we revamp the Scully
house in Making Mansions (it looks great) and over the next
few years we will be touching on all aspects of the way the
show presents itself visually. God only knows what we are
going to burn down in the future!
titles are part of the change that we slowly hope to filter
through to the rest of the show. There were a number of things
that didn't work for the 2003 titles and with the changing
faces of the cast we thought it would be appropriate to update
show will take on a more modern feel over the next few years.
by Rhys. Added on 13th March 2004