> When Good Neighbours... Repeat Themselves by
After nearly 24 years, it’s understandable that some Neighbours storylines show certain similarities to those of yesterday. But there are some plots that bear more than a passing resemblance; in fact if it was a Spot the Difference competition, we’d struggle. Join Perfect Blend as we take a look at those stories.
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Ah, poor old Ned Parker. Never blessed with the best of storylines (becoming Paul Robinson’s slave was a particularly low point), the country boy beefcake’s first big plot was a sign of the dreariness to come. Arriving with an obligatory dark secret, Ned was suspected of being gay by Toadie Rebecchi, but Elle Robinson discovered what he was really hiding was illiteracy. An important issue, you might argue, and a commendable one for Neighbours to tackle – except they’d done it all just three years before with Connor O’Neill. Ned’s lack of reading skills were the result of intervention by the BBC, who were running a literacy awareness season at the time and wanted Neighbours to lend a hand. Keen to keep Auntie on side, Grundy simply dusted off some old scripts and crossed out the names ‘Connor’ and ‘Michelle’ and replaced them with ‘Ned’ and ‘Elle’; at least that’s what it felt like, with both couples finding love amongst the remedial reading textbooks. While this hasty recycling job may have saved time and paper, it did little to endear Ned to fans, and was never mentioned again after the Beeb’s RaW season came to an end.
Give us a sign!
For years a feud (albeit largely good-natured) had raged between the Ramsays and the Robinsons families over the name of the street both families had lived in for generations. Max Ramsay was fiercely proud that ‘his street’ had been named after his grandfather Jack, but the Robinsons were convinced ‘Black’ Jack had cheated in the card game that won him the honour. The 1987 wedding of Scott Robinson and Charlene Mitchell, Madge Ramsay’s daughter, seemed to have finally put it to rest, but the following year Jim Robinson’s nephew and niece, Todd and Katie Landers, resurrected hostilities by replacing the Ramsay Street sign with one reading Robinson Street. To resolve the matter once and for all, Dan Ramsay proposed a re-run of the fateful card game and, despite his attempts at cheating, Dan’s grandson Henry actually won fair and square. However, nine years on the issue would rear its head again in almost identical fashion, with Jim’s granddaughter Hannah and her friend Claire Girard making a Robinson Street sign of their own, infuriating Madge. Luckily, Robinson matriarch Helen Daniels was far too sensible to get involved in rigged card games, and reunited the feuding families with a screening of Scott and Charlene’s wedding video. Unfortunately the truce was marred by tragedy, with Helen passing away in her sleep moments later.
A woman whose help was always a hindrance, Mrs Mangel’s meddling caught up with her in 1987 when she did a spot of decorating for Daphne Clarke. Insistent that the heavily pregnant Daph shouldn’t climb a ladder, Nell later took a tumble herself, and a bump on the head sent her two years back in time. Suffering from retrograde amnesia, Mrs Mangel had no memory of moving to Ramsay Street; not to mention husband Len’s defection. Her granddaughter Jane didn’t have the heart to correct her assumption that Len had died, but when Nell threatened to sue the Clarkes, Daphne took sweet revenge in revealing the truth. Fast forward 15 years, and Susan Kennedy’s carelessness with a pint of semi-skimmed led to the same condition. However, poor old Suse lost an incredible 30 years, and was left with no memory of her husband or children. While Mrs Mangel was back in modern times within a few weeks, Susan spent months trying to re-learn her life, her marriage to Karl almost collapsing in the process. Eventually though, the two fell in love all over again, leading to a touching renewal of their wedding vows. (Made slightly less touching by the fact that Karl ditched Susan less than a year later, saying ‘I just don’t love you anymore’, but there you go.)
A spot of chest trouble
Picture this scenario – a single man gets a surprise visit from his ex, with their son in tow. Ex decides she’s had enough of being a single parent, tells dad it’s his turn and walks out, leaving the kid behind. Single man is suddenly a single dad, leading to all kinds of complications, but after a while, father and son bond. Are we talking about Joe and Toby Mangel, or Ned Parker and Mickey Gannon? Frankly it could be either, given the virtually identical nature of the storylines. But that’s not where the similarities stop. Back in 1988, Toby, having had a row with his dad, decided to play hide and seek, and thought an old chest in the Mangel garage would be the perfect hiding place. Unfortunately when Toby tried to get out, he realised the chest had locked when he pulled the lid down. Luckily Joe discovered Toby just in time, and the incident brought the two together at last. Nearly 20 years later, Toby’s doppelganger Mickey (who clearly hadn’t been watching the UK Gold re-runs, unlike the scriptwriters) decided on the same hiding place at the Erinsborough fair. Panic set in throughout Ramsay Street as the search for Mickey began, but for long-term viewers, the only foreboding feeling was one of déjà-vu…
Bonding in the bush
Some soap romances are beautifully crafted slow burners, full of intricately plotted twists that keep the viewer hooked until the happy ending. Others are cobbled together late on a Friday afternoon while the script team waits for the pub to open. For the latter type of love story, a plot device that brings characters together quickly is essential, and for Neighbours, that old chestnut ‘lost in the bush’ is always a reliable choice. Look at Shane Ramsay and Jane Harris who, despite the comedy potential of their rhyming forenames, had barely had a scene together until an impromptu trip to the outback in 1986. A couple of wrong turns on the way home later, Shane ‘n’ Jane were fighting their feelings, and Jane’s boyfriend Mike was fighting Shane in the boxing ring. Unfortunately Shane’s mate Paul Robinson wasn’t paying attention; how else can we explain his decision to head into the bush with sister-in-law Caroline Alessi sans map in 1992? Unlike Shane ‘n’ Jane, Paul and Caroline had always had a close relationship, but after their night in the open, things got too close for comfort. A few weeks later, a sleepy Paul mistook Caroline for her identical twin (and his wife) Christina, and the two shared a kiss, with Caroline in no rush to correct Paul’s error. Some men would learn from a mistake like that. Paul, on the other hand, mistakenly headed into – you’ve guessed it – the bush with his psychotic son Robert (who was posing as ‘good twin’ Cameron) 14 years later, and found himself trapped down a mineshaft facing death as a result. Not much bonding there then.
My heart belongs to daddy
Growing up without a mother, Lucy Robinson wasn’t used to having to share her dad Jim with a woman – so when he took up with Zoe Davis, a girl half his age, Lucy was not impressed. But while other kids would have screamed ‘I hate you!’ and stomped off to their room, Lucy had a far nastier trick up her sleeve. When Zoe began getting nuisance phone calls, no one suspected sweet little Lucy was behind them. But when Zoe blew the whistle – literally – on her heavy breather and Lucy ended up with a burst eardrum, the shocking truth came out. 20 years on, it seemed it wasn’t just her name that Lucy had passed on to niece Lucinda ‘Elle’ Robinson. Back in her dad Paul’s life after several years, Elle wasn’t ready to share him with his glamorous younger girlfriend Izzy Hoyland, and went to extreme lengths to make sure she stayed her daddy’s favourite girl. Aware Izzy was trying to beat an addiction to prescription drugs, Elle stole her discarded pills and began adding them to her food. Elle almost succeeded in turning Paul against his girlfriend, but was really a deception amateur compared to Izzy, and soon walked into her trap. However, like his dad before him, Paul forgave his ‘misunderstood’ little girl – and let’s face it, compared to what her brother Robert would later get up to, Elle’s behaviour was positively angelic…
Mickey runs away
We were all very concerned the first time sweet little Mickey Gannon did a runner from his warring parents Ned and Kirsten. We were mildly concerned the second time. When it got to the seventeenth time, we began to realise how Bill Murray felt.