The 2004 season of Neighbours looks set to be one of the best yet, if early indications are anything to go by. Here are a few of the stories and characters we have to look forward to...
Connor's life will be turned upside down by the returns of both Michelle (Kate Keltie) and Lori (Michelle Ang), with the latter bringing her baby along with her. Mal (Benji McNair) will also be back, no doubt hoping to help his parents, Susan and Karl, sort out their troubled marriage.
Libby will be back in the Spring (along with a recast Ben) and she's going to be bringing an old flame along with her. Sindi (Marisa Warrington) will be back in Ramsay Street to stay, while Toadie will find himself with a young, troublesome cousin to look after in the form of Stingray (Ben Nicholas).
Other stories will see Harold recovering from the stroke he suffered in the finale, Sky facing up to the past when she comes face-to-face with someone who changed her life forever, and Lyn and Joe getting involved in home renovation show, 'Making Mansions'.
The biggest storyline of the year, however, could be the sudden disappearance of Joe Scully. Actor Shane Connor was sacked back in October, but it remains to be seen how the writers will get around losing this important character.
2003 has been great, but it looks like 2004 could be even better.
Grundy Television management have taken heed of the Neighbours' Christmas spirit by contributing money to the Salvation Army's 2003 Appeal, while The Variety Club has also benefited through Grundy's donations towards the cost of printing and posting their Christmas cards.
The festive season gets underway next week, which will see Neighbours take its annual break in both Australia and UK. Below is a full guide to the schedule changes for Neighbours this holiday season across the globe:
Network Ten: Season Finale episode broadcast on Friday, 19 December 2003. The 2004 season premieres on Monday, 19 January 2004.
UK & Ireland
BBC One, Network 2 & RTE: Final episode broadcast on Friday, 19, December, 2003 returning on Monday, 5 January, 2004.
UK Gold: Double episodes broadcast on Monday 22, Tuesday 23, Monday 29, Tuesday 30, Wednesday 31, December 2003. Single episode broadcasts return on Monday, 5 January, 2004.
TV2: Final episode broadcast on Friday, 19 December 2003, returning mid January 2004. 2002 season repeats continue throughout the festive season.
TV1: Broadcasts continue as normal.
Stöğ 2: Episodes broadcast on Monday 22, Tuesday 23, Monday 29, Tuesday, 30 December, 2003 & Friday, 2 January, 2004. Omnibus editions continue on Sunday afternoons.
During the festive season the team at Neighbours: The Perfect Blend will be taking a short break, but we will return early in the New Year with a host of new updates. Merry Christmas!
BBCi Neighbours reports that April next year will see the arrival of a new character in Ramsay Street. Toadie's cousin Scott, known as Stingray, will have an unusual debut in the show - streaking across a football oval.
The actor who plays Stingray, Ben Nicholas, explains that he suffers from ADHD and will live with his cousin for a while, while also developing a crush on Serena Bishop.
Today in the UK
sees the arrival of Nina's fading theatre star mother, Trixie
Tucker. Wendy Stapleton, known to Neighbours
viewers for singing the theme tune from 1999-2001, plays the
an interview in the current issue of Inside Soap magazine, Wendy
explains that Trixie idolises the musical abilities of her
daughter, but is basically "in a world of her own."
One neighbour who quickly spots the talents of Trixie is Lou
Carpenter, and before we know it, wedding bells could be ringing...
Jason Donovan (Scott Robinson) is to return to the London Palladium, more than ten years after he finished his role in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Audiences will see Donovan in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang from January 12th, filling in for Gary Wilmot as Caractacus Potts for 40 performances. It is his first UK stage appearance since The Rocky Horror Show.
For ticket information call 020 7494 5570
Media Guardian reports that Neighbours topped the teatime ratings in the UK last Friday. Overnight figures showed that it attracted 4.1 million viewers, for its 5.35 repeat broadcast. The figures show a marked improvement from figures seen in March of this year, which saw Neighbours pulling 3.5 million viewers for Thursday March 27th's episode.
TV Week reports that Kym Valentine (Libby Kennedy) has returned to the set of Neighbours following her maternity leave which began earlier this year. She will appear on screen in the first few months of next year's season, when an old flame of hers is also set to make a return. Speculation on who the returnee may be includes the possibility of Todd MacDonald reprising his role as Darren Stark.
After the success of last year's Hitting Home campaign, highlighting the issues surrounding domestic violence, the BBC will be launching a new season of programmes, Taking Care, looking at children who are in care.
Last year, viewers saw Boyd's (Kyal Marsh) friend Daniel (Thomas Blackburn) suffer at the hands of a violent father, and the BBC has announced that they have asked for a storyline about children in care to be featured in the show early on in the 2004 season.
Ever since Luke Devenish gave us some teasers back in the summer, viewers have been trying to work out what the content of this year's end of season cliffhanger would be.
With the episode due to air on Friday December 19th, we already know that it will contain the first Ramsay Street Christmas for many years. Other recently revealed details include Harold (Ian Smith) suffering a stroke and a crossroads in the marriage of Susan (Jackie Woodburne) and Karl (Alan Fletcher). In the weeks leading up to the finale, viewers will also see the return of Jamie Clarke and further dramas brought about by Valda Sheergold (Joan Sydney), back with the Scully family for Christmas.
Meanwhile, the TEN website has revealed that, amongst other things, 2004 holds a wedding, the departure of Taj (Jaime Robbie Reyne) and a stalker drama for one of the families.
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