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Reference > Neighbours Spin-offs by Rhys

In 1997, the BBC were obviously so curious that Neighbours, a "cheap daytime filler" programme which was destined for, at best, a run of a few years, had celebrated its 10th birthday, that they commissioned a series exploring fans' fascination with the series. This spawned a number of other Neighbours related programming events which spanned the late 1990s and into the 21st Century.

Good Neighbours Summer 1997
Good Neighbours was a BBC production which aimed to explore why Neighbours had become the phenomenon it had. The series was made up of 29 individual 10-minute programmes to be broadcast every weekday in the late morning slot prior to the One O'Clock News on BBC One. The series was recorded in June and July 1997 and each programme went to air around three weeks after recording. Each edition chronicled either one or two fans at a time (some editions featured husband and wife; two best friends etc.) and each followed a very similar broadcast pattern. Good Neighbours was broadcast in 4:3 ratio and opened with a brief introduction by the participant of a couple of seconds' length, followed by a short vocal rendition of the Neighbours theme tune - the on-screen variant used 1990-1992. Accompanying was a specially edited opening sequence made using the opening and closing scenes of Neighbours' 1997 opening titles, adding animated sidebars showing a montage of Neighbours characters and participants in the series. Each edition ended with the scene which was most closely related to the particular fan; for example, a favourite weddings, most memorable departure. Good Neighbours' closing credits were designed with the use of two location shots used in the 1986-1992 closing credits of Neighbours, with overlaid production credits for each Good Neighbours programme. The theme music for the series was the final bar of the 1995-1998 opening theme.

The content of the programmes were largely dictated by the individual participants: An example would be if the featured fan had family who lived in Melbourne; that person's "link" with the show was his or her reason for being a fan. Often, the participants were fans of the show because they aspired to be, or had similarities with some of the characters - an elderly lady identified herself with Helen Daniels; a newspaper journalist compared himself to Libby Kennedy. More often than not, however, most of the people featured were simply Neighbours fans expressing their devotion to the programme. Favourite characters, memories and stories were related through the use of numerous archived clips and onscreen captions. A treat for fans and participants was the discovery that the "fan" in Good Neighbours No. 29 was none other than actor Mark Little, who portrayed Joe Mangel, and showed his good sportsmanship in discussing his time on the show and his favourite memories.

Verdict: The BBC must be applauded for this series - really examining what attracts fans of all ages and backgrounds to the show. Fantastic use of archived footage made the series worth watching just to relieve golden moments. One got the impression that some fans were more devoted than others, but all in all, a nice, nostalgic look at Neighbours through the eyes of those who know and love it.

A Morning with Neighbours October 1999
Perhaps inspired by the success of similar EastEnders and Ground Force "Mornings", the BBC decided that a publicity visit to the UK by actors Dan Paris (Drew Kirk) and Kym Valentine (Libby Kennedy) should be put to good use, and so dragged along Anne Charleston (Madge Bishop) and Mark Little to join them at Southampton General Hospital. The project was titled A Morning with Neighbours though, rather confusingly, both A Morning with Neighbours and Neighbours Morning were used in various forms of promotion, even though the former is what was used on onscreen graphics and in the press. The Neighbours variant followed the same pattern as other Mornings with... - in that very little air time was devoted to the particular show itself, instead forming "filler" segments between scheduled daytime programmes such as Kilroy and House Invaders and the like. To be fair, Kilroy's discussion was based around irritating neighbours! The reasoning behind locating the morning at Southampton Hospital was to enable presenter Gaby Roslin to host both the Neighbours features and her regular City Hospital programme in the mornings. The event began at 9.00am following the Breakfast News, and had the following menu on screen:

10:50: Old Neighbours A review of the careers of the show's biggest stars on their careers after soap
11:40: Phone a Friend A live phone in with the actors present
11:55: The Votes Are In An opportunity to view the winning Neighbours clip from a week of tele-voting

Verdict: A decent attempt at creating the same Morning with... atmosphere, but the lack of many cast members and constant interruptions of regular daytime programmes, the event was neither here nor there.

Neighbours Revealed: Series One Autumn 2000
The confirmation that the BBC had sent their daytime presenter, Anna Walker, to Melbourne in early 2000 to film a special series going behind the scenes of Neighbours, created much anticipation among fans. It had largely been thought that the budget to produce such a series would be too costly, but, amazingly it was filmed and edited together in time for broadcast during the October half-term holidays for most of the UK. The series consisted of five half-hour episodes which were produced by the BBC in association with Lion Television and were broadcast from Monday to Friday. They were recorded in the 4:3 ratio - surprising, considering Neighbours' move that year into widescreen filming, and also that most BBC productions were making the switch as early as 1999. The series featured interviews with cast and crew, and delved further into the process of producing Neighbours than any other documentary had ever done before. Many features, such as the cast and crew interviews, spanned several editions, and excerpts were inserted where they were most closely related to a specific section. Key features in the five programmes were as follows:

• Interviews with producer, Peter Dodds and his executive, Stanley Walsh
• Mocked casting session and feature with assistant producer Jan Russ
• A luncheon with Anne Charleston and make-up designer, William McIlvaney
• Horse riding with Carla Bonner (Stephanie Scully)
• A tribute to Anne Haddy (Helen Daniels)
• Features on the use of animal actors in the show
• A tour of Melbourne's Botanical Garden with Jackie Woodburne (Susan Kennedy) and Alan Fletcher (Karl Kennedy)
• An interview and feature on the storylining process with story editor Ben Michael
• Louise Le Nay and Christopher Gist discuss script editing
• Production designer Carole Harvey hosts a tour of the Lassiter's set
• Krista Vendy (Teresa Bell) takes Anna Walker shopping to Chapel Street
• A night out with the "Boys of No. 30" and Anna Walker
• Interviews on-set with various cast and crew members
• Ian Smith (Harold Bishop) takes Anna Walker to the football, to watch Williamstown
• A Steadycam breaks down on location and holds up filming
• A tour of the wardrobe department

Notes: This series was originally due to go behind the scenes of Stephanie's spectacular bike crash, but this proved too complicated with the demands of recording during the night.

Verdict: A wonderful insight into the production of the show, interviewing both cast and crew which makes it a far more well-rounded series. Anna Walker was evidently a fan and had bags of energy when interviewing and recording features with the cast. The mix of factual features and the actors' leisure time worked well and provided a wonderfully voyeuristic view into the world of Neighbours.

Neighbours Revealed: Series Two October 22nd-26th 2001
Neighbours fans couldn't believe their luck when a second, and perhaps better, series was broadcast in 2001. Erica North of London radio, replaced Anna Walker as presenter in Melbourne and took viewers on much the same type of journey that series one had shown. This series was also recorded in 4:3 (more than likely to account for the majority of 4:3 archive clips destined for use in the series) and featured a slightly shorter opening sequence than series one. Again, the main features of each particular edition were mixed in with several smaller interviews and narrated montages. Some of the main features in the second series were:

Interviews with Peter Dodds and Stanley Walsh together
Interviews with assorted crew, including Jan Russ, Debra Brockwell (runner), Rosemary Cullinan (chaperone) and others
A feature on trainee director Ian Dickson's first day on location
Tom Oliver (Lou Carpenter) leads a tour of a forest containing art sculptures near the Dandenong Range
Erica North interviews Jackie Woodburne and Janet Andrewartha (Lyn Scully) at a health spa
Ian Smith and Ryan Moloney (Toadfish Rebecchi) play golf
Carla Bonner captains a paddle steamer on the Yarra River
Dan Paris goes dirt-biking
Kym Valentine and Vanda Tolli - mother of Jiordan Anna Tolli (Louise Carpenter) - sing at their local pub
A feature on the youngest stars of the show and how child actors are looked after on set
A look at how the crew celebrate the end of a filming week
Erica North takes a walk with Shane Connor (Joe Scully) and his children
Janet Andrewartha hosts a tour of Ramsay Street
Carole Harvey directs a set-building operation at Lassiter's lake

Verdict: The change of presenter did nothing to weaken the strengths of the Neighbours Revealed format, and this second run provided, perhaps, more insight into how the show makes it from the story room onto the television screen.

Happy Birthday Neighbours October 26 2001
As if the second series of Neighbours Revealed wasn't enough for fans, Friday 26th October saw a special Morning with Neighbours - renamed because of the show's 15th anniversary, on the Saturday. Dale Winton replaced Gaby Roslin as presenter of the morning (at least she was a self-confessed fan - Winton had trouble keeping up with even basic facts). The morning was broadcast from a wet and dull Oxford University - with surrounding students providing, among other things, a rendition of the Neighbours theme tune. The stars present were Ian Smith and Holly Valance [spelt "Vallance" in onscreen graphics] (Felicity Scully) and Sarah Vandenbergh (Lauren Carpenter) who looked quite out of place alongside the current actors present. The event line-up was just as bare as the previous morning in 1999, and much of the content was the same, albeit re-edited and narrated. The onscreen menu read the following:

9:30: Meet the Neighbours
10:35: Neighbours Go Pop
10:40: Uni Challenge
11:55: Classic Clips

The University Challenge feature saw "Bishop's Boffins" competing against "Flick's Freshers" in a quiz based on Neighbours. Perhaps the highlight of the event was a specially-recorded skit of Ian Smith, as Harold, supposedly studying at Oxford in the period Harold was presumed drowned. Even though it was cringeworthy and totally lacking in any basic continuity, it must be applauded for actually daring to suggest Harold went out drinking with students to the local pub!

Notes: The presentation of this event consisted of several onscreen graphics - but no consistency was evident, with the use of several typefaces for the menus and presentation graphics. The opening titles sequence was the same as used for the 1999 event, albeit rendered for broadcast in 16:9 widescreen - hence a slightly "stretched" appearance to the sequence. Another error which made it to the broadcast was the answer to the competition question: "What was the name of Lauren's horse?" The correct answer, Chukka Mental, was incorrectly listed as "Chukkie Mental".

Verdict: Laughable. Dale Winton's obvious lack of knowledge on the show was painfully evident to all - and his presence did little to inject energy into the three actors. Most of the features were just recycled from the original Morning with... and as such offered little new to even the most casual fan.