Hits and Misses – Jan-Feb 2017

hitsandmisses

Hits

OMDee

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Well, well, well. It has been the biggest talking point in years, probably ever. The holy grail of Neighbours plot. The biggest unsolved mystery. The stuff fan dreams are made of and it’s finally happened – Dee has returned. Or has she? After 13 years, we fell off our seats as ‘Dee’ appeared Toadie’s doorstep and spun him a long, convoluted and still, not unbelievable story about her miraculous survival and like Toadie, we bought every word. And while many theorised that things weren’t as they seemed, we were honestly shocked to the core when it was revealed that Dee wasn’t Dee at all – but rather, being a manipulative con-woman named Andrea. Words honestly can’t do justice to this story and its impact and to do so would be to undersell it. We experienced Toadie’s joy with him, shared the scepticism of Sonya and Susan as the clues added up and felt the stomach punch when we finally realised the truth. The story is rife with incredible continuity and tender heartfelt moments that served only to become harrowing punches in the stomach when Andrea revealed her cruel plot. It brought us the return of the wonderful Sindi as Andrea’s partner in crime and took a hammer of the Rebecchi marriage and by extension, Steph and Mark. What we’ve loved most of all is the intricate plotting at play here – the type of plot that’s rarely seen in soap. Everything, every twist dovetails into the next and it’s effect on the characters and how it’s gradually drawn more in has been a masterstroke. Last but not least, Madeleine West effortlessly proves her worth as an actress convincing us not only as the troubled, fragile Dee but the ruthless Andrea. What a delight it is to see her back onscreen and we have to admit, deep deep down we’re still hoping that Andrea can serve us one more massive twist and reveal that she really is Dee after all…

Messy Ties

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Speaking of characters that have been drawn into ‘The Web of Dee’, we’ve been delighted to see the return of fan favourite recurring cop, Ellen Crabb and by extension, her ex Victoria and daughter Josie. When Victoria first popped up again the other month as part of the IVF story, we failed to realised it was actually rather brilliant foreshadowing of the bigger role she was soon to play in Steph’s life. As Steph feared she was losing Mark to the other woman in his life, and mother of his child, Sonya, Victoria was there to support Steph and ultimately make a move on her. We can’t lie, we live for Victoria’s tragic desperation for Steph as the show toes the line between two women with a connection and at the same time, two women who are escaping from messy relationships together. The fact that Mark works along with Ellen has made things even better – and of course, more complicated. It was great to see Josie return after such a long time and we’re hoping to see so much more of this brilliant little unit and dare we say, they’d make excellent additions to the core cast.

Classic Neighbours

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What can we say about the Cannings that we haven’t said before? They continue to be a highlight in every episode of Neighbours they appear in, bringing classic comedy, warmth and quirkiness to our screens. Their rivalry with the Kennedys was a fun watch with the Romeo and Juliet style romance of Ben and Xanthe at the heart of it. Ben and Xanthe have been such a funny and cute couple, the kind of made-to-be teen romance Neighbours has been lacking for a few years – but really, we just love every aspect of Xanthe from her feminism to her Japanese phrasing. Just like his mother, Gary fits into the community so well and we love his scenes with Paul and Terese and the recent sausage plot has had us howling at the innuendos. The Cannings just keep on giving and we don’t think we’ll ever get sick of them.

Pregnant Paige

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When Paige was revealed to be pregnant just before Christmas we were dreading it. Hormones and extreme mood swings – we just couldn’t imagine that was going to make Paige, who had become rather insufferable at times, anything but hateful. But surprisingly becoming pregnant has made Paige far more watchable. We’ve started to see glimpses of the Paige we liked and remembered from her introduction – the independence and the empowerment. Even though we’re not looking forward to the inevitable Jack merry-go-round, it’s been good to see Paige making decisions and being confident rather than just chasing a guy. Through this storyline we’ve also seen Paige form an unusual friendship with David which has been warm and interesting and given someone else for Paige to confide in and also support and done wonders for both characters. Here’s hoping that Paige becoming a mother will lead to new directions for the character and continue to take her down a less selfish path.

Misses

Bratty Behaviour

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We’ve really enjoyed the Tyler and Piper chemistry for ages – from their friendship to their romance – so much so we’ve been able to look past the slightly iffy age gap. However, we’ve not seen them in their best light since they got together and we haven’t enjoyed their scenes so much lately. The main problem is that we actually agree with Brad and Terese’s reservations and Typer aren’t exactly proving themselves to be mature by acting out this way. We know they’re in love and want to be together but Piper just comes across as a brat when she tries to fight for their respect instead of trying to approach the problem rationally. Moving out of home and having to cope alone is not going to end well and it’s a fairly well-trodden plot that we’re a bit tired of. We’re sure somehow the Willis family will come around to the idea, maybe with Tyler doing something to prove he’s worthy of their daughter’s heart, but for now they’re less star-crossed and more unlikeable.

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Neighbourshood: We want more!

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Like us, you’ve probably been loving Neighbours YouTube fan show, Neighbourshood, but after ten brilliant episodes it’s come to an end – hopefully not forever. Fronted by the hilarious Ben “Stingray” Nicholas, we looked forward to it every week so here are just a few reasons why it’s so great and needs to return!

Ben Nicholas – The Perfect Presenter

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Where would Neighbourshood be without its excellent host? Ben Nicholas brings every bit of the energy to Neighbourshoood that he brought to the parent show during his tenure. There was a reason why Stingray was a breakout favourite of his era: Ben has such a natural charm and charisma that he remains a pleasure to watch all these years later. He clearly has a great relationship with the longtime cast he knew from his original stint and quickly seems to have gelled with the slew of newer cast who joined in the years inbetween. He also has a real affinity and affection for Neighbours and that shines through every segment. To be honest, tongue in cheek as it is, we really do wish Neighbours could believably bring back Stingray. His natural comedic skills would be an asset to the show in any era. But with that impossible, we’d love to see him get a chance to wreak more havoc behind the scenes in a second series!

Seeing Cast Favourites in a New Light

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One of the things we’ve loved most about Neighbourshood is seeing a number of the cast getting a chance to shine in a way that we’ve never seen them before. Away from playing the characters onscreen, it’s been so much fun to see more of the people behind the actors. Different from the Q&A videos of the past, we loved how natural, relaxed and improvised Ben’s chats with the various cast members have been. Whether it be the cast getting being absolutely terrified by Ben’s pranks, their faux (and sometimes real!) horror at being named the weeks’ caketaker or best of all, the co-host aspect – it’s been so entertaining! The latter in particular never failed to make us smile as Ben’s chemistry with the cast removed any sense of awkwardness or stiltedness and frankly, we could’ve watched several hours of Ben and Rebekah Elmaloglou messing about and falling off chairs!

The In-Jokes

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The best part of having a fan show is being able to involve the existing fandom with jokes and winks that include them. Neighbourshood did this perfectly with references to ‘Terage’, the Brennans being topless, many of Susan’s adoptees ending up dead and other references just for fans. And don’t ask us why, but Mavournee Hazel playing the tuba, ala Harold Bishop, during the credits just cracked us up every time. This is a fan show made for the geeky fans like us who love all of the little Neighbours quirks and we love that Neighbours aren’t afraid to poke fun at themselves.

The Pranks

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One of the highlights of Neighbourshood without doubt has been the weekly pranking of the cast. Yes, it’s simple, yes, it’s silly and it’s downright hilarious. One would think knowing Ben is on set would raise the guards of the cast but it would seem not as Ben effortlessly week after week frightened the life out of a number of cast. We loved that it didn’t feel fake, forced or put-on for the camera for the sake of a funny segment – he clearly did manage to terrify them and the reactions provided some absolutely hilarious moments. Our favourite? It doesn’t get much better than Rebekah Elmaloglou in episode 1 literally running away from masked Ben, screaming and launching into an expletive-laden attack on Ben. Hilarious!

The #BringBackStingray Skits

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Never, in the history of all soap, have we wanted to undo a death so badly as we do Stingray, seriously who cares about believability or the fact Stingray’s ashes were scattered, we want him back. Neighbourshood took the perfect opportunity to demonstrate how possible (or plausible) this idea might be in a series of campaign pleas by Ben and granted, it’s not very likely but the sketches were brilliant. The best one? As much as we loved the first one, with Ben recreating the infamous death scene and getting a diagnosis from wonder Doc, Karl, it had to be the witness protection idea. Of course that involved the other fan favourite talking point – is Dee still alive?! In this skit Toadie had Dee in the basement and Stingray had to go into witness protection for his own safety when he learnt about the cover up! Now if only that were real…

Caketaker of the Week

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There was someone oddly satisfying about seeing the cast be presented with a nice cake and then be read a series of mean(ish) tweets about their character. Not only did we love the name of the feature, taking us back to the days of spiggin’ huftas and the glorious Timmins family, but the feature gave us a good laugh seeing the cast – sometimes hopelessly – defend their character. It was especially funny when the cast weren’t expecting their behaviour to be judged so harshly and they were left sheepishly smiling, just like Kip Gamblin who has to play useless Brad!

So there we have it – six very good reasons why Neighbourshood was so great and why it deserves more episodes! Make it happen please Neighbours!

Neighbours VS Zombies!

If you didn’t already know, last week in the run up to Halloween, the official Neighbours YouTube Channel posted an exclusive webseries – Neighbours VS Zombies. Yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like. But what makes it even better is that those zombies weren’t just generic brain eaters – no –  they were characters we know and love who lost their lives in Ramsay Street, rising from the dead. We were so impressed by the series we decided to write up our views, episode by episode.

Episode 1 (watch)

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From the first glimpse of the blood-splattered Ramsay Street sign, and the sight of Paul, Amber and Hope besieged by zombies, it was clear we were in for something special. While we were none too happy to see Mason again, the first webisode was a stellar introduction to the series. Sleek and beautifully shot, things only improved by the arrival of Hope Gottlieb (in a surprisingly natural performance from newcomer and YouTube personality, Louna Maroun) and the wonderful return of Stingray, a much missed classic character. Special mention must go to the iconic and underrated David Bishop, the brilliant shot of the graveyard and of course, the incredible version of the theme song complete with terrific vocals and lyric changes. It puts the current version of the theme tune to shame and we suggest the show take some cues and introduce a softer rock version for the main show. And maybe without reference to eating brains…

Favourite Quote:

Toadie: Deeeeeeeeeee! D is for Daddy!

Episode 2 (watch)

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This episode such a hilarious start with David catching up on everything that had happened in the ten years he’s been dead (as UK residents the Tony Abbot joke went over our heads but we’re reassured by Aussies that it was very funny). Both David and Stingray thought they must be being pranked by other Timmins family members and we loved all the references to the past. The jokes were so meta – about some things never changing like Toadie living next door – that we could have watched over and over to enjoy the references. Bailey offering his nerdy views were a nice touch too and we loved Stingray meeting up with his cousin Toadie and seeing Sonya for the first time.

Favourite Quote:

Toadie: Maybe the same thing that happened to Harold might’ve…

David: What? Losing my memory and living in Tasmania?

Episode 3 (watch)

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DREWWWW! That was our major thought of episode three as we saw the zombie return of Libby’s dead husband. Episode three had a fantastic mix of laugh-out-loud humour and touching drama as Toadie thought about Dee and Drew coped with knowing he’d missed out on so much. We never thought we’d be moved so much in a zombie web series! The David and Stingray dynamic was fantastic and made us miss the desperately. Robbo’s return was perfectly tense and scary and it saw the death of Mason – win win. We loved all the in-jokes again, like Karl’s superpower medical abilities, Stingray being cremated and it was nice to see cousins Georgia and Stingray meet for the first time onscreen.  And what a cliffhanger – Susan!

Favourite Quote:

Susan: Four people from the one street – what are the odds!

Episode 4 (watch)

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Following on from the shocking cliffhanger of part three, part four really ramped up the drama and created the scariest and most emotional instalment yet. When this series was announced, I doubt many of us expected to be moved as Karl held his dying wife (a terrifying though), or to see Toadie yell at the sea for Dee’s return supported by his loving wife. It was great to see the old Paul and David rivalry fired up too and Stingray continued to make us laugh. For us the most powerful moment was noble Drew sacrificing himself and recording a video for his beloved Libby and Ben. ‘Old Mountain Thyme’ was a great treat for the long term viewer and had us weeping! And finally, the return of Dee, after so many years, was a horrific and frightening moment that turned the expectations of fans on their heads in the most grim way possible!

Favourite Quote:

Stingray: I need to eat.

Karl: The canteen’s still open.

Stingray: Aw, sweet!

Episode 5 (watch)

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Part 5 was a fitting conclusion to the series with enough to get our teeth stuck into (pardon the pun) but leaving the conclusion to our imagination. We really liked Hope and her mention of her dad Todd Landers although like her we wished we’d seen him too! It was a great touch that Robbo got hit by a car again and we loved Kyle’s little cameo (and zombie Kate Ramsay creeping up on him!). Having Paul behind the whole zombie rise was perfect and really, who else could it have been? It was a nice touch to have him do it for his own selfish, grieving reasons – wanting to bring back Kate and Cameron and Priya. We loved that the ending was left open (more please!) and we hope David can have a lovely family reunion with zombie Lil and Serena.

Favourite Quote:

Susan: Why am I not surprised? Paul Robinson responsible for the end of mankind. Would have made a good headline.

We adored the webisodes, as you can tell and the creative team behind it did an incredible job. The acting was excellent, the script witty and clever and it made us miss all our long dead favourites so desperately. Make sure you watch! We have everything crossed in the hopes of another series.