Neighbours 2015: Top Ten Best Bits

It’s 2016 and something exciting has happened for the first time in history: Neighbours now airs the same episode in Australia and the UK on the same day! That’s called progress, people! It’s only taken 30 years but it’s finally happened.

2015 in Neighbours was a historic year too and gave us some brilliant moments in the 30th anniversary, so as we begin a brand new year of Neighbours enjoy our Top Ten Best Bits of 2015!

10 – Sonya and Erin’s troubled past

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Now if you read this blog regularly, you’ll know we enjoy when Neighbours goes dark. Not down the Dimato route you understand, but rather when the show tackles dark topics in a surprisingly gritty, head-on way. We’re all used to the show skirting around certain issues but one of our favourite things about Jason Herbison’s tenure on the show is his willingness to go to places the show would perhaps have shied away from in recent years. One of these such plots involved the arrival of Sonya’s old friend, junkie Erin. For the first time in a long while the show directly explored Sonya’s addiction – not simply to gambling, but drug abuse. Yes, they could only say substances but who cares, we got the point. Erin was unsettlingly realistic in her depiction and the actress nailed someone desperate for their next fix. Eve Morey delivers time and time again when given dramatic, meaty material and this was no exception as we saw Sonya racked with guilt at her part in the ruination of Erin’s life. We liked Sonya and Erin being labelled “junkies” for, we believe, the first time on screen, and Erin offering sex in exchange for drugs was shocking. The ending with Erin running off, unable to get clean, and once again abandoning her daughter was an unusual downer for Neighbours but perhaps an ending such a dark story needed.

9 – Amy Williams

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She’s only been in the show since the summer but already Paul’s daughter Amy has made a really positive impression on us. Once thought of as the forgotten child of Paul Robinson, Amy has already cemented herself firmly in the street, quickly forming bonds with the Cannings, Sonya and now Steph. Her friendship with Steph has been particularly enjoyable as they seem like likely friends and she has good chemistry with Kyle too. We also saw the arrival of her ex Liam (he was hot, just saying) and this gave Zoe Cramond even more chance to show us her acting chops. She’s really impressed us with her performances and she’s livened up the Robinson clan, bringing us another independent and headstrong female character. We’re looking forward to her future on the show.

8 – The Return of Steph Scully

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It’s far to say all Neighbours fans got a real shock earlier this year when it was revealed that Carla Bonner was returning to the show as Steph, not for a guest stint or closure for her character but rather, a whole new beginning as a series regular. Many wondered whether Steph had anything more to give, and many more wondered whether the show could really redeem her after her actions in her last stint. The answer to both was a resounding yes. Carla Bonner, as ever, delivers great performances and immediately brought back a warm sense of history. Her redemption arc has been wonderfully played and if anything, Steph’s tragedies, her mental illness and her desire to not only win her children back but indeed, win her neighbours back brought a real sense of freshness to a character that first appeared an amazing 16 years ago. Steph feels more exciting, interesting and perhaps relevant now than ever and we can’t help but root for her to overcome her troubles and become a positive figure of someone living with, and coping with, a mental illness. Paul’s dark plot of revenge and the fantastically dodgy-but-interesting Belinda have been highlights of the latter months of the show and we really can’t wait to see what 2016 holds for this Neighbours icon.

7 – Nasty Nick

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Ah Nasty Nick! Who doesn’t love a good villain and Neighbours certainly had that this year with evil Dr Nick Petrides. Introduced as Terese’s ambitious brother he gave us a chance to learn a bit more about Terese’s past and how Nick had helped her succeed. It didn’t take long for Nick’s bad ways to surface, after placing a bet that he could seduce Georgia he then spent weeks sending her into a mad descent trying to prove he was the villain we knew he was. It was one of Neighbours’ darkest plots in a while as Nick tried to secure funding for his specialist centre by convincing Paul he had cancer and giving him treatment – yikes! Nick was truly evil but oh so fun to watch. He was sleazy, slimy and dastardly which made his downfall a very exciting plot.

6 – Nate Kinski

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When we left 2014 we weren’t totally sure we were that keen on Nate. On paper his PTSD army struggles were great but we weren’t completely taken by him. In 2015 this completely changed. Nate has easily become one of our firm favourites and we’ve seen new sides to him. At the start of the year it was all about Chrate – Chris and Nate were a sweet couple that we really got behind as they both dealt with their own issues. They had nicknames for each other and everything. Sadly this ended with Chris moving on, but Nate working in the Waterhole with Sheila was a genius move. These two have been comedy gold, with Nate’s eyebrows doing most of the work for him! We really like his dry and serious approach which is a good foil for Sheila’s madder ideas! We also saw him forge a bit of a bromance with Tyler which was good fun too and later in the year saw him get together with Aaron. While we don’t like it as much as we enjoyed Chrate, Nate remains one of our favourites and we hope he continues to get good comedy material in 2016!

5 – Erinsborough High Fire

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Stunts in soaps are a staple but for budget reasons when Neighbours does a stunt it has to be for good reason. This year’s Erinsborough High fire did exactly what stunts should, but often fail to, do. The fire brought so many existing stories crashing together, furthering the plot of each of them and making things even more complicated – it wasn’t a fire just for the sake of it. Brad had to make a huge choice between Lauren and Terese which lead to huge repercussions for both families, Amber went into labour with her sick baby in the burning classroom, Toadie (now paralysed) was trapped by a staircase and left by a panicked Sheila and Paige and Tyler got trapped in a lift forcing them to face up to their feelings (we won’t dwell). All the heightened tension really added something to these plots and the stunt involved many characters and was even more effective than 2014’s tornado. We wonder what’s on the cards for next year.

4 – Comedy Capers

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As ever, a key ingredient of success of Neighbours (the perfect blend if you will) is the show’s ability to mix drama with comedy and this year was no exception. Not only did the comedy highlight of last year – The Book of Secrets – rumble on with Karl’s first draft exposed to the community at large but we had a number of other highlights. Sheila treated us to some dining in the dark, Andres (The Waterhole sex god) repeated his one line of English, the inaugural Erinsborouh bake-off brought he return of the fantastic Janelle Timmins (bring her back again, thanks!), Hilary Robinson’s acerbic tongue had us cackling (who could forget her casual shade of Harold in the Lassiter’s lift?), Bossy revealed her lingerie fetish and the men of Erinsborough got some unfortunate tattoos… Not only did we got some classic comedy plots but in the Neighbours tradition, a lot of the humour comes from within the characters and their witty exchanges. Karl and Susan never fail tot make us laugh and that continued this, Nate’s comedy skills were used to great effect and really softened the character, the much-missed Naomi lifted every scene she was in and of course, Sheila provides fun to each and every scene she appears in. Her popularity among the LGBTQI society being one of our particular favourites as Sheila embraced her gay icon role. We hope 2016 brings many more laughs our way.

3 – The 30th Anniversary Celebrations

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Another year another milestone for Neighbours. This season celebrated an incredible 30 years on air and as the big anniversary approached, fans wondered how it would be celebrated. The big anniversaries in Neighbours have been very notable in the show’s history. The 20th remaining the one to beat with its mass returnees via the documentary, whilst the 25th was a limp, anaemic affair with a wedding no one cared about and an attempt made on Paul’s life. The 30th repeated the wedding no one cared about (but thankfully it didn’t go ahead) but instead celebrated Neighbours’ past in a much more warm, nostalgic way. The year was full of returnees from Lucy to Hilary to Guy to Harold to continuing appearances from Lucas and Vanessa. The most prominent and perhaps most exciting of all were the wonderful (and surprisingly touching) return from Delta Goodrem as Nina, and of course, the return of the legendary Anne Charleston as Madge. Fans were wary of the idea and indeed many feared for Harold’s life but Madge’s return was handled beautifully and it was a joy to see the iconic couple reunited. Her part in ensuring Harold’s happy ending, settling with Sky and her kids (it was brilliant to see Steph McIntosh too) was a fitting end for the character and a jewel in the crown of a fitting anniversary year.

2 – The Canning Family

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Families are at the heart of Neighbours and one family that were firing on all cylinders in 2015 was The Cannings. Headed up by matriarch Sheila you can’t go wrong. Sheila is exactly the type of character Neighbours does best. She’s hilarious and full of life, not afraid to flirt or fight and we couldn’t love her more if we tried. We’ve seen the emotional side to the family at the arrival of Kyle’s dodgy dad Gary and all members of the family slip between comedy and drama effortlessly. Kyle always has faithful Bossy by his side but this year saw the breakdown of his marriage alongside finding love again with newcomer Amy. How could we discuss the Cannings without one of its biggest stars – Naomi. Everything she touched was gold once again this year. Perhaps the Paul romance wasn’t as dynamic as it might have been but we liked her lighting the touch paper of his downfall. Obviously we were absolutely devastated to see her go, we’re just glad she got a happy ending and a nice goodbye seen with her unlikely best friend Imogen. We’ve got a feeling 2016 will bring another Canning departure but here’s hoping for more arriving!

1 – Lauren, Brad and Terese

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It was a story that was over two years in the making and this year it finally exploded in epic fashion – yes, the Brad, Lauren and Terese triangle reached its dramatic climax this year. We’ve loved this slow-burn story, almost reminiscent of the fantastically plotted, slow unravelling of Izzy Hoyland’s baby lie back in the 00s. However, as with any slow-burn, the pay off has to be worth the gradual build-up and it certainly was. Once the kiss between Brad and Lauren was revealed in 2014, it seemed like Lauren and Brad seemed capable of remaining friends and parents to Paige without things becoming complicated but the tragic death of Matt early this year changed things forever. Terese’s growing insecurity and turn to alcoholism was brilliantly handled acting as a co-catalyst (and in our – and Brads eyes – justification) for Brad and Lauren to finally take things to the next level. The fall out, and in a Neighbours first, a three-hander episode, was excellent and the show was stolen by Rebekah Elmaloglou’s powerful turn as Terese. The story has cemented her role as a modern icon of the show and the sad, painful and real break-up between Brad and Terese in the final weeks of the season were very touching indeed. We can’t wait to see what the newly single Terese does next and we hope that Brad and Lauren learn the grass isn’t always greener and face their own relationship dysfunctions as they inevitably reunite.
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Hits and Misses – 23-27 March 2015

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Hits

Bake Off

er23_0003_Layer-2The inaugural Erinsborough Festival bake-off provided some great scenes this week. Not only did it see the return of the wonderful Nell Feeney as Janelle Timmins and a guest appearance from what we gather to be Australian equivalent of Greg Wallace but it was also a chance to get some classic Neighbours comedy. Karl, complete with cravat, made us smile as he was crowned the winner but it was the trio of women: Susan, Janelle and Sheila that were the real highlights. As friendships turned bitter, the womens’ attempts at oneupmanship and casually criticising each other’s efforts had us laughing. This was made even better when their anger led to inevitable cake carnage all over the floor. It was the type of comedy only Neighbours can do and continues the show’s great current run of combining drama and comedy so flawlessly.

Janelle Timmins Returns!

er23_0001_Layer-4We can’t begin to tell you how much we enjoyed seeing our old favourite Janelle Timmins return (albeit too briefly) to Erinsborough this week after her trip to see Angie and Big Kev. As with the other returns, Janelle brought with her a whole flood of nostalgia as we were reminded of the fabulous times with the Timmins family. Nods to the past (Janelle calling Susan “Susie Q” and references to the saucy Bogan’s Tipped Hair novel for starters) always go down well with us. We loved her accidentally insulting Sheila – fantastic! – and winding up Karl with a little flirting. We were happy to learn too that she’s still with Steiger and just so pleased to see her back.

Thumbs Up for Tyler

er23_0002_Layer-3He hasn’t been in the show long but we’ve already really warmed to Tyler Brennan and his “Rachel” haircut/ponytail! We already enjoy his budding friendship with Nate and the sparks he has with both Imogen and Paige. The Dimato stuff is a bit of a dull plot but Tyler’s slightly shady involvements gives the character a different edge as he tries to grow closer to his cop brother, Mark. We’re not sure who we’d like to see Tyler hook up with but we couldn’t deny enjoying him turn on the charm with Paige during the bake off even if their “pash and dash” did end in an awkward way – they’ve definitely got chemistry.

Misses

Columbo

er23_0004_Layer-1Another week, another investigation for Erinsborough’s answer to Columbo, Mark Brennan. It was bad enough when he was just a civilian contriving things to investigate or reasons to contact his old mates on the force. Our fears that his return to the police force was a way of legitimising and giving us more reason to have these kind of plots have proven to be true. This week Brennan set his sights on Matt’s dodgy deals with resident villain and burger aficionado, Dimato. It wasn’t long before Brennan had rumbled Matt and was issuing warnings left, right and centre. It was nice to see him sympathetic of Matt’s situation and not dobbing him in but regardless it’s too much of the same in terms of Brennan’s plots when his romance with Naomi is far more interesting and beneficial for the character.

Danb-UGH

er23_0000_Layer-5This week we were glad to receive the news that Amber was off to photograph turtles meaning the build to the wedding should be free of the sickly sweet, twee scenes the pair shared this week. Putting aside all our already existing opinions on Amber and Daniel, as individuals and a couple, how can anyone possibly enjoy their scenes? Their mini-‘wedding’ scene was cheesy and forced – worse still, it’s just not believable. Whether it’s intentional or not, the pair act like two 12 year olds. When even Madge, the ghostly figment of a sad, bereaved man’s imagination is against you, it’s maybe time to reconsider your life choices. Especially when the better choice – sweet, noble Imogen – is right in front of Daniel’s eyes.

Hits and Misses – 16-20 March 2015

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Harold and Madge

er22_0002_Layer-3It was a welcome and surprising return this week for one of Neighbours’ most iconic couples – the legendary Harold and Madge Bishop. Only Neighbours could make Madge’s imaginary return from the dead work so well – it’s warm and funny and touching to have her back, but it also breaks our hearts a bit to realise just how much we miss these two on screen. Harold and Madge being together again is like watching your beloved grandparents and it’s great to see that their dynamic is still as enjoyable as it ever was. Madge and Harold have always balanced each other perfectly and it’s been great to see her catch up on what she’s missed, to see her nag Harold a little (like old times) and pass the judgement on Daniel and Amber that we’ve all been thinking. The only problem is, now they’re back – we don’t want them to go!

Nostalgia Fest

er22_0003_Layer-2In the show’s UK anniversary week celebrations, it seemed fitting that we were treated to some nostalgic references to the past and boy, were we treated. Not only did we have the fantastic return of Madge as stated above, but this week saw the return of Lucas and Vanessa, last seen in 2013, with their ever-growing brood of baby Fitzgeralds. It was quite refreshing to see the return of two characters who got their happy ending and not have it be ruined by Erinsborough’s laws of unhappy relationships! Not only did we get these physical returns but we also got a multitude of past references via the Erinsborough festival. The pause button was made for the boards in the community centre and quiz brought mentions of iconic characters and disasters past, like Helen Daniels and the 2004 Lassiter’s fire. Our personal favourite was the reveal that Mrs Mangel was alive and well giving Naomi an earache down the phone. What a great start to the show’s anniversary celebrations.

Neighbours 30th: The Stars Reunite

er22_0001_Layer-4It wasn’t only the stars of Neighbours that reunited for the 30th Anniversary this week as viewers old and new, throughout the UK, came back to join Ramsay Street in a big, cosy documentary which saw Neighbours trending all over Twitter. Not only did the show interview some of the biggest names ever to appear in Neighbours (hi Kylie, hi Guy!) but it also took us through clips of some classic moments in the show’s history. We could have watched a four hour show celebrating Neighbours and while it left out a few of our favourites (no Timmins family clips?!) it was great to see some of our favourite moments like the plane crash and Dee’s death. UK viewers were given an even bigger treat as Channel 5 aired Scott and Charlene’s wedding episode in full, followed by the very trippy first ever episode of Neighbours. We loved it so much that we only wish we could watch all thirty years’ worth on TV again.

Misses

Relationship tensions

er22_0004_Layer-1It’s not secret that this blog are fans of ‘Chrate’ and have just recently praised them for the sweet, comedic plots we’ve had lately. This week looked set to change that dynamic as Lucy Robinson revealed her pregnancy. While we were excited (the Chris and Lucy baby story has been a favourite of ours) it was clear that Nate didn’t share Chris’s, Lucy’s or our enthusiasm for the news. This is great continuity as it was very clear when the idea was discussed that Nate was never into the idea as much as Chris was and only agreed to keep the peace. As the idea becomes reality, we fear it’ll be too much for Nate. While we hope the pair talk it out soon, we fear trouble on the horizon and it will be a shame to see a promising relationship potentially brought to an end.

Strange Sock Puppet Show

er22_0000_Layer-5“It might be a bit out there” Paige said about this week’s insane moment in Neighbours. Her grand idea to sort out Bailey’s problems (exhaustion from pushing himself too much, the weight of the family’s money problems, tempted by alcohol again) was by staging a sock puppet show. Baffling. By the time Bailey was home from the hospital, Lauren, Amber and Paige had knocked up a puppet theatre and stitched faces on some old socks and then staged a bizarre performance using characters from the family. Lauren and Amber’s left us cringing away from the screen and we’re surprised Bailey himself didn’t bolt. But even more bizarre – it seems like it worked. A new Neighbours record for curing someone’s problems! Maybe someone should tell Matt.

Scene of the Week – 16-20 March 2015

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There was only ever once choice for scene of the week and we’re sure you’ll all agree – it was the festival crash. As everyone took to the stage did the celebrations, Harold lost concentration in his campervan and calamity ensued. What was great about this scene was the fact it was played for laughs and not cheap drama. We knew no one would die – the show would never make Harold responsible for someone’s death – so instead of having a fake out, the show ran with its comic instinct. Everything about the scene worked, right down to the classical Grieg score, the slow mo dive, the eruption of water and of course, those final few moments as dazed Harold opened his eyes to find his late wife beside him. “Oh Harold, what have you done?” Iconic.