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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.