Four thousand half-hours ago, Neighbours began as it begins today on the eve
of a wedding. Then, it was Des and Lorraine. By episode two Lorraine had
ditched him, and by episode three Daphne, the stripper at his stag night, had
moved in and the couple were on their way to becoming Neighbours' first
Neighbours was born on March 18, 1985, on Channel 7. After 170 episodes, and
a timeslot shift which effectively killed it, it was axed by Seven and,
unexpectedly, bought by Ten. They replaced actor Darius Perkins with blond
posterboy Jason Donovan, added Anne Charleston and Kylie Minogue, and rebirthed
the series on January 20, 1986.
Times have changed since then, but the emotional engines are timeless: boy
kisses girl, girl kisses boy, girl's sister realises she's in love with sister's
boy and so on. Neighbours, much like its distant cousin Home and Away, has long
suffered under the weight of its own volume two-and-a-half hours in a week is
no mean feat. It means location shooting is difficult, hence the ``indoorsy"
feel to the sets (though thankfully someone has opened the curtains a little)
and it shrinks rehearsal time, leaving some of the scenes, particularly with the
less experienced cast members, a little wooden.
Curiously, over the years the casting has gradually homogenised; instead of
half a dozen teenagers who had quite distinct ``looks", we now have a cast of
almost a dozen, who look so much like each other the casual viewer has great
difficulty telling them apart. Thankfully, lending the show its solid base are a
handful of reliably good actors: Maggie Millar, Janet Andrewartha and Jackie
Although it opens with a big slice of tasty ham helped by Mercia Deane-Johns
rather campy Morgana Le Fay, big on hair and lumbered with funny lines such as
``I will have the crystal!" this new children's series from Crawfords quickly
degenerates into an uncomfortable clone of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Canadian actress Tamara Hope is our Buffy, a reincarnation of King Arthur's
wife Guinevere, whose magical powers are emerging. She's a high-kicking,
witch-snuffing teenager who battles all manner of evil in the schoolyard and
juggles her homework at the same time. Sounding a little familiar yet?
Her circle of pals echoes even more uncomfortably geeky Tasha (Greta
Larkins) replaces Willow, Josh (Damien Bodie) is our Xander and (as yet unseen)
moody loner Michael (Yani Gellman) stands in for Angel. Replacing Giles and the
bookshop are Dennis Coard and Briony Behets as Gwen's foster parents,
proprietors of a new-age shop.
Like all first episodes, too much time is spent setting up characters,
leaving the plot a little thin in this case, former Prisoner inmate Pepe Trevor
as Mrs Blatt, a not-too-nice type who likes to keep a wand in her top drawer,
picks on her students and licks their tears when they cry.
Light, eerie, but a little too thin.
About Us: Rats
They outnumber us to the tune of roughly 15 billion and we've been waging
war on them for centuries. They nibble and scuttle, and we do everything from
stand on chairs screaming to chasing them with brooms. This documentary, from
Germany in English, German, Italian, French and Dutch (with subtitles where
necessary) is quite revealing.
Myth: rats are filthy. Fact: rats are very clean, though that could be
qualified by saying they are common carriers of disease, usually the fun ones
such as cholera and dysentery.
From the rat's life as lab animal to the role they have played in history
most notably spreading bubonic plague in Europe the life and ecology of the rat
is revealed slowly, in icky but compelling layers.