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The Sydney Morning Herald

THE RAMSAY STREET MOB TAKES BRITAIN BY STORM

Author: JASON DASEY
Date: 11/01/1988
Words: 666
          Publication: Sydney Morning Herald
Section: The Guide
Page: 2
CHANNEL 10's Neighbours, the soap opera Australians love to hate but watch anyway, began its history-making run on British television last week.

The Reg Grundy-produced program moved to a new weekday evening slot of 5.35pm on BBC Channel 1 on January 4 - making it the Beeb's first five-nights-a-week serial. It has already achieved the honour of being the first Australian soap to appear on Britain's national, government-backed network.

The prime-time switch follows the overwhelming and unexpected popularity of Neighbours on daytime television since October, 1986. The program has doubled its audience in 14 months and was attracting at least five million viewers daily from its 1.30pm slot - while another two million watched the repeat at 9.05am.

"England has gone Neighbours- mad", declared Carol Millward of the BBC press office. "It's claimed that children all around the country were arriving late for school just so they could watch the morning repeat." In its wisdom the BBC has taken away that temptation in the New Year; while the"origination" will stay at its lunchtime spot, the repeat changes from 9.05am to 5.35pm.

Christmas had a new meaning in the United Kingdom this year. It meant roast turkey, plum pudding, mistletoe - and the television wedding of the year on Neighbours.

On December 23, Des and Daphne tied the knot ... 18 months after they did it in Australia. The wedding was such big news here that talk-show host Terry Wogan earnestly discussed the episode with guest Rolf Harris on the Wogan show the next evening.

Even comedian Kenny Everett has been taken by Neighbours. Each week on his comedy program he includes a spoof of the soap - Cobbers - where body-builders in swimming costumes sit around, drinking Fosters. "Where's your cozzie, mate?" one of them asks a business-suited Englishman (Everett), who comes to the door asking for directions.

Because of the delay, Kylie Minogue, who plays Charlene, is relatively new to the series here and has yet to generate the popularity she has in Australia. However, it may be foolish to suggest that Locomotion will not be a hit single in Britain as well, if it were released in 12 or 18 months.

"English people have a lot of relatives in Australia and they look on Neighbours as a way of seeing how they are living," Miss Millward said.

"The program doesn't show impossibly high living standards, as in Dallas or Dynasty. Neighbours is pretty middle class. And it's also got some bronzed and hunky men, which helps."

Australian-born Barry Brown, of the BBC's programming department, clinched the sale of Neighbours two years ago as the Beeb went about filling its once-vacant daytime slots.

"We initially bought Neighbours on trial, but it quickly took off," Brown said. "It turned out to be much more popular than Santa Barbara (an American series), which generates only about half a million viewers."

On the commercial and more liberal ITV network, Australian soaps are proven performers. Sons and Daughters, The Young Doctors, The Sullivans and Prisoner are still showing to considerable audiences, although three of those programs have long ceased production. Even a 10-year-old series of The Paul Hogan Show has a weekly, late-night slot on ITV, complete with dated jokes about Al Grassby and World Series Cricket.

"The British have quite an affection for Australian programs," Brown said. "It's more than novelty value ... they just seem so refreshing."

 
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