To a die-hard fan of Neighbours, the words “reboot” may be enough to send them running for the hills. At the very least, as far as Eden Hills is concerned.
The long-running show has gone through a number of changes over the course of its (almost) 37 years on the air, but the effects have been mixed, as with any major soap shake-up.
The riveting Karl/Izzy/Susan saga, which remains one of Ramsay Street’s most successful stories, was created in 2003, when a quest for more distinctive characters and bolder narrative led to the creation of the successful Karl/Izzy/Susan serial.
In 2013, the show upgraded its production qualities by investing in pricey new backyard sets for three of Ramsay Street’s homes, ten years later.
However, not every “exciting new age” will be well-received. With an overemphasis on the unpopular Parker family, a much-hyped revival of the show in 2007 failed to attract new viewers and upset some long-time fans. Neighbours executives eventually admitted that the renovation hype had caused more harm than good due to a “over promise.”
It’s perhaps no surprise, therefore, that the Neighbours team appears to have adopted a more clandestine approach to certain major modifications to the show presently airing on television.
In September and October of last year, the crew took a longer-than-usual production break, using the extra time to make minor improvements to the show’s sets and anticipate a significant increase in the number of on-location shooting.
The modifications were first shown on air last week, when we saw scenes from after the hiatus that Neighbours had filmed.
In between mourning for Britney, eagle-eyed fans will have noted that David and Aaron found time to build themselves a lovely new kitchen, and we’re now seeing rare peeks of the “fourth wall” in sets like Harold’s Café and Terese’s residence.
Aside from the slight set alterations, the sudden increase in location shoots is far more visible. Because there have been so many stringent lockdowns in Melbourne in recent years, fans have grown accustomed to the majority of Neighbours action taking place on Ramsay Street or the show’s traditional backlot locales.
However, since last week, we’ve seen some of our favourite characters venture further afield. Britney’s burial had a large location shoot (not bad for a short-lived guest character), Kyle and Roxy’s honeymoon has been shown on screen, and Zara and Amy appear to have found a place other than Lassiters to take a refreshing walk.
Everyone also seems to enjoy frequent visits to the vineyard, which is why it was included in the opening titles.
Aside from the jokes, the show’s production qualities are fantastic, and it’s always a treat for soap viewers to see apparent on-screen advancements in an industry beset by budget cuts and cost-cutting.
The most recent reorganisation of Neighbours happened at a good moment. The year 2021 wasn’t horrible for the show, but because to COVID filming restrictions, the most of the year was dominated by boring plots, and the show lacked a huge, dramatic storey arc to propel it forward.
We started to feel gripped by the Erinsborough drama again in the latter months of the year, when the wonderful David/Aaron/Nicolette baby narrative took centre stage with standout performances, and we noticed a considerable spike in online chatter.
Last year, Australian media reported that British broadcaster Channel 5 thought Neighbours had become “stale,” though cast member April Rose Pengilly (Chloe Brennan) quickly dismissed the claims as “baloney.”
Channel 5 remained silent about the rumours, but who knows? Perhaps the gossip in the tabloids inspired the show to fight back and demonstrate what it’s made of.
The early indications for Neighbours in 2022 are really positive. The wedding of Kyle and Roxy was a memorable episode and a pleasure for viewers, with the full cast and plenty of entertaining sequences.
With new clues being revealed every day, Freya Wozniak’s presence has prompted a lot of speculation about her intentions – just the kind of interesting mystery that soap viewers love to follow.
Following the storm, a new “huge” event storyline is set to debut in a few months, which will undoubtedly raise the stakes even more.
In recent weeks, we’ve also seen some classic Neighbours humour, with Vera Punt wreaking havoc at the vineyard and Mackenzie, Karl, and Susan all complaining about Mick’s bizarre wedding plans for Kyle and Roxy. More of this would be fantastic, as funny situations, as well as drama, were a big part of the show’s appeal during its golden era.
Every soap must work hard to gain a spot on the schedules in 2022, so kudos to Neighbours for switching things up and continuing to push the boundaries as it enters its 37th season.