OWhen they let you through the security door of the Neighbors studio, something magical happens. It’s not finding out that the food at Harold’s is real, even if it is. And he doesn’t realize that the Erinsborough High quad is also where they filmed Prisoner, even though that’s also true.
No, stepping into this Nunawading studio is a wormhole to a simpler time, where no one has a real job, drama is just drama, and the neighbors have become good friends.
As anyone who’s spent even five minutes believing Jesse Spencer was their soulmate knows, Neighbors has spent nearly 40 years teaching us how to feel. Ramsay Street is where we met and lost Stingray, Drew Kirk and Helen Daniels, and where Billy and Anne first held hands.
On our small screens, we’ve watched Margot Robbie flourish, Harold Bishop get swept away by the sea, and Toadie churn out a bewildering number of beautiful wives. And didn’t we all feel it when Susan finally slapped her good-for-nothing serial cheating husband on the face?
The news that Neighbors are set to stop filming this year if Network Ten cannot find another backer, after Britain’s Channel 5 announced it was scrapping the show, is devastating. As teenagers in Australia in the 90s, knowing that we were months ahead of our soaps was one of the few joys we had. I had an English pen pal and all she wanted from me was Neighbors spoilers and Caramello Koalas.
I held those Erinsborough secrets so tight. I wasn’t about to let her talk about Karl meeting his love child or Hannah Martin getting a sexy pixie cut. Neighbors were an international currency, vital for connecting us with distant friends and relatives. And I’m not ready to let go.
Working at Neighbors was my dream job. I had literally written on a piece of paper “DREAM JOB” in capitals and then underneath, “Work on Neighbours”. I’d been watching it since I was in elementary school, when Daphne woke up from a coma croaking, “I love you too, Clarkey,” before singing it. Every night I raced until dinner to be in front of the TV in time for the beloved theme music.
Through cosmic intervention, I landed my dream job, spending my days filming behind-the-scenes videos for the show and arguing with fans on Twitter. It was paradise. For two years I walked through this security entrance and into another world.
And almost every day the tour bus passed and unloaded a new batch of British tourists who had been waiting for this moment all their lives. They were more excited about it than their own wedding days. They rose from their seats, sometimes in tears, screaming at everything they saw: “This is Sheila’s garden! This is the lookout where Kate was shot! This is where Toadie’s third marriage exploded!
For me, it was like seeing him again every time. I got a new appreciation for these stories, each one getting to the heart of what it means to be human, what it’s like to live in a cul-de-sac that is surely cursed.
What has this show been but reckless and beautiful mayhem to remind us that we are alive? We’ve had evil triplets, localized tornadoes, retrograde amnesia, light plane crashes, hotel fires, identity thefts, surrogacy, affairs, bombs, explosions and lawyers . Neighbors is where we realized people could go on cruises and never come back, long before Covid realized it.
It has always been different from other Australian beach soaps. There were no gangs or outlaws, and rarely a bikini. When characters went missing, presumed dead at a school camp, it felt like it could have been any of us. Erinsborough wasn’t flashy: it was your suburb, where the school headmaster was also the widow of your best friend’s dead father who was once in love with a priest. You know? It was the simplicity of being part of a community. The epitome of the Australian way of life.
The last time I left the Neighbors studio, I cried. I drove to Pin Oak Court, the real street where the houses are, and got out of my car. I did a dead end loop, and another. I sat in the middle of the road and the security guard who prevents people from breaking into houses looked at me and he didn’t kick me out. He just nodded. It wasn’t my dream job – it was the backdrop to my whole life.
So, maybe Neighbours’ time is up. Or maybe it’s just the moment before the bomb goes off and Lou’s Place is obliterated, destined to be restored to even greater heights. On our TVs for another 40 years, teaching us to feel.