Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Perfect Blend


I was pleased and surprised today when Mona by Craig McLachlan - and of course, Check 1-2 - popped up on the ipod. I'd forgotten what a summery sound it is, and it really took me back to the summer of 1990 when it was a huge hit and all over the radio. Those jangly guitars, that soaring sound. It's a big production. So good I had to hear it again. Shame Craig himself was a bit of a tit.

This would have come off the back his Neighhbours megastardom, and let's not underestimate just how massive it was back then. Remember when it first started in the autumn of '86? Oh, those salad days...

I was a student and I remember the constant promos for the BBC's new look daytime schedule. Knot's Landing, long since forgotten, was coming back, and we could look forward to Valerie, the Valerie Harper sitcom she left when she fell out with the produces, game show Going For Gold and something new from Australia, Neighbours. As I recall it was an instant hit.

We used to be sitting in the refectory at lunchtime, someone would say 'Neighbours' and we'd all pile back to someone's house to watch it. And then take the rest of the day off. If you missed it at lunchtime, you could always catch the 9am repeat and go in late, if you had to go in at all. It reall was all the rage.

Des, Daph - who could forget her touching death scenes?, Helen, Jim, Paul, Max, Maria, Shane, Lucy, Danny, etc., all introducing us to places of which we'd never seen the like. Coff's Harbour, the Bungle Bungles and Surfers' Paradise were unbelievably exotic. It was colourful, warm, funny, sunny - everything mid-Eighties Britain was not. I fell in love with Plain Jane Superbrain, who you just knew would be unmasked as a beauty eventually. Then along came the next wave with Kylie, Jason, Madge, Harold and it went stratospheric.

When friends went to Australia, they always bought videotapes back. We were about two years behind at one stage so we were desperate to know what was going to happen. I remember watching one spoiler where Paul came home and announced to the family that he and Gail (wardrobe by Kamizole) were married. It came as quite a shock. But the novelty soon wears off, especially when you don't have as much time on your hands as you used to.

So years later and there I am working on a magazine and either getting up really early or staying up really late to interview the stars of the show on a regular basis. Even in the mid-Nineties our appetite for Aussie soaps was still voracious. They were over here all the time. I once went out to lunch with Lou Carpenter and a girl who played Jo Harrison who had a very odd pout, and the people on the next table thought he was Alf from Home & Away. He was not best pleased. Last year I met Harold Bishop when Neighbours moved to five to die. I have a photo of me with him. It's hard to tell which one is which.

So the soft spot remains. But when was the last time you actually tuned in? I have to keep up to date, but I do it through the pages of a magazine, rather than physically watching it. I only know Toadfish.

17 comments:

Matthew Rudd said...

Neighbours was must-see viewing for every 1980s teenager, unquestionably. While Charlene, Bronwen and Jane got the sexbomb status, a small part of me (fnarr) had something for the lass who played Gaby Willis.

There were, by tradition, some dreadful actors though. The girl who played Bronwen's sister Sharon. The chap who briefly pitched up as karate kid mechanic Tony Romeo ("it's not Romeo, it's Rom-AY-o"). The second and third Lucys were act-by-numbers and awful. But brilliantly so.

And that's not to say some of them weren't good. Mark Little was superb in Neighbours, for example.

The cast photo is great. I love the way that Hilary Robinson feels obliged to stay in humourless, retentive character for a cast pic even though the rest of them are just giving daffy, toothy smiles and being themselves.

Cocktails said...

I know I'm clearly missing something here, but what is the appeal of Neighbours?! I don't actually know anyone in Australia who watches or ever watched this show. It's boring!!!

Not that Australians are immune to being sucked into soaps. The big thing when I was at school was Days of our Lives...

Bright Ambassador said...

Daphne giving birth on a riverbank while still wearing a pair of electric blue tights is a vision that'll live with me till the day I die.
I looked for it recently on You Tube and it's not there.

A Kitten in a Brandy Glass said...

Great shot of the line-up there: Paul Robinson looks about twelve.

Who would have tagged Mike as the one who'd bag a credible Hollywood career and Jim Robinson as a US TV stalwart in the making?

Ishouldbeworking said...

I had an Aussie friend who I worked with in 1987, when we were both temping, and she - like Cocktails - couldn't believe that Neighbours was so popular in the UK, especially among the Youth. I suppose it would have been the equivalent of someone from Sydney being enraptured by 'Crossroads' (which may have happened for all I know.).

I always quite fancied Mike. But I didn't think he was a responsible owner where Bounder was concerned.

Five-Centres said...

Australians could never understand the fascination. But it was so exciting at the time. It's hard to put your finger on it.

Cocktails said...

Don't worry, I don't know anyone who was enraptured by Crossroads either.

Ishouldbeworking said...

And of course I meant 'Bouncer'. Though he did bound, on occasion.

Matthew Rudd said...

I liked Crossroads in the last two years of its (original) life, a time when it was probably at its most unlikeable. I'm not very good at bandwagons, me.

Maybe it was the sight of Dee Hepburn looking all grown up in a red ballgown that did it, I don't know.

Five-Centres said...

Crossroads. Now there's a post waiting to happen...

Sky Clearbrook said...

Daph's death was odd. Actress Elaine Smith had clearly left the show long before Daph was killed off and had just agreed to come back for the deathbed, "I love you too, Clarkey" scene. If memory serves, Smith didn't appear in the car crash scene itself - it was a rather unconvincing body double.

The early ('88/'89?) rivalry between Lou Carpenter and Harold Bishop was a laugh. Who remembers David Bishop when he arrived for the Buck's Party? He was a kind of mini-me carbon copy of Harold, but when he returned over 10 years later, he was almost a completely different character (although, unusually, still played by the same actor... a bit like The Street's Blanche Hunt, I suppose).

Always found "cousin" Hilary Robinson strangely attractive. Still do and still can't explain it! Maybe it was the bowl cut, or the permanently startled appearance. I bet she was a right fucking "go-er". And Rosemary Daniels... mmm...

Hated Bronwyn and Sharon, but loved Henry. Plain Jane Super Brain was dull. Always like troublesome recurring character, Warren Murphy, who was played by Ben Mendelsohn. He had appeared with pre-Ramsay Street Mark Little in the brilliantly grim Nirvana Street Murder. Might still have that on VHS somewhere.

Now, don't get me started on the joy that was Mark Little at Joe Mangel. There's not enough space here...

Sky Clearbrook said...

Sorry about the typos above. I've had a gin or too.

Sky Clearbrook said...

Actually, I'm more pished than I realised. Ah fuckin' luv yeez ya baaaasssssturdzzzzzz. Pass the Newcy Broon. Call me the Broon Bottle.

Sky Clearbrook said...

Hurp. hurp. Huuuurrrrppppp... Bleurgh.

Etc.

Five-Centres said...

Dare one mention Dorothy Burke?

Sky Clearbrook said...

Wasn't she diagnosed with breast cancer and then cured within the space of about three episodes?

Matthew Rudd said...

Dorothy Burke used to always have an umbrella above her head, irrespective of the weather.

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