“Neighbours” 2011: Bridie Mills explains why it was unusually unsatisfying

Posted on January 4, 2012

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I’ll let you in on something. I watch Neighbours like it’s my day job. Every day, same hours, usually after I’ve finished 3 glasses of wine and can absorb the meaningful plotlines on a level that I can’t reach while sober. Isn’t that what day jobs entail? But I’ll admit something. I didn’t realise the season final of Neighbours was actually the season final. I thought it was just another episode leading up to AT LEAST 5 more.

The seminal Harold Bishop, holding the Ramsay Street sign

Yes, so underwhelming was this season’s denouement of the most dear to my heart soapie that afterwards all I did was fall into a pleasantly lucid dream about Chris finally finding his man in the form of a former Home and Away dream boat turned (lol) Erinsborough hospital nurse. Yes, nurse. Alright, some stereotypes never die, but it’s fucking Neighbours ya’ll. They’re not into breaking new ground, and the fact that they’re suggesting a possible homosexual relationship in the future is as about as diverse as Erinsborough gets. Let me make this a little clearer: apart from only having the occasional “I’m practising for the real thing with guys” (à la Sunny and Donna) or “I just got caught up in all our friend-love” (see Pepper and Rosie) there hasn’t been all that much queer action/make out scenes on Ramsay St.

And the lack of diversity doesn’t just apply to sexualities: there have only been 2 roles played by non-Caucasians in the past season, and they were guest roles, which means they could be disposed of with a quick severing of a certain plotline. So diversity is not what Neighbours is searching for (but FYI Kyle Canning is from Frankston). Although, according to the Neighbours website, which I peruse regularly, there’ll be some improvements in this area next season. We can only hope. But in 2011, Neighbours writers searched for plotlines that kept a viewer marginally interested while they ate their bangers and mash, and it barely achieved that.

A selection of the 2011 cast.

For the final episode, I’ll be honest, I was hoping for a dramatic death or two. There’s nothing like ending the season minus an annoying character (eg. Ringo Brown last season) and it leaves the viewer feeling somewhat satisfied at having put up with said annoying character for an entire season. This season, I thought it was time for Karl Kennedy to go. I know, controversial choice. Erinsborough’s longest serving doctor, mainstay of the community, guitar-wielding Wiggle member wannabe, I know. But hell, he was on another level of annoying these past few months. He clung to Susan like a koala to a eucalyptus tree, like cling wrap to a vegemite sandwich, like… ok, enough Australiana whoring, but it’s entirely appropriate. Karl and Susan’s ‘fun’ activity on weekends was breaking out the golf clubs and comparing swings. Not soapie material. It was time for it to end, and I was ecstatic when Susan realised this. Sure, we could blame their separation on the death of Susan’s friend/love interest Jim Dolan, but that was just a trigger. In the end, even Karl and Susan’s box of sex toys couldn’t save them (yep, the box made an appearance a while ago to the shock of wholesome, white bread families watching from their living rooms. It hasn’t been seen since, which I found weirdly both a relief and a disappointment).

Not very happy AT ALL: Karl and Susan fight on either side of their island bench.

When they were locked in their storage shed in the final throes of the season, getting all nostalgic via projected photographs, it was apparent that all they had in common was their kids, who weren’t around anymore to keep their parents together. Mal ‘giant parachute ears’ Kennedy made a fleeting attempt to bring Karl and Susan back together, but all he achieved was an affair with their emotionally-detached neighbour Jade before he high-tailed it back to the UK. If I didn’t want Karl to die so badly this season, my next choice would have been his desperate son. Urgh. Oh, and if anyone at the Neighbours studios needs a little help, I’ve written a very tasteful death for Karl. It involves him having to cut off his own leg with a blunt pocketknife and subsequently bleeding to death within sight of a hospital. Heart wrenching, trust me.

How Inappropriate! Jade and Mal flirting!

Alright, I’m getting bitter with all this Karl speak. Despite what you’ve read so far, it’s not often I bad-mouth Neighbours. I truly love it. I used to sneak into the lounge room and watch it when I was younger because it was banned, until my mum started watching it with me. Yep, it’s all wrapped up in nostalgia for me, and I grow deeply attached to certain characters. But this season, there was no Didge, Zeke or… dare I say it, Stingray, to attach myself to. I can safely say that if all the characters from this past year were killed off in a horrific plane crash over the Bass Strait, I would feel no sense of loss. I mean, Summer and Andrew made me curse first loves all over again, they were so disgustingly oblivious to the fact that they would end up breaking each other’s hearts and crying into their Dad’s handkerchief while watching … Neighbours. And don’t even start me on Michael’s visions of his dead wife drenched in water and everyone else’s ignorance of his impending breakdown. As for his daughter Tash, well, she was actually alright, for no other reason than that she added some actual drama to the soapie. Teen girl goes off the rails is a well over done plotline, but The Dead Mother saga was somewhat interesting, even if it was completely unbelievable. Although, adding another parentless teenager to Ramsay St was all a bit much.

Which brings me to Kate and Sophie. Boring. Teenage-brat-hates-on-sister is nothing I haven’t seen before. Sure, it was because Kate had a bit of a fling with her student Noah, who Sophie had a ridiculous crush on (think Sophie+Noah4EVAH scribbled over notebooks…do kids still do that?), so it was somewhat founded. Still, boring. As you can tell, it’s not just the characters I had a problem with. The entire season was sub-par. Super sub-par. The plotlines could’ve grown algae they were so stagnant (yeah, nod to high school Environmental Science).  The whole Susan and Karl thing took the entire season to unravel, and it wasn’t all that tightly wound in the first place. Then there was Jade and Kyle. Blerg. From the moment they became BFF’s it was obvious that there was something more, but first they had to become BFF’s with benefits, and then Jade freaked out because of a past relationship, and it wasn’t until the last week that Jade finally let go a little and made out with Kyle in front of a marching band at Federation Square. And the moment was ruined because all I could think about was Harold Bishop, because he used to be in a Salvation Army brass band, and Harold kills romance.

She's at it again! Jade and Kyle, kissing on a bench.

Let’s move on to Toadie and Sonya, who were revolting all season. Yes, Toadie morphing into a corporate scumbag was mildly amusing, but his relationship with Sonya counteracted all the potential dirtiness that could’ve eventuated from his change. Talk about wholesome. If Sonya didn’t have a background in gambling and assault (she broke Jade’s arm), I’d find her nauseating. Look, I don’t have a problem with good people in real life, I just don’t want to watch them be boring on television.

The only promising thing to come out of Neighbours in 2011 was the attention payed to Chris’ storyline in the last half of the season, since he was shunned a little from the limelight after he came out as gay. In the end, it was a pretty accurate portrayal of the whole coming out deal in a lot of ways. The season ended with him in a bad state after complications resulting from the bashing he suffered earlier in the week, but I wouldn’t exactly call it a cliffhanger. I have a feeling he’ll be fine, get closer to aforementioned Home and Away nurse in his recovery, and 2012 will include a gay make out scene. Go on then.

Neighbours comes out: Chris and Aiden sharing a moment together.

That was it. That’s all I can take from this season, and I could go on to write about Paul’s lack of bad-arsery, but I’m going to stop here. I’ll just sum it up. No deaths + no drama= Neighbours sux 4evah ‘11.

Bridie Mills is You’re Dripping Egg’s latest staff edition, and our resident Neighbours expert. She’s so much a resident expert, she practically lives on Ramsay Street! For more articles on Australian television, check out Jen O’Brien’s Twentysomething review.

What did y’all think of Neighbours in 2011? Was the move to channel Eleven what brought it down, or the constant bickering between Karl and Susan? Leave a comment below:

Posted in: Television