Viewers say ‘g’day mate’ to Neighbours but ‘hi’ to Scott and Charlene

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Friday: Neighbours - (C5, 1.45pm, 6pm & 9pm)

Everybody needs good neighbours – except for Channel 5.

In March, the news fans had been dreading was revealed during an announcement on Twitter: “We are so sorry to say that after nearly 37 years and almost 9,000 episodes broadcast we have to confirm that Neighbours will cease production in June.”

Makers Fremantle relied on investment from Channel 5, which took over broadcasting the Australian soap following its long tenure at the BBC.

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An official statement on the matter from the station read: “Neighbours will no longer air on Channel 5 beyond this summer. It’s been a much-loved part of our schedule for more than a decade, and we’d like to thank the cast, Fremantle and all of the production team for their fantastic work on this iconic series.

“We recognise that there will be disappointment about this decision, however our current focus is on increasing our investment in original UK drama, which has strong appeal for our viewers.”

For those of us who began watching the show back in the 1980s, TV without Neighbours seems unthinkable – after all, at its peak, it was watched by around 20 million viewers; the BBC even had to rejig its schedule to make sure kids who had grown to love it during its daytime slot in the school holidays could continue watching it once back in the classroom. It was so crucial to some that they played truant to tune in.

In the months since the announcement was made, much speculation has abounded concerning how the soap may be brought to a conclusion. Rumour has it that Susan Kennedy will have the last word because Jackie Woodburne, who plays her, is regarded as the ‘mother’ of the programme.

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But of most interest to long-standing fans are the high number of old faces returning to pay their respects. The likes of Ian Smith (Harold Bishop) and Peter O’Brien (Shane Ramsay) have already turned up, but there are many more to come – not least Jason Donovan and Kylie Minogue.

The pair, who played Scott and Charlene Robinson, made their names on Ramsay Street, and so were only too pleased to participate – the latter has even resurrected the curly hairdo she had back in the late-1980s for the role.

According to executive producer Jason Herbison, they were keen to be involved: “Both Kylie and Jason needed very little persuading at all. They both appreciate the show and the special role that it has played in their careers. I was thrilled when they said yes.”

Alongside a few surprises, Guy Pearce, who played Mike, is also set to appear in scenes reuniting him with old flame Jane Harris – Annie Jones returned to the show in 2018 and has been there ever since.

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As for the episodes themselves, we’re promised the usual daytime showings, followed at 9pm by the hour-long finale – will it all have been Bouncer the dog’s dream? And then stay tuned for the documentary Neighbours Made Me a Star: From Ramsay Street to Hollywood, which profiles those who have gone on to greater success. That’s followed by musical celebration Neighbours: All the Hits & More, Especially For You, at 11.35pm.

Channel 5 and Neighbours may not have been the perfect blend, but for many of us, saying farewell to the latter will be like waving goodbye to good friends.

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