From the upbeat opening bars of its theme tune and the declaration that “Everybody needs good neighbours”, Neighbors was like a blast of fresh air blowing across British TV screens in 1986. Here was a show that was on BBC One twice a day; lunchtime and a repeat in the late afternoon. This was when Netflix was but a twinkle in Reed Hastings’s eye and a “streaming service” was probably a water-feature option offered by landscape gardeners. You watched Neighbors or you missed it.
Centered on Ramsay Street, the Lassiters hotel complex, and the lives of the Ramsays and the Robinsons (think Jim Robinson and mother-in-law Helen Daniels), it was soon a must-watch for students in the UK because – despite being watched “ironically”, however one does that – it had young people at its heart. This is the show that brought us Kylie Minogue, Jason Donovan, Guy Pearce and Panda from The Masked Singer, Natalie Imbruglia. Talk about a hit factory. But, wandering the banks of Lassiters lake, we were also in the company of Harold and Madge, Dr Karl and Susan Kennedy, “Toadfish” Rebecchi and more. But now, the curtain falls. After almost 9,000 episodes, Neighbors is to come to an end.
For those of us who have been working from home long before Covid forced it on the many, Neighbors became an important part of the daily routine. The advantage of being an author is that no one is there to tell you what to do. You may think this meant that, back in the day, we were in danger of putting our feet up and watching Homes Under the Hammer or Bargain Hunt rather than knuckling down on our typewriter, Amstrad or, later, PC. For me, in fact, it was the opposite. It was knowing when to stop writing.
The advent of Neighbors was an excuse to take a break; to reason to take a break. I’d stop work, make a sandwich and watch Neighbours. Very quickly, I was hooked on my TV “good friends”. So was a fellow children’s author, Philip Pullman. Across this green and pleasant land people were tuning in and falling under its spell.
Disaster struck in 2008 when Neighbors moved to Channel 5. Hard to believe now, but Channel 5 didn’t cover the whole country. I was living in Bexhill-on-Sea and, if the channel’s analogue signal reached us it would reach across the other Channel and interfere with French broadcasting. As a result, Channel 5 had to be blocked.
My then editor, Suzy, would set her video to record Neighbors every day and post the tape to me on Saturdays. That way, I would be able to watch an episode daily, but a week behind.
Then, dear reader, I actually found myself on Ramsay Street. I was invited to Australia to appear at literary festivals and, half-jokingly, I agreed on the understanding that I would get to visit the set of Neighbours. And I did. I went to the studio, to the lake, to watch filming on location and to Ramsay Street, all in the company of Jackie Woodburne, better known as Susan Kennedy. She was wonderful and, at the end of our visit, she invited us to have dinner at her home. That, as the song has assured us all these years, is when good neighbors become good friends.
RIP, Ramsay Street. Soon gone. Never forgotten.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism