Everybody needs good Neighbours

18 March, 2010

Neighbours promotional booklet
A page from the Neighbours promotional booklet featuring Alan Dale and Anne Haddy, who played Jim Robinson and Helen Daniels on the show.
Source: Museum Victoria

Today marks exactly 25 years since the first episode of evening soap opera Neighbours was screened on Channel 7. It was axed after four months due to poor ratings, but was picked up and relaunched by Channel 10 the following year. In August they will broadcast the 6000th episode, making it Australia’s longest-running drama series.

As arguably Melbourne’s most famous television production, the museum has collected a number of Neighbours items, including the original kitchen set from the Robinson household at 26 Ramsay Street. It later housed the Martin and Scully families, until a storyline fire 'destroyed' it in 1999, enabling it to move to the museum. Until it was placed in storage to make way for The Melbourne Story exhibition, the set display was a popular destination for local and overseas visitors alike, and a hot-spot for souvenir photographs.

Looking just like an ordinary 1980s kitchen from the front, the back of the set is scrawled with graffiti by cast and crew, including Ramsay Street’s most famous ex-resident, Charlene Robinson, played by Kylie Minogue. A replica of the wedding cake from the wedding of Charlene and Scott (Jason Donovan) was displayed in the fridge of the exhibit. Some people thought Neighbours unworthy of inclusion in a museum, but others recognised it as representing an aspect of contemporary culture in Melbourne.

Another item in the collection is a rare promotional booklet dating from the show’s early days. Among profiles and photographs of the characters and actors, the booklet records that “set designer, Robbie Perkins, has chosen pastel shades and muted colours in all interior sets to enhance the quality look of the production. Every prop, down to the last flower vase, has been carefully selected to create the most authentic sets possible.” The set, props and wardrobe people shopped locally around the Channel 10 studios at Nunawading, ensuring the program had a bona fide Melbourne suburban look and feel.

For those who missed it on the small screen in 1985, here’s a synopsis of Episode 1 from the promotional booklet:

Danny Ramsay wakes from a recurring nightmare. In his dream, his brother Shane, a potential Olympic champion, is injured while diving. At the same time there is a boisterous bucks party for Des Clarke at No. 28 – two doors away. Shane Ramsay has also hired a stripper, Daphne Lawrence, much to the delight of the other blokes.

The noise is troubling some of the Ramsay Street inhabitants, especially Max Ramsay. It is now 2 a.m. and Max is going to put an end to Des’ last day of “freedom”.

The next morning Max is up early, as usual, to train Shane. Des Clarke is in for a shock. Lorraine Kingham, his bride-to-be, has arrived with her parents to inform him that the wedding is off!

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