I Blogged Myself

Why do you always come here? I guess we'll never know. It's like a kind of torture, To read this blog, y'know.

Welcome to the most sensational, inspirational, celebrational, Muppetational blog since Kermit left just a little bit of the swamp in his pants.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Everybody Needs Good Neighbours

Okay, so I watched the 2005 Neighbours finale last night. And who woulda thought; NostraBEVIS predicted the ending a couple of weeks back. But I'm not here to boast about guessing soapie plotlines.*

I wanted to discuss the show itself for 2005, as it appears to have received a rather poor review (and one I think is unfair) in The Australian.

I believe that in the past two years, Neighbours has really found its feet and grown as a show. We're now seeing storylines that - while plausibility might be questionable - drama is not. A soapie, after all, is only ever trying to be a soapie. As Peter said in a comment to one of my earlier tirades about TV a few weeks ago, you must judge a soapie based on its merits as a soapie; otherwise your criteria are out of place and your whole argument is null and void.

That being established, the exciting storylines on Neighbours over the past two years (those that have had Wifey and I tuning in - initially something we were embarrassed to admit, but then gradually we came to have a fondeness for the show ... and better yet, discover that others in our friendship circles were also watching) include Karl's heart attack (he technically died for a few minutes until an Ambulance reached him), Izzy's perpetual deception to Karl about her baby's father, Susan and Karl almost getting back together a few times (kind of), Dylan and Stingray being set up for a crime they were coerced to commit, the fire at Lassiter's which was started by Paul, the affair between Paul and Liljana that broke up the Bishop family for a while, the eventual mending of this broken family, the plane crash that took that family's lives, the documentary being filmed on life in Ramsey Street (the plot device brought about to enable many previous stars of the show to return and help celebrate the show's 20th year), the mobsters chasing after Paul (and the subsequent loss of his leg), and so on.

Those are the ones that spring to mind immediately when I think back over which storylines have held my interest the most. (I've felt that a few others have been 'crap', with the rest all sitting somewhere in the 'enjoyable' category.)

Much of the acting is surprisingly good. I think the show has an unfair stigma of being a cesspool of talentless hacks, but the audition process is actually pretty taxing. True, some of the smaller, more 'passing' roles are played by talentless hacks, but the majority of the main roles are played out with style. Often subtle, which is why I think many people miss the brilliance of it. It's not like theatre, where all action must be exaggerated to reach those in the back rows - the cameras are right up there in the actors' faces, allowing for more 'slight' acting and a better level of skill. (I think this is why one or two actors who seem to be born theatre actors grate with me at times - it's due to what I perceive as their 'pantomime performance'.)

The cliffhanger last night was indeed the attempt on Paul's life by resident 'saint' Harold Bishop. Personally, I hope (and mostly expect) Paul will recover from this attack in the new year, and then Harold's going to have to face the demons of his trip to the dark side, but the journey we as an audience have gone on, watching Harold's family be killed and his grief be held at bay as long as possible (until Harold eventually felt that Connor deciding it was time for him to 'move on' was another personal insult and loss for himself), culminated in the closing moments of the show for the year (purportedly happening on Boxing Day afternoon).

While some might view this, and (knowing Harold as the Salvation Army, harmless, flappable, tuba-playing softy that he usually is) scoff at the very idea, others of us were able to see it coming. *Ahem* Not because the writing was flawed, necessarily, but because we were able to see the steps being played out in what it would take for a caring, happy man to be led down the path to murderous intent.

Bear in mind; this is, after all, a soapie drama. And it was the last episode of the year, in what was a particularly tumultuous year on Ramsey Street.

I have a confession to make. On Thursday, while out driving on work business, I had cause to be in the Nunawading area. This is where Channel 10 has their Melbourne studios, for those who don't know. Well, I happen to know the location of the street where Neighbours is filmed (it's semi-common knowledge I think, but I'm not going to provide the actual street name here), and it's not far from the Channel 10 studios (as you'd expect). So I took a five-minute detour.

They weren't filming, and there was actually nobody about, but I felt 'better' for having had my 'fix' of just driving in, looking at each of the houses in turn, and then driving straight on out again.

Why did I feel the need to visit the street? Crazy, I guess. Plus, it's a credit to the writers of the show that the day before the final episode for the year, I was thinking about it enough to feel compelled to head there myself. Just for fun.

(I know; I'm sad.)

The point is, it was so inside my head that I wanted to have a look. And true, I thought they might have been filming at the time (it turns out they were filming in the street the day before, as a colleague of mine apparently knows the grip [lighting guy] on the show and she told him that I'd visited the street).

And the interesting thing to note (which certainly wasn't lost on me), was the equal and opposite path Paul Robinson, resident baddie, has been on in the past few weeks. I think the same event sparked it (the plane crash). While Paul (and Izzy) survived the crash and have started to become significantly better people (although still with their own brand of living to excess), Harold's life has been turned upside-down by the loss of David, Liljana and Serena. So by the end of the year, we see an almost-completely reformed Paul offering Lyn a job, helping her with her resume and finances even if she doesn't take the job offer, trying to buy Izzy a thoughtful gift (I hope he didn't drown the kitten she didn't want!), throwing a Christmas luncheon for the whole street (true, they'd massively over-catered for what they thought would just be the two of them ... and they did cut the whole street's power with their over-abundance of Christmas lights, but the Paul of old wouldn't have cared about everyone else), and trying to be a normal, happy family with Izzy and Elle. He gives a boxful of gifts to Harold 'for the needy', and we begin to see how Harold is becoming the nasty one while Paul starts to improve his character.

If Paul doesn't survive Harold's attack, it will be sweet irony for him (in true soapie style) that just when he starts to make a decent go of his life, it is ended for a prior wrongdoing (even if only he's only at secondary fault). But if (and I expect when) he recovers, I rather think we might see some of the old evil Paul back again.

In other news, I'm glad the Timmins boys were released from gaol (the plausibility of their release on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, just hours after their names were cleared via a hidden microphone [paperwork and red tape weren't a problem on a public holiday?] and without their family being informed of the news is fairly slim, but we shouldn't be raining on a Christmas Day miracle, Ramsey Street style), and Steph's nightmares about Drew finally brought her around to the realisation that they meant her cancer is back. Will she give birth next year only to die shortly afterwards? Is Max going to be widowed again? Will the identity of the real bomber / poisoned letter sender finally be revealed? (I'm guessing this story will be re-opened if-and-when Paul recovers from Harold's attack, giving us a new piece of suspenceful drama for the new year.) And will Stu's efforts to free Dylan and Stingray earn him the hero status he probably deserves (especially after having to 'help' the police convict them in the first place)?

Those are my rambling thoughts on the show. I'd welcome yours.

* That's your job - in the comments section - to point out how clever I am.


At Saturday, December 17, 2005 3:51:00 pm, Anonymous Her Radicalness said...

Okay, while I would love to point out your brilliance, I need to give you a C- for this post. It is full of typos, misspellings, sentences which make no grammatical sense, and so on and so forth.

Please resubmit to me by Monday after school with all the necessary corrections made.

Only thereafter will I applaud your greatness.

At Saturday, December 17, 2005 4:01:00 pm, Blogger BEVIS said...


(I'm busy working on a couple of videos for tomorrow, so I wrote this thing in sections, split up across the day. I'll look at it again on Monday and fix up any errors, if it makes you feel better.)

In the meantime, you get back to your drinking.


At Saturday, December 17, 2005 4:12:00 pm, Blogger meghansdiscontent said...

I wish I knew what these shows were. :( I've spent a lot of time here NOT commenting and I feel guilty for that.

At Saturday, December 17, 2005 4:28:00 pm, Blogger BEVIS said...

MeghansDiscontent, don't worry about it. :) That's how we feel when some American shows are discussed by Americans ... there's many that we never see either. It's just a soapie, though - no biggie. Thanks for finding a way to leave a comment anyway!

Her Radicalness, I couldn't help myself. I've had a look through it and corrected any mistakes I could find. Hopefully that's all of them, although if there are any more, I'm sure you or someone else will take great pleasure in letting me know! :)

At Sunday, December 18, 2005 6:30:00 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the spoilers, I'm in the UK and although we are only a few weeks behind it's nice to get some intelligent comment on what's going on.

I have a couple of problems with the way non-anglo families are portrayed. I think it's good that neighbours has seen fit to include Serbian, Italian, Irish characters.However, I find that all these charaacters are basically just stereotypes. The characters nationalities almost completely dictate their actions. Connor and his secret familiy brew, Lil seeming to only be able to cook Serbian food, Carmella's mafia family. It's a bit embarassing really. It'd be good to see Neighbours up it's game on this issue.

What do you reckon?

Yes, I realise I think about this stuff too much.

At Sunday, December 18, 2005 6:32:00 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

oops, "character's nationalities" obviously.

At Sunday, December 18, 2005 3:13:00 pm, Blogger BEVIS said...

Hi Unknown, welcome. I hope me listing the 'spoilers' like that didn't frustrate you - my apologies if it did.

I certainly see your point about the stereotypes ... it's the same with religious people and the elderly and every other category you care to name.

I guess it's easier to work within stereotypes, because that's what people know to be 'true'. After all, if it's a stereotype, then that's only because so many people were like that to begin with.

But I understand what you're talking about. Maybe the writers / producers of the show don't want to invest too much time unpacking a character for the audience's benefit when a simple stereotype will fill in all the character traits for us in a millisecond.

It could certainly be argued that the average Neighbours viewer isn't tuning in to find a deep and extensive disection of Australian culture and our multicultural lifestyle here.

But that's not to argue against your point; I would also like to see characters on the show that didn't confirm with pre-existing stereotypes.

To look at one I mentioned above, I'd like to see a religious person portrayed in a way OTHER than one or more of the following:

- Old
- Catholic
- Out-of-touch
- A fuddy-duddy
- A prude
- Easily shocked
- Judgemental and unforgiving
- A Salvo

... because this is the only way I've seen religious people portrayed on Neighbours and shows of its ilk. Which is quite strange, considering I've known literally hundreds of religious people throughout my life, and maybe 5% of them fit the above description. (But if that's all the writers know, then that's all they can reproduce on the page.)

Anyway, I agree it could be handled better and with more variety - just like real people in real life!

At Sunday, December 18, 2005 5:38:00 pm, Anonymous Til said...

I applaud this 2005 neighbours review! I have to agree with anon about racial representations in ramsey street. And while its good that they are including people of irish/ serbian/ italian decent they are yet to include any characters of non European background. Also, have you noticed how badly sexual diversity is represented in these shows are. For example in neighbours there was Lana: turned into a crazed lesbian. On the OC there was Alex; another crazed lesbian. On Home and Away there was Lisa (i think); a serial killer crazed lesbian!!
But on another note i also think neighbours acting is of a pretty high standard- I mean now that there rid of that horrible Bishop offshoot family. And of the young actors I think Dylan and Sky are really very good, its lovely to see them together again!

At Monday, December 19, 2005 8:04:00 am, Blogger sheriff of nothing said...

Good job BEVIS - I missed the last episode (damn that beer) and now feel quite content to tune back in next year and not have missed a thing!

At Monday, December 19, 2005 9:47:00 am, Blogger elaine said...

As a lapsed neighbours viewer...

What about Father Tom? (the slightly creepy one who had the affair with Susan) He was a more complex religious character (though still catholic).

At Wednesday, December 21, 2005 8:24:00 am, Blogger Peter said...

Good example, Elaine. Father Tom was a pretty sharp Catholic. And though Lyn is occasionally a bit out of touch, she's not really a prude. She's probably one of the Street's most loving characters. But Bevis' points are probably reasonable there.

I'd have to say though, anaonymous, you're condensation of characters into a couple of sentences reveals a fairly shallow understanding of the show. "Connor and his secret family brew" was only ever a small background story. Sure, he brewed his own beer, but to use that as an example of the writers' reversion to racial stereotypes is to ignore the mass of story he's had, everything except the brewing utterly unrelated to his Irishness.

Same goes for Liljana - she cooked Serbian food because she was Serbian. Presumably her mother taught it to her. I know also that her character grew from the experience of one of the storyliners, a Serb. Rather than a blatant racial cliche, I thought it was more a colouring of her character. Character is revealed through many things - Harold's dedication to lemon slice and lamingtons reveals a very definite Country Women's Association type of cuisine, for example.

Carmella - well, you might have them there. Though I prefer to think of that case being one of using hackneyed racial cliches for good, not evil. Who doesn't love a lame soap mafia boss?

And til, to reduce Lana, and her relationship with Sky, to a "crazed lesbian" sells the story very short I think. I thought they played the teen lesbian story as well as they could have in a 6.30 timeslot.

Re: the no Europeans. Let's not forget Lori Lee - left to have Connor's baby (the gorgeous Maddy). But I think you're right on the no Asians in Neighbours comment. Perhaps part of the problem is the lack of availability of young asian actors. I know I haven't seen many in plays etc around Melbourne. Here's hoping there are some on the way.

Okay. Time to enjoy my holiday now.

At Wednesday, December 21, 2005 11:22:00 am, Blogger Peter said...

Obviously, that last bit should be
re: no non-Europeans.

At Thursday, December 22, 2005 8:00:00 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ok I concede I may have been a bit hasty with my earlier comments. But rather than a "shallow understanding of the show" (ouch!) let's call it a subjective opinion which is informed without insider knowledge. A viewer.

Still valid, in so far as opinions ever are.

So to clarify. It'd be good to see a charcter who just happens to be of non-anglo Australian descent and makes no mention of their background. Like Lori.

There are more of us in Australia than most people think.

It's a fairer representation of multicultural Australia and would lead away from the idea of non-anglo, gay,...insert minority here..being Other.

Bevis, the spoliers were welcome.

At Thursday, December 22, 2005 8:02:00 pm, Anonymous Tyson said...

I'm interested in who you find overly theatrical in performance. I know Izzy (Natalie Basingthwaite) has a theatrical background.

The stand out for me has always been Susan Kennedy/Smith/whatever. I have always found her performances brave and subtle. Some moments have been thrilling - such as when she cracked it at Karl and Izzy in the middle of the street.

One thing that always strikes me about the show is how much they use the few sets so heavily. One set that jumps to mind is 'the classroom'. Detentions, parent/teacher evenings, every single class, right through to judo lessons are held in this one classroom. I guess it's better than turning down the lights, plugging in the fog machine and pretending the coffee shop is the wharf. "Why are there custard tarts on display at the wharf?"

At Wednesday, December 28, 2005 7:55:00 pm, Blogger BEVIS said...

Hey there, Tyson - welcome. The performances I have long-felt are brilliant include Susan (as you pointed out), Karl, Izzy, Paul, Toadie, Stuart, Boyd and Max. The other side of the spectrum include Lyn, David, Janelle, Bree and those darn Kinski kids. Harold and Stingray are a heartbeat away from joining this second group too, IMHO*. The rest are somewhere in the middle, but none bothers me moreso than Lyn Scully. Sorry, but she is a theatrical actress if anything, and it may be her 'character' that reacts the way she does, but her acting has always annoyed the pants off me for being such an over-reaction.

Anyway, the names mentioned in the first group are those I feel do a great job. I know some will disagree with the two groups of names I've given above, but that's the nature of television - fans have their own views, and hold to them as if they were gospel.

And that's fine.

I certainly agree with you about that magnificent scene where Susan absolutely CRACKED IT with Karl & Izzy in the street - it was gold!

As for the sets being used for all purposes, they've only got a certain amount of sets they can feasibly create on the show's budget, so 'suspension of disbelief' is probably required there.

If we don't cut the show some slack in that regard, we might as well take issue with the fact that the characters all intermingle so much in the first place! None of them have friends outside their immediate circle of neighbours in that little cul de sac! And what about how they all work for each other, or date each other, or marry each other, and how when someone moves away, they never (or very, very rarely) come back to visit - even when both of their parents or other members of their family still live in the street! And this includes big family events such as weddings, funerals, and so on.

True, I often scoff to myself at incidences such this, but only in love. :) I 'permit' these things to pass without letting myself be too distracted from the show, because (as we've discussed earlier) it's a soapie and should be allowed to operate as one and be judged as one.

I'm not directing all of these points at you in a lecture-type tone, Tyson ... I hope it didn't sound like I was! :)

* IMHO = In My Humble Opinion (for the uninitiated).


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