The Australian soap opera Neighbours premiered in 1985, and I believe it was created primarily to explore the existential terror of suburban life. (The Irish Times engages in a comparable practise.) It takes place on Ramsay Street, an antipodean fin-de-siècle cul-de-sac whose doomed inhabitants have witnessed everything: adultery, betrayal, murder, double murder, double denim, people falling to their deaths from cliffs (they should put up a fence), hot-air-balloon crashes, evil twins, morally neutral twins, complicated love geometry, plot-enhancing amnesia, Natalie Imbruglia, the prudent (I hope Mona was his cardiologist; McLachlan sung to her, “Listen to my heart go bumpity bump.”)
Similar to Rathgar or Blackrock, Ramsay Street is a difficult area that discourages hope. In spite of their Sisyphean struggles, the residents always seem amazingly positive and optimistic, unlike soap operas you may see closer to home. This aspect of Neighbours has always appealed to me. They appear to view their suffering as a component of a larger utopian endeavour. Everybody needs nice neighbours, and with a little understanding, you can find the ideal blend, says the title song’s picture of a perfect community. Yes, these lyrics are more than simply a fun way to wave at your own neighbours while softly singing them in a passive-aggressive manner. They also indicate a forward-moving trajectory for time. They imply that history will come to an end when all the residents of Ramsay Street, their consciousness sufficiently awakened by life’s never-ending hardships, merge into one ideal platonic neighbourhood. In essence, it is Marxism.
You have Phil Mitchell on EastEnders, whose voice is a constant wheeze of rage. Harold Bishop is a character in Neighbors whose conversation is filled with the phrase “he chuckled.”
The EastEnders theme, which features a lumpen funeral march bonging away over a rotating Ordnance Survey map of London, stands in stark contrast to this. The song’s lyrics, “Dush, dush, dush-dush-dush, dush, Duh duh-duh-duh-duh, duh, duh!” etc., are less than stellar. This topic implies that life is a miserable struggle that leads to an endless emptiness of stillness. I’m not just making assumptions. I visited London. This exact phrase, which I copied from an estate agent’s window, is “Life is a mirthless battle before eternal quiet in an empty nothingness.” It may also be in the Tory electoral platform, in my opinion.
And now let’s contrast iconic characters from the two programmes. Phil Mitchell, a grumpy anthropomorphic root vegetable, appears on EastEnders. His voice is the same irate, asthmatic wheeze, whether he is threatening to disown his sister for conspiring with drug dealers or telling his kid, who is unconscious due to drugs, that he loves him (he does both this week). In contrast, Harold Bishop from Neighbours is a twinkly eyed middlebrow aesthete whom every piece of dialogue, regardless of the subject matter, elicits the words “he chuckled” or “he chortled.” Harold Bishop chortled, “Now I am becoming death, the destroyer of planets,” while laughing, “I’ve killed again.” In fact, Harold’s personal history exemplifies Neighbours’ peculiar and unrelenting optimism. He was carried out to sea in 1992 and drowned there. Nevertheless, he improved. He was only close to passing away. a little bit. He was only waving, not actually drowning. Amnesia, the most prevalent neurological disorder on Ramsay Street, soon made him return to the show.
To stop their lustful brawls, Harold sprays two warring love rivals with his garden hose in one of Neighbours’ last episodes, which will air on RTÉ2 this week. Phil Mitchell wouldn’t haphazardly spray people with his garden hose, unless of course that’s a terrible euphemism for Phil engaging in sex activities. And since joyless reproduction is a constant feature of that Hobbesian horror, you might even see that on the television show EastEnders.
After 37 years, the hour of ascension is now near on Ramsay Street. The chosen are about to attain the “perfect blend” predicted in song, and the struggles of the stoic citizens are finally coming to an end. There will be one more wedding, that of Mel and Toadie (she likes to collect porcelain pigs) (he collects disastrous weddings). In his two prior marriages, he drove his bride off a cliff and caused a tragic gas explosion. Really, it takes courage for him to keep trying.
Unknown person rides up on a motorcycle. Actually, the man in the picture is Guy Pearce, a.k.a. handsome runaway Mike Young. He was on Neighbours back in the 1980s when my generation was compelled to watch it. To the dismay of Clive, who also wants to woo Plain Jane Superbrain but hasn’t been in LA Confidential, he has come to woo her since she has returned to the programme and has a perfectly regular Australian name. He becomes inebriated and assaults Mike; as I’ve already mentioned, Harold responds by hose-blading the two of them. I’m now feeling like Phil Mitchell has destroyed this for me. Mike is taken on a voyeuristic tour of each home on the block by Plain Jane Superbrain, during which they wax lyrical and reminisce about previous episodes. Even Mrs. Mangel, a beloved Neighbours character who I once mistakenly believed to be an older woman but who was actually young enough to be my child, appears.
Since their departure from the show in the late 1980s, Scott and Charlene appear to be enjoying their marriage. If they had remained on Ramsay Street, none of the deaths from cliffs, brain injuries, or adultery would have occurred.
There is a loud musical blast. In their 1987 Neighbours wedding, Kylie and Jason—real names Scott and Charlene—sang the hymn of romantic uniqueness It’s Especially for You, in which nobody was blown up or pushed off a cliff. They are back for the grand finale! They appear to have been married since the late 1980s, when they departed the programme. Because of the high incidence of adultery, brain injuries, and cliff-related deaths on Ramsay Street, it seems likely that this would not have happened if they had remained there. (Someone needs to investigate that.)
They both receive a warm welcome from Plain Jane Superbrain. Mike feels the same way, but the filmmakers made the bold choice to never have Guy Pearce, Kylie, or Jason in the same shot. They might be stating, “Even though we’re together, we’re apart,” for example. There are further cameos from well-known former Neighbours actors. Because they likely suffer from trauma-induced PTSD, albeit an upbeat Australian version of it, each character remembers events from years past.
A side tale involves them all writing a sizable book about the history of the street. To be honest, it doesn’t appear to be big enough. In one episode, Susan Kennedy (Jackie Woodburn), who has been on the show for so long that she could have forgotten it is a show, spends time attempting to come up with a decisive statement to make. She enters the crowd of wedding guests while reciting a fourth-wall-breaking ode to the play itself, most of whom are quickly getting married before the rapture. Similar to Prospero at the conclusion of The Tempest, but without Prospero’s removal and subsequent deprogramming.
Then, when a balloon soars into the air, we soar together with it, observing them all from a great height. Yes, we are currently in a balloon, and Ramsay Street is now complete. They might have perished in an explosion, an aircraft disaster, or by unintentionally sliding off the edge of the cliff one by one. They may have come to an end with the revelation that Bouncer had been dreaming throughout the entire run (still plausible). But picturing them remaining there on a Ramsay Street that has been refined and spared from horror definitely works better this way. After all, these friendly neighbours had developed strong friendships.