The news that Neighbours has just swapped channels in the UK from it’s original home of BBC1 to five, reminded me of how much I used to love the show back in it’s hey-day of the mid to late 1980′s. It may still be on our screens after more than 5000 episodes and 21 plus years, but I no longer watch it, as the odd snippet I’ve seen recently seem to suggest a show about a bunch of thankless teenagers and a group of ineffective adults. Maybe my judgement is clouded by my memories and that was what it always was, but I’m sure it wasn’t.
Anyway, the show launched many careers, for some reason a lot of which have ended up being primarily known as pop stars. Most famous is of course Kylie Minogue, but the list extends to Jason Donovan, Guy Pearce (now a Hollywood star), Natalie Imbruglia, Holly Valance, Craig McLachlan, Alan Dale (he was in Torchwood the other night!) and even, bizarrely enough Russell Crowe, who appeared in four episodes as a petty criminal!
So, here are my memories of those unforgettable characters, on a house by house basis as we move around the most famous road in Erinsborough, Ramsay Street.
The Ramsay Household : Ruled over by gravel voice Madge, who had the tendency to become a bit argumentative when she wanted to be, she generally kept a firm but fair grip on proceedings in her home. Her daughter Charlene was always a little bit hot headed too, but ended up doing alright for herself as she left school and became a mechanic, then married her school sweetheart Scott Robinson. Madge also had a son, Henry, who was a bit of a clown and rarely took anything seriously, but was a good lad at heart. Madge eventually got re-married to Harold Bishop, who ummed and ahhed his way through conversations and could be counted on to disapprove of anything anyone younger than 20 ever did. Somehow we all loved Harold despite all that.
The Robinson Household : Head of the household was Jim Robinson, although his mother-in-law Helen Daniels could also lay claim to that particular honour as well, as the kids often took more notice of her than Jim. Jim was an architect if I remember rightly, and Helen was owner of Home James, a posh limousine hire company. Jim’s kids were Paul, the business man who managed Lassiter’s, a hotel complex, the above mentioned Scott, who ended up being a journalist I think, and Lucy. Lucy was played by at least three actresses that I remember (and I have a feeling that their may even have been a fourth) and seemed to age at a different rate to everyone else on the cast, or so it seemed. I’m only guessing at the ages given here, but she started off as a child of around 10 with a bit of an adenoidal voice – she always sounded like her nose was blocked. She then went away to private school and returned a year or so later as a beret wearing 15 year old who was a bit prissy. Her next return was as an 18 year old babe with an attitude.
The Clarke Household : Des Clarke was a bank manager who ended up falling for and marrying Daphne Lawrence, who he first met when she was hired to be a stripogram at his stag party (obviously he was supposed to be getting married to somebody else at the time).Â Daphne turned her life around by starting her own business, the coffee shop (called Daphne’s) which was a central meeting place for the kids of Ramsay Street.Â The had a son called Jamie (the character returned to the show briefly a little while ago, after some shares in his name were found under the floor of their house, now lived in by the Kennedy family) but Daphne left the show when she died after being in a car accident.
The other much liked member of the Clarke household was Mike Young, nicknamed Mike The Bike because he rode a motorbike.Â Mike was one of the more popular teachers at Erinsborough high, no doubt because he was young and good looking, and hung out with Scott, Charlene and Jane (see below).
The Mangle Household : Everybody loved to hate Mrs. Mangle, the interferring old busy body who nobody really liked due to all her complaining.Â Her first name was Nell, and she was married to Len, who famously never appeared on screen.Â I remember Mrs. Mangle saying things like “Len!!Â Where is that man!”, whichÂ always proved hilarious.Â Len eventually ran off with another woman, but the residents of the street were convincedÂ for a time that Nell had killed him and buried him in the back garden!
The first addition to the household wasÂ Jane Harris, Mrs. Mangle’s grand daughter, who lived with her when her parents moved to Hong Kong.Â Jane was a model pupil, and earned herself the nickname Plain Jane Superbrain, because she was always neat, tidy, polite and wore glasses.Â Of course, when it came to the school dance, the usual TV and film cliche came to pass, when Jane was given a makeover by Helen and Daphne.Â Remove the glasses, let down the hair, and Jane was suddenly the hot young babe, who I seem to recall went on to become a model.
Other members of the Mangle family to appear wereÂ Nell’s son Joe, who had separated from his wife Noelene.Â They had a son called Toby who initially resented Joe, but ended up preferring living with his father to his mother.Â Joe eventually got remarried to Kerry Bishop (Harold’s daughter) who was a bit of an environmentalist.Â They had a daughter called Sky (another character to have come back to the show) who as a baby always had bright red cheeks for some reason.Â Kerry was eventually shot whilst out campaigning against hunting.
The other main character of the show that I’ve forgotten who everyone loved was of course Bouncer, the Golden Retriever.Â I believe Bouncer started off living at the Robinson’s house, but eventually came under the care of Joe and Toby Mangle, when all the Robinson kids had flown the nest.Â Bouncer was so important that there was even one episode of Neighbours where a segmented was devoted to one of his dreams!Â Joe and Kerry had been reminiscing about their wedding, so Bouncer started to dream about him getting married to Rosie, the sheepdog who lived next door at the time.