A soap opera set in Ramsay Street within the fictional Melbourne suburb of Erinsborough, Neighbours is the longest-running serial in Australian television history. It debuted on 18 March 1985, originally on the Seven Network. The creative force behind the show was television executive Reg Watson, who had enjoyed prior television success with Sons and Daughters. However, initial ratings were poor and Neighbours was bought by rival network Ten, which started screening the show on 20 January 1986. In January 2011, Neighbours moved to Ten’s new digital channel, Eleven.
The show initially attracted high audiences domestically (with 20 million viewers tuning in for the wedding of characters Scott and Charlene) and overseas, as one of Australia’s most successful media exports (being exported to over 50 countries). It made stars of its actors, including Kylie Minogue, Jason Donovan and Guy Pearce, and attracted a high level of press interest and publicity.
Neighbours’ popularity was attributed to a range of factors, including its ‘feel-good’ factor. It was also perceived to emphasise ‘Australian-ness’ via the representation of a closeknit community, relatable ‘Aussie’ characters and good weather, although it was famously critiqued by expatriate Australian academic Germaine Greer in 1989 for its lack of diversity and its depiction of Australia as a ‘White-Anglo-Saxon-Protestant paradise’. While no longer attracting the audience figures of its 1980s heyday, the show has shaped the Australian media landscape through its longevity, its export success and its positive portrayal of Australians as community-minded and upbeat.
REF: S. Crofts, ‘Global Neighbours?’, in R.C. Allen (ed.), To Be Continued … (1995).