In the midst of the uproar over Neighbours‘ cancellation, it’s easy to overlook one crucial point: the show is currently in its greatest condition in years.
Numerous articles have been written about the long-running soap’s untimely demise, with the majority of them focused on the legacy of famous ‘80s moments like Scott and Charlene’s wedding, Bouncer’s dream, and Mrs. Mangel’s interference.
While nostalgic walks down memory lane are fun, today’s fans are much more concerned with the present, with plenty of intriguing tales to keep us captivated.
The Neighbours team began overhauling the program late last year by renovating sets and modifying the production strategy to allow for a considerable increase in on-location filming, as we previously reported.
This included slowing down the shooting tempo. Neighbours have been filming six episodes per week (while still showing five) for several years but have now reduced this to five, giving the cast and crew some breathing room in their hectic schedule. The difference may be seen on the screen.
The adjustments were made after the Neighbours team discovered privately that the show’s future was uncertain, placing pressure on them to impress Channel 5 or a new UK broadcaster.
Unfortunately, by the time the results began to surface on TV in late January, the wheels were already in action to kill the drama, and knowledge of Channel 5’s decision was leaked just a few weeks later.
Since then, I was watching Neighbours has been a bittersweet experience for many fans, who wonder why a show that seemed to be entering a new golden period has to end.
The recent episodes, which focused on the Ramsay Street tenants’ ill-fated River Bend vacation and its aftermath, have ratcheted up the tension even further.
Fans have been treated to episodes produced outside of the regular studios over the last several days, with superb cinematography, breathtaking locales, and must-see drama playing out on screen.
The action-packed plot had seven characters go on vacation to River Bend, which was disrupted when Freya Wozniak’s mystery ex-boyfriend Gareth Bateman showed there.
Gareth, who appeared to be on a mission to outdo Finn Kelly in terms of villainy, crammed a lot of sins into just a couple of episodes, including shooting Levi Canning, kidnapping Freya, and savagely beating up Aaron Brennan.
While themes featuring violence and weapons are frequently better suited to Home and Away than Neighbours, fans seem to have embraced the drama, especially as it came after a quiet period of years while the program was filming under COVID limitations.
Even some of the more high-profile UK dramas could have learned a thing or two from the dramatic scenes, which were packed with genuine tension and a few unexpected turns.
Phoebe Roberts, a new cast member, has received high accolades for her compelling performance as Freya.
When Freya joined Erinsborough in January, she had an immediate screen presence and grabbed the show with her variety of emotions at River Bend, from the panic of her encounter with Gareth to her quiet coldness as she watched him die.
Takaya Honda, a well-known actor, is also excellent as David Tanaka, who had the story’s major shock when he stood by and let Gareth die after the mini-bus disaster that concluded the week.
It’s risky to take a long-running favorite in such a dark route, but Takaya’s delicate and nuanced performances, combined with David’s quick regret, guarantee that it’s not too far from the character we’ve come to know and love.
Plus, with the show’s story editor stating that the consequences will be felt until the end of Neighbours, we’re confident that the plot is in good hands.
We’ve also liked watching Richie Morris grow into his role as Levi in this narrative, and we feel he’ll have a strong career outside of Neighbours.
The successful episodes may have taught the Neighbours crew a lesson ahead of the returnee blitz that we’ve been advised to expect as the show approaches its conclusion.
For Ramsay Street’s last bow, Harold Bishop, Shane Ramsay, and several other yet-to-be-announced familiar characters will return.
While fans will undoubtedly love seeing familiar faces for the final time, we hope that the existing characters are not overshadowed in their own program.
The final episode of Neighbours should be just as focused on honoring the current cast members who make the show so enjoyable to watch.
If the golden pair does make an appearance, let’s hope Scott and Charlene don’t swan in and take up the spotlight right away.
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