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After a 37-year run and over 8900 episodes, the Australian soap Neighbours ended in 2022 with a trio of finale episodes. But then Amazon picked it up, intending on running it (along with previous seasons) on Freevee in the US and UK — it’ll continue to run on its old Australian channel. And they’re intending to run it the same way it did since 1985: one episode per day, five days per week. Which old favorites are back and will we see anyone new on the show?
Opening Shot: Shots of Melbourne, Australia. “For the rest of the world, it’s about as far away as you can possibly be. But to the residents of Ramsay Street in Erinsborough, it’s home,” says a voice.
The Gist: Two years after the events from the last first-run episodes of Neighbours, which aired in 2022, we return to Ramsay Street to see a new family move in, at least temporarily. Cara and Remi Varga -Murphy (Sara West, Naomi Rukavina) arrive with their sons Dex (Marley Williams ) and JJ (Riley Bryant) to rent the house owned by Annie Jones (Jane Harris) while she’s in the UK with Mike Young (Guy Pearce). But, before Annie catches her flight, she has a wedding to attend.
Toadie Rebecchi (Ryan Moloney) and Melanie Pearson (Lucinda Cowden) reminisce about their wedding day while agreeing that the last couple of years have been “strange.” Meanwhile, Karl and Susan Kennedy (Alan Fletcher, Jackie Woodburne) are hosting Harold Bishop (Ian Smith), who wonders why the book on the history of the cul-de-sac hasn’t been updated in two years. He also hears from Annie that JJ was interested in the neighborhood’s history, so he brings the book over to the somewhat startled Varga-Murphys.
Terese Willis (Rebekah Elmaloglou), is looking at her wedding dress and wonders if she’s doing the right thing. She comes across the invitation to the ceremony between her and Paul Robinson (Stefan Dennis) and has that slight pang.
In the meantime, Paul, who’s having pangs of regret himself, has to deal with an important new guest at Lassiters Hotel; a woman named Reece (Mischa Barton), who has already seemed to take a liking to a young employee, Byron Stone (Xavier Molyneux), who also happens to be Annie’s son. Another offspring of the cul-de-sec, Holly Hoyland (Lucinda Armstrong Hall), isn’t doing quite as well working at the hotel.
As the wedding draws closer, Terese takes out a medal owned by her late son and sees something distressing in the drawer. But the wedding goes on, and she seems as happy as she’s ever been. As the Ramsay Street contingent gathers, including Paul, for the nuptials, and Susan presides over the wedding we pan over to see who Terese’s groom is. It’s a surprise, at least to anyone who hasn’t been around for a couple of years.
What Shows Will It Remind You Of? Neighbours, running in Australia and the UK since 1985, was revived by Amazon after it was cancelled in 2022. It’s vibe is less like an American soap opera with dramatic music and extreme closeups, but more gentle, like Degrassi Junior High.
Our Take: Amazon’s plan is to air about 400 episodes of Neighbours over the next two seasons, running in the traditional five-day-per-week rhythm that it did during its initial 37-year run. If you’re coming into the show cold, like we and likely most of Freevee’s American viewers are, it may be tough to figure out just who has been in a relationship with whom.
But Jason Herbison, the show’s producer, has thought of that, which is why he introduced the Varga-Murphys. Like many of the people who may be watching the show for the first time, the Varga-Murphys are being dropped into Ramsay Street cold, not realizing that a) everyone knows each other, b) there’s lots and lots of history of love and loss and c) anyone may pop over at a moment’s notice. JJ seems preternaturally interested in the neighborhood, but as he searches around, finding random confetti from the last wedding to be held there, he seems to have a reason for his interest. But the rest of the family, maybe harboring their own secrets, are just as clueless about the neighborhood as we are.
That being said, the show does feel like the old comfortable shoe that most soaps feel like, with actors confidently playing roles they’ve played for decades, and the seeming “que sera sera” attitude about everyone on the cul-de-sac getting together and breaking up that we see in most longtime soaps. There are definitely some goofy moments, and moments where we wonder just where the stories are going, but when you have hundreds of episodes over a couple of years — much less thousands over almost four decades — to flesh the stories out, they don’t have to move all that quickly.
Sex and Skin: None.
Parting Shot: As we said, we find out who Terese’s groom is, but we don’t want to spoil that for longtime fans.
Sleeper Star: Mischa Barton’s role is more than just being a visiting American cougar; as Byron probes, we’ll find out more about why she’s there. Also, it’s interesting that the only way they could get Guy Pearce back is to have all of his scenes (along with Jones’) filmed in the UK.
Most Pilot-y Line: As the highlights from upcoming episodes show, Harold is going to get a storyline where dementia starts to take hold. But they start that off by making him somewhat comedically befuddled, like when he forgets to change for the wedding. Aren’t we past treating old age like that these days?
Our Call: STREAM IT. If you’re interested in jumping into Neighbours, you may want to read some online wikis and other articles first. But even if you don’t, you’ll still feel like you’re somewhere warm and familiar, just by virtue of actors and characters that have been around for decades.
Joel Keller (@joelkeller) writes about food, entertainment, parenting and tech, but he doesn’t kid himself: he’s a TV junkie. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Slate, Salon, RollingStone.com, VanityFair.com, Fast Company and elsewhere.