NOSTALGIA: When nobody dared miss an episode of Neighbours

Charlene and Scott, or Kylie and Jason, were the much-loved Romeo and Juliet of the 1980s. JOANNE SAVAGE recalls the fuzzy fairytale that made Neighbours must-see TV

Friday, 12th November 2021, 2:27 pm
Charlene and Scott (Kylie and Jason) had a true romance in the 1980s that kept the nation rapt

Back in 1988, there was only one romantic pairing talked about during lunch break: Charlene and Scott, as in Kylie Minogue and Jason Donovan in Neighbours.

Ah, Neighbours, with it’s saccharine, cheery theme tune: ‘Neighbours, everybody needs good neighbours!’

And then there was Charlene with her doe-eyes and loose perm in her dungarees and the pin-up Scott with his dashing blonde curtains and Colgate, dazzling smile.

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Their’s was a love story that captured the era, fuzzy, pure, the stuff young girls dream of, Prince Charming bagging his Princess and gazing at her with unwavering adoration, in the way every woman wants to be looked at by the man she loves. Almost everybody in my primary four class, seemed to be wearing black bomber jackets with Kylie and Jason encased in joined-together love hearts on the back, their faces lost in mutual romantic abandon. I was never allowed such a jacket, my mother in her religious zeal having deemed such things too advanced for a six-year-old, but I very much wanted one, if only because not having one made you more or less a social pariah and my pink anorak trimmed with fur didn’t cut it at all.

On November 8, 1988, some 20 million UK viewers tuned in to watch in dewy-eyed wonder as Scott and Charlene met at the top of the aisle to exchange their wedding vows, Kylie enrobed in a huge meringue number beloved of brides of the era and it certainly seemed like a fairytale, an age of innocence, wherein true love prevailed as the piano balladry of Angry Anderson’s Suddenly set the nation’s heart aflutter.

Neighbours was compulsive viewing in the 80s and 90s, and the characters I loved most were Harold Bishop, affable in his round glasses, and his wife Madge, who always sounded like she smoked 50 plus cigarettes an hour, but was a powerful battle axe cum virago of sense.

Why did Neighbours have such an addictive charm? Was it a nation in need of escapism during Thatcher’s long reign, mass recession, and here in Northern Ireland the Troubles unfolding all about us, so that the utopian cul-de-sac of Ramsay Street seemed like it would be an infinitely better place to be than home?