It’s a series that has been around for over 30 years, so it may not seem surprising that Aussie soap Neighbours loves a giving a little nod back to its glory days of the 1980s and 1990s. But actually I feel like it took until the 20th anniversary in 2005 for them to really start embracing the show’s history – before then they seemed quite keen on regularly bringing in brand new faces and trying to revamp the show’s cast to be younger and more attractive. But now it seems like the show’s producers, rather than constantly trying to escape from the shadow of Neighbours’ glory days, can’t get enough of basking in the glory of the past, and I love it.
Recently Neighbours have brought back a whole host of characters and stories from the show’s past – currently Izzy Hoyland is back and strutting around Ramsay Street in her stilettos, looking fabulous and inevitably causing chaos for Karl and Susan, and possibly for any other male resident of Ramsay Street that she lands her beady eye on. There’s the lurking phantom that is Toadie’s dead wife Dee, who was brought back last year, only for it to be revealed that she was an imposter, which incredibly turned out to be less believable than Dee having somehow survived her wedding day car crash/drowning disaster.
Twins David and Leo ended up being Paul Robinson’s long-lost children (I mean, who isn’t a long-lost child of Paul’s?), with the 1980s pregnancy storyline involving their mother Kim, a role reprised by the original actress, having been retconned to involve Paul as the father. There’s Paul’s spiky aunt Hilary who has been popping up on a semi-regular basis, nice-guy doctor Clive Gibbons, who has thankfully ditched his gorillagram business and is just sticking to doctoring and dating Sheila these days, and the gang of characters – Stu, Lance, Stonefish – who all turned up for Toadie’s party in the special extended 90s-themed party episode, dressed as Teletubbies.
They even recently hung Helen Daniels’ infamous portrait of the hilarious battleaxe, Mrs Mangel, in the foyer at Lassiter’s.
With all that nostalgia, you’d think Neighbours wouldn’t have any more aces up their sleeve, but it doesn’t get more nostalgic than the announcement that “Plain Jane Superbrain”, one of the iconic characters from Neighbours’ heyday, is coming back this April. Played by Annie Jones, Jane Harris was one of the four lynchpin characters from the mid-to-late 1980s, along with Scott, Charlene and Mike. Those four characters were Neighbours in the late 80s, so getting Jane back is quite a coup.
Like all nerdy characters, Jane wore massive glasses that made her look like a studious owl, and was the butt of quite a few jokes, including the “Plain Jane Superbrain” nickname. Also like all nerdy characters, she underwent a dramatic makeover, discovered contact lenses and never looked back. We’re not sure what’s bringing her back to Erinsborough yet, but I’d bet it has something to do with Paul, as he is the only regular cast member left from Jane’s era.
“Annie is a beloved star from the golden era of Neighbours and we are honoured to have her back on the show. She had a very interesting take on what her character Jane might be up to nowadays and we incorporated it into the storyline. There’s warmth and nostalgia, yet also a very fascinating character journey,” says Neighbours producer, Jason Herbison.
Having Jane back on Ramsay Street is not going to be the same as the glorious old days when we’d all tune in every night to see the latest instalment of the lives of Scott, Charlene, Mike and Jane, but it’s definitely the most exciting bit of cast news there has been for a while, and I can’t wait to see what’s brought her back. I do hope there are some flashbacks and a nice shot of Jane walking down the centre of Ramsay Street, gazing up at all the houses with a misty look in her eye. Please don’t disappoint me, Neighbours.
I’m all for this turn towards nostalgia because I love nothing more than to reminisce about past Neighbours characters and storylines, and I’m so pleased that the show seems to be embracing its past instead of constantly trying to get away from it. When you have over thirty years of Ramsay Street residents to pick from, it seems crazy not to delve into the past and invite some of the old faces to return. I can’t wait to see who they bring back next, maybe someone should throw an 80s party as a vehicle for getting a few more of the real golden oldies back.