Nobody watches soaps for realism, but as a regular watcher of Aussie soap Neighbours there are a few ways in which I am asked to suspend my disbelief on a regular basis, and it’s quite a lot of fun to over-analyze them. First of all, let’s just dive straight past the fact that so much drama happens on one street. Ramsay Street basically consists of six houses – throw in Robinson’s penthouse apartment and you have seven households. How much drama can seven houses worth of people generate? In Erinsborough, the answer to that question is endless, gigantic mountains of drama. But we don’t watch Neighbours to see normal people doing boring everyday things, we’re here for the drama, so let’s ignore that one.
Every House is Like a TARDIS
For most of the houses we usually only see the exterior, the living room and the kitchen. Very occasionally we’ve had a peek into Toadie and Sonya’s bedroom, and Xanthe’s bedroom made a few brief appearances. From the outside, the houses look to be a reasonable size, with maybe three bedrooms, but these houses clearly have cellar and loft conversions that the viewer does not see, because they can fit an extraordinary amount of people inside. Every so often, a character will find themselves with nowhere to stay, and there’s always a perky neighbour who pipes up and says, “Come and stay at ours,” leaving me to ponder the dimensions of their house, because there are already about fifteen people living there. The Canning house, in particular, must have about 23 bedrooms with all the people who were living there at one point.
At least with the Robinsons’ penthouse, the writers went some way to explaining how one apartment could house Paul and his three surprise adult children – David, Leo and Amy – plus Amy’s son Jimmy, by having them buy the apartment next door and knock a wall through, but they still spend all their time in the living room, where all the booze is, and that telescope nobody ever uses. If they need some privacy, they take two steps to one side and go out on the balcony, but they leave the doors wide open because nobody on Neighbours can hear anything that isn’t occurring within a metre of their ears.
People Work Weird Hours
The employment prospects in Erinsborough are a little bit scarce, but people in Neighbours do have jobs. There’s a hotel, hostel, health retreat, bar and café that need running, plus a garage, a nursery, a gym, a hospital and a law firm. There are also a couple of teachers and a police officer knocking around. As long as you work in one of those fields, you’re golden, but if your skills lay outside those areas then I’m afraid you’re going to find yourself unemployed. But even despite all these businesses, people in Erinsborough seem to work very fluid and changeable work hours.
Poor old Sheila seems to always be working at The Waterhole, and Dipi is almost always behind the counter at Harold’s café, but everyone else seems to just float around between their house, the café and the bar. Most of the other characters spend all day waving clearly empty takeaway coffee cups around in Harold’s, or drinking at The Waterhole. Also, nobody sees anything odd about ordering a meal or a drink and then walking out without eating or drinking any of it. I don’t know about you, but it’s going to take a pretty big drama to occur before I’m leaving the meal I just ordered. Unless the building is on fire, I’m finishing my dinner. The prop people should maybe fill a glass halfway occasionally, or pop just half a meal on a plate, so I’ll worry significantly less about how malnourished and dehydrated everyone is.
Terese is one of the few Neighbours who regularly seems to go to work, sitting at her desk wearing her business glasses that she doesn’t seem to require at any other time. Sonya should take a leaf out of Terese’s book, because quite how her nursery is still running is a mystery when she only does about three shifts a year.
Doctors and Lawyers Don’t Specialise
If you’re a doctor or a lawyer, and you’re having trouble figuring out what your specialty is going to be, why not move to Erinsborough? You don’t have to pick a specialty there, you can do all the doctoring and lawyering you want.
Regardless of what your medical complaint is, Dr Karl is your man. He can do anything. Are you having a baby? Dr Karl will deliver it. Cancer diagnosis? You’d better see Karl. Did you fall out of a hot-air balloon and need impromptu brain surgery using a handywoman’s drill? No problem, Karl’s on the scene.
David also seems to have gone into the same extremely general practice of medicine, so presumably Karl is showing him how to do everything from hearing tests to chemotherapy.
Toadie saw what Dr Karl was doing at the hospital, and decided to apply the same principle at his one-stop-shop law practice. He can do everything from sorting out your will, to drawing up complex business contracts, or defending you for murder. And half the time he works for free, which is even more convenient.
Nobody Ever Locks Their Doors
Just in case any of my neighbours or friends are reading this – if you ever open the door and walk into my house without an invitation, I will call the police. But in reality, this wouldn’t happen because I am a normal person and I lock my doors. I find my door very handy for getting in and out of my house, and I also use it to allow other select individuals in and out. The rest of the time, it remains closed and locked, in order to prevent anyone from just waltzing straight into my house whenever they feel like it. Even if my door happened to be open for some reason that I cannot fathom, I would require you to knock and remain on the doorstep until you were invited in.
Someone needs to explain this to the Neighbours, because their door technique is all over the shop. Doors are left wide open, people walk in without knocking – it’s like none of them have ever used a door before. And don’t get me started on the lift at Lassiter’s that appears to go all the way from the lobby to the penthouse without the use of any kind of key or card, and opens up right into the living room. How many confused tourists have wandered into Paul’s apartment by accident? I’d love to know.
There are numerous other things that I could mention, like the fact that you can switch careers without really retraining; social services are just fine about a man caring for his baby in a backpackers’ hostel with no interior walls; and there appears only to be one flight per year from Brisbane to Melbourne – once you go to Queensland, you rarely come back.
But really, do I want Neighbours to be more realistic? Hell no, I don’t. Keep being silly Neighbours, I love you just the way you are.