I don’t watch Neighbours because it’s gritty and realistic, I watch it because it is utterly ridiculous and, at times, hilarious. Erinsborough has a gravitational pull that mysteriously attracts long-lost children, it has a comically high incidence of amnesia, and things explode a lot – so the scope for coming up with preposterous storylines is limitless. The Neighbours writers certainly know how to do a big story, but recently some of the main storylines seem to have lacked a big finish.
There are three big storylines from the past six months that I have an issue with. First, the gnome murder plot, which saw the thoroughly unpleasant Hamish come to Erinsborough to find his long-lost son Tyler, inexplicably attempt to steal a boat from him and then wind up face down in a hot tub, dressed as Guy Fawkes, and having been hit on the head by a garden gnome. As storyline set-ups go, this is pure gold – it couldn’t be more ridiculous.
The story rumbled on for weeks and weeks – just who was it that killed Hamish? Naturally the suspicion fell on Tyler, and he was singled out as a suspect fairly early on in the investigation. But soaps never identify the prime suspect first, do they? Surely it would look like Tyler did the gnoming, and then at the last minute, another suspect would emerge in a huge plot twist, yes? Except, no. It was Tyler, and after a brief attempt to run away to the city and do a spot of casual parkour on top of a hotel, he went to prison without a lot of ceremony.
The next story I have a bone to pick with is Izzy’s big return. Izzy was always tremendous fun, and I was excited when I heard she was coming back to Ramsay Street. Things got off to a promising start, as in her first scene she was hit by a car (while dressed as Ginger Spice) by her arch-nemesis Susan, who at the time was dressed as Camilla Parker-Bowles. This is going to be good, I thought.
As always Izzy was great value. She seduced the World’s Most Boring Man, Mark Brennan, and then hilariously said to him what we’ve all been thinking for years – that he’s cute but there’s not much more to him than that. She announced she’d inherited a multi-million pound fortune, displayed some astonishingly bad parenting skills and then said that she wanted Karl to father a second child with her, despite him still being married to Susan. This story was lacking a climax in more ways than one, as when Karl refused, Izzy stole a sample of something of his (that Neighbours is not allowed to mention by name) from a fertility study at the hospital, and indulged in a spot of guerrilla insemination.
The stage was set for a huge upset – Izzy pregnant with another of Karl’s children, Karl torn between Susan and Izzy yet again, and the repercussions of Izzy’s theft – I was strapping myself in for a very fun ride. But the pregnancy test came back negative, Izzy lost her fortune, and then she just left, and she didn’t even have the decency to take her existing child with the dreadful accent with her. It was such a huge anti-climax. I understand that they only had Natalie Bassingthwaighte on a temporary contract, but they knew that, so I don’t think they should have started a storyline they couldn’t finish satisfactorily.
Talking of unsatisfactory endings leads me to the third damp squib – Rafael. As an obvious ploy to pander to the soap’s UK fans, some random from Coronation Street was brought in to ultimately do nothing more than squint a lot and sleep in the reception area of the backpackers hostel for a few weeks. He had a rather sweet romance with David, and lurked around the building site a lot, but other than that he was kind of pointless.
Rafael’s deal was investigating the fatal fire that killed his mother, which he suspected was Paul’s fault. He tried to sabotage Paul’s new building venture, and caused one of Paul’s surprise long-lost twins to get trapped under an enormous block of concrete, which in itself was a huge anti-climax because Leo escaped that with barely a scratch. My favourite Rafael moment was when Aaron got hold of his arm to stop him walking away and somehow managed to whip his entire shirt off, revealing the scars from the fire on his back. Aside from that spectacular comedy moment, Rafael was completely forgettable and, having found out that Paul had nothing to do with the fire, quietly sloped off to go and squint at things somewhere else.
I so wanted suitably ridiculous endings to all these ridiculous plots. Neighbours is genuinely one of my favourite things in the world, but it needs to start following through on some of its promises. You can’t give me Ginger Spice getting run over by Camilla Parker-Bowles and then have it end with Ginger sheepishly getting into a taxi to the airport. Make it big and make it stupid, Neighbours, it’s what we all want.