The series follows the daily lives of several families who live in the fictional Ramsay Street, Erinsborough – although in fact it is restricted to the small cul-de-sac of six houses at the end of the street – and includes the usual soap staples of births, deaths, and marriages. The show features a regular turnover of attractive young actors mixed in with the more stable cast of older people. Though it is not commonly mentioned so as to not alienate viewers in other Australian cities, Erinsborough (nearly an anagram of 'Our Neighbours') is undoubtedly supposed to be a suburb of Melbourne. The show is filmed in Melbourne, and for street scenes uses Pin Oak Court in Vermont South, a suburb in eastern Melbourne. Erinsborough is often contrasted with the neighbouring, and equally fictitious, suburb of Eden Hills. Other locations often mentioned (and sometimes seen) in the show include West Waratah, Waratah Heights and Anson's Corner.
Many successful Australian actors and singers had some of their earliest work on Neighbours, including Kylie Minogue, Jesse Spencer, Guy Pearce, Russell Crowe (brief guest appearance), Natalie Imbruglia, Jason Donovan, Holly Valance, Mark Little, Radha Mitchell, Delta Goodrem and Natalie Bassingthwaighte. Actor Alan Dale who had previously starred in The Young Doctors, played the central character of Jim Robinson for the show's first seven years and is now a recognisable star in US series such as 24 and The O.C.. One of the most enduring characters currently on the show is Harold Bishop, played by actor Ian Smith who has also written many of the scripts for the show.
Neighbours celebrated its 20th Anniversary in 2005 with a special episode which featured appearances from several former members of the cast.
The show is also popular in the United Kingdom where it quickly gained a cult following after it began to be broadcast there in 1986. BBC One began by screening it at lunchtime, but it was soon given an early evening repeat slot by controller Michael Grade on the advice of his daughter. In the late 1980s it regularly had a UK audience in the tens of millions and was sometimes watched by more people than the population of Australia at that time. The episodes in the UK are now generally shown between one and three months after they are seen in Australia, as the BBC often removes the show from its schedule during major sports tournaments such as Wimbledon and bank holidays in order to take into account the fact that the show usually takes a four week break over the Christmas/New Year in Australia for the Southern Hemisphere summer. Accounting for the duplication of viewers across its two UK showings a day, the show rates on average over five million viewers a day, making it arguably the highest rated commonwealth import on British television.
It also airs every evening on Irish TV station RTÉ Two at 5.30. These episodes are also about three months behind the Australian network.
The show has also been sold to networks in many other countries. Episodes from 1999 were aired for a six-week trial basis on the American channel Oxygen in March of 2004. At first, it was shown in the afternoon opposite higher-rated American soaps such as The Young and the Restless and All My Children, which gave the show anemic ratings from the first airing; the people who would be most interested in the show were watching other, more established serials. After a couple of weeks, the show moved to a late-night time slot and eventually left the air entirely. It was the sixth Australian soap opera to be aired in the United States (The Sullivans, Prisoner, Home and Away, Paradise Beach and Pacific Drive are the other five).
It has been long aired by Television New Zealand and screens twice daily at 5:05am and 5:00pm.
The Seven Network (1985)
Network Ten, Australia (1986-)
BBC One, UK
TVNZ, New Zealand
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