Why Neighbours vanishing from British TV screens can be of benefit to Yorkshire - Mark Casci

Other than school and obsessing over music, there was one constant occurrence in my Monday to Friday life as a child.

Australian soap opera Neighbours was compulsory viewing for myself and everyone I knew from around eight to 19 years of age.

Every weekday at 5.35pm you were in front of the television without fail to see the latest developments on Ramsey Street, the fictitious cul-de-sac in Melbourne where it was set.

I was not alone. At its height some 20 million people were tuning in. In turn it launched the careers of the likes of Russell Crowe, Kylie Minogue, Jason Donovan and Margot Robbie.

Lou Carpenter and Harold Bishop were two of the most popular characters on Neighbours.

I lost interest when I left home and had to try and appear as cool as possible but a sizable part of my childhood was dedicated to the fortunes of Scott Robinson, Helen Daniels, Des Clarke, Toadfish Rebecchi and Karl Kennedy.

Regular readers will be wondering where this is going so let me bring in the commercial stuff. This weekend we learned that the future of the show was in doubt after Channel 5 confirmed it will stop airing the soap later this year.

Due to Neighbours being more popular in the UK than in its native Australia, it has been reliant on the UK broadcaster for funding. An email to staff from Fremantle Media said production will stop for an indefinite period because of the lack of a broadcast partner to back it financially. Although filming will continue until June 10, the future beyond that remains unclear.

While some television shows have multi-generational longevity, the overwhelming majority have finite careers. Although it has been around since 1985, Neighbours certainly has no divine right to succeed.

Photo by Martin Philbey Copyright Freemantle Media

However, given some one million people still watch the show in the UK, clearly a market still exists for this long-running show.

The reason why soap operas are successful are manifold but the model of having a multi-character programme, representing multiple generations, who have dramatic lives full of jeopardy, love, heartbreak and struggle means they appeal to a wide range of audience categories and, most importantly, make them feel good about their own existence.

If Neighbours is to survive it will need to adapt to the modern world. Streaming is increasingly king when it comes to television.

Audiences no longer rush home in time for a certain airtime. They are bombarded with information constantly and are increasingly time poor.

Alan Fletcher, who played Karl Kennedy

If it could adapt its approach, move to a seasonal basis and be more modern, a savvy streaming giant would snap it up.

One only needs to look at what has happened during the pandemic with the likes of Friends or The Sopranos, both of which are reaching wider audiences than they ever did during their broadcasting heydays. The former is finding success with audiences who were not even born when it first aired while The Sopranos defined modern television with its gritty anti-hero plot lines.

Unlikely as it sounds, Neighbours vanishing from Channel 5 could also benefit us here in Yorkshire.

The broadcaster has made clear it wants to drop the series to focus more on UK-based dramas, which are currently finding massive audiences worldwide.

The Sopranos changed television.

Given that our region is a veritable hotbed of versatile and iconic locations, it has frequently been selected as a base for the filming of some of the biggest series in recent years.

Peaky Blinders, All Creatures Great & Small, Bridgerton and Gentleman Jack have all been filmed here.

Just last month Samuel L Jackson was in the region filming for the new Marvel Secret Invasion series.

Meanwhile, motion pictures such as the upcoming Indiana Jones and Mission Impossible films have brought the likes of Tom Cruise and Harrison Ford to Yorkshire.

The screen industries in Yorkshire & Humber are estimated to support some 12,000 jobs with a turnover of more than £1bn.

It would seem that Ramsey Street’s loss could be Yorkshire’s gain.