Recent news is that Dallas and Dynasty are set to make a return, with a new series and Hollywood film respectively. Well, the Aussies have produced a few famous soaps of their own in their time. They might not have had a budget big enough to buy Dame Edna Everage’s wardrobe, but they still had their own cocktail of thrills, naffness and high jinks. Here, to help you understand what the hell Aussies are going on about when they talk TV, I pick 10 of the most memorable.
Timeline: 1985 – present
The details: Surely its theme-tune, “Neighbours, everybody needs good neighbours”, is the most nauseating in TV history. This wholesome Melbournian potboiler kicked off with the Robinsons and Ramseys. They fell out. They made up. Then they fell out all over again. Strewth! And they couldn’t escape from each other because they were all stuck down a bleeding cul-de-sac.
What’s worse, none of these dudes knew anything about birth control: each time there was a hole in the plot, some new bastard offspring would turn up. Worse still, it looked like the programme tapped into the Michael Jackson school of plastic surgery: characters often vanished at the end of one episode and came back the next day with a completely different face. Worst of all, one such transformation was when Scott Robinson became Jason Donovan. Heaven help us all.
If you want to catch Dr Karl and his buddies in action, you can make your own pilgrimage to Ramsay Street, actually the tiny Pin Oak Court, in Melbourne’s Vermont South suburb. The number 75 tram stops a 10-minute walk away. Better yet, join an organised tour and meet one of the stars, of head along to a Neighbours Night, every Monday at the Elephant and Wheelbarrow in St Kilda (there’s also occasional Neighbours nights in Sydney). Check www.neighboursnight.com.au
The details: If I ever get reincarnated as a chick – some would say I’m a bit of a sheila already – and then commit a crime, one place I wouldn’t have wanted to end up would have been Wentworth Detention Centre. In this iconic prison series, the women were so tough they made Russell Crowe look like Bambi. And then there was the hanky panky. Forget about reading the classics, the novel way these inmates enjoyed themselves was by having lesbian romps. Either that or they were clocking each other in the pout. Although, it’s hard to bash someone’s face in if it already looks like it’s been run over by a tractor. There were no supermodels here. Lizzie Birdsworth, Franky Doyle, dopey Dawoooooreen and Bea Smith were some of the most noteworthy jailbirds.
The British Royal Family
Timeline: Who cares, they’ll always be stuck in the past
The details: Undeniably, the biggest soap opera of all has to involve this dysfunctional bunch. They live somewhere more glam than David and Victoria Beckham, wear a larger amount of bling than you’d find in a South African gold mine and like fondling dogs that look like obese hamsters, otherwise known as corgis. Yes, it’s the House of Windsor who, for some unfathomable reason, still provide Aussies with their head of state. In the brood are the usual suspects of engrossing characters: the heir to the throne (Charles), who gets a raving hard-on whenever he talks about environmental issues; that Prince Phillip bloke who has an epileptic seizure every time he meets someone foreign – basically anyone not in the royal family; and, of course, not disregarding, Queen Elizabeth. God bless her highness’s monogrammed silk socks! Prepare for Aussies to lose their usual disdain for the Windsors by getting typically obsessed by April’s royal wedding.
Home and Away
Timeline: 1988 – present
The details: I’d prefer to be in an old people’s home with a leaking colostomy bag than sit through an installment of this drama. But, then again, even though I’m almost geriatric, there’s enough action in it to even get me up and excited. Indeed, tits wobble, butts shake and toned mid-riffs just hang out, when lifesavers spring into action in this seaside community. Set in the fictional town of Summer Bay, originally the show centred on Pippa and Frank Fletcher and their caravan park – yes, it really was that interesting. Particularly as we saw the acne-filled faces and tantrums of their delinquent, sorry delightful, foster children. The late Heath Ledger, plus Naomi Watts and Guy Pearce (who was also in Neighbours for three years) have all appeared in the programme. Head up to Palm Beach, in Sydney’s far north, to catch a glimpse of the cast in action, or get your photo outside the surf club.
Sons and Daughters
The details: There were more bitches in this high-octane free-for-all than you’d find in London’s Battersea Dog’s Home. And the female characters here were just as barking mad as those mutts too. No wonder, when they had to contend with storylines that included incest, rape, prostitution and lookalike imposters. Initially, ‘SAD’ concentrated on two bitter, intertwined suburban families, the Hamiltons and the Palmers. But the cast and the plotlines expanded, with hilarious season finales such as someone breaking into a safe only to find themselves trapped with a venomous snake. Maybe, even more enjoyable were the cruddy sets which looked like they could be assembled with glue, Blu Tack and a bit of cardboard. In less than five minutes.
Out of the Blue
The details: This humdinger started off with a dead body. Did it mean a person kicked the bucket because they couldn’t stand the embarrassment of having walnut-sized hemorrhoids? No, fortunately, it’s just foul play that’s presumed. And the wrongdoer is one of the rest of a group of 30-somethings who had returned to the Sydney tourist hub of Manly for a high school reunion. Slick and highly entertaining over the next few months the viewer had to try and figure out who flew into a murderous rage. But, that begs another question: where the hell’s Columbo or Kojak when you need them?
All Saints: Medical Response Unit
The details: Every time I see a flashing blue siren and a nurse’s uniform, it generally means I’m just getting ready for a kinky sex game. Yet, perhaps these props were put to much better use in this enthralling Sydney-based medical suspenser. The action occurred in Ward 17 and the Emergency Department in All Saints Western General Hospital. And there seemed to be more trauma there than when I discovered the sweets which my next-door neighbour used to give me as a kid were really laxatives. In the last season, in an effort to stop the older female viewers dozing off in their armchairs and dribbling over themselves, a revamp was ordered. Cue, executive toys that Paris Hilton would have been proud of: a snazzy helicopter and a four-wheel drive. Wow!
The details: Sibling rivalry has got a lot to answer for. In the classic film Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, the sisters (Bette Davis and Joan Crawford) spit, slap and cuss to communicate, and one of them even tries to flatten the other one with a car. Here, mercy be, there’s no such histrionics: Claire and Tess Mcleod seem mildly happy to be reunited after 20 years apart. Nonetheless, it’s dirty. Filthy, dirty. No, not in a porn sense, but because they are in a big flipping muddy ranch (the Drover’s Run), in South Australia. And there’s no room on the gals inherited property for a crooked male workforce, so they draft in some more broads. Makes one wonder what they’ll be doing come bedtime.
The details: The only thing I ever pull that’s tactical is a chunder, usually after knocking back too many Babychams. Notwithstanding, in Rush we’re presented with a mobile Tactical Response unit whose mission is to “boldly go where no man has gone before”. Sorry, wrong show, that’s Star Trek. Here this motley Melbournian police crew religiously goes about putting everybody’s noses out of joint at major crime scenes: carjackings, suicides and armed robberies. Surely though, there must be more important matters for them to consider. You know, like why does my Tim Tam disintegrate every time I try and drink a warm beer through it and how comes we got stuffed again by the Poms in the cricket? Catherine McClements, Callan Mulvey and Rodger Corser are the leads.
Kath and Kim
The details: This tale about a suburban housewife and the cranky relationship she had with her daughter was funnier than a sumo wrestler trying to go hang-gliding. Enough said, I feel!