Monday, January 08, 2007

Removalists Must Make a Fortune in Erinsborough

Some thoughts on that show we all love to pretend we don't watch (or maybe that's just me): So on top of the steady exodus of relatively short-lived, unsuccessful characters - Cameron, Dylan, Katya, the hottie who was put into the opening credits and then sacked after like 12 weeks or something, etc - apparently now Janelle and Bree are going, as is Lou's long-lost daughter Lolly - who hasn't actually reappeared on Australian screens yet. Add to this the longer-term characters moving onto greener pastures - Lyn, Max and Sky - and it makes for tumultuous times on Ramsay Street.

Apparently the producers 'are bringing in fresh blood to boost ratings, and at least two other actors have been told that their contracts will not be renewed'. Gah! Two more deaths!

This reference to 'boosting ratings' is somewhat unusual. Everybody knows the show isn't and hasn't been made for Australian audiences for years - if it were it would have been axed long ago in the fact of constant defeat by TT and ACA in the 6:30 timeslot - so it would seem it's the Poms who are losing interest in keeping up with the various bogan or effluent, aspamerational clans of the cul-de-sac. But can you blame them? The attitude of 'let's can a whole mess of characters for a short-term ratings boost' was the same one the producers took when they decimated most of the Bishop family in the 20th anniversary plane crash (pending Serena 'body was never found' Bishop's inevitable return) - and obviously, that wasn't an overly successful ploy in the long term.

The residents of Ramsay Street also ballooned quite significantly about two years ago, when it went from a nice manageable cast of 18 or so to about 25. Do they think if we're just bombarded with lots of characters for a short time, we'll neglect to notice a decline in quality?

Yeah yeah, be a poncy snob. "Neighbours" and "quality" in the same sentence? *consternation* *uproar* Whoever heard of such a thing? Well, for Oz soap tragics like myself with soft spots for the classics like Number 96, Prisoner, Sons and Daughters etc, Neighbours is really the last in that mould*. I've watched it since I was seven and I hope it keeps going. But I'm not going to allow my heart to be broken investing in characters who'll be randomly murdered four days later. No doubt the stalwarts - Paul, Harold, Lou, Susan, Karl, Toadie - will die on set, but they can't hold the show up by themselves, as Nat Bass appeared to be doing at one stage. Quality over quantity and all that - the original Neighbours cast consisted of 11 characters. Maybe it's time for a return to basics.

And get rid of Dan f#$king O'Connor!! There are only so many exploitative plotlines that can be written to provide flimsy excuses for him to be shirtless, his only functional value in the show, and frankly they got tired months ago. Even Katya the Frozen Face increased slightly in acting capabilities during her brief time, but Dan's actually gotten worse. Now that Boyd's all legal, the exploited hot torso role is suitably filled - and Boyd doesn't have a disproportionately massive head, either.

Oh - and bring back Toadie's mum. She looks like a man but I still oddly miss her.

(*Homo and Gays doesn't count. Takes itself way too seriously to be any fun.)


At 8/1/07 5:52 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Theres so much I could say about this topic(sadly).

Suffice it to say I think axing the family Timmins is a mistake. They have added much needed comic relief to the increasingly melodramatic storylines of late. Nell Feeney in particular is an absolute scream and steals every scene shes in.

Apparently they are not popular with the "general public"(yeah as if anyone but us die-hard saddos watches it these days anyway).

I remember back when the Kennedys first started they, and Karl in particular, werent very well-liked for the first couple of years. I also remember a lot of people decrying the "bogan" Scullys when they first arrived too. Given enough time and development the audience grew to love them and they became Ramsay St fixtures. Am sure the same would have happened with the Timmins clan (and the Bishops for that matter) but now I guess we'll never know. All smells like desperation to me.

Toadies mum is brilliant although I can never stop thinking of her as the husband-beating Monica Ferguson from Prisoner! I keep expecting to see her to give Big Kev a thumping.

Would echo your thoughts re: Dan O'Christian. Cant we swap him for more Mishka?

At 8/1/07 11:51 pm, Anonymous Dave Hill said...

As ever, your blog alerts me to the existence of a whole Other Universe. As for the rating problem, can't they just inflate another surfer, or something?

At 9/1/07 8:54 am, Blogger Sam said...

I agree Chris. Families on the show do have a history of starting out disturbingly boganesque before settling down, and I'm sure with good writing the Timmins could have done the same.

And yes, I also remember Mon from Prisoner - or as I sometimes like to call her, the 'First Ferguson'.

At 9/1/07 11:00 am, Blogger skander said...

The "other two" are purported to be Boyd and Janae...

Sans Max, Summer and Izzy, there's not much Hoyland action left, and in my book Janae is the dullest of the Timmins, so I was disappointed to read that she seemed to be the only one sticking around after Stinger's death.

I still (18 months on) do not understand the decision to "kill off" everybody who is related to Harold. Sure Ljiljana was a drippy character who was never able to demonstrate the "fiery" in "fiery Serbian wife" (miscasting, I say. Sorry Marcella), but David was David Bishop, Harold's only son and only surviving child. Send him back to Perth, but don't kill him, his wife and their "princess" daughter, who I'd finally decided was a really good addition to Erinsborough (just Like Holly Valance but with substance). For fcuk's sake, the closest relative Harold now has after Sky is the awful breathy Luka who isn't even of true Bishop blood. So Harold is left forever as a dead-end character buymbling around with Lou, esp with Steph Mac leaving for her career in muzak.


At 9/1/07 11:40 am, Blogger Sam said...

skander: My theory re the Bishop massacre is that, as well as needing something 'UUUUGE for the 20th anniversay, it's grounding for Serena (and possibly Lil)'s return from the dead. This will be a nice circle-of-life plot (what with Harold's original return from the dead) as well as a 'heart-warming' assurance that he doesn't have the aura of familial death he no doubt thinks he has (first wife, Kerry, Madge, David etc).

Although bringing back Serena might actually force the writers to explain what the hell ever happened to Seamus O'Top'o'the'mornin.

At 9/1/07 4:21 pm, Blogger skander said...

It took me ages to work out that you meant pale, podgy, balding Connor-who-can't-read. Ages, Sam. Please don't remind me of such things. Ugh.

I unfortunately think they were sitting around the meeting room table, thinking, how can we sketch this out over coming months, and someone chimed with with "Why don't we make Harold try to kill Paul!!" and they all went, "yeah, geat idea", "like it!", and then had to work out how to get to such a point. "I know, David and Ljil and Serena aren't working as well as we wanted and their contracts aren't far off from lapsing, why don't we kill them off—having all but one of your living relatives die would send anybody over the deep end."

"Yeah, great idea, let's do it!"


Even people who didn't like David—and sure he was wet, he's meant to be—could admit that he had instant viewer devotion, simply by being an old character from the 80s played by the original actor.

What I think showed that they hadn't really thought about anything more than "We need a HUGE, HUGE EVENT" is that they never had any plans to disclose the perpetrator, or even any idea who s/he would be. Instead we got one poorly ret-conned reference from Paul's psycho son that he did it. If they had thought about it, and in my books these things should be roughly plotted at least 12 months in advance, there should be at least clues to the identity of the "plane bomber", so that there is something for viewers to go on. But no. Instead a character we never knew anything about did it, he tells us 6 months later. And why not kill just Connor and Ljil? That'd leave Dave and Serena to return in mourning to Perth, thus able to return.

And while I'm at it, who burned down Lassiters?

At 9/1/07 5:10 pm, Blogger Sam said...

'Twas Paul, skander (Izzy blackmailed him about it for a bit).

Which in itself begs a lot of questions, since as I remember it, he deliberately set fire to the complex while there were lots of people around. And Paul's a baddie, yes, but has never been established to be casual about killing random people he doesn't know just to make a point.

I think, in 'reality'(ha ha), Paul would've at least waited till after hours when no-one was around, then put Gus' dead body there and then set it alight. But they needed a characters-in-jeopardy cliffhanger for '04.

We should so be writing for this show. We do it way better.

And maybe we should get out more

At 9/1/07 5:56 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Youve opened a real can o' worms here Sam! Then again try wandering over to if you want to see some real vitriol about the state of our fave sudser!

I think the writers went nuts in 05. After having some ratings success with more dramatic storylines in 03/04 they obviously went for broke in 2005 (not least because it was the anniversary year). Unfortunately they went WAY too far with the melodrama, crime and death and lost sight of the shows basic premise only driving viewers away. Things improved this year but not enough. There is still too much drama without proper build-up or consequence and far too many deaths!

When you overplay your dramatic storylines they start having no impact and thats when you know a soap is doomed. Just ask the writers of E-Street, Sons and Daughters, Melrose Place, Dynasty etc. All classic shows that just kept trying to top their own storylines with even more drama/shocks and eventually self-destructed because of it.

Still, Homos and Gays seems to do just that constantly and manages to keep its audience so who knows?

Skander - the Lassiters fire has never fully been explained. As I understand the plan originally was that Paul Robinson would only stay for the first half of 2005 at the end of which it would be revealed that he lit the fire and killed Gus and he would be carted off to jail. However the writers liked Paul too much and decided not to use this storyline so they could keep him around. Paul all but admitted the fire and the murder to Izzy earlier this year. In interviews the writers promise there will be a proper resolution one day perhaps when we find out what really happened to Connor ... and Lil ... and Serena ... and Dee.

What was I saying about cans of worms? :o)

At 9/1/07 6:03 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whoops was looking at an old version of the page before youd answered Skander's question Sam!

Agree with you re: Paul. They could at least have had him say that Gus attacked him and he acted in self-defence in killing him so he wasnt just a cold-blooded murderer. Kinda makes it hard to warm to the man otherwise.


At 9/1/07 6:34 pm, Blogger skander said...

So he killed Gus first—not knowing who Gus was—before he set fire to the Lassiters Complex, destroying all the sets except Gino's "A Good Hair Day".


I thought Ben Barrack was a bit of a hottie too. As was the old Darcemeister... And Mark said wanted a gay relationship for his character. Now that could have been fun.

At 9/1/07 6:44 pm, Blogger skander said...

I agree with you Chris that 2003/4 were the good years. Lyn's parenthood storyline, Darcy's gambling/stealing and setting up Ruby, and the arrival of the Bishops, and Max/Gus being the highlights for me. Nothing has reached those dizzying heights of drama since then. The stories were intertwined with confidences and overhearing and all the things that make a soap work, family allegiances and dark secrets, not just blackmail and crime. Quality drama cf HnA melodrama.

At 10/1/07 10:17 am, Blogger Sam said...

I think you were led to believe Paul had done enough homework to know that Gus was not well-liked on Ramsay St and would have been easily accepted as the arsonist.

I agree re Neighbours 2004 heights, too. Lana was actually a good queer character, and Susan going bunter at Karl publicly in the street with Izzy and Libby in tow? Gold.

And a gay Dr Darcy? In prison, no less? Hott.

At 10/1/07 11:41 am, Blogger skander said...

How could I forget Lana! Another storyline very well done.

Any time there is a commotion in the cul-de-sac, it makes for excellent soap. Those initial Karl/Izzy/Susan scenes were awesome. Susan supported by a furious Libby and my personal favourite, holier-than-thou Lyn with her stroller-cum-battering-ram; poor old Izzy supported only by grumpy, inept Max; and an astonished pair of Bishops watching on. Pure and unadulterated gold.

At 10/1/07 11:42 am, Blogger skander said...

How could I forget Lana! Another storyline very well done.

Any time there is a commotion in the cul-de-sac, it makes for excellent soap. Those initial Karl/Izzy/Susan scenes were awesome. Susan supported by a furious Libby and my personal favourite, holier-than-thou Lyn with her stroller-cum-battering-ram; poor old Izzy supported only by grumpy, inept Max; and an astonished pair of Bishops watching on. Pure and unadulterated gold.


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