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TV&RADIO: Blue skies over Erinsborough; GEMMA QUADE looks back on a lifetime of Neighbours and its move from BBC1 to Channel Five.

Byline: GEMMA QUADE

We've been watching Neighbours for some 22 years now, but things are about to change - because all of Ramsay Street's residents are moving, but don't worry, only from BBC One to Five.

There it joins Home And Away to make a whole hour of Aussie entertainment every weeknight.

For many it's a mystery why the soap has proved so popular over here. Ian Smith, who plays Erinsborough legend Harold Bishop, wishes he knew the secret to its longevity too.

"If I knew the answer to that I'd be a multi-millionaire by now," he laughs. "But I think it's got something to do with the fact the sky is blue all the time, or supposedly all the time - it's actually freezing in real life. They always say, if you don't like the weather in Melbourne, wait for 10 minutes, because it's so changeable.

"I also think people like the lack of class system in the street - you can live next door to your doctor and call him by his first name; you can ask him to come and have a swim in your pool, all of that sort of thing."

Ian himself is the longest-serving member of the cast, and fans are often shocked when they meet him, expecting him to be an old fuddy duddy like his famous alter ego.

"I can't argue with any of his morals on life," Ian says.

"He believes in honesty, in not doing anybody any harm, and doing an honest day's work for an honest day's pay.

"As far as those things go, I pretty much base him on my own values, but I swear, I drink booze and I'm an atheist, so I am different to Harold."

Unfortunately Harold will only appear on our screens for another couple of months, because Ian has decided to go into semi-retirement. He says his decision came at a time when he wasn't happy with the show's storylines, and he has agreed to return to the show every now and then.

"The minute I said I wasn't going to come back this knot appeared in my stomach," the 69-year-old admits.

"Neighbours has been a huge part of my life, so when the producers came up with this alternative idea of leaving for four months, then coming back for six weeks, going for four months, coming back for six weeks, I thought, gee that's a good way to retire."

But how will Ramsay Street cope without Harold?

"There will be someone to take over that will be just as good," Ian laughs. "And Lou (Carpenter, his housemate) will be okay, he's resilient if nothing else!"

We take a look back at five of the most memorable storylines from Neighbours' 22-year run on the BBC.

Scott And Charlene's Wedding (1987) - Who could forget the tearjerker episode when mechanic Charlene and Scott finally tied the knot? The wedding was one of the highest rated Neighbours episodes ever, and the song that played throughout Scott and Charlene's big day, Suddenly by Angry Anderson, hit Number One in the pop charts shortly afterwards.

Bouncer's Dream (1990) - Bouncer was a dog, but that didn't stop the producers of Neighbours from thinking it would be okay to devote a portion of an episode to his dream about getting wed to sheepdog Rosie. Bizarre, but legendary!

Harold's Return From The Dead (1996) - When Harold Bishop was washed off a cliff face into the sea in 1991, everyone thought he was a goner. Apart from Neighbours' scriptwriters, apparently, who brought him back five years later. He was suffering from severe amnesia, but luckily Madge helped his rehabilitation and they fell in love again.

The Susan/Karl/Izzy Love Triangle (2003/4) - It's not as if Karl didn't have a track record when it came to cheating, but leaving safe, dependable Susan for the woman she so accurately described as Jezebel was a big mistake. Thankfully, Dr Kennedy realised the error of his ways and has since remarried Susan.

The Plane Crash (2005) - Many of the residents of Ramsay Street thought they were in for a treat when they boarded a special flight to Tasmania to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Lassiter's.

Unfortunately a bomb had been planted on the aircraft, and exploded midair.

Harold's son David, his wife Liljana and their daughter Serena all perished in the crash.

Erinsborough has been a good breeding ground for young actors, cutting their teeth before going on to global stardom. Ian says it has been a hugely enjoyable experience to watch some of them learn their trade on the show.

"It's such a wonderful showcase," he says. "Let's be honest it's soap, not Shakespeare, but it's a wonderful school for kids if they've got the brains and want to be there to be actors."

We take a look at some of the stars who made their name on Ramsay Street and have gone on to have international success.

Kylie Minogue (Charlene Mitchell/Robinson)- Since leaving Neighbours Kylie has turned into a pop princess, and two decades later is still topping the charts.

Jason Donovan (Scott Robinson) - Jason had a brief stint as a pop star, then turned his hand to musicals. More recently he has been seen in the I'm A Celebrity jungle, and is currently starring in ITV1's Echo Beach.

Guy Pearce (Mike Young) - Guy is now a bona fide movie star, having appeared in blockbusters including LA Confidential and The Count Of Monte Cristo.

Alan Dale (Jim Robinson) - It took a few years for Alan to shake off his soap star tag, but he is now a big US TV actor, having starred in 24, The O.C. and Ugly Betty.

Natalie Imbruglia (Beth Brennan/Willis) - She went on to have huge success as a recording artist, reaching number two with Torn in 1997.

Jesse Spencer (Billy Kennedy) - After leaving Neighbours in 1999, Jesse has most recently been seen keeping Hugh Laurie in check on the US TV series House.

Holly Vallance (Flick Scully) - Had a Number One hit with Kiss Kiss, and has also appeared in Prison Break.

CAPTION(S):

Scott and Charlene's (Jason Donovan and Kylie Minoque) wedding in 1987; The present-day cast of Neigbours which is is moving to Channel 5.; Ian Smith as the ever-popular Harold in Neighbours
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Feb 9, 2008
Words:1048
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