Neighbours’ 35th anniversary celebrations are giving UK soaps a run for their money

It's bigger and better in Oz, says Helen Daly

Neighbours Finn and Susan

Three deaths and five weddings is what we have to look forward to across Neighbours’ 35th anniversary, as the beloved Australian soap celebrates its latest milestone.

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It’s been a year of celebrations for soaps, as EastEnders turned 35 earlier in 2020, Doctors turns 20 this month, Hollyoaks is 25 in October and Coronation Street hits the big 6-0 in December. (Don’t worry, Emmerdale fans, that turns 50 in 2022.)

It’s become tradition for soaps to push the boat out – quite literally, if you’re EastEnders – whenever they’re celebrating an anniversary, and now it’s Neighbours’ turn.

Over the course of this week (running between 16th and 20th March), the Aussie soap has promised three named characters will perish, and five couples who have spanned the history of the show will tie the knot.

And if that’s not enough, the hugely ambitious week will see the usual output doubled as the soap plans to air in its usual afternoon slot and at 10pm.

That’s 10 episodes in one week. Wow.

It goes without saying that Neighbours are pulling out all the stops for their “Endgame” celebration but what it does is set the bar extremely high for UK soaps.

Take EastEnders’ recent birthday, for example. Sure, they pulled off an incredibly tense week, with one day running across four episodes, showing different points of view.

But on EastEnders’ actual birthday – 19th February – the soap wasn’t on air because unfortunately this year, it fell on a Wednesday when we usually don’t take a trip to Walford.

It was a big shame for fans who would have surely loved to see their beloved soap on air on its birthday.

Neighbours, however, is going full throttle, choosing to change the dynamics of the soap forever all the while delivering double the amount of episodes.

It’s a lesson UK soaps can learn from. Look back at Coronation Street’s 50th birthday. ITV aired an hour long special in 2010 which was live. Episodes were airing every day and four characters were killed off while one got married.

The soap was changed forever from that day onwards – but come to their 55th, evil Callum brought chaos to the Platt family, but it was nowhere near as ambitious.

Emmerdale did a live episode for their 40th, with Carl King (Tom Lister) dying. For their 45th, they brought back Kathy Glover and Joe Sugden. Exciting, but hardly an “Endgame”, you’ll agree.

A birthday is a birthday, and in turbulent TV landscapes, the fact soaps have been on for 35 years is just as triumphant as 50 years.

We should be celebrating our UK soaps in the same vein as Neighbours, a soap which not only appreciates its heritage, but also looks forward to the future.

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They say everybody needs good Neighbours, and thankfully we have the best – they’re the popular soap characters on our televisions every night. Let’s give them a right old knees up like they are in Australia.