The general consensus amongst Neighbours fans is that the show isn’t at its strongest when it puts the focus too heavily on crime stories and guest villains.
It’s true, there have been many a great villain on Neighbours, but how many times do we have to see them toppled by the Erinsborough police force? Enough is enough!
The main problem the soap has with tackling these fantastic villains now is that the focus almost always involves the same, old, police investigation.
Since 2013 we have rarely had a spell on the show without a regular cop in the main cast. In 2013, we saw Matt Turner (Josef Brown) take the spot, soon followed by a returning Mark Brennan (Scott McGregor). Mark only left the show last year, but came back for a stint for the 35th anniversary – and we even saw him team up with another detective in the form of Sky Mangel (Stephanie McIntosh).
Detectives Mark and Sky at Elly’s trial earlier this year
Mark and Sky hung around for several weeks to investigate Finn’s death and at this stage, we already had Yashvi Rebecchi (Olivia Junkeer) as a policewoman in training; accompanying them both to crime scenes. But when Mark left for the final time, we only had a matter of weeks before Levi Canning (Richie Morris) took the cop spot; shortly followed by Yashvi who went through police training in record time.
The problem with always having a cop on the show is that it makes things far too easy for the writers to stay in the lane they’re comfortable with. We know any crime that occurs will be their story for the week, We know a conflict of interest will undoubtedly come around and they will likely have to arrest a friend or family member. Yashvi hadn’t even made it through her first day on the job before she arrested Harlow Robinson (Jemma Donovan) and found herself torn between her job and her friend. We’ve watched this happen time and time again and we have not seen much yet to justify the need for not only one, but two, regular constables.
As mentioned, guest villains, corruption and crime aren’t new to the soap. But previously the focus on these stories and the impact it had was on the characters themselves, not the police hoping to catch a lead. Libby Kennedy (Kym Valentine) got into trouble as a journalist when she unearthed something she shouldn’t have, her brother Billy (Jesse Spencer) witnessed illegal activity at a building site – the bad guys involved here were just rotating guest villains too but as they were looked at in different ways and through different lenses, they rarely felt repetitive.
Current cops, Yashvi and Levi arrest their neighbour
The eras of Neighbours that are – generally speaking – thought of as the best have been times where we haven’t had a single regular policeman on the cast. And yet the writers found ways to keep telling interesting stories without one. If anything, it was like they actively avoided creating a cop for fear it would lead to the show drifting away from its roots.
It would be great to see the show veer away from crime stories for a spell now. Between those and the constant business dealings at Lassiters, it would be refreshing to have these taken away to allow the writers to look at other ways to tell stories – other ways to approach these guest villains that don’t involve numerous interminable scenes at the police station or our characters going around conducting interviews. Neighbours should consider ditching the police plots, which could seem especially tone-deaf at the moment following on from the death of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter protests.
The show thrived for many years without the need for this but now with two officers calling Ramsay Street home, it looks like we are set for more of the same. A recent trailer released for the coming weeks only proves that with the police dealing with the local drug dealer and drama ensuing from it – with Susan Kennedy (Jackie Woodburne) seemingly being held hostage for her second time this year!
And it seems we’re not the only ones who have thought this. Sharon Johal (Dipi Rebecchi) has hinted she too wishes the show would veer away from this type of storytelling by liking a tweet that complained about this very problem.
It is worth noting that Levi’s stint on the force could end at a moment’s notice due to his decision to hide his epilepsy from his superiors – an interesting difference from those that have come before him. But it has never been life at Erinsborough police station that has been the pull for most viewers of the soap. It’s the mix of friends and family interacting on a little cul-de-sac in Melbourne that is the heart of this show and why so many of us fell in love with it.
It, at times, feels as though the heavy police focus is at odds with what Neighbours has always been about and doesn’t mesh well with that perfect blend it strives to have. If it didn’t need it in its heyday, why does it need it now?
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