Neighbours reboot preview: You can't keep a good dog down
Twists, turns and tears... it's good to be back in Erinsborough.
Anyone who was worried Neighbours wouldn't be the same on streaming has got it very, very wrong. It's back, and just as soapy as ever.
I had the pleasure of watching the first few episodes of the beloved Australian soap, and let me tell you: fans don't need to be worried.
I'm going to avoid spoilers here (which is easier said than done because there's one very big one I want to scream about from the rooftops), but I'm here to reassure your nerves, Neighbours fans, that you'll love the Amazon Freevee era just as much as you loved the BBC and Channel 5 offerings.
When we get back to Ramsay Street, it's two years after the events of the finale, which means there's been plenty of time for plenty of drama. Some mighty big things have happened, and they'll start to slowly unravel over the new season, with some things still a mystery even after the eight episodes I saw.
Not that it's annoying being in the dark though. It really does feel like we've been on holiday for a little bit and now we're returning home with the dust settled (but some confetti from the balloon explosion still miraculously intact). This is long-tail planning and it's the best thing soaps do, if you ask me.
Forgive the script in the opening episode for falling into too much exposition – after all, Neighbours is introducing itself to new audiences. Older fans might be screaming for our beloved characters to "get on with it", but those coming with fresh eyes to Erinsborough will no doubt be very grateful of the catch-up.
And being honest, you're not waiting too long before the first *huge* (honestly, I'm not exaggerating it) twist plays out in true soap glory. If you thought Neighbours would very quietly return, it hasn't. This is a soap twist among some of the very best.
One thing I can talk about is the addition of the new family, the Varga-Murphys, headed up by mums Remi (Naomi Rukavina) and Cara (Sara West), who bring a fresh dynamic to the show. They not only help with some new storyline options, but they also act as a bridge for new viewers, helping them cross over into the admittedly complex world of Neighbours as they ask all the conveniently right questions about their way around Erinsborough.
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The other new addition is Hollywood star Mischa Barton, who plays the mysterious Reece. While viewers will have to wait a little longer to find out why she's in Ramsay Street, she's certainly having a lot of fun there, hitting it off with the recast Byron (Xavier Molyneux) quite instantly.
There are certainly fireworks between those two, and while the character is at times a little lost in the soap landscape, having someone like Byron – and later on, Paul Robinson (Stefan Dennis) – to bounce off certainly offers huge potential to her character who's so shrouded in secrets...
The opening episodes are on the whole, pretty good. Amazon Freevee joining hasn't brought about some massive change as some had wondered, rather enhanced what it already has. I was fortunate enough to visit the set in Melbourne to watch filming earlier in the year, and it's heartening to see a couple of months into production, everyone has a firm spring in their step and a reinvigorated purpose.
It's true what they say – everyone is a big, happy family there, and they can't wait to show the world what they've been very busily working away on. Everyone working on Neighbours clearly loves it, and feels very fond of it – and they'll do everything to not let it slip out of their fingers again. As Jackie Woodburne told me: "You can axe us, you can cancel us... we'll just keep coming back." Damn right.
There *are* more shocks, twists and turns on the way and believe me, they're great and offer real fan service... but more of that soon. Very soon. Keep your eyes peeled to RadioTimes.com on 18th September when Neighbours launches for breakdowns on that twist, ooh, and that moment, and that shock. Our lips are sealed... for now.
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