Sometimes the best twists in a soap are those that leave you with a notebook full of questions; the EastEnders Christmas flash-forward being one of the most recent which has got fans scrambling around for answers, for example.


Soap fans are a wise bunch - and quite hard to surprise. They know their beloved worlds so well and know to expect certain behaviours from certain characters. I consider myself one of them, too.

So, as I'm watching the Neighbours reboot on Amazon Freevee and see the well-played reveal of Toadie Rebecchi (Ryan Moloney) standing opposite Terese Willis (Rebekah Elmaloglou) on their wedding day, I'm more than willing to admit I gasp.

Like David Tennant's Doctor, "What?!" is my only response. Sharply followed by, "How did they get together?", "Where's Mel?", and "Uh-oh, what's Paul gonna do?".

All of this comes together with a gleeful smile: Neighbours is back, and I'm delighted.

The Australian soap has always had a special way with the unexpected. Unlike some of its fellow soaps, it isn't afraid to showcase the bizarre and explain it later, so with a two year time jump to play with, the opportunities were there to have some fun.

But Neighbours instead played it in a smart way. They thought about what could actually happen over a two year break, thinking about how their characters would genuinely act.

Toadie and Mel splitting up could have genuinely happened - he's been married four times for a start, so it sort of makes sense his union with Mel could've broken down. And Paul, well, he's not exactly the most stable of partners, is he? Him and Terese have history, so happily-ever-after wouldn't have really worked for them, despite how much we wanted it.

The shock has come from Terese and Toadie finding each other. Ask me to partner up any characters and you'd be waiting a long time for me to say those two. Terese: the firecracker, no mess, no nonsense businesswoman, meets Toadie... he's just Toadie.

As we get further into the new episodes, fans will see it works - genuinely - as we start to piece together what happened to bring them both together. It's more than just a shock - this is a clever and thoughtful storyline device. And the plot is only just getting started.

More like this
Mischa Barton as Reece Sinclair for Neighbours.
Mischa Barton as Reece Sinclair for Neighbours. Amazon Freevee

The first episode sets up more than just *that* storyline, it also hints at more drama we need to unravel. Something's clearly going on with Jane (Annie Jones) and Mike (Guy Pearce), all is not well in the Kennedy household, and what's wrong with Harold? Plus, Mackenzie seems to finally have some much-needed lightness in her story with a new love interest, Holly's a right little troublemaker, and then there's mysterious Reece...

Perhaps the biggest talking point of the new episodes is the arrival of Reece (Mischa Barton), who's set to act as a bridge into Neighbours' new American market. The former star of The OC has a suitcase full of secrets and she isn't afraid to remind us of them, only adding to her mystery. At times, the storyline feels a little detached, as Reece spends the majority of her time with Byron, so I can only hope she'll delve more into Ramsay Street in her guest role when she isn't carrying so many secrets.

At times, it can feel like there's a bit too much exposition for existing fans, with a couple of clunky questions finding their way into the generally tight script, but that's always going to be the case when there are new fans coming on board. Susan's (Jackie Woodburne) opening is genuinely lovely though, the perfect way to introduce us into the new era.

The best thing about episode 1 of the reboot is that it feels necessary. It feels like there's a pretty good reason for it, too. An invigorated cast, exciting storylines and a new slick and stylish way of working, this is a soap with a purpose - you could say it's the perfect blend.

Read more:

Neighbours returns on Amazon Freevee on 18th September 2023.

Check out more of our Soaps coverage or visit our TV Guide and Streaming Guide to find out what's on.


Try Radio Times magazine today and get 10 issues for only £10, PLUS a £10 John Lewis and Partners voucher delivered to your home – subscribe now. For more from the biggest stars in TV, listen to The Radio Times Podcast.