Listen: do you ever wonder what became of The Neighbours these last ten years? Have you lived, like me, with a decade of sin from abandoning them? Can you see them there, smiling, in those badlands between The Simpsons and the 7pm news?
We have all lived with these questions. What fresh catastrophes have befallen them? What is Harold’s current net worth? Did anything happen to Lou after he fucking burned down his own shop? Once, there was a PLANE crash; god in heaven, why?
First off, residents of Ramsey st have been decimated. Very few familiar faces survive, though there are some ancients still anchoring things: Lou and Harold are, astoundingly, still alive and pulsating in their fleshy deep-sea fish way. Susan and Carl remain married, even after Sue lost her memory in the early 2000s and reverted back to a teenaged mental state (Carl, you’ll remember, was entirely Down to Clown with this). Toadie is somewhere around too. In the last ten years his ponytail has slowly retracted into his skull, swelling his head into a mathematically perfect sphere. With his bright little animal eyes and his There-But-For-The-Grace-of-God-Goatee, he still has the Eastern European pop-star charm that captured the western world.
Of course, there are some seats that sit painfully empty: Stingray (he died!), Connor the Irish guy (deported!), Joe Scully (he went to Queensland! Because the actor was on meth!). Their replacements are angry white dudes with clownish tans, angry blonde ladies with clownish tans, and Harold.
Secondly, chill, it’s still the whitest show on TV. It’s translucent, cave-dweller white. Every one of The Neighbours still has a job in a hotel and eats sandwiches in a café at all times of the day, though now they all have clownish tans and scoop-neck t-shirts. This is Neighbours in the age of Crossfit and Nesspresso pods, but not, evidently, Tinder, as no one has any idea how to fuck anyone outside a 500 metre radius. Do they have access to the internet? It’s impossible to know.
The week begins with some of these new monsters screaming at one another. An ill wind is blowing across Ramsey St, with many new faces fighting right off the bat: a nurse accuses a doctor of assuming she’s Down to Clown, and throws ice-coffee on him; a wife scolds her husband for drinking during the day, forgetting that there is no discernable day/night cycle in the Neighbours universe. Afterwards they argue about a vague mystery that’s threatening to ruin their lives. The word on the forums? Dog-fighting ring.
Very quickly though we’re pivoting away from these assholes to the real money-makers of the show: Delta Goodrum is back, and is almost unrecognisable in a felt Matt Corby-style hat that she refuses to take off even once the entire episode. The Neighbours are very pleased to see her back in town. At some point this week she will sing for us; she’s a wonderful celebrity who will save everyone with her music. It’s easy to forget, having seen Delta scale up and down the Australian cultural psyche, that she’s entirely a figment of the Neighbours canon, and doesn’t exist in real life. In the café, she asks Lou where Harold is, and is told vaguely “Maybe he’s somewhere in town”, fuelling our hopes that he’s finally been murdered.
It’s also easy to forget how brief these episodes are. Before we’ve even hit a peak (the arguing/alcoholic husband is pre-coitus with his mistress and we don’t even get to see his dick) the episode terminates. We are reminded that our glimpses into the lives of The Neighbours are fleeting, like the worst haikus of all time, and that we’re even lucky to be told what will happen over this momentous week:
- There will be a wedding that, like all weddings on this show, will be torn apart by some calamity—a death or a disappearance or an act of god. No member of Neighbours’ writing staff has ever been to a wedding.
- One of the white guys will somehow get trapped in a dungeon or something. It’s impossible to tell who it is, or if the show is joking at this point.
- Harold will reveal some dark secret to Lou. Word on the forums? Dog-fighting ring.
- And, to cap the week off, Delta Goodrum will play her beautiful, terrifying concert. She will play the music of angels—lightning will shoot from her throat and annihilate all The Neighbours. She will blind the liars and wash their sin from Ramsey St. She will sing us cowards to hell.
Jack Vening writes short fiction in Brisbane. He has taught in the writing programs at UQ and QUT and has a tiny collection of stories, ‘Work For a Man or a Horse’, available through Momentum Books. He tweets @JerkVening.