Neighbors cast and crew share their last day of filming today in their old home in Nunawading.
It marks the end of a 37-year run in the Victorian fencing industry, short on Seven, before being famously picked up by 10 in 1985.
It became the longest-running drama in Australian history, unveiling global superstars and training thousands of actors, crew and creatives.
Executive producer Jason Herbison described the mood right now in this Q+A:
“The mood is bittersweet. We are all sad that the show is ending, but we are also extremely proud. 37 years is an incredible achievement and one that should be celebrated. We have also been incredibly touched by the response from our viewers around the world. Neighbors is more than a TV show for many people. They see us as part of the family and we feel privileged to be invited into their home. Some of the letters I’ve received have moved me to tears – it’s a very special show and it’s made the world a better place for some.”
How will things be wrapped up during the show?
My hope is to finish everything in a satisfying way. I see the very last scenes as extremely joyful, but between now and then there is a month’s worth of storylines to play out. These have a little bit of everything – triumph, tragedy, laughter and tears.
What legacy does Neighbors leave behind?
Neighbors changed the face of television, both in Australia and the UK. In front of Neighbors, a drama would usually last 5 or 6 years – we’ve been holding an audience for 37 years. British soap operas soon followed the Neighbors model and aired every day, which continues into 2022. We have launched the careers of thousands of cast, crew, writers and directors and we are also the reason many tourists have come to Melbourne… it is more than a show , it’s a cultural phenomenon.
What are you most proud of regarding the show?
I think the most meaningful thing has been to see real change in the community around diversity and representation. For example, a few years ago, when we did audience research, we always had one or two people in focus groups saying, “I’m not against gays, but I don’t want them on TV.” Over the years, this evolved into people saying, “I like Aaron and David, it’s good to have a gay couple” and eventually just, “I like Aaron and David”. No comment at all, as it should be. Then you imagine that change happening in real life — those same viewers that people start to accept in their own lives that way. I’ve seen that change firsthand and it extends to cultural representation as well. It’s not always easy, but it’s incredibly important as television producers to try to make change because it makes a difference. As a person, the process has also helped me to learn and grow.
There has been such an outpouring of love for the show lately – how do you feel about that?
It has been very moving. I think people underestimate the value of soap. Very few shows are invited to viewers’ homes week after week, year after year. We become part of people’s lives and it is a comfort that we are there, even for those who are not watching us all the time. We’ve always felt that appreciation from the public, but maybe not all at once, like lately. It’s the biggest, warmest hug you can get.
Do you have a message for the fans who have followed the show for the past 37 years?
Thank you for inviting us to your home all these years. It was a privilege to entertain you. We know you will miss us and we will miss you too.
Beloved veteran Ian Smith “Harold Bishop” was also asked how he felt when he heard the show was coming to an end?
‘Oh, look, sad is the word, just sad. I knew it had to happen one day. Of course I did, but god, so much of my working life was involved in the show, and so much happened during that time and now it’s over. All the oldies, the ones that were on the show together, we’ve all been together. We’ve all expressed our sadness over the whole thing, but sad is the word. I’m in touch with Jackie Woodburne and Ryan all the time, and of course they’re sad. They are very sad. While the show is coming to an end, we feel it should somehow continue as a school for young actors. So many stars have come through the ranks of that show. They’ve been around a few times now and they’re some of the biggest names in the business.”
Why do you think a show like Neighbors has created so many stars in its 37 years?
Well, I think that’s where it starts, 37 years. If nothing happens in that time, if you can’t pick a star in 37 years, something is terribly wrong, isn’t it? And look, the more you get into the kitchen, the better you make pies, right? Continuity of an art, it just gives you relaxing time to then be able to help others as well as yourself. I was always going around helping new people and I was able to do that because I was relaxed. That was my playground. I knew what I was doing.
Has the show changed you in any way?
It had to be, it was such a big part of my life. It certainly changed the way people reacted to me on the street. I got street recognition with my very first thing, it was an Australian production called Bellbird, and to some degree I got used to being recognized on the street. But nothing can prepare you for the reaction you get when you’re on a show like Neighbors, it was manic. Look, it was delicious, but it was manic! But we all enjoyed it. We were in a successful show and it was a good feeling.
Harold is such an iconic character, what do you like most about playing him?
Well, I was so lost when it was first given to me, to mold. What I did, I think, was I looked around. My father was a big part of Harold. He was a clumsy man, I don’t think he was sure of one thing he said in his life. He always did it as a question, not a statement. He was an interesting crowd of people. That’s about the only way I can say it. By the time I was done making him, I realized there were quite a few people in his personality. I think I counted them once. There were about seven people stuck in one person. I loved him, he was such a fun character to play.
How do you think you’ll feel watching the very last episode?
Oh, it’s going to be terrible. Frankly, it will be terrible. I am the greatest sook under the sun. I’m gonna be shocking on the last night of Neighbors† It really is the end of an era.
The very last episode ever will be shown on Monday 1 August.