Amazon clearly believe that everybody needs good Neighbours. After the long-running Australian soap opera stopped broadcasting in July, the streaming giant has decided to save it.
A new series will start filming in Australia next year, after the production company Fremantle signed a deal with Amazon Freevee. A number of fan favourites are due to return, including Stefan Dennis as Paul Robinson, Alan Fletcher as Karl Kennedy, Jackie Woodburne as Susan Kennedy and Ryan Moloney as Toadie Rebecchi.
“Neighbours is a unique series with a powerful connection with its fans across the world,” said Jennifer Mullin, Fremantle’s CEO. “We cherish the show and all those who have been part of its incredible story over many decades, so we are thrilled that we have found a new home.”
The announcement follows a much-celebrated farewell episode for the show, which saw a number of former stars return to pay homage to the soap that gave them their big break. Kylie Minogue, Jason Donovan, Margot Robbie and Guy Pearce were among the actors who once again appeared in the fictional Melbourne suburb of Erinsborough – drawing viewing figures of three million. The audience was the biggest since Channel 5 began screening the show in the UK, 14 years ago.
As well as creating a new series of the soap, Amazon have announced that they will be hosting the show’s back catalogue, giving viewers access to 37 years’ worth of classic episodes.
“Neighbours has captivated its audience for nearly 40 years, building a dedicated and loyal following for the lives and stories of the characters on Ramsay Street,” said Lauren Anderson, Amazon’s head of AVOD programming.
“With the power of streaming, we’re able to offer thousands of Neighbours episodes for new audiences to discover this legendary series – and current fans to relive their favourite moments.”
To announce the show’s return, the official Neighbours account posted a meta video featuring Karl and Susan Kennedy, Toadie, plus Paul Robinson dialling in via Zoom. The characters discuss what streaming platform the soap opera will be appearing on, despite it being unclear how they are aware their lives are being broadcast on television. They also specify that the show will air in “the second half of next year”. “Let me check my diary … ” grumbles Robinson. “All right, I’ll make myself available. Happy?”
In a strange twist, it seems that many of the soap’s stars were unaware of the show’s return. Takaya Honda, who played Neighbours’ Dr David Tanaka for six years, posted an Instagram story featuring a photo of Fletcher, Woodburne and Moloney claiming that “apart from these three and Stefan, the rest of the cast are finding out with you. Please give us time to process.”
This raises questions as to exactly who will appear in the show on its return. With nearly four months having elapsed since the supposedly final episode aired in the UK, a number of actors will no doubt have moved on to other projects. It isn’t known whether the show will need to have a substantially different cast – or how that will be explained, if so.
Nonetheless, the news has been greeted with excitement by the soap opera’s many fans. The vocal reaction of its fanbase to the final episodes have been hailed as the deciding factor in the show’s return.
“This Neighbours revival is clearly down to the sheer efforts of the soap’s fanbase,” commented TV journalist and Guardian writer Scott Bryan on Twitter. “They’ve been very vocal since rumours of its cancellation came about, and clearly this convinced Amazon it was worth a go.” (Guardian)