Everybody needs good soaps

by Stephen Tall on October 21, 2006

In today’s thegrauniad, Mark Lawson reflects on 20 years of that most iconic of soap operas, Neighbours.

“The huge UK success of the show can be attributed to the strong presence of the young but also to another element rarely seen in Crossroads and Coronation Street: the sun.”

True, though in its earliest incarnation (way back when it was broadcast on Australia’s Seven Network), Neighbours’ storylines were much darker – for example, focusing on the cruel dashing of Shane Ramsay’s Olympic diving hopes following a spinal injury, and the tough-love bullying of his dad, Max, who was trying to live his own thwarted dreams through his son.

Perhaps this dark-underbelly psycho-probing helps explain why Neighbours was initially such a failure, rescued by its transfer to Network Ten, and the introduction of teen heart-throbs, like Kylie and Jason.

Though (as you may be able to tell) I was a child-fan of Neighbours – even if it did help globally export that most irritating of verbal constructs, AQI – it is not my all-time favourite soap.

The top two places would have to belong – as is my liberal wont – to more, erm, minority tastes, both made by Granada.

Revelations was broadcast in 1994 in only three ITV regions. Created and written by Russell T Davies, and featuring lesbian vicars and conniving bishops, the words most commonly associated with it are ‘ironic’ and ‘camp’ (what a surprise). But as it filled the Prisoner in Cell Block H hole in ITV’s schedule, this seemed entirely apt.

Night and Day lasted slightly longer, with 80 hours broadcast on ITV between 2001 and 2003. Had it been on Channel 4, it would have been a critical and commercial success: outrageous plotting, witty writing, and a stellar array of acting talent. (Including the really rather lovely Stephanie Leonidas.)

Night and Day’s self-consciously arty direction – ironic intercutting, musical montages, flashback fever and comic campery – lives on, however, in Holloyoaks, which owes much to the trail blazed by its short-term rival. Here’s a taster.