Monday, April 07, 2003

I'm thinking that maybe I should have an net-enhanced "op-ed" every so often, as I am quite opinionated, but also incapable of keeping those very same opinions to myself. Hope you don't mind! I'll try not to be preachy: goodness knows I hate all those media "pundits" that are always so sure of themselves, and look down on everyone else because their views are different. Plus they're usually ultra-serious, which should be treated as a heinous crime. Though I wouldn't want to impose them on other prisoners: it wouldn't be fair on them.
Anyway! So today's op-ed is going to be about the Australian soap "Neighbours". Firstly, I'd like to apologise to those of you living outside the UK or Australia who don't get to watch this programme (though I'm more sorry for those who do), as it appears that it's only aired in those two countries [source:]. This show can very easily (and correctly) be described as the "crack-cocaine of daytime television". Whilst it does not reduce the number of nostrils you possess, it IS highly addictive. I'd like to find out why.
Now I'm a major media-snob. I love French films (the more pretentious the better); I love Seinfeld but not Frasier anymore; classical music is divine. But I can't resist tuning into Neighbours occasionally. Its absurd use of "mood music", its absurdly rubbish script (which includes far too many pointless arguments and far too many cringeworthy apologies), its absurdly woeful acting: none of this makes me change channel. Instead, I just sit there helplessly, jaw slack, shock-and-awed by its brazen awfulness. It's like an appalling dancer that doesn't stop even when everyone in the disco is looking at me... I mean, them. As the neighbours site puts it, "Neighbours is Australia�s most successful television program, not to mention being a hit world-wide." Well, haven't they thought that maybe that's because we're just making sure that it's still complete nonsense? So that's one theory why it's so addictive: it's so bad, it's great.
Is that it though? You could argue convincingly that almost all soaps share these attributes. Why is Neighbours so much more successful than, say, Home and Away (of whose mere mention makes me feel sick inside)? A good place to start look is the dear BBC's Neighbours site. (At which point: where would we be without the BBC? Apart from about �110 richer). Here, the avid Neighbours fan (who is too far gone for treatment) can catch up on Neighbours "news" (the term used extremely loosely by the webmasters), read "story" updates (which today included this almost Shakespearean plot: "Later, Jack and Nina were left alone for rehearsal. Their hate turned to passion and they both moved in for a kiss just as Lori walked into the room. They both pulled back and Lori remained none the wiser." It's so complex I think I'm going to faint), and chat to other rabid Neighbours consumers on the Message Board. But why do you need a "story updates" page? Surely it doesn't matter if you miss an episode? Indeed it doesn't: you can work out the plot and the characters' "personalities" by only watching one episode in isolation. So what is the point? Well, it's there for the same reason as the Message Board: so people can talk about it. Maybe I'm in a small minority, and in fact most of Neighbours' viewers are voyeurs, who like to watch other people's lives and talk about it with their friends, thereby satiating a primitive need for community gossip in this global society we live in. Neighbours, maybe, is just better at getting people involved than most other soaps, with its high emotion, major mood swings and easily-understandable characters and story.
I think that solves it: but this doesn't mean the next time you watch Harold et al next time, that you shouldn't feel very guilty about it. Are you sure there isn't some worthy documentary, or a good classic comedy, on a different channel? Go on, try it... Okay, after you find out what happens between Alex and Steph...


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