Look up Blackstar for this release, not by following the link to the left but by searching for 'Neighbours' from that site's homepage, and whilst they do list this two-disc DVD set, the second DVD listed is the rather more exciting sounding Busty Neighbours, which, being honest, causes all manner of nerve endings to start twitching. With a cover that shows one busty neighbour peering into the rear alleyway of another, possibly for a spare set of house keys, and five bonus features all of which are called Fantasy...something, I can't help but feel mildly disappointed when looking at this set to see the residents of Ramsey St. grinning out at me. Mrs Mangle is no one's idea of a busty neighbour.
If there's anyone reading this who's puzzled by what Neighbours is exactly then, put as briefly as possible, I'll explain. Neighbours is a little soap opera from Australia about a bunch of middle-class families in a cul-de-sac called Ramsey St. somewhere in Melbourne. Unsullied by anything that might happen outside the entrance to Ramsey St., the neighbours lead blissfully happy if worryingly close-knit lives, only pausing to soak up the sun, fall in love, marry, have babies and die long, drawn-out deaths, thus ensuring a few tears over teatime.
Except Helen Daniels, that is, who came into the show old, looked like she was going be around forever having raised a few generations of kids, survived a stroke and imparted the wisdom of her years to every lovelorn teenager in the Robinson household before receiving St. Peter's call whilst sat on the sofa.
Of course, the simplest way to describe the ongoings in Erinsborough is to look at the life of one particular neighbour and, in this case, that'll be Steph Scully for no reason other than I think she's really rather attractive. After Steph joined the show, she fell in love with Drew who, in keeping with the melodramatic nature of things, was the boyfriend of Libby, Steph's best friend. Despite sideways glances across the breakfast bar, Drew stuck with Libby and Steph got together with a new guy called Woody, Of course, in Neighbours, early evening love never runs smooth and so Woody confessed that only not was he in the Australian witness protection scheme but that the bad guys he'd testified against were out of jail and coming after him.
Now, see, you're thinking action but, instead, Woody crashed his car in an inexpensive manner offscreen and was presumed dead. Bouncing from one relationship to the next, Steph unfortunately chose not to leave for my house in Northern Ireland but fell in love with Max...then Woody came back. Still, Steph stuck by Max and his two kids, even giving up her motorbike to show her commitment to them but within months, Steph finds a lump in her breast, which the doctors confirm as cancer. Knowing that Max had to watch his first wife die, Steph breaks up with him and...well, y'know, that's the kind of stuff that happens. Still rather attractive...
And so to this two-disc set. With each disc containing a number of episode-length chapters, each one edited together from footage across a few original episodes, Neighbours covers most of the big events that occurred between the start of the show to the birth of Libby's baby in 2002. The contents of each disc are split as follows:
As you can no doubt tell from three of those episode headings, Daphne - the one-time stripper who gave it all up/put them all back on again for Des - had a short but rather full life in Erinsborough and there never felt like quite enough time from her entrance at a stag party to her death. Of course, this release does have one of the biggest television events of the last twenty years on it - the marriage of Scott and Charlene, known to their real-life mums as Jason Donovan and Kylie Minogue. Back in the mid-eighties, these titans of the teatime soap were the proto-Beckhams - he was blond, blue-eyed and a bit dim, she was...err...blonde, blue-eyed and, well, you get the rest. But when their onscreen marriage said everything they carefully managed to avoid saying in real life - Kylie and Jason desperately tried to conceal their relationship - teenagers, grans, mums and sad dads shed a tear as Angry Anderson sang, "Suddenly you're seeing me, just the way i am / Suddenly you're hearing me, so i'm talking just fast as i can...to you!" The song soared into the charts, Angry, built like a brickie, appeared on Top Of The Pops and led the way for Kylie, Jason, Craig Maclachlan, those twins and the guy who played Paul Robinson to make a minor impact on the UK charts. Or major in the case of Kylie who, with ever increasing desperation, is well into her mid-thirties and still dressing in hotpants.
Yet this DVD never really captures some of the best moments, such as the time Joe Mangle was visited by his son, his ex-wife and her new boyfriend. This new man was a bit slap-happy with Joe's boy and the two of them saw it out over plates of meat'n'potatoes. Then there was Harold Bishop's death and, after he'd given his wife a chance to marry his one-time nemesis, his return from the dead. Or the time the show featured a dream sequence from Bouncer's point of view, who, lest we forget, was a dog. That's right, a dog. Or the time that Steph forgot to put her clothes on before leaving the house...well, alright, that last one only exists as a piece of fan fiction I uploaded to a subscription-only website but what an episode it would have made.
Which brings us back to Busty Neighbours...
Depending on when the episode was produced, you'll get either a 1.33:1 fullscreen picture or 1.78:1 widescreen. Hence, Des, Daphne, Scott and Charlene are only ever seen in 4:3 picture whilst Libby, Drew and Steph will fill in the black bars to the right and left. Neighbours has never looked particularly good, most of which has to do with the lighting as, quite bizarrely given how sunny Australia is, it's always been filmed to look rather dark.
Neighbours has, as far as I can recall, always been presented in stereo and this DVD is no different. The soundtrack is fine in the interior scenes, which is most of what's here but the exterior scenes can sound a little windblown.
There's only a photo gallery and this extra contains thirty still photographs both from the show and behind-the-scenes shoots of the cast.
You're never going to pick this up for anything other than nostalgia as it misses the chance to put everything in context. Even then, watching an episode like Scott and Charlene's marriage, you spend a few minutes remembering who starred in Neighbours back then before slowly losing interest over the next twenty-two. Neighbours was never great when it was first shown, in fact it was usually awful, but even as a fan, this will lose any point its got past its very first showing.