“Next door is only… a footstep… awaaaaay…” and now, next door is going to be viewed in eye dazzling detail too! What? Well, Australian soap Neighbours is to get a major revamp and begin filming in high definition in the run-up to its transfer to Channel Five next year. That means you’ll be able to count the hairs on Harold Bishop’s head should you wish.
UK viewers of the 22-year-old soap, which currently airs twice daily on BBC1, will begin to see a number of changes from later this month as the show attempts to refresh itself. New Neighbours graphics, which will see the replacement of the show’s signature logo, as well as revamped theme music (gasp!) will launch in the UK next Tuesday, October 16. Not only that, but everything else is getting overhauled.
The way the show is written has also been revamped, with a return to “heart-wrenching family drama”, with new storylines and characters, including the return of a old favourites such as Libby Kennedy. One of the biggest changes will be the introduction of high definition filming, which will begin in Australia in spring next year, and will follow through to UK screens three months later. Essentially, this means that more money will be pumped into sets, costumes and make-up. Neighbours’ tacky charm is about to vanish…
Neighbours’ revamp has been funded by the bumper £320m eight-year deal Five signed to poach the soap from the BBC in May. Irish state broadcaster RTE has also just committed to a new long-term deal for the soap, which has also added to the amount of money available to Neighbours producer FremantleMedia. In Australia, where the soap airs on Network Ten, Neighbours has been losing viewers, attracting around 700,000 viewers a day, compared with more than 1 million for Home and Away, which airs on the rival Seven Network.
FremantleMedia hope that these changes will boost Neighbours in Australia, although there is speculation that if they do not work the soap could be axed. David Ellender, the chief executive of FremantleMedia Enterprises, which distributes Neighbours, said: “A lot of work has gone into Neighbours to refresh its look and feel. This is about bringing Neighbours into the 21st century and reinvigorating it.”
There is still no official start date for when Neighbours transfers over from BBC1 to Five, with April originally penciled in. However, a source said it could happen as early as February. The BBC is not expected to publicise the changes because it would in effect be helping to build the show’s profile ahead of its move to Five. Five are set to show Neighbours in the familiar 5.30pm slot which will give the broadcaster an Aussie soap hour (as Neighbours will be shown alongside Home and Away).