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Waking up the Neighbours

CONFUSING! Neighbours, BBC1, 2:10 and 5:35 pm

Now it's quite some time since we put Neighbours on the front page, and the reason it's here today is not by virtue of today's storylines (something about Rebecca, which is enough to make us reach for the gin, Oliver remembering his fit brother, thus forcing the audience to remember how much we preferred the fit brother, and something happening at the Erinsborough News, where Riley apparently works now although we recall no mention of this, ever). No, today's entry is our equivalent of Sugababes 'About You Now'. Except it's not a 'we let you down, take us back' kind of thing, more a 'you let us down, please go back to how you were' one.

Now, we have been friends with the good world of Erinsborough since the soap was only shown early in the morning and at lunchtime, and we could mainly only watch it in the school holidays (and on the subject of scheduling, BBC, why mess with our heads with this showing Neighbours and Doctors in the wrong order business? It's just plain sick and wrong).

We remember the teatime launch as being the greatest thing EVER. Well, up until Scott and Charlene's wedding. And the 20th anniversay stuff. So we have a very long history with this show (about 21 years, but let's not emphasise that fact, it makes us feel old) and we're not about to give up on the show. But we have noticed that it is in its worst period since the Hancocks were in it (a time when we didn't even bother watching it every day, it was so bad). In fact, it's so bad that we even get confused by it at times. And Neighbours should never, ever be confusing. We do know it can get back on track, though, because after that black spot in its history it went on to produce the fabulousness of Izzy, Paul's return, the evil twins and so on. But we want to encourage it back on that track as soon as possible.

So here are our handy lowculture suggestions for getting the magic back:

» Axe Ned. We need say no more.

» Bring back some of the past characters, either for guest stints, or long-term. Although don't go mad on this one. Top of our list would be Lucy Robinson, Rosemary Daniels for her obligatory every other year visit and the Alessi twins (plus Paul's son Andrew) for more evil twin based hilarity. And, of course, RobRob, who must return soon to cause havoc. Particularly if that havoc involves clearing out the cast of some deadwood as it did last time round. Good times.

» Axe the Barnes/Napiers. They are just terrible and we do not care. In fact, Rebecca inspires a bizarre loathing in us usually reserved for X-Factor contestants. And judges.

» The Parker family (Ned aside) could have potential if they are actually rewritten a bit. Someone on the message boards commented that Dad Parker is trying to fill the nice guy role of Philip Martin, but doesn't quite achieve it. That's because Philip Martin had suffered being married to Julie, then seeing her die, and being dad to all those horrible kids. Then he married Ruth, who had a bit of sass, and thus was a good foil for him. So, we'd like to see Miranda (mum) Parker, either developing her Ruth/Susan/Janelle sass - which we feel is unlikely, seeing as in Neighbours, that sass is usually formed by being dicked over by a man and not standing for it - or, our preferred option, becoming the new Julie/Hilary/Mrs Mangel. The street needs a new busybody, and she could easily be it. Riley is decent enough eye candy, but he needs to take his shirt off a bit more, get screwed over by Elle Robinson and go all dewey-eyed with tears. And get a plotline. 'Didge' either needs to get over herself, fast, or die in a freak accident.

» Get the old logo and theme tune back. And some proper credits, involving a hilarious game of cricket in which Zeke or Toadie or Karl smashes a ball through someone's window.

» Lou and Paul have about eight million kids each, so bring back one of these, and their children, to form a new family. Or bring back some Ramsays. We don't mind which, as long as they are written with enough warmth and humour that we CARE about them.

» Axe Carmella. Or at least make her a nun again, which was the only time she was interesting.

» All good Neighbours casts have a teenage gang. The current bunch of teenagers barely even speak to one another. Get them bonding, stat.

» Give Steph and Toadie a bunch of kids, stat. I mean, what else is their point? Someone needs to raise the next generation of Erinsborough brats, and it may as well be them.

» Neighbours always has the following plotlines on the go at once: a kerrazy bonkers OTT plotline involving death or bombs or stalkers or gangs or dunk hunters; a comedy plotline of misunderstandings, usually involving garden gnomes. Two community/family plots, usually one involving teenagers, and one involving older characters. Do not, ever, deviate from this formula.

» Finally, in a move of awesome self-referentialness (which the show normally excels at), send at least one of the characters to Cuba.

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According to Marxist theory, cultural forms such as opera, classical music and the literary works of Shakespeare all fall under the heading of high culture. Low culture refers to a wide variety of cultural themes that are characterised by their consumption by the masses. We might not be Marxists, but we do know we loved Footballers Wives. If you do too, you'll know what this is all about.

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