Neighbours finale review: One last wobble of the scenery, and a tsunami of slobbery kisses

The hot-air balloon crash. The plane crash. The zombie invasion. The kidnapping by Ecuadorian terrorists. The wedding inferno. The honeymoon clifftop tragedy. Assorted resurrections. The character who forgets he’s paralysed and saves a drowning kid. The character who slips on some milk and forgets 30 years (Milk of Amnesia?). The duck-hunt protest misadventure. The erectile dysfunction drama. How on earth would Neighbours: the Finale top all of that?

I have to say that I remember none of this ever happening to the good folks of Ramsay Street. Had I been at the Milk of Amnesia too? No, simply that it was a different show when I watched, a good advert for the Australian state of mind with the sunny setting engendering a sunny philosophy. Nothing nasty lurked in the woodsheds - just wood.

Yes, some of that wood could have been used to batten the wobbly scenery and the acting was sometimes, well, wooden. But Neighbours possessed a sweet innocence thanks to its mainly youthful cast and the nastiest it ever got was when someone said: “Rack off, dag!”

Later, trying to catch up with British soaps which were out-disastering each other, things got a bit silly. Obviously, with the show running for 5,955 episodes, the silliness was sufficiently spaced out. It didn’t jump straight from the terrorism to the poor bloke suffering from a lack of, um, wood. But the last-ever instalment on Channel 5 is a return to the New World sudser’s old world charms.

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    Kylie Minogue and Jason Donovan are back for Neighbours: the Finale.

    If anyone is going to die here it’ll be from being snogged to death. Honestly, there’s a tsunami of slobbery kisses involving Toadie and Melanie (who’re getting married but, still … ), Karl and his wife Susan who’ve been part of the furniture for 28 of Neighbours’ 36 years and and the six-timed-married Paul and - woops - better not say. Plus a host of other couples I don’t know but who are keeping up the theme-tune tradition of neighbours who become good friends.

    But I do know Mike and Jane, sweethearts from the days when the show was watched by 16 million poms. Mike was played by Guy Pearce who went on to Hollywood and L.A. Confidential but he’s not so big he can’t don a battered biker’s jacket for one last look round the old houses just before they go up for auction, when he notes that the hideous portrait of Mrs Mangel with her incredibly long neck has never moved.

    Pearce does right by the modest little programme which made him. It made Margot Robbie too, but when you’ve just become Tinseltown’s highest-paid actress you have to videocall your five-second appearance. Kylie Minogue and Jason Donovan pop up for slightly longer if somewhat stiltedly, proving that the production values haven’t really changed.

    Look out, too, for Holly Valance and Natalie Imbruglia even though they don’t make it back to the set either. They were Neighbours at different times but someone obviously thought it would be a good idea to pair them up here. The connection? The former married a Convervative Party donor while the latter was romantically linked with Tory MP Liam Fox. Maybe they couldn’t tear themselves away from the leadership contest.

    Anna Torv in The Newsreader.

    Anne Charleston was another Neighbours dependable as Madge Bishop. If she’s in the finale I missed her but she has a cameo in The Newsreader (BBC2), also from Australia, a drama set in a TV newsroom of the 1980s which has a can’t-live-with-her, need-her-for-the-ratings relationship with six o’clock anchor Helen Norville (Anna Torv).

    “You put a lens on her and she connects,” explains news director Lindsay Cunningham (William McInnes) to a rookie reporter. But the boss is a tyrant and prefers to tell Helen that some think she has “a face like a slapped arse”. Then, scoffing at her ambitions for investigative reporting because she’ll focus on “cross-eyed single mothers and Aids and Christ knows what”, he decides he doesn’t need her and she’s fired.

    Behind the armour of big hair, shoulder pads and her honeyed autocue tones Helen isn’t nearly as composed and nothing like as strong and the rookie, Dale Jennings (Sam Reid), proves to be a life-saver. Together they then plot to save news from celebrity trivia and other fluff. In a show that revels in its period setting of Cabbage Patch dolls and political incorrectness, Torv is excellent and Reid, when celebrating his first blunder-free bulletin, ponders a pressing question that we might ask of Simon Cowell, Cheryl Cole and now world 800m silver medallist Keely Hodgkinson: “Dunno why I saluted just there. I’m not a captain.”

    The Great (Channel 4) is back. “Huzzah!” as they liked to say in 18th century Russia, though I’m not so sure the c-word was deployed as often as it is in this blistering, bawdy romp of a comedy, sending up period-drama convention every eight seconds.

    Elle Fanning in The Great.

    Still, hunger can do strange things, especially when, like Nicholas Hoult, you’re at war with your wife - Elle Fanning as Catherine the Great - and she’s nabbed the chef, reducing you to frying rats over a fire. “I’ll make a little weed salsa verde,” offers a courtier. She teases him with wafts of marjoram and cognac. He still loves her - though may love her black pig ham dusted with fennel pollen more - and admits he dreamt of them having “fiery sex until our hearts gave out”. “That’s funny,” she says, “I dreamt of dropping you down a well which I thought contained boiling water but it turned out was full of angry, starving bears.”

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