The perfect blend?

Tuesday, September 5, 2006 by

Do you know anybody who still watches Neighbours?

Glenn Aylett mailed OTT in response to last month’s article about when soaps die, wondering whether the next big casualty might not necessarily be EastEnders (given it would “leave a huge gap in the BBC schedules and cause huge embarassment to the Corporation” he forsees “a long, slow death”) but our Antipodean friends instead.

And he’s got a point. After all, when was the last time you or anybody you knew made a point of catching an episode? When was the last time you saw the BBC do anything by way of promotion or publicity for the show? And who, if anyone, could you name as being one of the star “faces” of Neighbours? (Harold and Lou don’t count – we’re talking the next big thing here).

When you think about it, Neighbours is a huge anachronism in today’s BBC. As Glenn mentions, it sits in precisely the same slots as it did nearly 20 years ago. Yet its ratings are neglible compared to the late ’80s when it would even beatCoronation Street in terms of viewing figures. “This badly made, forgettable and cheap-looking relic must cause embarrassment among BBC executives like Mark Thompson,” Glynn argues, “who want to move the BBC upmarket. Even ITV has long given up on Aussie imports.”

He predicts a logical step-by-step culling of the programme from BBC1′s schedules. “First to go will be the 1.40 slot, as its target younger audience is mostly in school at this time. It would probably be replaced by Bargain Hunt or something similar. Then, if Neighbours doesn’t improve in its 5.35 slot against the chat shows on ITV1 and Channel 4, I can see it being moved to BBC3, which after all is the BBC’s youthful network, and dying a slow death.”

It feels a very likely chain of events, especially given Thompson’s willingness to ditch numerous other long-running BBC “brands”. But it’s one that will surely only come to pass if the Beeb doesn’t decide to flog the whole show to five first. Which it may well do.

The idea of an Australian “hour” on five with Neighbours seguing gently into Home and Away sounds, at least initially, practical and credible for all parties – a neat disposing of assets for the Beeb, a neat readymade audience for five. Albeit an audience of around two million and falling. And that’s the real point. Is it still a programme worth paying good money to snatch off a rival if its viewers are in freefall anyway?

You almost feel that it doesn’t matter whether the BBC dumps it on BBC3 or lets five take it. Either way nobody would really notice.


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