Saturday, August 6, 2022

I cried my way through the sloppy, hallucinatory last episode of Neighbors

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As stars returned to the soap that made them famous, Ramsay Street prepared to close for good

The scene – just one of the many joys of the double episode’s momentous finale – was pure Ramsay Street, ending with a worried, cardigan-wearing bystander (Harold Bishop, who else?) bravely ending the scuffle by spraying the quarreling men with syringes garden hose.

How do you end a beloved soap opera after almost 9,000 episodes? in the Neighbors‘ case in which a drunk, bald guy threatens to mutilate his romantic rival with a turquoise bedside lamp.

It was a bittersweet reminder of all the delightful absurdity we will now miss Neighbors finally said goodbye after 37 years. Something that could be said for the finale as a whole – which I am happy to report was a tear-jerking, star-filled celebration of nostalgia that would have been satisfying Neighbors Fanatics and renegade fans alike tuned in to bid an emotional farewell to Erinsborough.

Neighbors he usually likes to honor season finales with a big helping of disaster. Remember the devastating Lassiters fire of 2004? Or when Harold (Ian Smith) tried to strangle Paul (Stefan Dennis) the following year? But as the show said goodbye for the very last time, it inevitably chose big-hearted nostalgia over explosions.

This was an unapologetically sloppy, self-referential affair, peppered with cult flashbacks Neighbors moments (Karl and Susan’s marital spat; Scott and Charlene’s 1987 wedding) and the return of legendary characters. As predicted, the ghost of Harold’s late wife, Madge (Anne Charleston), made an appearance. Then there was the big homecoming of the soap opera’s famous Hollywood and pop alumni – Kylie Minogue, Jason Donovan, Guy Pearce, Margot Robbie, Natalie Imbruglia, Delta Goodrem and Holly Valance all returned to honor the road they took to made stars.

However, there was still a slight hazard to keep our interest going. A strong meta-storyline saw residents prepare to say goodbye to each other after all simultaneously deciding to sell and move to new pastures. “It really feels like the end of an era,” Harold sighed as he asked Karl (Alan Fletcher) and Susan (Jackie Woodburne) to be custodians of the Ramsay Street history book that the neighbors were putting together.

Meanwhile, the characters’ love lives were in their usual chaos. Clive (Geoff Paine) tried to drown his grief after suspecting his girlfriend Jane (Annie Jones) still had feelings for her recently returned old flame, Mike (a startling, well-invested turn from Emmy-winner Guy Pearce) . Stumbling home from the bar, Clive bumped into Jane, who gave Mike a leisurely tour of the street. Key word: lamp gate.

Meanwhile, ex-boyfriends Paul and Therese (Rebekah Elmaloglou) battled their unresolved feelings for each other, unsupported by Therese, who stumbled in to kiss Paul under Toadie and Melanie’s heart-shaped wedding arch. (“I can’t. I’m sorry,” Paul yelled.)

Oh yes, the wedding. The main event here was the wedding of Toadie (Jarrod Rebecchi) and Melanie (Lucinda Cowden), which I feared wouldn’t always be happy. In my Neighbors Looking back at the heyday around 2003, I watched in dismay as Toadie ended his wedding day by accidentally driving his new wife, Dee, into the sea. Luckily, the most dramatic thing that happened here was Toadie accidentally deflating a confetti balloon too soon.

For many, the main attraction was the guest stars. The most anticipated duo, Kylie Minogue and Jason Donovan, exuded a genuine delight to be back as Charlene and Scott paid a visit to Ramsay Street, even if they only had about three lines between them. Kylie actually uttered exactly four words: “Home, sweet home” and “Harold!” — and the duo mostly spent their time giggling performatively like somewhat unconvincing extras in a play. But there was an undeniable thrill to watch as they pulled up in their green minis to the soundtrack of their 1988 hit “Especially For You,” and Kylie rocked an ’80s-style blonde perm.

Many of the returnees spoke only via video calls as the newlyweds saw messages from “some of our old neighbors who couldn’t be here”. But the performances were still so touchingly candid that one suspected stars were partially articulating their own feelings. “My years on Ramsay Street were honestly some of the best of my life,” Donna gushed about Margot Robbie, while Delta Goodrem, aka Nina, vowed she was “with you in spirit, wholeheartedly.”

And not everyone uses Zoom. One segment included a very game Natalie Imbruglia and Holly Valance — who played Beth Brennan and Flick Scully, respectively — happened to meet at a park: “It just goes to show, wherever you are in the world, Ramsay Street can bring you together.”

The drama-hungry part of me was momentarily disappointed that there wasn’t one of the flamboyant tragedies that the show does so well. But don’t end on a cliffhanger. Instead, everything was neatly boxed up and the many troubled couples on the street finally settled things (#Chelly fans will have been delighted that Chloe and Elly finally got back together).

Don’t get me wrong, there was plenty of low-stakes drama and absurd emotional twists and turns. For example, you really had to pause in disbelief when everyone decided in time for the end not to leave Ramsay Street after all. But most of all, this was a wistful, heartfelt ode to the community, with the writers saluting how much the show meant to its cast and fans.

“Everyone deserves a place in Ramsay Street history, even those who have watched us from afar. Together we were the perfect mix,” Susan said in a candid message to viewers as she watched her roommates in the final slo-mo montage, which included everything from an aggressively hot shot of couples making out in the wedding tent to a glimpse of – yes – Madge’s ghost.

It was cheesy, heartbreaking, and mildly hallucinogenic. In short, the essence of Neighbors and an absolutely perfect ending – if it hasn’t brought you to tears, I’m worried about your ability to feel. Although there were no explosions, the soap definitely went out with a bang.

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