Wednesday, 11 November 2009
*is saying "crikey" and "daggy" a lot*
Yesterday I was asked to blog about Australia. Now, if I had been asked to blog about New Zealand, I could have wrote at least 2,000 words without any problems. Being a Lord of the Rings nut will do that to you. But I was asked to blog about Australia, so that is what I must do.
My knowledge of Australia could be fitted onto the back of a (very small) envelope, consequently I've had to have a really good think about what I will ramble about. Running to recent form, I am going to cheat. *nods* I may not have a lot of expertise on Australia as a whole, but I have remembered something that will definitely help me to supply this latest requested blog.
I don't know about anyone else, but in my neck of the woods there appeared a sudden new craze around twenty years ago. I'm talking about, of course, the phenomena that was Neighbours. For the untutored, Neighbors is an Australian soap opera that has been transmitted for almost 25 years. We Brits got it a little bit later than the Aussies, but in true British fashion, we quickly adopted these neighbors as our own. I don't remember the exact date when I started to follow it myself, but I can remember coming home from school, finishing my homework, having my tea, then settling down to watch Home and Away (that one's being covered in a mo) and Neighbours.
Ramsey Street, the fictional setting for our Aussie neighbours, was awesome. It was a large cul-de-sac where everyone knew everybody, and did exactly as the theme tune suggested (Neighbours should be there for one another, that's when good neighbours become good friends - Lordy, I can't believe I can still remember the words, now I'll be humming the bloody thing all day). The houses were a bit odd, in that even though they mostly had two floors, everyone seemed to have their bedrooms next to the kitchen (maybe they wanted to be near the kitchen implements, who knows?), but the houses were also cool because they had verandas and pools (something which was rarely seen in most British streets).
I was a fan of the soap in the golden Ramsey/Robinson era. These two families were the main characters in the soap, and we watched avidly as they coped with day-to-day issues and said 'crikey' a lot. The two most famous characters were Scott Robinson, the nice son of Jim Robinson, and Charlene Mitchell, who was Madge Mitchell's (formerly Ramsey) tom-boyish daughter. Charlene, being played by a teen Kylie Minogue, was awesome, I loved her to bits. She was a mechanic's apprentice, wore ugly brown overalls, yet still managed to snag the hot boy from next door (I should point out that when I think about Scott Robinson now, I'm more likely to go 'eww' rather than drool. Funny how our tastes change as we grow up, isn't it?)
Neighbours is still going strong, though I haven't watched it for well over ten years myself. It's obviously still popular, or it wouldn't still be airing, but for me the attraction has gone. To me, Neighbours hit its peak when Angry Anderson's song 'Suddenly' played against Scott and Charlene's teen wedding. You don't get cheesiness any better than that.
Now, I mentioned Home and Away a little up the page. Home and Away was the other prime time soap that the Brits poached from our Aussie cousins. BBC may have nabbed the biggest Australian fish, but ITV hooked its closest competition. Home and Away was basically Neighbours by the sea. Set in the fictional 'Summer Bay', we still had two main families to watch, only this time is was the Stewarts and the Fletchers. Nothing really different happened in Summer Bay when you compared it to Neighbours, but Summer Bay had the advantage of copious beach-clad teens prancing across the screen every few minutes. I'm pretty sure that most of Home and Away's fans were teenage boys, who could spend a pleasant twenty-five minutes ogling tanned teenage beauties without their mothers breathing down their necks (because all mums LOVED Home and Away, of course).
I watched Home and Away for about three years altogether, and in that time they had some pretty memorable stories. To give them their due, they tried to cover serious issues; the Fletchers were foster parents, for example, which was a very good thing to highlight (though I suspect the writers did this so that they could swap and change the characters whenever they felt like it). They also covered teenage pregnancy (with the father being a teacher, no less *gasp*), and death via incurable disease. All very worthy topics (well, maybe not the teacher-fathers-teen's-baby thing) I'm sure. The trouble is, all I really remember from Home and Away was that the teenagers thought everything was 'daggy', and that the school uniforms were bordering on indecent.
I think I mostly remember the ghosts though. Yup, Home and Away had two "Bobby in the shower" moments (I'm going to presume everyone remembers Dallas and the silly storyline of (dead) Bobby coming out of the shower). Funnily enough, one of Home and Away's ghosts was also called Bobby, though this one was female and, if I remember rightly, appeared in a dream, so was marginally better than the original Bobby sighting.
My favorite ghost was Ailsa Stewart though. As matriarch of the Stewart family, she was much missed when she left the show. So much that the producers brought her back for a few episodes. Unfortunately, her reappearance ended up being funny, which I suspect wasn't what the writers were aiming for. I don't think I'll ever forget Alf Stewart's face as he opened his fridge and came face to face with his deceased wife. What should have been moving (Alf was slowly losing the plot), ended up being hilarious.
The last thing I want to mention about Australian soaps is something that always makes me smile. One of Australia's most common curse word is 'strewth', and we got to hear it being said countless times on Neighbours AND Home and Away. 'Strewth' is such a versatile curse word, and even better, the kids can say it without being told to wash out their mouths. 'Strewth' was one of the main curse words of my teenage years, and was probably heard more often in real life than it was on the TV. Today, kids are more likely to say the F-bomb, and that's rather sad. I'd much rather hear a 'strewth' any day. Of course, kids these days don't rely on soaps for their entertainment; they have games consoles, iPods and the internet to cover their entertainment needs.
Bring back the golden days of soap, I say. Especially the Australian ones.
There won't be a blog tomorrow, but seeing as I posted two on Monday, I don't think it matters much. Oh, and don't forget to leave a request for Friday's blog!