Comparing: New Neighbours vs Old

Neighbours has changed and I don't like it.

In the face of sliding ratings and a merger with a new production company, Australian soap (sorry - tv drama) institution Neighbours underwent a major revamp on July 23rd.

A large part of this was to herald the use of new production technology - shifting to High Definition Digital Video (which the glossy and soulless Home and Away has been using for a while) and a new lighting setup. (The previous one, known in the biz as wankbank, was made up of a bunch of fluoro lights designed to flood the set with soft light and apparently hadn't been changed for 20 years.)

The new style has made Neighbours look crisper and allows for more dramatic lighting options but saps the show of it's inner beauty. It used to feel like a big, soft, warm, daggy multicoloured cardigan - kind of like comfort food for the eyes. Now it just looks slick and glossy and the same as everything else. (And who really needs the extra detail that much - I don't want to know if Harold has chin cellulite)

Here's the old style Neighbours from a few months back:

And here's the new HDTV version:

Now YouTube does funny things with the pictures so it's not the best way to see it but it's just not as friendly looking.

Ok, so boohoo, the picture isn't as soft and warm any more - get over it. But it's not just that - the theme song has changed (meh, probably due for a change) and the title sequence as well.

This is more of an issue for me as it gets us closer to the real problem with this whole thing - the show seems to have lost it's cutting edge.

The old title sequence drew heavily from the work of Howard Arkley, a Melbourne artist widely respected for his edgy, garishly neon coloured paintings of suburbia. His work celebrated while simultaneously gently mocking suburban life, which meshed nicely with some of the writing on "old" Neighbours. This wasn't something particularly overt but from time to time, characters would come out with some relatively subversive and hilarious remarks - kind of like the way jokes for adults get slipped into animated kids films.

Here are the old titles:

The new titles on the other hand could hardly be blander - very much in the spirit of chocolate box art (a term my old art teacher used to favour for anything simple and inoffensive)

Here are the new titles:


Cast members come and go on soaps, it's a fact of life but again, with the "revamp" there has been wholesale class genocide going on in Ramsay St (can someone explain by the way why something that is clearly a court gets called a street?) with the removal of the entire, working class (aspirational if you prefer) Timmins clan to sunny Queensland.

Obviously the new faces take a little while to become familiar and comfortable but my middleclass-o-meter has just about exploded with the blandness of the new arrivals.

(Don't get me started on the whiteness of the cast either - apparently Italian heritage is the only other acceptable ethnicity in Erinsborough)

Storywise there is apparently a shift to more family driven drama (i.e who loves who) - and away from over the top antics, scheming and chicanery (evil twins, blowing up Lassiters again etc). I realise that Karl and Susan are largely backbone comic relief characters but when the dramatic highlight of an episode is whether Karl is going to stick a valium up his stressed dogs arse, you know things have slowed down a little.

In fairness, I've tuned out of this show a little in recent weeks - not sure whether it's been because I've had other things to do or if it's just become less compelling so maybe it will right itself but I'm really wondering.