Many of us who haven’t watched Neighbors for years tuned in for the 90-minute finale episode on Network Ten at 7.30pm on Thursday night and had a lot of fun. And there were a lot of us: an incredible 873,000 metropolitan viewers tuned in to witness the end of a television era, making it the number one program of the night. When you add in regional viewers it was well over a million. On an average night, the show attracted only 100,000 viewers.
Although the return of Kylie Minogue and Jason Donovan was the focus of much of the press, Charlene and Scott never gave an explanation for why they were back on Ramsay Street and were largely silent.
The standout performance was from Guy Pearce, who despite being a major Hollywood star, returned to reprise his role as Mike, and the fans loved it.
While Minogue uttered just five words “Home sweet home”, “Harold” and “Jane”, Pearce had a well-developed storyline and threw himself into the role, and his reunion with lost love Jane, played by Annie Jones, was a highlight .
One character who was not invited to return was Charlene’s brother Henry, played by Craig McLachlan, who back in May unexpectedly abandoned a defamation case over sexual assault and harassment claims made against him.
“Henry’s dead mother is being reincarnated for the final episode – but cancel culture won’t allow her son Henry to appear or even be acknowledged,” a spokesperson for McLachlan told British newspaper The Sun.
“What Craig and his partner have endured over the past four and a half years – only to come out the other side and be confronted by, among other things, the attempted permanent erasing of his part in Neighbors history – is devastating.
“Craig was not invited to take part in the closing episode or indeed to contribute in any way.”
In 2020, a Melbourne magistrate found McLachlan not guilty of indecently assaulting women during The Rocky Horror Show.
ABC exposed underwhelms
With the word “exposed” in its title you would think Chris Kenny’s doco Your ABC Exposed would have uncovered something.
But the attack on the public broadcaster was a laundry list of Kenny’s grievances which have been raised before in countless pieces in the Australian, where he is an associate editor and columnist, and on Sky News.
But so excited was the former Liberal party adviser he hired a mobile billboard and had it drive around the ABC’s Ultimo headquarters. The bizarre display was in addition to all the promotional pieces on Sky News and in the News Corp papers.
Despite his attempts to drum up interest for the exposé, a total of 85,000 people tuned in on Tuesday night at 8pm. Over on the ABC at the same time Miriam Margolyes had five times as many viewers for Australia Unmasked.
To be fair, it was a relatively good audience for Sky and for Kenny, whose earlier regular show The Kenny Report had just 32,000 viewers.
What Your ABC Exposed did deliver was up a lineup of rightwingers and others disillusioned with the ABC who were in furious agreement with Kenny, including a bizarre interview with Jonathan Shier, whose 19-month tenure as ABC managing director came to an abrupt end when he lost the support of the board. Shier welled up with tears while discussing how ABC staff campaigned against him. He told Kenny he was crying because he cared deeply about public broadcasting.
Herald Sun columnist clash
Herald Sun columnist and Victorian MP Tim Smith took aim at fellow Hun columnist Susie O’Brien on Twitter this week, calling the journalist a “serial leftist” and a “Karen” who “gets everything virtually wrong”. She did not retaliate.
Smith, who will leave parliament at the upcoming state election after crashing his luxury car while under the influence of alcohol, has been increasingly outspoken about the need for the Liberal party to reject “woke tokenism”.
O’Brien was under fire for an opinion piece criticizing the Liberal party for preselecting the “divisive figure” of Melton councilor Moira Deeming for the upper house at the next election. Deeming “thinks laws permitting abortion are ‘terrible’ and wants trans kids to be forced to affirm their biological sex,” O’Brien wrote.
“The Liberal party has no one to blame but itself for preselecting such a divisive figure,” she said. “Deeming says she stands for ‘traditional, liberal and family values’ but all she does is demonise the difficult choices some of the most marginal members of the community have to make.”
Zoe Daniel’s media protest
In her first speech this week, former ABC journalist Zoe Daniel called out her “former colleagues in the press.”
“Without trust in policy and leadership, without integrity and good governance, we cannot function as a society,” the independent MP for Goldstein said. “When facts become just a matter of opinion, we have a problem. It is our responsibility in this parliament to rebuild that trust. I would suggest that my former colleagues in the press could also reflect on their own behaviour.”
Perhaps Daniel was alluding to her treatment by the Murdoch press during the election campaign. The Australian’s investigations reporter Sharri Markson targeted Daniel over several days, including reporting that the former foreign correspondent had signed an open letter which referred to Israel as an “apartheid regime”.
Daniel is now on the record saying “the word ‘apartheid’ should not be used to describe the situation in Israel” and proclaiming herself “a strong supporter of Israel as a Jewish state, existing within safe and secure borders”.
One article, which described Daniel as an “ABC independent” and an “ABC journalist running as an independent”, had to be corrected after a complaint by the ABC.
The incident did lead to us uncovering a revealing interview with Markson: “The sentiment in the leftwing media to attack Israel is deeply upsetting and it makes me really, really angry – absolutely furious,” she told the Australian Jewish News. “I’m really worried that if the Labor party gets in at the next federal election there won’t be the same support for Israel that we have seen under the Coalition government.”
Three-decade foreign affair
Neighbors’ 37-year legacy may have grabbed most of the attention on Thursday but there was an equally outstanding record being celebrated at the same time on the ABC. The ABC’s Foreign Correspondent program was celebrating 30 years on air with a special one-hour episode, which you can still watch on iview.
The show was the brainchild of then director of TV news Peter Manning, who believed a weekly international current affairs program would take advantage of the ABC’s network of overseas bureaux.
Founding executive producer Jonathan Holmes, who retired after hosting Media Watch in 2013, reminded us that when the show was created in 1992 with George Negus as host it was an hour long and ran for 40 weeks of the year.
“At 58 minutes, with no commercials, Foreign Correspondent was the longest weekly television magazine program being produced anywhere in the world, that we were aware of,” Holmes said.
Due to budgetary pressures, Foreign Correspondent has been trimmed by successive managements, losing staff and resources. It is now 30 minutes long and no longer has a full annual schedule of episodes. Last year the program had just 26 episodes. Let’s hope its incredible legacy of stories continues.