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Friday, 10 May, 2002, 09:15 GMT 10:15 UK
Soap hits 4,000th episode
Neighbours is seen in 57 countries
Neighbours is seen in 57 countries
TV soap Neighbours is celebrating its 4,000th episode in Australia on Friday.

The Melbourne-based series has been running since 1985 and is seen in 57 countries, with a global daily audience of 120 million people.

It has also been the launch pad of the careers of Kylie Minogue, Jason Donovan, Guy Pearce and more recently Holly Valance.

At its peak in the UK in the early 1990s, more than 16 million people were watching the drama unfold in the sunny suburbs of Erinsborough.

Currently, about five million people watch the soap each weekday in the UK.


It has a community spirit where nothing really awful happens

TV critic Tina Baker
Ian Smith, who plays meddling Harold Bishop, is the longest running cast character, having been on screen for 15 years.

He told BBC Radio 5 Live that the secret to the show's success is easy.

"Anything that happens to one of our characters, could happen to anyone, we are not like one of the flashy US soaps."

He added that he never tired of playing Harold and said he is happy because he is a "62-year-old actor in permanent employment".

Guy Pearce has starred in Count of Monte Cristo
Guy Pearce has starred in Count of Monte Cristo
TV critic Tina Baker said the show has stayed successful because it offers something different from UK soaps.

she said: "When Neighbours first started, it was a feel-good soap. It has a community spirit where nothing really awful happens.

"It has a lot more comedy and a lot more sunshine than our soaps."

Neighbours' success over the years has masked its early beginnings, when it was cancelled after just 170 episodes on Australia's Channel Seven.

Fanbase

It was picked up by rival Ten Network in 1986 and producers dropped the working class focus to feature a more affluent setting.

The show started on BBC One in October that year as a daytime filler, but soon built up a huge teenage fanbase.

Kylie was first to launch pop career
Kylie was first to launch pop career
After executives realised that millions of children were arriving back at school late from lunch because they were glued to Neighbours, it was moved to its present 1735 (BST) slot.

The tale goes that it was Alison Grade, the daughter of the then head of programming Michael, who helped get the soap a better showing after complaining she and her friends kept missing it.

Kylie Minogue became the show's first major success, launching a hugely successful singing career.

Flops

Many Neighbours stars have tried their hand at singing and acting, with varying degrees of success.

Craig McLachlan, Stefan Dennis and Gayle and Gillian Blakeney had limited success.

However Guy Pearce has gone onto Hollywood success with films like LA Confidential and The Time Machine, Rhada Mitchell has starred in the horror movie Pitch Black and Natalie Imbruglia has had hit records around the world.

Holly Valance, who plays Flick, is currently number one in the UK singles charts with her debut single Kiss Kiss.

The 4000th episode is due to be transmitted in the UK in mid-June.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Phil Mercer in Australia
"Neighbours is not as successful in Australia as it is abroad"
 VOTE RESULTS
Which is your most memorable Neighbours storyline?

Bouncer's hallucinations
 13.52% 

Harold comes back from the dead
 24.05% 

Madge's death
 7.01% 

Plain Jane becomes a swan
 21.73% 

Scott and Charlene's wedding
 33.69% 

8744 Votes Cast

Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion

See also:

01 May 02 | Music
Soap star aims for number one
14 Feb 02 | Showbiz
Soap stars want to be next Kylie
26 Oct 01 | TV and Radio
Neighbours hits 15 years of success
22 Feb 01 | Entertainment
Neighbours' soap war at Crossroads
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