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Rosemary and Thyme: Cagney And Lacey Meets Gardener’s World

 

Many of the posts here on Nostalgia Pie are mainly focused on popular culture from the 1970s-1990s – what I consider to be my era.  But today’s post is all about Rosemary and Thyme, a murder mystery series that began in 2003 and lasted for three series, which starred Felicity Kendal and Pam Ferris – two very familiar faces from my childhood.

A series about two gardeners turned amateur sleuths sounded like something that was right up my street. After all I did grow up on a diet Murder, She Wrote, Hart to Hart, and Miss Marple! So I couldn’t wait for this new ITV drama series to begin. And I did find it very enjoyable; maybe a little slow paced but then when the show is about two female landscape gardeners heading towards the autumn years of their life, it was never going to be Starsky and Hutch!

The series centres around Rosemary Boxer, a never-married landscape gardener and lecturer, and Laura Thyme, a former policeman and mother of two whose marriage ended upon discovering her husband’s affair with a much younger colleague. Laura is very close to her son Tom, but we later discover that her relationship with her daughter is rather strained although the two do eventually make up.

Rosemary and Laura meet and become friends  in the first episode and discover that they both have a love of gardening, which culminates in them working together on various horticultural projects through the series. It just so happens that many of these projects that they undertake also involve someone being murdered; a crime which is always solved by Rosemary and Thyme!

As much as I’m getting stuck into my new life in the States I won’t lie, I am very homesick and have a yearning for all things English, which is what brought me  to Rosemary and Thyme because the countryside, greenery, flower beds, stately homes and cottages… You can’t get more English than that! And despite being a city girl, the show does very much remind me of the place I still call home.

I’m disappointed that only three series were ever made but I am enjoying watching them again. Lounging around on the couch with a box of choccies while watching Rosemary and Thyme while the snow’s pelting down outside is definitely my idea of bliss.

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Posted by on February 28, 2017 in This, That and the Other!

 

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A Tearful G’bye To Doug: A Look-Back At Ramsay Street’s Willis Family

 Hotel Death Trap week on Neighbours was truly gripping stuff! But it’s also been incredibly heartbreaking, and I think it’s safe to say that life on Ramsay Street will never be the same again. Viewers watched Josh Willis die after bravely sacrificing his life to save his nemesis, Daniel. Today his grandfather Doug collapsed and died shortly after reuniting son Brad with his own estranged son, Ned. What is it with those scriptwriters – they really had it in for the poor Willis family!!!

The scenes of Doug’s death, featuring three generations of Willis men, were extremely poignant. When you mention the Willis family, fans of Neighbours  today will think of Brad and Therese, their three children, Josh, Imogen, and Piper plus Brad’s daughter Paige. But when I think of the Willises, I go right back to the early nineties, when the Willis family consisted of Doug and his wife Pam, and their children Adam, Gaby, Cody and of course – Brad!

When Des Clarke sold his house to Doug Willis, I didn’t think that I’d take to the Willises the same way I did with the Clarkes – I was wrong. I  absolutely adored this family and still do. At this time there weren’t really many families as such living on Ramsay Street so this new family unit made a very welcome addition and their lighthearted attitude to life proved to be a breath of fresh air.

THE MARRIAGE

Neighbours Viewers already knew Cody Willis but they got to meet her parents Doug and Pam just before they took over Des Clarke’s  house and set up home in Ramsay Street. They may have been married for over twenty years but anyone could see that the spark was very much there between Doug and his wife. And they didn’t behave like a couple of old marrieds either. Who can forget when Pam tricked Doug into removing all his clothes before locking him out of the house and refusing to let him back in until he promised to take her out dancing?

It was probably because the Willis marriage was so strong that Doug’s habit of flirting with attractive women didn’t bother Pam at all. But there were times when it caused Pam to worry: when Doug’s ex-girlfriend, Alexandra showed up briefly in Erinsborough, and when Lou’s sister, Brenda, became infatuated with Doug.

Both times Pam’s fears proved unfounded. But neither she nor Doug could have predicted what was around the corner…

While nursing neighbour, Jim Robinson back to health, Pam realised she was attracted to him. Her behaviour caused Doug to become quite suspicious of her and Jim but Pam made the fatal error of confessing her feelings for Jim to her ‘good friend’ Jill Weir – not realising that Jill had set her sights on Doug.

Jill used this information to her advantage which resulted in her spending the night with Doug in his hotel room. When she found out, a furious Pam threw Doug out of the house and started divorce proceedings before embarking on a brief fling with Jim.

But it took Doug getting lost at sea to make the warring Willises realise they still loved each other and reunited, ending one of the lowest points in their marriage. And after four years in Ramsay Street, Doug and Pam upped sticks and moved to Darwin after Doug was offered a job there.

THE KIDS

Doug and Pam were the proud parents of four children: two boys, Adam and Brad, and two girls, Gaby and Cody. 

All the Willis kids were extremely close and looked out for each other. They were all fun-loving  but they were also as different as they were alike. Adam was studying to be a doctor who couldn’t decide between Caroline Alessi and Gemma Ramsay (although he eventually left the Street to start a new life with Gemma.) Gaby had been studying business in Hong Kong before coming to live with her family in Erinsborough. Brad was the typical, ultra laid- back surfer, and as a sign of what was to happen in years to come, was caught up in a love triangle between Beth and Lauren. Brad eventually chose Beth but Lauren would get her chance in years to come… Then there was baby of the family, Cody. Headstrong and independent, Cody was a rebel who was always determined to get her own way but nonetheless was doted on by both her parents. She was madly in love with Todd Landers but left to study in America.

All the Willis kids eventually left Ramsay Street to start new lives elsewhere. After a while the characters of Cody and Brad were brought back – although they were not played by the original actors – and Gaby made a cameo appearance in Annalise Hartman’s documentary. Only Adam seems to have been forgotten about but viewers can only assume that Dr. Adam Willis is still living happily in Newcastle with Gemma.

THE LAUGHTER

One thing that I loved about this family was that there was always a lot of love and laughter in the Willis household. Sure they had their problems like everyone else and they endured some pretty rough times, but on the whole, they were very fun loving and never took themselves too seriously. I loved the scene where Brad and Gaby were play fighting with Doug despairing if they’d ever grow up because it reminded me of my own family.

Adam once explained that practical joking was a family tradition, and the Willises did indeed like pranking each other. I remember after one prank got Doug arrested, he got his own back by getting Cody arrested by a police officer. The way it played out was so funny.

And then there’s was Adam’s disastrous first date with Caroline Alessi where his car broke down. It would have infuriated most people but not Adam. Ever the optimist, Adam got a take away pizza and then turned on the radio so that he and Caroline could dance while roadside assistance repaired the car. “Told you I’d take you out dancing after dinner,” Adam told Caroline, looking thoroughly pleased with himself, demonstrating the Willis ability to look on the bright side.

THE HARDSHIPS

Despite all the fun and laughter, the Willises also faced some pretty testing times when laughing was the last thing they wanted to do. There was the time Pam was arrested after being accused of helping one of her patients to die. It was a very worrying time for the family and Pam was determined not to go to prison for something she didn’t do. Thankfully charges against her were dropped.

But worse was to come when the Willises youngest son, Brad, was imprisoned on false drug smuggling charges in Asia- a crime which carried the death penalty. An extremely frantic Doug and Pam flew out, leaving the elder two kids, Adam and Gaby, to raise the funds they needed to get Brad out of jail. After a while Doug and Pam arrived in Erinsborough – with Brad in tow!

Despite Doug having his own business, the Willis family weren’t exactly rolling in it. Pam often took to driving her father’s cab when money was tight, and once many years ago, Pam was forced to pawn her engagement ring, and was extremely relieved to get it back. So financial worries were nothing new to the family.

But things went from bad to worse.

After a joint business venture with Paul Robinson went wrong, Doug found himself in debt. Forced to sell the business, Doug was then employed by the new owners but a difference of opinion led to Doug being sacked. He then spiralled into depression, leading to excessive drinking and a near- breakdown.

But being made of tougher stuff, the Willises got through it.

THE TRAGEDIES

Despite their happy demeanor, the Willises experienced more than their fair share of heartache. Doug and Pam lost one of their children – a baby boy called John – when he was around eighteen months old. Then tragedy struck again years later when their youngest child Cody was accidentally shot and killed during a shoot out on Ramsay Street, leaving the family distraught.

In more recent times, Doug’s health began to deteriorate rapidly as he’d been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Unable to cope with the demands of looking after her husband, Pam sent Doug to stay with Brad where the whole family rallied round and did their best to care for Doug but it was painfully clear to everyone that Doug was steadily getting worse.

And of course as viewers saw last week, fate decided that it wasn’t done with the Willis family as the explosion that rocked Lassiter’s, claimed the lives of Doug and his grandson, Josh, ensuring that the Willis family would never be the same again and that the union between Doug and his beloved Pam had finally come to an end. However will Pam cope?

THE NEXT GENERATION OF WILLISES

The fact that a new generation of Willises were brought back to Erinsborough almost twenty years since Pam and Doug had left for Darwin proves that the Willis family had indeed made an impact and were still fondly remembered. Brad, his second wife, Therese, twins Josh and Imogen, together with youngest daughter Piper, and Brad’s long- lost daughter Paige make up the new Willis family. There may not be as much larking about in the Willis household this time round but they’re definitely not short on drama!

I had always believed that it was the decision of the actors who played Pam and Doug – Sue Jones and Terrence Donovan – to leave Neighbours, marking the departure of the last two Willises left in Ramsay Street. But an interview with Terrance Donovan revealed that Pam and Doug were written out to make way for a family unit with teenage kids, thus keeping in line with the hotter, younger, sexier new image the show was trying to convey. Enter the Kennedys! To be honest its only in recent years that I’ve grown to love Karl and Susan which means I’ve finally forgiven them for ousting the Willises from their home! But I never really did take to the Kennedy kids the way I did with the Willis kids and I would have loved for them – the whole family – to have stayed.

I think another reason why I’m so fond if the Willis family is because the were around during Neighbours’ heyday – a time when we all rushed home from school to watch Neighbours so that we could discuss it at school; when Neighbours’ stars got all the magazine covers, and the show’s actors appeared on our TV screens more than our own homegrown talent. The Willis family are a reminder of those days and of everything that was going on in my own life at the time.

It’s sad that Terrence Donovan’s association with Neighbours which has spanned a period of more than twenty five years has come to an end. And as Terrence is the real-life father of Jason Donovan – who brought the role of Scott Robinson to life – it makes that association somehow stronger. And let’s not forget Terrence’s sensitive portrayal of a man battling Alzheimer’s which raised further awareness of the illness. Doug’s time on the Street has come to an end but we will always have very fond memories of Doug and remember him as a hardworking, down-to-earth family man who loved his wife and kids – not to mention having a laugh.

G’bye Doug – Ramsay Street just won’t be same…

 

 
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Posted by on April 30, 2016 in TV Shows

 

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Romance On The Orient Express

Year: 1985 (UK)

Time: 96 mins

Written by: John Worthing

Directed by: Lawrence Gordon Clark

Starring : Cheryl Ladd     – Lily Parker

Stuart Wilson  – Alex Woodward

Ruby Wax      – Susan Lawson

Julian Sands   – Sandy

Betsy Brantley – Stacey

Sir John Gielgud   – Theodore Woodward

Barry Stokes         – Flavio

Danielle Tylke     – Alexandra

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During my much-needed time off from work last week, I stumbled across a film I first saw when I was about seven or eight; a film for old romantic fools like me – and it would appear that I started being an old romantic fool way back in my junior school days! I still remember the first time I watched Romance On The Orient Express. We were living in our first house in East London and it was a Saturday night – back in the days when Saturday night television was more varied and more entertaining than it is today and not overladen with irritating reality TV shows. Now I know it must have been past my bedtime when this film began but it might have been because it was Saturday that we were allowed to stay up late – and this film just happened to be on.

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THE STORY

The story centres around Lily, a glamorous and sophisticated American magazine editor who is traveling on the famous Orient Express train from Venice to Paris with her friend, the quirky, adventure-seeking Susan. The trip brings back bittersweet memories for Lily when she first travelled to Europe ten years earlier with her friend Stacey. It was on this trip that they met two handsome, young Englishmen, Alex and Sandy. Lily and Alex begin a relationship and their story is told through flashbacks. Their relationship ends abruptly when Alex walks out on Lily without saying a word leaving the devastated young woman to return to the States.

Fast forward ten years and the former lovers are reunited once again as Lily comes face to face with the man who broke her heart a decade ago. Alex, having tracked Lily down and knowing that she had booked a trip on the Orient Express, has booked himself on the same trip in a bid to explain to Lily what happened all those years ago. When the couple meet again, the pain and the anguish of the last ten years is still very raw, and Lily understandably doesn’t want to listen to anything that Alex has to say – but for how long can she resist him?

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And Alex’s reappearance plunges Lily into further turmoil as she now has to wrestle between her feelings for Alex and her obligation to her boyfriend back in the States. It is later revealed that her break up with Alex left Lily damaged and unable to form successful relationships with other men. And now she doesn’t know whether she should accept her boyfriend’s proposal or not – even though it’s very evident that she doesn’t love him.

Alex convinces Lily to meet him and the couple catch up on the last ten years and discover that they’d each been married and are now divorced, although Lily’s was the only marriage that produced a child. As the story unfolds, we soon learn that Alex isn’t quite the cad that we thought he was and that his feelings for Lily were genuine. We also learn that when he left Lily, she wasn’t exactly alone…

THE CAST

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When I first saw Romance On The Orient Express, the only person I recognized was Ruby Wax who was a big name in television back in the 1980s. I’d love to say that at infant-school age, I knew who actors Sir John Gielgud and Stuart Wilson were, but unfortunately I didn’t. I’d heard of Cheryl Ladd because I knew that she’d starred in Charlie’s Angels.

WHAT I LOVED ABOUT IT

Even though Romance On The Orient Express is a made-for-TV movie and not a Hollywood blockbuster, there’s something so beautifully moving and poignant about this film which has shades of Casablanca about it. You couldn’t fail to be dazzled by the luxury of the Orient Express and the stunning on-location scenes in Venice and Paris. The story, the setting, the scenery, the acting, the wardrobe… fantastic!   There is great chemistry between the lead actors Stuart Wilson and Cheryl Ladd, and I absolutely loved the riverboat scene with the significantly beautiful song, Time In A Bottle by Jim Croce.

I remember that the first time I watched Romance On The Orient Express, I found the subplot of the romance between Susan and Flavio, a staff member on the train intriguing. Even though it started off as just a bit of light-hearted fun for Susan who was looking for Mr Right -Now, towards the end of the film, Susan had a change of heart and admitted that she does love Flavio but decided to end it because there was no future in it:

“He’s Italian, he lives in Rome. I’m American, I live in New York… I finally meet someone and geography kills it.”

But there is hope for the couple as Lily convinces Susan that if she loves Flavio then they’ll find a way, and you can’t help rooting for the pair hoping that they will indeed find a way because they seem like such a cute couple.

Stuart Wilson as Alex

Stuart Wilson as Alex

What surprised me was that even though I’d only ever watched this film once, an awfully long time ago as well I may add, I was amazed by how much I remembered, including certain scenes and parts of the dialogue. I also didn’t think that anyone else would have even heard of Romance On The Orient Express let alone watched it, but was pleasantly surprised to find that there were others who had seen this film and remembered it very well.

I know that there are some that might find Romance On The Orient Express to be a little saccharine and predictable but I think it is a very memorable, romantic movie, with a simple, easy to follow yet entertaining storyline that keeps you watching til the end because you just have to know what happens to Alex and Lily. A delightfully charming, heart-felt tale about lost love, long-held secrets and second chances all bound together with the themes of friendship, family loyalty, and surprise revelations. Being a Mills and Boon fan, I feel as though I’ve just seen a classic Mills and Boon novel come to life on screen.

Will I watch Romance On The Orient Express again? Mais oui!

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Posted by on September 27, 2015 in Films, This, That and the Other!

 

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Soon-To-Be Thirty Neighbours Congratulates EastEnders

With all the celebration that has been surrounding EastEnders thirtieth birthday celebrations, it’s very easy to forget that there’s another legendary soap that’s less than a month away from turning thirty. That’s right – our favourite Aussie soap Neighbours began the same year as EastEnders and it quickly became a hit this side of the world.

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So just when you thought the soap-themed posts at Nostalgia Pie were almost over, there’s going to be another bumper crop starting very soon as Neighbours reaches it’s fantastic milestone. In the meantime, check out this hilarious parody by the Neighbours cast as they congratulate EastEnders on reaching thirty – great effort with the Cockney accents! I almost had a bit of a lump in my throat as I realised just how loved our home-grown soap is.

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Hopefully EastEnders will return the kind sentiment.

http://www.channel5.com/shows/neighbours/clips/happy-birthday-eastenders

 
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Posted by on February 22, 2015 in TV Shows

 

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30 YEARS OF EASTENDERS: EVERYONE’S TALKING ABOUT IT

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It’s impossible to have failed to notice that EastEnders is about to turn thirty. It’s unbelievable! I remember being a kid and watching the trailers for a new BBC series that was about to hit our screens in which a host of characters introduced themselves and their families. At the time I was too young to understand what was happening, but looking back it’s very obvious that hopes were high that this soap was going to be something huge – and it was! Thirty years on, EastEnders is still going strong but it’s so surreal to think that there are people under thirty who will never have known a time when EastEnders wasn’t on the box.

When the Cockney soap, which is set in the fictitious London borough of Walford, was first screened, it was only shown twice a week: on Tuesday and Thursday evenings at 7:30. As the show gained in popularity, I began to look forward to Tuesdays and Thursdays which became known as EastEnders days, and felt quite bored on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays – which became known as Wogan days – because there wasn’t anything worth watching. Unless Terry Wogan had some interesting guests on!

In the early days, EastEnders centred primarily around three families: the Beales, the Fowlers, and the Watts. It was only when the character of Dot Cotton was introduced several months later, did the Cotton family become another well-known family in the Square – although many would say that it was for all the wrong reasons!

Over the years, EastEnders went through periods where it was gripping, unmissable stuff to times where I’d rather have a nap than tune in to what was happing in Walford. In fact from early 2011, I pretty much stopped watching the soap – something I never thought would happen. It was a combination of ridiculous storylines, dull characters, and awful actors that just made me want to switch off. And I know that I wasn’t the only one who felt that EastEnders had lost the plot. But I have to say that in recent months, the show’s gotten to be very interesting again, and it takes me back to the days when EastEnders was nothing less than brilliant. But whether I tuned in regularly or not, one thing was for sure – that missing the Christmas Day episode of EastEnders was not an option! It has been a family tradition for so long, and it doesn’t matter what we’d be doing but everything stopped as soon as we heard the familiar opening bars of the EastEnders theme tune. My Aunt and Uncle have been having huge Christmas bashes at their house for years but as soon as it was time for EastEnders, everyone would huddle in their front room; it was an episode not to be missed.

The dominant storyline right now in EastEnders is the murder of Lucy Beale whose killer is going to be unmasked during the week of live episodes – and we cannot wait. It’s absolutely exciting stuff and I’m so glad that EastEnders is back on form. So to celebrate this momentous occasion there’s going to be a host of EastEnders-inspired blog posts honouring this legendary soap and having us skipping down memory lane. In this post, we’ll look at thirty factors that make EastEnders what it is…

1. THE QUEEN VIC

The Queen Victoria public house is the hub of Walford and was named after er, Queen Victoria. It’s where the locals meet and have a night out. And if any of the residents are having a wedding, funeral wake or christening, you can be sure that they’ll hold their event at The Vic. And let’s not forget it’s also been the venue for many a showdown, bust-up and shocking revelation!

When EastEnders first began, The Queen Vic was home to the Watts family. Since then it’s been owned by the Mitchells, the Butchers, and run by Kat and Alfie. Nowadays it’s very much the domain of the Carters.

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2. THE LAUNDERETTE

It appears that no one in Walford actually owns a washing machine, so they’re always popping into the laundrette with bags of laundry, keeping Dot busy with service washes. It’s also quite bizarrely something of a meeting point and quite a few argy-bargies have taken place there. A bit like the Vic but without the drinks!

Dot has always worked in the laundrette and she used to work there with Pauline Fowler. However the often-mention Mr.Papadopolous, the laundrette’s owner whose name cannot be pronounced by Dot, rarely appears on screen.

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3. THE CAFE

It was first owned by Sue and Ali Osman, a couple who made Den and Angie look like Terry and June. It was later taken over by Kathy Beale who thought that Walford needed something a little upmarket and transformed the day-time café into a late-night bistro. But I don’t think the locals were fooled – it was still the café! Today it’s owned by Walford’s answer to Alan Sugar, Ian Beale. It’s the place where everyone meets, especially when they have private matters to discuss, because let’s face it, there’s not much chance of anyone overhearing your conversation in the café!

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4. THE FRUIT AND VEG STALL

It may just be a humble fruit and veg stall but it’s been a part of EastEnders from the very beginning and you just can’t imagine Walford without it. The fruit and veg stall has been in the Beale family for years. Viewers first saw it run by Pete Beale with help from his then wife Kathy and son Ian. After his death, the stall was run by Pete’s nephew Mark Fowler for years, and it’s currently Pete’s grandson Peter who now works the stall. Although most of us tend to visit the supermarkets for our five a day, the Walford locals won’t think of going anywhere else for fresh fruit and veggies.

Who’d have thought the stall could be a nice little earner?

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5. THE MARKET

I remember when Angie Watts used to head ‘up west’ on many of her numerous shopping expeditions despite having a market on her doorstep. These days, the market seems to be the only place the locals will shop. They buy just about everything there including outfits for a night out. And many of the Square’s residents have been market traders at one time or another including Sanjay and Gita Kapoor, Bianca Jackson, Stacey Branning, Zoe Slater, Kat Moon and Ronnie Mitchell’s long-lost daughter Dannielle.

And who could forget slimy market inspector Richard ‘Tricky Dicky’ Cole? A corrupt lothario, Richard was more concerned with trying to get into the pants of the female population of Walford than the stall holders selling them! And when he wasn’t on the look-out for new conquests, he wasn’t averse to taking a few backhanders from stall-holders. Of the monetary variety of course but there were a few times he got himself a well-deserved slap!

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6. THE CAR LOT

Even though it’s now owned by Max Branning and was previously run by David Wicks and Roy Evans, whenever I think of the car lot, I still think of Frank Butche as he’s the one who opened the car lot in the square. It may just seem like an ordinary car lot but if the walls of the portacabin could talk, it would have more than a few stories to tell: romantic trysts, dodgy deals, vicious attacks… it all took place here. And that’s before we even get to Frank torching the place as part of an insurance scam in which a homeless man was killed.

I still remember the episode where a few of the Square’s residents went to Spain and David Wicks picked up Sam Mitchell in a bar not realising who she was. She then told him about the car lot her father-in-law used to own.

“But it’s not like the car showrooms you have,” Sam said, “it’s just a tatty little  car lot.”

“Yeah, I think  know what you mean,” David smirked.

Indeed you did, David. Indeed you did!

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7. THE ARCHES

The Arches – a garage – was what brought the Mitchell brothers, Grant and Phil, to Walford, and it was always considered Mitchell territory. Well at least until recently when Max Branning conned Ben Mitchell into signing it over to him. Like many of the establishments on the Square, The Arches have witnessed it’s fair share of drama including Ricky Butcher and Natalie Price conducting their affair behind Bianca’s back; Ben Mitchell undergoing a personality transplant and attacking his friend Jordan, and that fight between Phil and Grant after Grant discovered what Phil had been getting up to with Sharon for months. mechanics who have worked there included, Phil, Grant, Ricky, Gary, Minty, Jase and Ben.

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8. ALBERT SQUARE

I don’t know why but for a long time, I thought that ‘Albert Square’ referred to the little bit of enclosed greenery where the residents often sit and mope. But it isn’t – that is actually the Square’s gardens. Albert Square refers to the row of terraced houses where most of the residents live and it is named after Prince Albert. The Beale family live at number 45, which used to be home to the Fowler’s when the show first started. The Masoods live at number 41; Phil and Sharon are at number 55; Patrick Trueman resides at numbers 19-20 with Kim and Denise, while Ronnie and Roxy live at number 27. And of course The Queen Victoria is the focal point of the Square.

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9. THE GARDENS

The gardens are central to the Square and it houses Arthur Fowler’s bench which was placed there in his memory. There is hardly an episode that goes by when someone isn’t sat on that bench – known by viewers as the Bench Of Tears –  crying, brooding, sulking, moaning or threatening another resident. Though as they all have houses on the Square it’s not quite understood why they can’t do all the above from the comfort of their own home and not publicly out in the Square!

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10. THE MORE-THAN-EXTRA EXTRAS

The Queen Vic’s resident barmaid Tracy has been in EastEnders for years. The pub is always changing hands but it doesn’t matter who the new owners are – Tracy stays! Then there’s Winston who runs one of the stalls in the market who’s been in EastEnders since 1986 – who my family absolutely loved and cheered when he made an appearance.

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But get this Tracy and Winston aren’t members of the main cast but humble extras. They’re often seen whenever there is an important event in EastEnders and every now and again, they may get the odd bit of short dialogue. Tracy did have a (speaking) part in a storyline that was fairly major (for her) when she was attacked by Sam Mitchell as Sam dug up the body of Den Watts on Dennis and Sharon Rickman’s wedding day. That’s the closest she’s ever got to having a role in a major storyline and there are often calls from the public to give both Tracy and Winston more prominent roles – and I agree.

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And we can’t forget Big Ron played by actor Ron Tarr. Big Ron appeared in EastEnders since 1985 but was never given a main role. I remember that in the 1990s, a TV mag even had a campaign for Big Ron to get a bigger slice of the action but it never happened as Ron Tarr passed away in 1997 after battling cancer.

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11. THE FOWLER HOUSE

Just like The Queen Vic, 45 Albert Square stands the test of time – and is probably the only house where people tend to enter via the back door rather than the front! Now owned by Ian Beale, at the start of the show it was still very much the residence of Ian’s grandmother Lou Beale who lived there with her daughter Pauline and her family. Back then the house seemed very small, cramped, and extremely dated, but nonetheless it had a certain charm to it. Of course when Ian bought the house, he set about making changes, turning it into the more roomy, modern pad that it is today.

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12. THAT THEME TUNE

Composed by Simon May and Leslie Osbourne, the Eastenders theme tune is easily one of the most recognizable theme tunes around. Producers had requested May to come up with something melodic which would “bring people in from the kitchen or garden” – and that’s exactly what they got. The theme tune is so iconic that people know the show is starting when they hear it without having to look up. I don’t think there’s anyone who doesn’t whistle or hum that tune every now and again.

In 1986 the theme was turned into a song called Anyone Can Fall In Love sung by Anita Dobson who played Angie Watts,which reached number 4 in the charts.

The EastEnders theme tune has undergone a few tweaks and changes over the years although it has generally been kept as close to the original as possible. During the mid-nineties, the theme tune underwent a major revamp which didn’t go down too well with viewers, so it went back to the original tune.

13. ‘DOOF DOOF’ SCENES

Every EastEnders fan is familiar with the ‘doof doof’ scene. It’s that famous drum beat that can be heard at the end of the last scene which signals that the episode has finished and that that famous theme tune is about to begin. This type of scene is now synonymous with EastEnders.

It wasn’t until the late nineties that I realised that this type of scene actually had a name. It was Tamzin Outhwaite, who played Melanie Owen, who said in an interview that cast members naturally wanted to be in the ‘doof doof’ scene, especially if it featured a cliff-hanger. The scene got its name from the sound of the drum beats that sounded like ‘doof doof.’

I was impressed that the scene actually had a name!

14. THE OPENING CREDITS

The opening title sequence of Eastenders is as well-known as its theme tune. It’s been revamped a few times but it’s essentially a map of the East End of London. It starts by zooming in on the River Thames before panning out to give an ariel view of London. Easily one of the most iconic opening sequences.

15. CHRISTMAS EPISODES

There were always two things we had to do on Christmas day without fail. The first was go to mass, and the second was to watch the Christmas day episode or episodes of EastEnders. This was something we always looked forward to, and it didn’t matter whose house we were celebrating Christmas in, as soon as we heard that familiar theme tune we dropped whatever it was we were doing and gathered in front of the telly. Not only was it a family tradition, but we also knew that the Christmas day episode was one that was guaranteed to have us on the edge of our seat. Yes, the public often complained that the episodes were often depressing and full of misery and often featured someone dying, but most of us found them to be full of drama and either featured a whopper of a cliff-hanger or resolved one.

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16. WHODUNITS

Anyone would think that Ms. Marple resided in Albert Square with the number of murders, attempted murders and other crimes that take place. The very first episode of EastEnders opened up with the murder of Reg Cox and these whodunits have been keeping us enthralled for years. There was the shooting of Phil Mitchell (the first time) the murders of Dennis Rickman, Eddie Royal, Archie Mitchell and we’re currently gripped by the mystery of who was responsible for the death of Lucy Beale which is going to be revealed very soon.As with the murder of Archie Mitchell, many of the cast members only found out at the same time that the public did in a live episode – and that’s exactly what’s going to happen when the Lucy’s killer is going to be unmasked.

And let’s not forget there are whodunits of a different variety, which have nothing to do with crime,  where pregnancies are involved where viewers are trying to work out who the baby’s father is as in the case of Michelle Fowler’s, Laura Beale’s and Heather Trott’s pregnancies. There was also one occasion when viewers had to work out who a positive pregnancy test belonged to with suspicion falling on the Fox-Wicks women.

It eventually turned out to be Dawn Swann’s.

17. THE NEIGHBOURING STREETS

Although most of the residents live on Albert Square, many of the small businesses are based in neighbouring streets such as Turpin Road, Bridge Street, and George Street. These places are often mentioned by the characters.

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18. JULIA’S THEME

Julia’s Theme is named after the show’s creator, Julia Smith. It is used in place of the regular theme and emphasizes a particularly emotional event such as a character leaving or dying. Each episode normally ends with the ‘doof doof’ drum beats, but with Julia’s Theme, the ‘doof doofs’ are replaced with a slow melody played on piano.  Julia’s Theme has been revamped a number of times, so there are different versions of this tune. Sometimes the beginning of Julia’s Theme is used as the intro to EastEnders‘ main theme tune.

I remember Julia’s Theme being played when Lofty proposed to pregnant Michelle Fowler, after Debbie Bates had been killed in a road accident; as Cindy Beale fled to Italy with her sons and was forced to leave her daughter behind; while Sharon watched Phil and Kathy embrace on their way home from France, and when Jim Branning proposed to Dot.

19. THE TRAILERS

Right now we’re all a bit spooked after watching the trailer promoting the unveiling of Lucy Beale’s killer. But spooked or not it’s a fantastic trailer, and you can’t expect anything less from the show who release great trailers whenever a major, new character is about to descend on the Square, a new storyline is about to hit, or when an old face returns. I especially liked the ‘Everyone’s talking about it’ slogan which accompanied some of the trailers.

Trailers were used when Kat and Alfie returned to the Square, just before Archie Mitchell’s killer was revealed, for Den Watts’s shock return, the Zoe, Dennis, Sharon love triangle which exploded on Christmas Day, the murder of Den Watts, Sharon’s return, and the arrival of the carter family.

20. SUNDAY OMNIBUS

When I was growing up, we all looked forward to the omnibus edition of EastEnders where Tuesday’s and Thursday’s episodes were repeated for those who had missed them. Well I say we all looked forward to them, but I’d say it was probably us kids who looked forward to the omnibus (nicknamed the ‘lonely bus’ by my brother) because we would watch it whether we’d seen the episodes during the week or not! I’ve lost count of the times Mum or Dad would walk into the living room see us all glued to the TV and exclaim, “But you’ve already watched this!” That’s right and now we’re watching it again! The EastEnders omnibus was the perfect lazy Sunday afternoon.

In more recent years, there has been a change in the scheduling of the omnibus but it has now emerged that the BBC are going to scrap the Sunday omnibus from April of this year, as the thirty day catch up on iPlayer means that broadcasting the omnibus is no longer necessary. I agree but it’s sad to lose this classic Sunday afternoon tradition.

21. THE FAMILIES

EastEnders is just about people being miserable; growling at each other; screaming their heads of in the market, or starting fights in The Vic. No EastEnders is all about family and the importance of familial relationships –  or perhaps I should say faah-mily! During the last three decades there have been many prominent families who have made their mark in Albert Square: The Watts; the Fowlers; the Beales; the Mitchells; the Jacksons; the Butchers; the Slaters;  the Wicks; the Brannings; the Moons; the Masoods, and now the Carters.

In each of these households there’s usually a fairly loud-mouthed matriarch who comes across as bossy, domineering, interfering and in danger of suffocating their children. But at the end of the day, to these women, family is everything. Who can forget Pauline Fowler bleating on about the importance of family? Or Peggy’s famous, ‘You’re a Mitchell’ line. I even heard Cora Cross tell Tania that she’s ‘a Cross’ but sorry – it doesn’t have quite the same ring to it as the Mitchell line!

Of course there were some families who couldn’t quite cut the mustard and were sent packing. When you think of the great families who graced the Square with their presence, who thinks of the Kapoors, the Ferreiras, the Di Marcos or the Flaherty family?

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22. THE PETS

It’s not just the characters who have endeared themselves to the public, but we’ve also grown quite attached to the four-legged, furry creatures that have appeared in the Square. Wellard, Roly, Freida, Ghengis, Terrance, Bella and Betty – we loved them all. And during the eighties, we were asking everyone if they’d ‘seen my Willy?’

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23. FAMOUS FACES

A few famous faces have popped up in Walford either as a cameo or a guest role. There was Robbie Williams using the phone in The Vic; Goldie played a gangster; Susan George appeared as Terry Raymond’s love interest; Bobby Davro played Shirley’s on-off boyfriend, and Madhur Jaffrey appeared as the Ferreira matriarch. Mike Reid, Shane Richie, Phil Daniel, and Samantha Womack are long-established actors or comedians  who had or have long-term roles in the soap. And of course after Barbra Windsor started her role as Peggy Mitchell, no one ever saw her as the girl from the Carry On movies again!

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24. CROOKS AND GANGSTERS

As the East End is Kray’s territory, it goes without saying that there have to be a few major league villians. Phil and Grant Mitchell might have fancies themselves as a couple of tough nuts but compared to the likes of Jack Dalton, Johnny Allen, Andy Hunter, Steve Owen, George Palmer, not to mention Den Watts’s associates, they were pretty much small fry!

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25. TWO-HANDERS

I don’t think I’ve ever seen another soap opera do a two-hander: an episode which has only two characters. The very first one I remember was back in the eighties and it featured Den and Angie Watts. Den announced that he was leaving Angie for his mistress Jan and Angie played her trump card, telling Den that she only had six months to live. Another memorable two-hander was when Michelle Fowler finally told Sharon Watts the truth regarding Vicki Fowler’s paternity. Other two handers have included episodes featuring Den and Sharon, Phil and Grant, Dot and Ethel, Max and Stacey among others.

There have also been three-hander and four-hander episodes too. The episode featuring Phil, Grant and Sharon after Phil and Sharon had slept together for the first is particular memorable, as is the episode featuring Grant and Michelle, and David and Cindy in two different sub-plots where the two couples, er get it on!

The reason for these two/three/four hander episodes was that it sped up the filming process, and while the two actors were filming the two-hander, the rest of the cast could be filming another episode. These special episodes look like mini-plays and are a pleasure to watch as it relies usually on just one storyline and a limited number of actors, and it’s very clever of EastEnders to come up with that.

Incidentally, there has only ever been a single one-hander episode in the show’s entire history which featured Dot Cotton.

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26. GRITTY REALISM

EastEnders isn’t one for shying away from hard-hitting social issues. It’s tackled storylines involving cot death, homophobia, prostitution, rape, mental health issues, HIV, paedophilia, child abuse, teenage pregnancy, drug abuse, domestic abuse, alcoholism, racism… the list is endless.

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27. RATINGS WARS WITH CORRIE

There were other soap operas around when I was growing up, but when it came to ratings, it seems that it was firmly between Coronation Street and EastEnders. The Sunday papers would always show who’d hit the top spot in the TV pull-out section and it would alternate 9or so it seemed) between EastEnders or Corrie. The others didn’t even get a look-in!

28. COCKNEY ACCENT – WITHOUT THE RHYMING

You can’t have a soap set in the East End of London and not expect to hear a few Cockney accents. And being a real-life Eastender myself, I’ve always said that Cockney accents are the most endearing in the world – although I’ve never used rhyming slang, and it very rarely features on the show. I hardly ever hear real-life Cockneys use it so it just wouldn’t be realistic.

Of course in recent times, there have been complaints that the EastEnd just isn’t Cockney enough and there are too many different regional accents. But then anyone who’s ever lived in the East End will know that it’s not just Cockneys who live there. There are people from other parts of the country and of course other parts of the world. My complaint is that I don’t hear Cockney accents enough where I live and I’m sure that the show is reflecting the diversity of the area.

29. THE CHIPPY

You can’t have an East End district without a fish and chip shop so thank goodness for Beale’s Plaice – although when Ian first purchased the shop, no way was it to be called a chippy. Ian was aiming for the rather more upmarket sounding ‘fish restaurant’!

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30. THE AWARDS

To say that EastEnders is an award-winning soap is something of a understatement. So far it has won around 316 awards (roughly ten a year) and just like in the ratings wars, it often goes head-to-head with Corrie for the Best Soap category.

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Posted by on February 12, 2015 in TV Shows

 

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Legendary Soap Couples

The sad passing of Anne Kirkbride means that we will never see Ken and Deirdre Barlow grace our screens when we settle in front of the box to watch Coronation Street. Ever since their wedding in 1980, they have kept us entertained with on-screen antics. Affairs, break-ups, divorce, remarriage, endless rows, passionate reunions, long-lost children, Deirdre’s scrapes with the law, Tracey’s shenanigans… this couple have been through it all. And through it all, there wasn’t a couple we wanted to see together more than Ken and Deirdre. We may sadly never see them again but they’ve gone down in television history as a legendary soap couple.

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I got thinking about other soap couples, those who were a perfect match in every way. Though perfect match or not, they didn’t always get their happy ending but then that’s the way it often is in soap land. So I’ve come up with my list of ten soap couples who I’ve thoroughly enjoyed watching; who captured the nation’s hearts, and who most definitely belonged together.

1. SCOTT AND CHARLENE ROBINSON

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They may be the youngest couple on this list but they’re right up there when it comes to soap legends. Scott and Charlene were just one of the reasons why Neighbours back in the 1980s was so popular. Who could forget that phenomenal wedding that’s still being talked about more than twenty five years later? They may have been on-off-on again-off again even after they were married but there’s no denying that Scott and Charlene belonged together. It was a sad day in Erinsborough and for Neighbours fans when Scott and Charlene left for a new life in Brisbane. And even though many couples may have met and fell in love on Ramsay Street, there was never anyone quite like Scott and Charlene.

2. DEN AND ANGIE WATTS

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The Cockney version of JR and Sue Ellen Ewing may have been a relatively short-lived couple and not together as long as Ken and Deirdre but Den and Angie are legends with a capital L. When people talk about the good ol’ days of Eastenders, they usually mean the Den and Angie years.

True, Angie loved Den more than he loved her. And it was Den who turned her to drink with his dodgy deals and numerous affairs. Goodness knows what Angie would have done if she’d found out about Den’s love children. Despite all the ups and downs (mostly downs) there was never a dull moment with Den and Angie. We all hoped for a happy ending for our fave soap couple – and there were times when we thought it might be a possibility – but it wasn’t to be. Angie ran off to start a new life with her new fella while Den was presumed dead for years before popping up in Albert Square again.

3. TOM AND PIPPA FLETCHER

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When Home And Away first aired, it was all about the Fletcher family: Tom, his wife Pippa and their foster children. Despite issues with the children, they were a very tight family unit with Tom and Pippa having a strong marriage that seemed able to withstand anything life through at them. They initially thought they couldn’t have children of their own (until baby Christopher came along) and they were often worn down by their foster children’s dramas but they often came across as quite young at heart, totally devoted to each other, and quite sweet as a couple.

It was terribly sad when Tom was killed in an accident, and I remember Pippa’s shock and denial which eventually gave way to grief. They may not have been together for a long time, but they’re still a very memorable couple.

4. STAN AND HILDA OGDEN

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Stan and Hilda were the Ken and Deirdre of Coronation Street long before the latter achieved legendary status. This classic Corrie couple had been in the soap since the 1960s but my earliest memories of them are from the 1980s which must have been just before Stan died. I still remember when Stan gave Hilda a box for her birthday and when she opened it, there was nothing in it. Stan explained that it was for Hilda to put her jewellery in – which she accepted. I thought it was a great idea at the time but I was too young to know any better. Now I just think it’s hilarious – not to mention a bit cheeky!

Stan and Hilda may have been off our screens as a couple for more than three decades but when I think Coronation Street, I still think of Stan and Hilda Ogden.

5. MADGE AND HAROLD BISHOP

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The king and queen of Ramsay Street! Who couldn’t love the Bishops? Former childhood sweethearts Madge and Harold reunited after many years apart, and despite them being polar opposites, there was no doubting that Madge without Harold was like tea without biscuits. Yes Harold annoyed Madge with his fuddy-duddy ways and Harold sometimes found Madge a bit too harsh but they loved each other dearly.

Unfortunately Madge and Harold didn’t get the chance to grow old and grey together as Madge passed away and Harold eventually remarried and left the street. But rumour has it that Madge and Harold will be returning to Erinsborough as part of the show’s thirtieth anniversary celebrations. How Madge will be returning from the dead, I don’t know, but I’m looking forward to seeing the Bishops together again.

6. DENNIS AND SHARON RICKMAN

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The couple who the public affectionately nicknamed ‘Shannis’ may just be my ultimate favourite soap couple. No, I take that back: Sharon Watts and Dennis Rickman are my ultimate favourite couple. I think I may love them even more than Scott and Charlene and that’s saying something. I don’t think I’ve ever watched an on-screen couple together and got goose-bumps. The chemistry between Letitia Dean and the gorgeous Nigel Harman was astounding. I did have my reservations when I heard that Eastenders’ writers were going to get Sharon and Dennis together – in fact I thought it was bizarre: Sharon was Dennis’s adopted sister after all.

But I couldn’t have been more wrong. Sharon and Dennis were perfect together. Their complicated family situation meant that on more than one occasion one of the twosome got cold feet and called the whole thing off which eventually resulted in Dennis starting a relationship with Zoe Slater. Thankfully he saw sense and realised that Sharon was the woman for him – and the nation cheered. They married but the marriage was sadly short-lived when Dennis was murdered on New Year’s Eve – just as they found out that Sharon was expecting their much longed-for baby.

I totally miss seeing Sharon and Dennis together in Eastenders. I’m sorry but Sharon and Phil… well, they’re no Shannis, are they?

7. BOBBY AND PAMELA EWING

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Dallas’s Bobby and Pam were the complete opposite of JR and Sue-Ellen. This was a couple who truly loved each other but being Texas’s answer to Romeo and Juliet, they had to put up with a lot of family hostility, especially from Bobby’s brother JR who hated the Barnes family with a passion and couldn’t get his head around the fact that his little brother was shacking up with the sister of the enemy.

And family pressures did indeed split them up with them both meeting other partners – Bobby’s relationship in particular with Jenna Wade a.k.a Mrs. Elvis Presley really had viewers on the edge of their seats – but we all knew that Bobby and Pam were a great match and thankfully they realised that too. Despite discovering that Jenna was pregnant with Bobby’s child, Pam went on to remarry Bobby. But in true soap style, there was no happy ever after. Pam was badly injured in a car accident, and although she survived, she couldn’t bear for Bobby or their son Christopher to see how badly disfigured she was, so she left the hospital without telling the Ewings where she was going and filed for divorce.

Bobby went to remarry twice more but it was never the same. Bobby and Pam were an awesome couple.

8. JEFF AND FALLON COLBY

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Jeff and Fallon’s on-off antics had viewers gripped. Sweet, sensible Jeff and flighty Fallon Carrington may have been a bit of a mismatch but these two had plenty of passion and fire and I loved watching them together. Admittedly I did think that Fallon and Jeff’s cousin Miles – who Fallon married when she lost her memory also made a great couple – but they were no Jeff and Fallon. And I remembered being allowed to stay up late to watch Fallon become Mrs. Jeff Colby for the second time in a gorgeous pink gown. The ups and downs didn’t stop there but Jeff and Fallon always found their way back to each other again.

9. PAULINE AND ARTHER FOWLER

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Cardigan-wearing Pauline Fowler and her allotment-loving husband Arthur both appeared during the golden days of Eastenders. But unlike their fiery, passionate counterparts Den and Angie, Pauline and Arthur were considered a little less dramatic, and they definitely preferred a quieter life. But that’s not to say that that’s what they got as the Flowers had more than their fair share of drama over the years: Pauline’s surprise pregnancy; daughter Michelle becoming a teenage mum; Arthur’s breakdown and spell in prison; the death of Pauline’s twin brother Pete… and let’s not forget having to live with Pauline’s domineering mother, Lou.

But the biggest shock of all – just in case anyone thought Pauline and Arthur were too boring – was when Arthur had an affair with Christine Hewitt, who begged him to leave Pauline. On the day that Arthur confessed all to Pauline, he was rewarded, quite memorably, with a whack around the head  with a frying pan. However, this wasn’t enough to finish off Walford’s iconic couple: Pauline and Arthur eventually reunited and stayed married until Arthur’s untimely death.

10. ALF AND AILSA STEWART

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I was a huge fan of this Home And Away couple from day one. Ailsa was Alf’s first real relationship after his wife Martha died and they seemed perfect for each other. Unfortunately Alf’s teenage daughter Roo didn’t think so and tried to find ways to split them up. Roo thought she’d  struck gold when she found out that Ailsa had served time in prison for murdering her father, but when Ailsa explained that her father was an abusive bully and that she’d killed him in self-defence, Alf didn’t need to think twice about resuming his relationship with Ailsa – and told Roo where to go.

It wasn’t all plain sailing for this couple. They had to deal with Ailsa’s post-natal depression after the birth of their son Duncan and more of Roo’s shenanigans. But like Tom and Pippa, they dearly loved each other and made their marriage work until Ailsa’s shock death from a heart attack.

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Posted by on February 1, 2015 in Childhood Legends, TV Shows

 

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Video

Mike Loves Plain Jane Superbrain… And Other Hot Neighbours Couples

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Anyone who saw Hollywood actor-turned-musician Guy Pearce’s recent music video for his new single Fly All The Way, will have noticed that there was another familiar face that we haven’t seen in a very long time. The familiar face was non other than Guy’s former Neighbours co-star Annie Jones, who played Jane Harris, the love interest of Guy’s character Mike Young in the hit Aussie soap back in the eighties and nineties.

Fly All The Way is taken from Guy’s debut solo album, Broken Bones, and the video sees Guy playing a number of different characters. Both the track and the video are very reminiscent of Foo Fighters in their earlier years so it’s right up my street. But what I was really excited about was to see Guy team up with Annie Jones again as she played his wife in the video. It was a very quirky indicator of what Mike and Jane could have been if the powers who be at Neighbours hadn’t insisted on splitting them up.


 

I absolutely loved Mike and Jane as a couple, and the video got me back into reminiscing mode. I thought about all the other hot couples from the early days of Neighbours who were a hit with the fans. Of course today Neighbours is still going strong with a lot of awesome double acts: Toadie and Sonia; Karl and Susan Kennedy; Brad and Therese Willis… but for me, my most memorable couples – even if they have been forgotten by some – have come from the eighties and nineties, when Neighbours was probably the most watched soap in Britain. And as fab as some of today’s Neighbours couples are, I don’t think they have that same spark as the couples of back in the day.

So here’s a look at some of the Neighbours’s couples that I think are tops!

1. SCOTT ROBINSON AND CHARLENE MITCHELL

Even though this list is in no particular order, it would have to be Scott (Jason Donovan) and Charlene (Kylie Minogue) at the top spot, wouldn’t it! I don’t just think that Scott and Charlene are the hottest Neighbours twosome but they’re probably the most popular soap couple of all time; a screen romance that led to the actors who played them to become international stars. Their soap wedding, that was screened in the eighties, is still the most talked about TV wedding.

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Scott and Charlene met as teenagers, when Charlene greeted him with a punch in the face after Scott mistook her for a burglar. Despite the unlikeliest of starts, they soon started going out and became seriously loved-up although their relationship suffered a lot of ups and downs – which didn’t end even after Charlene became Mrs. Robinson. Their families didn’t expect their union to last due to them having married so young, but Scott and Charlene proved them wrong. The day sadly came when the Robinsons packed up and left Erinsborough for a new life in Brisbane where they are still living in happily married bliss. But the legacy continues as their son Daniel is now a Ramsay Street regular thus ensuring the legend that is Scott and Charlene will never be forgotten.

2. MIKE YOUNG AND JANE HARRIS

I always thought that Mike (Guy Pearce) and Jane (Annie Jones) were equally as fantastic as the Robinsons but their pairing was always overshadowed by their best friends Scott and Charlene. But nonetheless, their antics kept me glued to the screen. And as with the actors who played Scott and Charlene, I had hoped that Guy Pearce and Annie Jones would also become a real-life couple. It never happened but it seems as though they’re good friends which is pretty awesome too!

Dubbed ‘Plain Jane Superbrain’ by her less than friendly classmates, Jane Harris was the butt of jokes when she moved to Ramsay Street to live with her grandmother, Mrs. Mangel. Shy and awkward, Jane was desperate to fit in but didn’t have any luck in making friends – until she was befriended by Scott, Charlene and Mike after an initial frosty start. Despite looking quite plain, Mike asked Jane to be his date to the school dance – and I still remember the episode where Mike’s jaw hit the floor after Jane had had her makeover and he saw just how stunning she really was.

They soon started going out, but like Scott and Charlene, Mike and Jane also had their share of problems, from Mrs. Mangel standing in the way of their relationship to Mike’s ex-girlfriend Nikki returning to Erinsborough. then Mike did the unthinkable and cheated on Jane while on a trip to Canberra and the two broke up although they later became friends.

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After some time apart Mike soon saw sense and won Jane back who by now was the Lassiter’s Girl. This time round they seemed more rock solid than before. They still had storms to weather but they got through them and they were definitely one of my favourite couples. Then just when we thought that Mike and Jane had a real chance to be happy together, Jane fell for Mike’s closest friend and father figure, Des Clarke, which wrecked their relationship once and for all. Eventually Mike and Jane each left Ramsay Street to care for sick relatives without getting back together again.

I was so disappointed when they split. Even after Jane got with Des, I kept hoping that Mike and Jane would get back together again but sadly it never happened. Quite frankly, I don’t know what the scriptwriters were thinking because Des and Jane just weren’t suited – it was just infatuation on both parts. They didn’t have the same chemistry that Mike and Jane had. Whereas Scott and Charlene had their happily ever after, it would have been great if Mike and Jane had sailed off into the sunset together but it was not to be…

3. DES AND DAPHNE CLARKE

There aren’t many grooms who would fall for and eventually go on to marry the stripper at their bucks party but Des Clarke (Paul Keane) did just that! It was hardly love at first sight for either of them but they struck up a friendship, especially after Des was jilted by his bride-to-be Lorraine, and Daphne (Elaine Smith) eventually moved in with Des – as his new lodger!

Des and Daphne were destined to be together but in soap land, the path of true love never runs smoothly, and Des and Daphne had more than their fair share of obstacles to overcome: a kidnapping attempt; former flames; Daphne’s on-off relationship with Shane Ramsay; a supposed love child… but they successfully overcame these problems and Daphne went on to become Mrs. Clarke in what is considered to be Neighbours’ first big wedding.

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They soon had a son, Jamie, and Daphne became the first character to make television history by giving birth while wearing dungarees! But together with Mike Young, who was in their care, Des, Daphne and baby Jamie settled into family life. Unfortunately, this was cut short when Daphne was tragically killed in a car crash, leaving Des and Mike heartbroken. Who could forget Madge and Harold’s wedding, where their joy contrasted sharply with Des’s pain, and actor Paul Keane who played Des, gave a very moving performance as the devastated widower.

I couldn’t decide who was better suited to Daphne: Des or Shane. They both really seemed to love her, and Daphne had real chemistry with both men. However, I think the scriptwriters got it right with Des and Daphne and they certainly seemed to have something special. Des found it very hard to move on after Daphne’s death, and although he eventually left Ramsay Street to remarry and start a new life, his new marriage didn’t last, which is hardly surprising as Daphne Lawrence was his true love and a very hard act to follow.

4. HAROLD AND MADGE BISHOP

Madge Ramsay (Anne Charleston) had dated Harold Bishop (Ian Smith) when they were both at high school but the romance had fizzled out and they both went on to marry other people. But Madge returned to Ramsay Street after her marriage ended where she was eventually reunited with Harold.

As usual, it wasn’t all plain sailing, and Harold had to work hard to get Madge to the alter, determined not to lose her a second time. He finally got to make an honest woman of Madge and despite the fact that they were as different as night and day – Harold could be a little too serious, self-righteous and a bit pompous, while Madge was very straight-talking, fiery and feisty -they were a twosome that worked well together.

Tragedy struck when Harold went missing on a trip and was presumed dead. A heartbroken Madge returned to Ramsay Street and later started a relationship with Lou Carpenter – another former boyfriend. However Madge soon realised what we all knew – that no one could ever measure up to her beloved Harold. So she ended her relationship with Lou and left Ramsay Street to live with Scott and Charlene in Brisbane.

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During the years that Madge and Harold were away from Ramsay Street, I thought of a little scenario where Harold hadn’t drowned but was out there somewhere suffering from amnesia. It seemed that the show’s writers had the same idea too because years later Harold turned up in Ramsay Street as a Salvation Army officer and was spotted by Helen Daniels, who informed Madge that her husband was back in Erinsborough. Madge came to see for herself and wasted no time in helping Harold to remember his past and their life together. She succeeded and Neighbours’ fans cheered when Madge and Harold wed for a second time.

Sadly their second chance at happiness was short-lived as Madge passed away after losing her fight with cancer, leaving Harold beyond devastated. Harold left Ramsay Street after marrying lawyer Carolyn Johnstone years later, and the two set off to begin their life together.

But for the viewers, it will always be Madge and Harold.

5. HENRY RAMSAY AND BRONWYN DAVIES

Joker Henry Ramsay (Craig McLachlan) fell in love with Bronwyn Davies (Rachel Friend) as soon as he laid eyes on her. But the pretty blonde couldn’t take Henry seriously, and started going out with Henry’s friend and neighbour Mike Young instead. However Bronwyn’s relationship with Mike didn’t last and she soon realised that Henry was the man for her – much to his delight. Henry had gone out with Melanie Pearson in the past, and had suffered the experience of unrequited love with Des Clarke’s sister Sally. But it looked as though he might have found the right woman in caring, strong willed, country girl Bronwyn.

But surprise, surprise – as with all Ramsay Street couples, Henry and Bronwyn encountered problems which saw them split on a couple of occasions, but the bond between them was too strong and they would always find their way back to each other. Their biggest test came just before their wedding, when Bronwyn’s father, not convinced that Henry was the right man for his daughter, persuaded Bronwyn to postpone the wedding. And she did just that – on the morning of the day that she was supposed to marry Henry alongside their friends Joe and Kerry in a double wedding ceremony. Both Henry and Bronwyn were heartbroken and even though this incident could have split them up again – it didn’t. And both of them were determined that next time, they’d make it to the alter without any hitches.

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The next test came when Henry landed a radio job in New Zealand, and had to leave without Bronwyn who was unable to get a job transfer. Having to endure a long-distance relationship, Bronwyn felt lonely and miserable without Henry. But luckily for her, the opportunity to work at a veterinary surgery in New Zealand came up. So Bronnie bid farewell to everyone in Ramsay Street and was once again reunited with her beloved Henry. The two married off screen and are still believed to be happily married – with a family – in New Zealand.

The on-screen chemistry between Henry and Bronwyn spilled over into real-life as the actors who played them, Craig McLachlan and Rachel Friend, started dating and eventually married much to the delight of the show’s fans – although they sadly divorced a few years later.

6. JOE MANGEL AND KERRY BISHOP

Stereotypical Aussie bloke Joe Mangel (Mark Little) and free-spirited hippy Kerry Bishop (Linda Hartley)seemed like a very unlikely pairing – and to be honest, I didn’t like Kerry’s character when she first graced our screens. But the two were drawn together by the fact that they both had children – and they soon found that opposites did in fact attract.

Over a period of time, Kerry’s hard-edged, stubborn streak subsided and viewers found her to be a very loving and caring woman who still had her own unique way of doing things. This softer side came about as the result of her relationship with Joe, proving that the two really were a good match.

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But of course there were issues that had to be resolved especially as the two had very different ways of living and doing things but they managed to make compromises. The biggest hurdle they faced occurred when Kerry found herself attracted to Clive Gibbons, who had recently returned to Ramsay Street, just before her wedding to Joe. Thankfully Kerry soon saw sense and realised that Joe was the man for her. Joe and Kerry were planning to marry at around the same time as their friends Des and Jane, and Henry and Bronwyn – but Joe and Kerry were the only ones who made it to the alter that time.

Further problems arose after their marriage with Joe’s ex-wife getting custody of their son Toby, and the father of Kerry’s toddler daughter Skye returning: two things which threatened the tranquillity of their perfectly blended family. However, Joe and Kerry got through these episodes – including comforting a very traumatized Toby after his mum died – and were delighted to discover that Kerry was pregnant with their first child. The stage was set for a happy ending.

But in true soap style, tragedy was just around the corner, when a pregnant Kerry was shot and killed while out on a protest against duck hunters. Joe was distraught and didn’t know how he was going to go on without his beloved Kerry.

Joe left Ramsay Street about a year later, and before he did so, he married whacky Melanie Pearson. Melanie had always irritated me and I never warmed to her the way I did to Kerry, and I didn’t think that Joe and Melanie made such a great couple. And it was on Skye’s return to Erinsborough when she was a teenager that viewers learned that Joe and Melanie had split up just a few years into their marriage.

6. PAUL AND GAIL ROBINSON

Paul Robinson (Stefan Dennis) is undoubtedly the Ian Beale of Ramsay Street. How did such an unpleasant man end up with so many wives and girlfriends? And this is clearly a man who likes wedding cake because despite so many failed marriages, he still insists on proposing!

However, I think it’s his second wife Gail (Fiona Corke) who was Paul’s perfect woman – and quite possibly the only woman that Paul ever loved. It’s ironic that their marriage was only ever supposed to be a business arrangement but the truth was that they both loved each other but were too afraid to admit it. It took Gail leaving to live in New York for Paul to come clean about his feelings for her – and their passionate embrace was witnessed by a delighted Scott and Charlene.

It still wasn’t all plain sailing though. Gail desperately wanted to start a family but had problems conceiving. It was while she was undergoing fertility treatment that she and Paul learned that he had a child with an ex-partner; a revelation that devastated Gail. So fans were thrilled when Gail not only managed to get pregnant, but got pregnant with triplets. It seemed to be a new beginning for Paul and Gail.

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And new beginning it was – just not in the way that fans had hoped. Fed up with Paul’s workaholic ways and feeling anger towards him for the accident that killed her father Rob, Gail had had enough of Paul’s lack of support and left him while she was heavily pregnant to start a new life in Tasmania. Paul was heartbroken and wanted to be there for Gail and the babies – but she was having none of it. When Paul realised that Gail wanted nothing more to do with him, he was forced to move on. And move on he did – to wife number three Christina, and after Paul and Gail, I really didn’t like this pairing; they lacked the fire that Paul and Gail had had.

It was incredibly disappointing when Paul and Gail split up especially after everything they’d been through. I really liked Gail and thought that she was a very strong, intelligent person who was one of the few people who could put Paul in his place and wouldn’t tolerate any nonsense from him. I also think that she brought out the best in him. Would Paul have turned into Mr. Nasty if he’d still been married to Gail? Hard to say but I’d like to think he wouldn’t have. The characters definitely had a special bond but so too did the actors who played them, with Stefan Dennis, quoted as saying that he’d love for Fiona Corke who played Gail to return. She appeared for two guest appearances but we’d love to see her return full time.

7. NICK PAIGE AND SHARON DAVIES

So this is a couple from the early days who I’m sure many of you will have forgotten, especially as they weren’t together for very long. But I thought Bronwyn’s little sister Sharon (Jessica Muschamp) and artist Nick Page (Mark Stevens) were an interesting couple. Both were very headstrong and rebellious. They didn’t like to follow rules but they were both often misunderstood by those around them.

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They faced opposition from Sharon’s strict aunt Edie, and then there was Sharon’s dalliance with local bad boy Skinner, which caused her and Nick to briefly split. Despite getting back together again, Sharon and Nick eventually split up for good although they remained best friends. Nick then went on to start dating Lucy Robinson but they didn’t have the same passion between them that Sharon and Nick had shared.

The two soon left Erinsborough for pastures new: Nick went to art college in London, and Sharon went to live with Henry and Bronwyn in New Zealand. But it would be great if writers brought back and older, wiser and more experienced Sharon and Nick to Ramsay Street…

8. TODD LANDERS AND CODY WILLIS

Todd (Kristian Schmidt) went out with Melissa Jarrett. Her best friend Cody Willis (Amelia Frid) went out with Todd’s best friend Josh. But it was no secret that Cody had always had an eye for Todd. Melissa and Josh started spending time together just as Todd realised that Cody was the girl for him. It could all have gotten messy but the foursome came up with the ideal solution: they just swapped partners – and it all worked out well with the four still remaining best friends!

Despite being so young, Cody and Todd were very much in love and I loved watching them on screen – although admittedly, I’d cringe when I’d watch them make out in front of ‘the olds’ just to get their backs up! They went through a lot together and faced a lot of opposition from their families, mainly because they were so young and also because Cody’s mother Pam was so overprotective of her youngest daughter.

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Just when it looked as though they were on their way to becoming the next Scott and Charlene, Cody was put forward for a two year scholarship to study in the United States. She and Todd came to the mutual decision that they had no choice but to break up, and promptly started seeing other people. But as Cody’s departure date drew close, they realised that they still loved each other and decided to give the whole long-distance thing a go. Unfortunately it didn’t work out as Cody soon fell for someone else in America and ditched Todd. A heartbroken Todd soon picked up the pieces and found love with Phoebe, who was expecting his child when Todd was tragically involved in a road accident and killed.

Cody returned from America and had a few serious relationships before she too met her maker. Too bad Cody and Todd couldn’t have had a happier ending.

9. JOSH ANDERSON AND MELISSA JARRETT

Melissa (Jade Amenta) seemed smitten with her boyfriend Todd, so it seemed unlikely that she’d end up falling for anyone else, and she was bound to take the news that Todd had fallen for her best friend Cody really badly, wasn’t she? Well you’d think so, but this is soap land where anything is possible. So while Todd and Cody were hooking up, Melissa was also falling in love… with Todd’s best friend Josh (Jeremy Angerson).

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And it seemed that the swap was a great idea as Melissa and Josh made as good a couple as Todd and Cody. When Melissa developed an interest in animal rights, Josh was there to assist her in many of her escapades. Sadly, their relationship had barely gotten off the ground when Melissa’s father was being transferred to the States resulting in the whole family moving out there. So after a final farewell to Josh, Melissa left Ramsay Street for a new life in America.

10. ADAM WILLIS AND CAROLINE ALESSI

Med student Adam (Ian Williams) was besotted with Caroline (Gillian Blakeney) who was already in a relationship with older man Jim Robinson. Caroline seemed a little too straight-laced and serious for the whacky soon-to-be doc who was fond of practical jokes but when her relationship with Jim ended she agreed to go out with Adam. And somehow they worked! Who could forget their first date where Adam’s car broke down and they ended up ordering take away pizza and dancing in the street while the breakdown service worked on Adam’s car?

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Unfortunately their romance suffered setbacks. Their differences in income and lifestyle proved to be too much for Adam and they split up. During this time, Adam started seeing Gemma Ramsay and they got quite serious – until he realised that he still had feelings for Caroline. So he gave his relationship with Caroline another go but it didn’t work as Adam finally decided that Gemma was the girl for him after all and ended it with Caroline for good although the two remained friends.

Even after Adam got with Gemma a second time, I was convinced that he’d end up back with Caroline, especially when Caroline stepped in to help the Willis family after Adam’s younger brother Brad found himself in trouble while travelling abroad. But it wasn’t to be and Adam soon left Erinsborough for Newcastle where he was reunited with Gemma and the two later got engaged.

Incidentally, I thought Gemma and her former boyfriend Matt were a great match. But hey, what do I know!

11. DOUG AND PAM WILLIS

This was a couple who seemed truly, madly, deeply in love. Pam (Sue Jones) and Doug (Terence Donovan) had been married for more than twenty years and had four children together. This was a couple who seemed to have a lot of fun and a lot of laughs. Not only that but Pam seemed able to tolerate Doug’s non-stop flirting with other women, knowing that Doug didn’t mean anything by it and that he really loved her. And it was this strong bond that saw them through crises such as financial difficulties, their younger son being falsely imprisoned, and Cody being shot and killed.

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However, everything went downhill when Doug wrongly suspected Pam of having an affair with their neighbour Jim Robinson. This in turn led Doug to have a fling with the unstable Jill Weir who had developed an obsession with Doug. When Pam found out she did indeed turn to Jim for comfort but it didn’t go further than a kiss. Pam started divorce proceedings but stopped them when Doug went missing at sea and realised that she still loved him, and the two of them managed to patch things up before eventually leaving for a new life in Darwin, although they both popped up in Ramsay Street from time to time.

I really thought that Pam and Doug were a great couple, and something of a rarity because they were still besotted with each even after being married for so long. I was very disappointed when Jill Weir finally sunk her claws into Doug – who ought to have known better – especially as I felt that despite his flirtatious nature, he’d never cheat on Pam. It’s great that the Willis’ still visit Ramsay Street because even though they had been on the street for a relatively short time, they made such a big impact that I don’t feel that Neighbours was ever the same after they left.

12. RINGO BROWN AND DONNA FREEDMAN

Ringo (Sam Clark and Donna (Margot Robbie) are the most recent of all the really cool Neighbours couples and they’re most definitely not a couple from twenty years ago! But of all the most recent couples, I thought Donna and Ringo were awesome. That’s quite ironic considering I thought Donna was the most irritating character since Melanie Pearson to set foot in Ramsay Street, and also since Donna was initially meant to be a short-term character although due to Donna’s popularity, she became a regular on the Street.

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Donna and Ringo really were the cutest couple. They were madly in love and Donna’s kooky ways somehow complemented Ringo’s more sensible nature. In a nutshell, they reminded me of Hubby and me! I understand that killing Ringo off was great for ratings and for dramatic effect but seeing as Donna left a short time later, I think it would have been more fitting if they’d got their happy ending and sailed off into the sunset together – to America as they had planned to do.

So there you have it – my list of the greatest Neighbours couples of all time. All thanks to Guy Pearce and Annie Jones!

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