> Hugh Stuckey
Stuckey has been both a scriptwriter and story editor
with the show. Here he discusses Neighbours over the
last 20 years...
are your personal thoughts on Neighbours turning 20
has been the flagship of Australian television drama providing
a form of longevity for writers, actors, directors, production
management and technicians which is very rare in the television
industry. It has been a training ground in every department.
Gaffers have become writers and script editors, models have
become actors, actors have become senior executives. Neighbours
has made a remarkable contribution to our popular culture.
I am proud to have made a small contribution to Neighbours.
you have any fond memories of working on the show?
Several, but my first, longest and strongest was the stimulation
of working with compatible creative colleagues such as David
Phillips, Betty Quinn and Reg Watson way
back at the very beginning when we storylined the first three
weeks of the series then drew numbers out of a hat to determine
which week each of us would write. David drew Week 1, Betty
Week 2 and I drew Week 3. Yes, writers wrote entire weeks
back then but of course that system was impractical once the
series went into production at the rate of five half hours
eternal pressure of churning out the equivalent of a feature
film a week…two and a half hours of television…is certainly
a vivid memory but not necessarily a fond one.
do you think the show has lasted as long as it has?
There are many contributing factors…the integrity of the contributors
on every level, the pride of working on an international success,
the quality of production under extremely pressurised conditions…but
the major reason for it’s success is the original concept.
Reg Watson devised a brilliant basis for a long running series
aimed at a specific audience age group and hit them right
between the eyes.
Do you think that Neighbours
has adapted well to the changes in society and the media that
have occurred over the past 20 years?
the show ever lost contact with society the audience soon
let you know. The ratings dropped and the inevitable solution
to bring them back was to tell stories relevant to the times
in a style identifiable to the audience.
there any characters over 20 years of Neighbours that
have stood out for you?
I guess Mrs. Mangel stands out because she was in my first
script and she sustained a successful long run in the show.
I’ve always admired the older characters who have given us
excellent performances year after year, resisting the temptation
to just ‘walk through’ their roles. At the risk of omitting
others I must pay my sincere respect to Jackie Woodburne
and Alan Fletcher for award deserving performances.
there any storylines from the past 20 years that have stood
out for you?
The one I remember most was the challenge to the Kennedy marriage.
If my memory serves me correctly it was suggested by Executive
Producer Stanley Walsh that the good doctor should
be tempted to have an affair with his new secretary. The story
ran for eighteen months during which time the ratings increased
both in Australia and England. It was extraordinarily difficult
to sustain because in those days and in the relevant time
slots we were not able to have anything implying sex. Week
after week we had to find ways to extend the story without
any more evidence than the simple fact that Karl did nothing
more than share one small kiss with the lady in question.
It happened when they were forced to stop over in a motel
overnight. They even slept in separate rooms yet the cloud
hung over the poor doc and his faithful loving wife believed
she had been betrayed. It was during this story that Jackie
and Alan contributed their most outstanding performances.
That story was a huge challenges but returned a level of satisfaction
to the creative team beyond measure.
do you believe Neighbours does best, Comedy or Drama?
I’ve worked in comedy all my life. I’m the wrong person to
ask. You’ll have to guess my response.
the show cover serious social issues or leave that to rival
my time as Story Editor the brief was that social issues could
be introduced but dealt with indirectly. Rather than go into
the issue deeply it was best to tell the story of how the
issue affected a character I have one lingering disappointment
from my years with the show. I desperately wanted to see a
tradesman’s truck parked in the driveway of a Ramsay Street
house. It would be even better if it belonged to a family
of ethnic origin. The ‘social issues’ which could arise from
that simple basic situation would have broadened life in Erinsborough
and given a more realtisic view of Australian society. But
you can’t win them all.
you see Neighbours lasting another 20 years?
Yes. It comes back to Reg Watson’s eternal concept.
It has done and can continue to reflect a somewhat fantasy
version of Australian middle class life. It’s those fundamental
ingredients that Reg insisted upon: eternal summer in Erinsborough:
everyone looks healthy and wears bright clothes: the young
characters are full of energy: we live in houses beyond belief
for European families; it portrays conservative Australian
just hope I’m around to see it in 2025….and maybe be asked
to contribute occasionally.
our feature with Hugh Stuckey, Neighbours and Me, here.
by Steve. Added on 12th March 2005