Australian soap Neighbours celebrates 6,000 episodes

By Phil Mercer
BBC News, Sydney

image captionNeighbours celebrated 15 years in the tub - Australia plans a week of fun to mark 25 years

Australian television has begun a week of celebrations to mark the 6,000th episode of Neighbours

The popular soap opera is watched in more than 60 countries, and has been running for 25 years.

The show's producers are planning a series of blockbuster storylines, including a fairytale wedding and the plotting of an attempted murder.

Neighbours tells the story of ordinary suburban folk in a fictional Australian city.

While it might not sound like gripping television, the show's simple formula of mixing family disputes with troublesome teenagers and romance has intrigued many millions of viewers around the world.

Global appeal

The producers have launched a series of festivities to mark the programme's extraordinary longevity with storylines that include the return of an old favourite and the appearance of the first openly gay male character.

The success of Neighbours owes a great deal to its international appeal.

Viewing figures in Australia have declined steadily in recent years but the daily dramas on Ramsay Street continue to thrill audiences overseas.

The soap opera is shown in Ireland, Norway and Belgium as well as Barbados and New Zealand.

Britain has been fixated with this legendary show for decades.

The marriage of characters Scott and Charlene, played by the actor Jason Donovan and the singer Kylie Minogue, was watched by more than 20m people in the United Kingdom.

Despite its fluffy reputation, Neighbours has occasionally tackled far more weighty issues, including drug trafficking, kidnapping and murder.

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