Screening of the finale of TV show Neighbours
For some superfans, farewelling Neighbours involved blurring fiction and reality, an expert says. Image by Diego Fedele/AAP PHOTOS
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Neighbours became such good friends, the grief was real

Katelyn Catanzariti June 16, 2024

When long-running soap Neighbours came to an albeit short-lived conclusion in 2022, fans ran a full gamut of emotions – nostalgia at the end of an era, joy at the reappearance of old characters, gratitude for the show’s 37 year-run.

But for some more heavily-invested devotees, the overwhelming feeling associated with farewelling the residents of Ramsay Street was a sadness akin to grief, a researcher from the Queensland’s CQ University has found.

Those feelings of loss were experienced by those who “felt a stronger fan connection to the series and who formed stronger parasocial empathic relationships with their favourite character”, according to senior psychology lecturer Adam Gerace.

“Fan reactions to the conclusion of Neighbours suggested they were processing both the end of the television series and their relationships with its characters,” Dr Gerace said.

“In doing so, they were demonstrating grief reactions similar to those involved in the end of real-life relationships, including negative emotions and cognitions, attempts at closure and gratitude for what they had experienced through these relationships.”

Neighbours’ fan Josephine Crawford (left) and Riya Patel
 For some, the conclusion of Neighbours was like processing the end of relationships with characters. Image by Diego Fedele/AAP PHOTOS 

Neighbours first aired in 1985 and featured nearly 9000 episodes, fostering Australian talent like Kylie Minogue, Margot Robbie and Liam Hemsworth.

The show announced its cancellation in March 2022 following the loss of its main UK broadcast partner, Channel 5, and aired its final episode in July that year.

A few months later the show would be recommissioned after being rescued by Amazon Freevee and Amazon Prime.

The time between the announcement and final show gave viewers an opportunity to “reflect on the series, celebrate and commemorate it and take stock of what the series had given them”, Dr Gerace said.

Neighbours had been a cultural export for decades and had a large following in the UK.

Almost 20 million Brits tuned in for one of the show’s most iconic moments – when Jason Donovan’s Scott Mitchell wed Kylie Minogue’s Charlene Robinson in 1987, compared to two million Australians.

The vast majority of the 1289 fans whose grief and loss reactions were surveyed are based in the UK – some 82 per cent – while only 13 per cent of respondents were from Australia.

Neighbours cast members including Kylie Minogue
 Neighbours first aired in 1985 and fostered talent like Kylie Minogue. Image by HANDOUT/FREMANTLE MEDIA 

Nearly 92 per cent of all respondents reported watching all five episodes a week.

Their average age was only a few years older than the series, suggesting that for many it had been in their lives for decades or even since they were children.

For some of these super-fans, the grief-type distress showed a blurring of the lines between fiction and reality and this discovery warranted further investigation, Dr Gerace said.

“While different to real-world social interactions, these parasocial relationships are taken seriously by fans and are important to them,” he said.

“In this way, they should be honoured with increased research attention.”