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Last year, the long-running Australian soap opera Neighbours finally came to an end after a whopping 37 years.
The first episode of the original show was broadcast in March 1985, and the finale, which saw many story threads brought to their conclusions, was aired in July 2022 (or August and September in some territories).
However, despite the fact that many of those narrative threads were tied up pretty conclusively, it seems that Neighbours was not to end as originally thought.
In November last year, Amazon announced that it would revive Neighbours via its Freevee label, which is a free streaming service that you can watch without paying a subscription fee (but for which you will need to watch ads).
Neighbours was, therefore, brought back via Freevee earlier in 2023, with production starting up again in April and the first episode of the new Neighbours show – referred to as Neighbours: A New Chapter – airing in September.
So, is the new Neighbours revival worth a watch? Should you invest more of your time into this soap and its various criss-crossing storylines, or should you let sleeping dogs lie?
We haven’t actually gotten around to watching the new Neighbours ourselves yet, but we’d like to offer a critical round-up of the show and analyse what reviewers and fans have been saying about it. Let’s take a look!
Reviewers are shocked by Neighbours: A New Chapter
It seems that one of the prevailing tones when it comes to reviews of the new Neighbours revival is shock.
Critics simply can’t seem to believe not only that Neighbours is back, but that the new version has actually made some fairly controversial choices with regards to storylines.
Writing for The West Australian’s Perth Now section, reviewer Clare Rigden calls the revival “triumphant” and points to the first episode’s “extraordinary” plot twist as being “one of the greatest cliffhangers in Neighbours history”.
You’ll have to watch the episode yourself if you want to know what that cliffhanger is, of course, but it sounds like Rigden is impressed by Neighbours: A New Chapter.
The revival seems “glitzier” and more “sexed-up”
One of Neighbours’ key qualities was its cosy vibe; even though the show could get dark and pretty dramatic when it wanted to, it was also often a more low-key affair than many of its contemporaries.
According to a review in The Irish Times written by Ed Power, however, the new reboot is “glitzier, starrier and more sexed-up” than the original.
Power says that the show, despite being a continuation of Neighbours, actually feels like a “partial reboot”; it focuses on more globe-trotting and starry storylines and takes the action outside the confines of Neighbours’ traditional drama.
As such, it sounds like the reboot will be well worth your time if you hoped that Neighbours could, at some stage, transcend its origins and become a more mainstream, more sleek show.
Not everyone likes it
Of the reviews that have been submitted for the Neighbours revival so far, not everyone is as impressed as Rigden or as open-minded as Power, it seems.
Writing for The Guardian, reviewer Scott Bryan delivered an excoriating attack on the first episode of Neighbours: A New Chapter.
Bryan says that the new show “destroys everything good” about the final episode of the original Neighbours, and that it replaces it with a storyline that is “as alienating as it is baffling”.
Certain decisions made about relationships that came to a head in the previous series feel “too random”, Bryan says, and the show as a whole “makes absolutely no sense”. Ouch.
Echoing that sentiment is The Irish Independent’s Chris Wasser, who says that the revival is “clunky” and “convoluted”.
Wasser also says that the soap “should never have been given a second life”. He says that the show seems like it was “designed by people who don’t watch television” and that the two-year time jump since the original Neighbours “creates all sorts of problems”.
Some reviewers are feeling the love
Although some of the sentiment surrounding A New Chapter is negative, some reviewers are allowing themselves to feel the love and are immersing themselves in the return of Ramsay Street.
Guardian writer Frances Ryan delivered a three-star verdict for the first episode of Neighbours: A New Chapter, saying that it would “take a harsher cynic than [her]” not to feel happy about the return of Neighbours.
She says that there is “something comforting” about Neighbours’ return, even if the revival will have fans “shouting at their screens”.
Ryan also makes an interesting point about how soap operas are supposed to work.
She says that the move to Amazon Freevee could remove the “continuity and routine” of Neighbours, replacing it instead with “streaming and big plot twists offscreen”.
Au contraire, however, says Stephen Patterson, writing in The Metro.
Describing the revival of Neighbours as “one worth fighting for”, Patterson says that the format “hasn’t been tampered with in the slightest” and describes the storytelling as consisting of “intriguing twists, dynamics and developments” born from the same time-jump criticised by Chris Wasser.
So, amid all this discourse, should you watch Neighbours: A New Chapter?
Honestly, given that Amazon Freevee is, by its nature, free, we’d say that if you’ve ever had any affection for Neighbours, watching A New Chapter is something of a no-brainer.
At the very least, you’ll get a sense of whether its direction is going to work for you; you may agree with critics who say it’s a bridge too far, or you may agree with Patterson, who says things are much as they ever were.
More episodes are on the way, at any rate, so you’ll have plenty of chances to make up your mind!