HARRY FRASER | REGULARS
For this issue’s Pop Culture Rewind, we are looking back at some of the most cooked soap opera storylines that had us gooped and gagged. We all thought the devil worked hard but let me tell you, these screenwriters work harder. Focussing on Australia’s stalwarts of soap television, Neighbours and Home and Away, I’ve compiled the best moments from the many decades of these iconic programs.
Starting with Neighbours (which is into its 36th season), I can say that this was the first and only soap I ever got into. I remember vividly awaiting the return of the season in early January to find out if Summer had been burned alive in her house and whether she and Andrew would get to be together despite Tash’s teen pregnancy.
But I digress. I will preface this article with a warning; some of these storylines have not aged well and are highly problematic but that is what we came here for, whack-ass tomfoolery.
A bomb goes off at Erinsborough High
Amidst a police search of the local high school, students are tasked with picking up litter as ordered by the legendary Susan Kennedy. While picking up rubbish, one student refuses to do Mrs Kennedy’s dirty work, “if it bothers you pick it up yourself”. Somehow Pooja made a guest appearance in this episode.
Meanwhile two male students talk about the possibility of a bomb on the school grounds. “Maybe in the Middle East” one boy answers. I thought the bomb was the real explosion, but it really was the racism.
For all that hype of racism and Pooja-like confrontation, a puny explosion from a bin is all we get. 2/10
Julie accuses her Chinese neighbours of eating her dog
The title says it all. I have no words except that the writers must have been on meth, although sadly, the only thing they were on was white supremacy.
Mrs Lim is just going about her life (as a queen should), when crazed little Julie demands she confess to what she did. When I say Julie does not hold back, I mean she left nothing unsaid, “I don’t know what you do in your country”, “we just don’t do that in aUStRaliA” and finally “how will I tell my daughter her pet was barbecued”.
THE. ACTUAL. FUCK. -3/10
Most of the cast gets on a plane destined for the bottom of the ocean
This was INTENSE. There are too many fan-made music videos of these crash scenes to count.
More than half of Ramsay Street board a flight that crashes into the Bass Strait. The Bishop family is wiped out, which didn’t really bother many fans. Susan and Harold almost died but they somehow made it. A whole episode full of tearful goodbyes and cowardly actions, this crash was spicy indeed, not to mention the production value – they made the seats shake and the cast had life jackets and everything.
Based on the drama alone. 7/10
The evil son of Paul Robinson, Robert.
That’s right, Robert ‘Rob’ Robinson, one of Paul’s triplets, was a legendary villain with a name to fit. A sociopath right off the bat, Rob posed as his brother Cameron after putting him in a coma before trying to murder everyone. Remember the aforementioned plane crash? Planted by Rob.
Rob tried to gas his dad’s gf Izzy (played by Natalie Bassingthwaighte), plants another bomb in his sister’s car and finally, ties his dad up in a mine shaft before collapsing it.
The toxic man we wanted and the one we deserved. 8/10
Mark finds Jesus on his wedding day
This one is just straight up fucked but high key outstanding. Mark and Annalise are at the alter about to get married before it goes off the rails.
Before he says his vows, Mark catches sight of the statue of Jesus and the camera zooms in on the Saviour’s face. Cut back to Mark’s sweaty and conflicted expression and it’s all over for Annalise. Mark decides then and there that he MUST become a priest and cannot marry Annalise. Period.
Sorry babes, Jesus got me with those washboard abs and sexy scruff. 5/10
Paul Robinson murders Gus and burns down Lou’s restaurant to open his own restaurant/bar Lassiters
We’ve heard about Paul’s psycho son Rob, but the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Now I don’t know much about business, but I’m not sure the free market endorses arson. But what do I know, money isn’t even real.
The only thing standing between Paul and his dream of opening Lassiters is pesky Lou’s place and Gus. These are obstacles easily overcome with murder and fire.
I admire the audacity, not the murder. 9/10
Susan miscarries her daughter’s surrogate baby and her son-in-law doesn’t realise because he’s on his iPod
This one takes the cake. At this point Queen Susan is no longer a spring chicken, not the ideal candidate for her daughter’s surrogate. No shade Susan is elite, but I don’t see a doctor approving this.
Ethical considerations aside, Susan and Dan (her son-in-law) have a fight in the bush as one does. Dan is uncomfortable with the thought of his mother-in-law carrying his child and tells Susan as much. A fair point I reckon.
Both say harsh things and Dan storms off, and Susan gives chase, only to stack it. She cries out for Dan but it’s too late, he already has his earphones in.
The creativity and absurdity. 10/10.
We now turn to Home and Away. I never got into this one personally, but some of these storylines are next level and I feel like a better person after knowing about them. CONTENT WARNING, the next part of the article addresses sexual assault.
Martha becomes a pole dancer
Soap operas claim to address the big issues facing the average person. The writers refuse to shy away from these hot-button issues and respectfully represent diverse experiences. This is not an example of that.
Martha, the typical ‘girl-next-door’ has an abortion which triggers a downward spiral. This spiral ends with Martha becoming a pole dancer/stripper. A few things to address here.
Firstly, becoming a pole dancer is not rock bottom, but it does require rock hard abs. Secondly, it is unhelpful to characterise an abortion as the first step in a path towards throwing your life away, which actually generates more stigma around the subject.
The weirdest part however, in my mind at least, were the scenes of Martha at the pole dancing club. Martha was literally spinning around a pole fully clothed, which kind of didn’t make sense.
High-key cooked. 4/10
Kirsty dates her sister’s rapist (TW)
Zero chill here readers. This storyline is fucked and cooked to the max and viewers were very concerned even when it first aired. Kane had a thing for Dani, but this obsession proved violent when he raped her at her house.
If you thought it couldn’t get worse, think again. After tearfully apologising for his actions, Kane leaves The Bay. I personally would have preferred a prison sentence, but this is Australia and rapists seem to escape consequences here.
I’m sorry to say, but it gets worse again. Kane comes back. This again was SPICY and the audacity of the writers is clearly showing. Kane tries to make amends (do you think he’s heard of the criminal justice system?) with Dani and take the natural next step of DATING HER YOUNGER SISTER KIRSTY.
Not okay. -1000/10
Shane gets killed by chicken wire
In true soap opera fashion, Shane suddenly drops dead in the middle of a wholesome family holiday. It is later revealed that Shane quite carelessly cut himself on some chicken wire and his wound went septic, ultimately leading to his untimely death.
Kind of random. 3/10
Tash gets caught up in a cult
Tash as a character is just gold. She grew up as the child of Y2K doomsday preppers and her parents later died in a bushfire. Washed up on a beach only speaking pig Latin (!!) Tash’s entry was nothing if not soap opera worthy.
Joining a cult is probably the wildest of Tash’s plotlines, but I am here for it. The craziest part of the scenario was Tash being drugged and forced into having a baby with the son of the cult leader Jonah.
We later find out the baby’s father is Tash’s bf Robbie because Jonah is sterile. Wild.
It was the pig Latin for me. 12/10
Saul telling Selina he can reincarnate her dead child
Continuing in the cult vein, Selina had just suffered a miscarriage but found hope in cult leader Saul. Saul believed that if Selina slept with him her baby would be reincarnated. Pretty standard.
Selina shockingly finds out its absolute shite and gets tf out of that cult. But that’s not it. SELINA FINDS A BABY ON THE BEACH. Must be fate she thinks.
You’re in a cult, call your dad. 8/10
It’s about as cooked as it sounds. Vinnie is carted off to prison where he later dies in a prison fire (better than death by chicken wire). We’re upset for his wife Leah but she and the viewers get over it.
Leah moves on with Dan only to have VINNIE show up at Vinnie Jr’s birthday party. Truth is, Vinnie was never dead but that’s right, he was in witness protection. Not only does Vinnie show up to the party but he comes dressed as a giant teddy bear (witness protection policy).
Vinnie want’s Leah and Vinnie Jr to come with but Leah is like, “yeah soz”.
Witness protection is so 1998. 1/10
John’s brain tumour turns him into an arsonist
I mean, where to begin. I love a bit of true crime but it has to be TRUE. There is some evidence that tumours can alter people’s personality, but this is something else.
Not only does John start to light fires all over the place, but he also dons a black raincoat to I guess make him less suss as he skulks around The Bay. This one is more far-fetched than the pig Latin.
Light it up bitch. 2/10
I think we can agree that soap opera writers have quite the imagination. Something so simple as logic or science cannot stifle their creativity and innovation. Some might say soapies are a form of social commentary that question societal norms and values. Those people are liars.
If these storylines tell us anything, it’s that the sky is the limit when it comes to drama. And yet, these shows still aren’t as bad as Riverdale.