Neighbours: Why Scott & Charlene were the original Ross & Rachel

Bouncer’s dream. The Ramsay Street Olympics. Helen Daniels’ long-necked portrait of battleaxe Mrs Mangel. Strewth, mate, the misty-eyed callbacks come thick and fast in this week’s final (sob) episode of Neighbours. None more so than when the opening notes of “Especially for You” herald the much-hyped return of a certain soap supercouple: Scott and Charlene.

After 37 years and nearly 9,000 episodes, the Australian saga broadcasts its last ever instalment on Friday. Reflecting the gravity of the occasion, it has been promoted from its traditional lunch and teatime slots to pride of place at 9pm primetime. It’s the end of an Erinsborough era, and Channel 5 expects record-breaking ratings. The nostalgia factor means that millions of lapsed viewers will be tuning in to raise a farewell tinny. For one night only, the action from a certain suburban cul-de-sac will become event TV again.

From Hollywood A-listers to Christmas panto D-listers, Neighbours alumni have been queueing up to stroll down Melbourne memory lane one last time. Jane “Plain Jane Superbrain” Harris (Annie Jones) takes old flame Mike Young (Guy Pearce) on a reminiscence-sparking tour of the street. Soap mainstay Paul Robinson (Stefan Dennis) finalises a deal to sell Lassiters hotel complex to old rival Shane Ramsay (Peter O’Brien).

Former residents – including Oscar nominee Margot Robbie (who played Donna Freedman), House star Jesse Spencer (Billy Kennedy) and popstrel Delta Goodrem (Nina Tucker) – drop by. So do some other famous faces I’m not allowed to spoiler yet. “It certainly feels like the end of an era,” sighs dear old fuddy-duddy Harold Bishop (Ian Smith), his jowls wobbling with emotion.

However, all these are merely warm-ups for the headline act: Kylie Minogue and Jason Donovan, making a magical comeback as the show’s original sweethearts, Scott Robinson and Charlene Mitchell. Expect to hear squeals of delight from sofas nationwide as they roar back onto Ramsay Street in a dinky-but-chic Mini Cooper – a car presumably chosen with one eye on the British audience.

When the imported soap was in its late-Eighties pomp and went out on BBC One, Scott was the golden boy of Ramsay Street, the youngest son of neighbourhood patriarch Jim (Alan Dale) and grandson of painter Helen (Anne Haddy). In 1987, Scott heroically tackled what he thought was a burglar breaking into Madge Ramsay’s house next door. He got punched in the mouth for his trouble, before the intruder removed their cap and long hair tumbled down. Of course, it turned out to be Madge’s estranged daughter Charlene, who’d just arrived from Queensland. There’s a neat nod to this meet-cute in Friday’s finale.

At first, Scott the swot and Charlene the lippy tomboy hated each other. But in textbook romcom style, they soon realised they loved each other. It was that classic teenage syndrome where annoyance was actually attraction. Their fighting turned into flirtation. With a little understanding, as the theme song goes, they found the perfect blend.

Years before Ross ’n’ Rachel from Friends, or Mulder ’n’ Scully from The X-Files, Scott ’n’ Charlene were pop culture’s original will-they-or-won’t-they It couple. Reflecting our own romantic yearnings, viewers rooted for them to get together and stay together. Milkshakes in Lassiters coffee shop were a precursor to cappuccinos at Central Perk. Even the performers’ real lives developed in parallel – Minogue’s career would eclipse Donovan’s, just like Jennifer Aniston later overshadowed David Schwimmer. Both women would also be patronised in the mainstream media as “unlucky in love™”.

The original Ross & Rachel: Jason Donovan and Kylie Minogue on the set of ‘Neighbours’ in 1987

The Robinson and Ramsay clans had been feuding for years. Studious sixth-former Scott and dungaree-clad car mechanic Charlene became the show’s own Romeo and Juliet – star-crossed lovers in stone-washed denim. Back in the grey Eighties, the sunshine soap from Down Under felt escapist, exotic and aspirational. It had already proved a surprise UK hit. Striking a chord with teenage viewers, Scott and Charlene turned it into a runaway phenomenon.

Hormones popped, the pair snogged and the world’s media went wild. The toothsome pair graced the covers of teen mags and tabloids alike. Speculation about an off-screen romance between the young Minogue and Donovan – which they later confirmed lasted two years – further fuelled the public’s obsession. Both signed to Stock Aitken Waterman’s record label PWL and released pop hits off the back of their soap fame. They should be so lucky indeed.

After the couple’s rocky on-off courtship, 20 million UK viewers tuned in, eye-dabbing hankies at the ready, for the couple’s wedding in November 1988. Charlene sported peach-and-white chantilly frills and a bubble perm. Scott tastefully teamed his tuxedo with a frost-tipped surfer mullet. Charlene walked down the aisle to their “love theme”, Angry Anderson’s “Suddenly”. It promptly rocketed to number three in the UK charts. Ahead of it at number two was Minogue and Donovan’s own soppy duet, “Especially for You” (which eventually knocked Cliff Richard off the top spot). Not even the revelation at the altar of Charlene’s middle name – Edna, bizarrely – put a dampener on the occasion.

Scott and Charlene were the will-they-won’t-they It couple

The next year, Minogue quit Neighbours to concentrate on her music career. Against all odds, it’s still going strong today, making her Australia’s highest-selling artist of all time. Donovan soon followed suit. His bland power-pop didn’t have the same staying power, but he’s been a regular on West End stages and reality TV ever since. Canny producers didn’t kill the characters off, leaving the patio doors open for a potential return. The pair instead moved up the east coast to Brisbane – sorry, “Brizzy” – to start a family off screen. Despite periodic offers and pleading from fans, they’ve never been tempted back… until now.

Before watercoolers were invented, let alone social media, Scott and Charlene’s wedding was one of those nation-uniting communal moments of Eighties TV – up there with Charles and Di’s nuptials, “gender bender” Boy George’s Top of the Pops debut, Grange Hill’s “Just Say No” anti-drugs campaign and “Who shot JR?” in Dallas. Now, their era-defining romance at last gets its final chapter.

It seems that Scott and Charlene are still happily married after 35 years. Rumour has it the homecoming couple will utter the last ever words on Neighbours, signing off a decades-long love story. “Especially for You” is even getting a limited edition re-release on vinyl and cassette (Eighties formats only, you see). Like the lyrics say, now they’re back together and their hearts are oh so true. Not even Bouncer dared dream of an ending this happy.

‘Neighbours: The Finale’ airs on Friday 29 July at 9pm on Channel 5


Douglas Mateo

Douglas holds a position as a content writer at Neptune Pine. His academic qualifications in journalism and home science have offered her a wide base from which to line various topics. He has a proficiency in scripting articles related to the Health industry, including new findings, disease-related, or epidemic-related news. Apart from this, Douglas writes an independent blog and assists people in living healthy life.