24 April 2011

Neighbours And Wikipedia - Inaccurate Information Regarding Channel Nine And 1982?

Mrs Mangel appears to frighten the Neighbours off!

Sandie has written:

According to Wikipedia, Reg Watson, Neighbours creator, originally pitched the idea to Australian TV network Channel Nine in 1982. The Herald Sun has taken up the info from Wikipedia - or the other way about! Is this true? All the Neighbours material I have, including interviews with Mr Watson, indicate that he first pitched the idea to Channel Seven two years later.

Thanks for that, Sandie. My information also indicates that 1984 and Channel Seven was the first "pitching". Much was written about the show's origins when it initially achieved success, including the excellent book by James Oram - "Neighbours - Behind The Scenes" - and the Channel Nine/1982 information was never mentioned. Wikipedia is not a resource I use or would quote, so until I'm told by an absolutely reliable source (and no newspaper, no matter its quality, is absolutely infallible), 1984 will remain the year that the idea for the Ramsay Street saga was first put forward to an Australian TV network.

Here is an extract from Mr Oram's book, which contains the "origins of Neighbours" story I am familiar with:

In 1984 Ian Holmes (president and managing director of the Grundy organisation) was thinking about soaps. So was Reg Watson, head of TV Drama at the Grundy Organisation. Born and raised in Brisbane, Watson went, like so many creative Australians, to Britain because of the work limitations at home. He set up ATV's first game show, 'Hit The Limit', wrote several early episodes of 'Emergency Ward 10', then worked for several years on 'Crossroads'. Always in his mind was the idea of a serial like 'Neighbours'.

"I first got the idea for 'Neighbours' in England watching 'Coronation Street',' he said. 'I spent long enough in England to know that 'Neighbours' was just right for viewers over there too."

In fact Holmes and Watson (that duo has a familiar ring) were so confident it would be a success in Britain they wanted to co-produce it with the BBC and include several English characters. "But that was scrapped when the BBC failed to get its daytime schedule together by the time we were ready to go with 'Neighbours'," said Holmes.

Interviewed by the Perfect Blend website in 2005, Reg Watson said:   

'In pitching the show to Seven and Ten I blithely said, “This concept can run for twenty years”. I knew from the looks on their faces that they thought they'd heard it all before.'

And by the way - if Mr Watson ever states that he did pitch the basic idea for Neighbours (for a basic outline would have been all it was) to Channel Nine in 1982, I will be more than happy to accept it. I simply don't feel at ease with rewriting the Neighbours history on the current evidence. Yes it's trivial, but on a site called '80s Actual, I've got to keep it ACTUAL, haven't I? :)  

The Herald Sun "Slippery Soap" article - which is not even on-line, does not cut it as a definite statement of fact.  What was pitched in 1982? Does the "pitching" still insist in original form? Was it a similar concept? Something very different? The article is based on one person's memories. How the memory can play tricks! However the pitched item had turned out, it would not have been the Neighbours saga we all recall. 

And curiously...

Why does Wikipedia ignore the fact that the Neighbours concept was definitely pitched to Channel 7 in 1984? Why is that year missing from the Wiki page? All highly odd, and very non-encyclopedic! The Wikipedia Neighbours page appears to be under very tight control by at least one rather obsessive editor, so it's probably best ignored.

Beware the perils of Wikipedia! :)


Cerys said...

That's been puzzling me too. Surely more likely that Channel Nine was offered Sons & Daughters, which Reg Watson and Grundy's got to air in 1982, than the idea for Neighbours? There were usually gaps between Mr Watson's soaps!

Richiie said...

I'd like to ask if you have read many of the Wikipedia articles on Neighbours these days?

Jane Harris, Henry Ramsay, Harold Bishop and Paul have plenty of sourced content. So what I would say, why are those mentioned and many others with sources, so unreliable?

Drew said...

I'm afraid I don't find Wikipedia dependable, Richiie, so I don't make use of it - and I never quote it. In this particular case, Wiki lists as fact something that established Neighbours historians know nothing of. Wiki's "knowledge" is based on the word of a single newspaper and the memory of a TV executive! Those of us that watched Neighbours in the beginning are very familiar with the story of its origins, and unless Reg Watson states otherwise, we will go with the word of its creator.

Richiie said...

Consirdering this is a well run fansite for this era of culture, it might be a good idea to try and find more info on this.

The Herald Sun also ran another feature "Slippery Soap" in it's paper. They described the pitch to Nine.

I also have a few James Oram book, including the one mentioned. Along with various other books published in the early days of this serial. If you look in Neighbours - Behind the scenes - There is a timeline, but is misses various years out - It mainly starts of desrcibing there work from the 70's on page 73 - and quickly across the page runs up to Neighbours being aired. It says Neighbours was always in his mind too - Did everything described in the quote all happen in 1984?

So it could have been missed out, right?

Drew said...

No, Richie, previous reports on Reg Watson reveal that he was getting Sons & Daughters to air and consolidating its position in 1982. I have been "into" Neighbours since it started, and it seems to me that all your research revolves around the Herald Sun. You seem absolutely DESPERATE that this contested information should appear on Wikipedia. Why is that, please? Reg's soap timeline reads like this:

1964: Crossroads

1976 - Young Doctors

1978 - begins work on Prisoner: Cell Block H.

1979: Prisoner goes on air.

1981: Begins work on Sons & Daughters.

1982: Sons and Daughters goes on air

1984: Begins work on Neighbours

1985: Neighbours goes on air.

Reg has given many detailed interviews about Neighbours, and no, I don't believe he would have missed out the information about 1982.

Cassie Rowlings said...

I am very familiar with Neighbours history, and I too feel concerned that a story which appeared in a newspaper last year is being taken for gospel. I'm surprised that Wikipedia doesn't take the approach of a professional encyclopedia, revealing that Reg Watson has never even mentioned 1982, that he was at work on Sons & Daughters at the time, but that the Herald Sun had run a story claiming that the Neighbours idea had been pitched to Channel Nine in 1982. Surely, there is no way to be absolutely certain, although Mr Watson's word must carry more weight than the Herald Sun and a former Channel Nine executive, and Wiki should be impartial?

Richiie said...

That is fine. I just request that either Actual 80's or The Perfectblend could find out.

This has come around because during an interview with a Nine exec - they told the Herald Sun that a pitching was made.

I think it would be benificial to encylcopedias and fansites if the Herald Sun are proved right or wrong on this matter.

I will request to someone who has the newspaper cutting saved - that the article is uploaded online.

Drew said...

Richiie, sorry but I have researched the Neighbours subject thoroughly, have been fascinated by it since it was first shown in the UK in 1986, and I can find no evidence of what you say, other than through the Sun Herald newspaper. Perfect Blend has actually had contact with Reg Watson, there are interviews on that site, and he mentions 1984 (Channel Seven) and 1986 (Channel Ten). He doesn't mention 1982 or the nine Network. Also, the fact that Sons & Daughters was launching in 1982 does make the idea of Mr Watson going off to do something else at that time, or trying to run two new programmes at the Grundy Organisation, unlikely. If you look at his soap history, his work is comfortably spaced out. He cared about the programmes he produced and each one was well thought out and launched. It would be good to find out if the Sun Herald is right at some point, but mistakes do happen in the finest of newspapers. Until Reg Watson actually states it is true, I will stick with the version of events I have been reading since the 1980s.

Richiie said...

Maybe perfectblend will find out then.

ATV news network also say he pitched the outline in in 1982 - They have given a lot of coverage to Reg.

Drew said...

I don't think that ATV Network have any interview with Reg Watson stating that 1982 was his initial Neighbours "pitching year". It is more likely that they gained the information from the Sun Herald and/or Wikipedia in good faith. This is one of the worrying things - Wikipedia is much read by people from around the world, so its information should be absolutely accurate. ATV's main interest in Reg is his association with the English soap opera Crossroads. Perfect Blend have had personal input from Reg Watson on the subject of Neighbours in which he states 1984 as the first pitching of the Neighbours concept, and as they are a site absolutely dedicated to Neighbours, they are in a good position to inform you.
I personally find it extremely unlikely that Mr Watson would take on the task of producing two soap operas at the same time. He already had a full-time job with Sons & Daughters in 1982!

Doug said...

What an odd idea! If it is true (and I'm not saying it is), we wouldn't have ended up with the early Neighbours we all know and love. For a start, if the show had first been "pitched" in 1982 it would probably have started on-screen in 1983. I'm sure the cast would be rather different. Many of the actors who auditioned in 1984/5 would have had other commitments. Would Tony Hatch have been available to write the theme tune? How would Reg Watson have coped with his commitment to Sons & Daughters AND Neighbours? Would that have made a difference to the writing? Would the same co-writers have been available? Also, things moved fast in the 1980s, and there were differences in attitude in 1982 to 1984/5, so what impact would that fact have had?

I'm glad Neighbours started when it did because I love the early years and I don't think they could have been any better.

Louise said...

Andy, Reg used to work with ATV, I think they know the people they work with. I would also think that ATV would properly source their press releases before releasing them and not just rely on Wikipedia and the Herald Sun. They would have to make sure that the information is correct so it doesn't leave them open to any sort of legal action. The way I read what you said is that you think that ATV may not have researched that press release properly.

Anyway, if you trouble yourself to look back on the history of the Neighbours article on Wikipedia you will see that the information was not added to Wikipedia until AFTER it had appeared in the Herald Sun. Even then it was some months after.

Be interesting to hear how the Herald Sun and ATV could've got the information from Wikipedia when it wasn't even there!!!

Drew said...

Louise - please learn your facts - ATV is not the old ATV ITV company, it is a group of Crossroads fans who acquired the rights to the name in recent years and are currently making a documentary about Crossroads! I repeat: ATV is a small group of dedicated fans of Crossroads/old ATV shows!

Anonymous said...

The new ATV is great, the documentary will visit interviews with favourite Crossroads cast members from the 60s, 70s and 80s - including Jane Rossington!

Anonymous said...

Wikipedia is run by youngsters and youngsters do like to have the final word. When the Web is old, we'll look back at the nonsense that was Wiki and laugh!

Anonymous said...

ATV is not just old Crossroads fans, it's enthusiasts for old ATV shows in general and lovers of the days of quality regional TV, now sadly gone.

Drew said...

I stand corrected! :)

Anonymous said...

The reason why Wikipedia is so naff when it comes to pop culture, is that voices of experience and reason are drowned out by others who basically gang-up, kiddie style, form a cluster, and force their views on to the page via a "concensus". The lone voice of sense doesn't stand a chance. That's a major reason why the site is so full of errors and must break the hearts of those dedicated to providing a quality product. And Wikipedia does have good editors. Just not nearly enough.

Rico said...

One of the problems is that some Wikipedia editors get very "possessive" about an article. The Neighbours article has changed substantially since I looked a few months ago, it doesn't greatly reflect what was said about the show's beginnings in its early days by Reg Watson, and Wiki editors seem to have done what they originally wanted on the flimsiest of evidence - bullying the original query out of the door with a hurried "concensus".

Anonymous said...

The original ATV Network LTD ceased to exist at the end of 1981, the new ATV Network LTD is a successful rebranding, dedicated to the old ATV and days of quality telly!

Anonymous said...

I don't believe that Reg Watson pitched Neighbours to Channel Nine in 1982. If he was ready to make a start on that show in 1982, why didn't he go straight ahead and pitch it to Channel Seven after Nine turned it down? He never pitched it to Seven until 1984! Why the two year gap?

Anonymous said...

The ATV Network Press release states that Neighbours was first pitched to Channel Seven in 1984 and on-screen in 1985, it says nothing about 1982 or Channel Nine.

Anonymous said...

Link to the ATV Network article -

"Originally pitched to Seven in 1984, the soap was broadcast on Channel Seven in 1985 - Neighbours bombed, the show was quickly axed. Luckily for Reg and Grundy Television Network 10 saw potential in the saga and commissioned it for their own channel. With some minor tweaks the show became a world-wide phenomenon in the 1980s, making household names of Jason Donovan and Kylie Minogue."

It's based on first class research -

Anonymous said...

Info picked up from another thread on this subject:

Also worth bearing in mind that "Nine" had their own new soap in 1982.

Reg Watson worked on "Starting Out" about a boarding house on college grounds.

Grundy went into production in 1982 - and it was first broadcast on 9 on 18th April 1982

967424 said...

Reg Watson left 'Crossroads' and the UK to take a role as an executive with the Reg Grundy Organisation in Australia in the early 1970s.

He first made daytime soap opera 'Until Tomorrow' (SEVEN, 1975) which was set in a suburban street in Australia.

After that, for the Reg Grundy Organisation, he created teen soap opera 'The Restless Years' (TEN, 1977-1981), then 'Prisoner' (TEN, 1979-1986), 'Sons and Daughters' (SEVEN, 1982-1987).

He produced 'Taurus Rising' (NINE, 1982), and then created 'Waterloo Station' (NINE, 1983), 'Starting Out' (NINE, 1983), and 'Possession' (NINE, 1985).

He definitely worked on multiple programs simultaneously; at one point three of his programmes were programmed against each other in Australia: 'Prisoner', 'The Professionals', and 'Taurus Rising'.

Plenty on information is available on many of these programs on, in the google news archive, and even wikipedia. Several actors from 'Starting Out' and 'Possession' went on to starring roles in 'Neighbours'.

Drew said...

Reg Watson's abilities are not being questioned, although I cannot vouch for the absolute accuaracy of your timeline or its content. What is being disputed is the information on Wikipedia that Reg Watson originally pitched Neighbours to Channel Nine in 1982. Wikipdia then states that he took the idea to Channel Seven. But this did not happen until 1984 and Mr Watson has never alluded to the 1982 pitching. The Wikipedia page as it stands is not accurate. That is the issue. I'm frankly puzzled by the determination of its editors to ignore early material on Neighbours, and basically to rewrite history. Because that is what is happening.

Maria said...

I recall some inaccurate info on Wikipedia a few years ago. I corrected it and explained my reasons. It was reverted. I corrected it and explained my reasons. It was reverted. It basically ended with a group of immature editors throwing their rattles out of their prams and screaming that they were RIGHT, I was booed off-stage (it really was quite mob-handed) and as far as I know the inaccurate info remains to this day.

Anonymous said...

From what I recall of Reg Watson, he was great at starting soaps, getting them off the ground, and then he'd either step back a bit or leave to do something else. He wasn't working full-tilt on various productions all the time when shows he'd created were screening concurrently.

I've read the Wikipedia history of Neighbours and it does seem to differ a great deal from Reg Watson interviews I've heard/read.

As for the 1982 controversy... well, who can say? Certainly not Wikipedia. But I do agree with the poster on here who stated that if Neghbours had begun in 1983 after an '82 pitching, it wouldn't have been the Neighbours we remember with such love. Of course, the cast would have differed. Of course, the writers would have differed. And the show's cancellation by Seven and picking up by Ten was an integral part of its success...

If Neighbours had been pitched in 1982 and first screened in 1983, I wonder if it would have lasted? Would we have memories of Elaine Smith as Daphne?

Would Reg Watson have decided on his revolutionary formula, the importance of adult/youth communication? That was what really gave Neighbours its own unique flavour. Without it, it could easily have been simply Coronation Street Down Under.

Anonymous said...

I have recollections of the Reg Grundy Organisation soap "Until Tomorrow"! It got dropped pretty quickly and was nothing like Neighbours.

I reckon "Prisoner" was the best of his early stuff.

Reg was at the height of his powers and well able to sink the slipper into the opposition by the time he came up with Neighbours in the eighties.

Neighbours nowadays is not the same program as it was when Reg started it. I'm sad that Reg has retired. I watch Neighbours today and think of Des Clarke and his bucks night in 1985 and it seems like a completely different show.

Anonymous said...

I believe that Reg's first choice for Daphne was Rebecca Gibney - so who knows what could have happened...

Karen said...

I've read that Elaine Smith's '80s spiky hairdo helped to win her the role of Daphne because the producers wanted a different, cutting edge look for the character.

As for Wikipedia - I despair! :)

967424 said...

I read (yesterday, on an article available via google news archive) that they wanted Rebecca Gibney to play Daphne, but she opted to sign with Crawford's series 'Zoo Family' instead.

The dates/time line I previously posted can very easily be verified, since I used various *books* (by Albert Moran, another by Andrew Mercado) to check all the facts before posting the information. All the dates and program titles would be in as well.

Quite a few of these programs even have clips on

I posted the timeline because a timeline was previously posted - yet it missed out several programs created by Reg Watson.

'Until Tomorrow' (which I have never seen) was a super low budget soap, but not really focused on teenagers, and was cancelled within the year.

Reg Watson's later 'The Restless Years' (1977-1981) was absolutely a teen soap and quite similar to 'Neighbours' really, although the storylines were much more adult oriented and melodramatic (murders, blackmail, serial killers, prostitution.) June Salter, one of the leading actors from TRY, guested on 'Neighbours' in 1985.

I recall the adult-teen communication angle was key to 'The Restless Years', especially with characters like Jordan (John Hamblin), a businessman who later opened a youth refuge.

The future Rosemary Daniels - Joy Chambers - played the villainous Rita Merrick in 'The Restless Years' and she was great in it!

Drew said...

That's fascinating - thank you! I believe that Sons & Daughters went into production in late 1981, and was on Australian TV screens in early 1982, so, as you wrote, it ran from 1982-1987. It came to England a year or two later than 1982, and we adored it!

The genius ingredient of Neighbours was the communication between youngsters and adults. Even Kylie Flinker's Lucy Robinson was a major character.

As for the on-going dispute over whether Reg Watson pitched the Neighbours idea to Channel Nine in 1982, I still do not think it wise to present this information in the way that Wikipedia has as it comes from one source. As Reg Watson has decribed the show's origins so often, I feel extreme caution is needed. Here, we will stick to Reg Watson's version of the events as presented so far, unless Mr Watson says otherwise!

It's not that we're being cussed or awkward, but we're absolutely pedantic when it comes to even the most trivial points hence the '80s ACTUAL title.

We adored the early Neighbours series, it brings back many fond memories, absolutely classic TV, and if you care to click on the "Neighbours" label beneath the article, you'll discover several pieces about '80s Ramsay Street that may interest you.

Thanks again for writing.

967424 said...

I never claimed Reg Watson pitched the idea for 'Neighbours' to NINE in 1982 or in any other year. Apart from a couple of very recent articles referenced by wikipedia, I see no evidence for this. None of the 1980s news articles I've seen suggest anything of the sort.

What with 'Taurus Rising', 'Starting Out' and 'Waterloo Station', Watson clearly was working *with* the Nine Network in 1982 and 1983. Maybe the Nine exec got confused with those discussions and connected them to 'Neighbours'?

They are somewhat similar sorts of programs, with cast members in common. 'Starting Out' (featuring David Clencie, Peter O'Brien, Nikki Coghill, Tottie Goldsmith) was very youth oriented. 'Waterloo Station' was too, but to a lesser extent. Danny Roberts was the big 'find' from 'Waterloo Station' and when it was cancelled they moved him to 'Sons and Daughters'.

Certainly I agree that wikipedia pages sometimes attract people who like to 'own' the page. Sometimes they form little groups in acts of collusion. Anything that doesn't fit their own personal vision for the article/subject, gets reverted.

Cerys said...

I think you're right about sticking with Reg Watson's version of events as told thus far. If he said 1984, 1984 it was. I feel I can trust '80s Actual, so keep it up!

Drew said...

96742: Your thoughts echo mine exactly.

As I said, if Reg Watson stated he pitched the Neighbours concept to Nine in 1982, I'd happily accept it. If the Channel Nine exec came up with dates and documents, I'd happily accept it. But I don't think Wikipedia should be running quite so avidly with the idea on the evidence so far. It's too scanty, too sudden, too prone to be mistaken.

No disrespect meant to anybody, but I think that's how things are.

I don't watch any soaps these days, but back in the '80s I was a great follower of them - and Neighbours was just so wonderful! The characters were very much a part of my life, and the show was beautifully honed, produced, written and acted.

I appreciate your input to the thread here. Thanks again.

Cerys: you've been commenting here for a while, and I appreciate your kndness and loyalty to the site. I'll definitely try to keep it a site you can trust for '80s info!

And we'll definitely be revisiting '80s Ramsay Street for some more story-line memories soon.

967424 said...

The "if 'Neighbours' had been pitched to Nine in 1982 it would have been a different program" speculation is a bit moot. (Although it certainly would have been a different show.)

Nine had been working with Reg Watson at that time to develop a five nights a week teen soap. They did develop that soap, Nine did greenlight the soap, and that soap was 'Starting Out'. Since Nine were looking for a show to replace 'The Young Doctors' at the time, they went with the medical angle ('Starting Out' was set in a University boarding house for medical students.)

Theoretically I guess if 'Neighbours' had been pitched and greenlit then, some of the personnel would have been different (although David Clencie and Peter O'Brien were certainly available!) but really, the experiences with 'Starting Out' would have influenced the development and pitch of 'Neighours'. Reg Watson and the Reg Grundy Organisation presumably didn't all suffer from amnesia at the time, and instead learned from their successes (or in this case, failures). Problems with 'Starting Out' (and 'Waterloo Station' which also failed in 1983) would have been considered when developing 'Neighours'. The 'Neighbours' pitch in 1984 would have incorporated new knowledge and experience (e.g. current tastes of Australian audiences) that was gained during 1983. Had 'Neighbours' been pitched in 1982 it probably wouldn't even have been the same pitch.

Drew said...

Thanks for your insight. It's so good to have input from somebody who has clearly studied Reg Watson's work. It also underlines my own feeling that Wikipedia was wrong to "big note" the Channel Nine claim in the way it has.

Anonymous said...

The Neighbours Wikipedia article is well dodgy. I's been stated right back to the 80's that Watson first pitched Neighbours to Channel Seven in Aus in 1984 - but the Wiki article doesn't even mention 1984. Wikipedia at its worst I'm afraid.

Hal said...

Wikipedia is TERRIBLE! It is known that Reg Watson pitched Neighbours to Seven in 1984, but they don't even mention the year! Also, the Wikipedia article doesn't even mention Ian Holmes and his desire for a new Grundy soap in 1984. Don't TRUST Wikipedia!