TELEVISION: Is Auntie the real pornographer-in-chief?

It was appropriate that the wonderful line "Will you marry me - again?" should form the central moment of this week's Neighbours (BBC1, Mon-Fri), my first return to the flimsy Melbourne suburb for months. And equally apt that the first words - chronologically - should have been the heartfelt complaint of a lovelorn teenager, to wit: "Would you believe that Anne is now going out with that Justin guy?"

There you have it - a decade or more in 18 words. For in Neighbours nothing changes. At all. Not the furniture, not the scripts, not the settings, not the characters. The names might be altered from week to week: Zeke gives way to Jason, Gail dies and is replaced by Babs, but they are much the same people.

Or, in the case of Harold and Madge, exactly the same people. Having killed Harold off in a freak sea-falling incident several years ago, and sent Madge to learn acting in Perth, the script-writers found themselves lacking someone to mouth Harold's old-time morality and do Oliver Hardy impressions. Eschewing the series's usual Dr Who reincarnative capacity to bring characters back, but played by actors of entirely different looks and body types, this time the originals were reintroduced.

And how economical this is! No need to search for new locations - "this is the spot where I disappeared," says Harold. No requirement to lash out on new costumes - Madge is "wearing the original dress she wore last time". And certainly no need to invent new dialogue - "I can't wait for you to meet Scott and Charlene - again." Scott and Charlene! Jason Donovan and Kylie Minogue! My God, a lot of very soapy water has flowed under the Erinsborough bridge since those two strutted the floorboards of Ramsay Street.

In fact only Helen has remained. In Neighbours terms her longevity is little short of miraculous - almost biblical in fact. It is as though Sheila Grant still lived in Brookside Close, having survived two cults, three sieges, one murder attempt, five stalkers, terminal cancer and marriage to Jimmy Corkhill. Helen is permitted to dispense balmy wisdom and ask impertinent questions which no one seems to resent.

Apart from Helen, everyone else is either 18 or 50. Parents and aunts are packed into small houses with thousands of adolescents. Breakfast- time is one long disgorgement from unseen bedrooms and bathrooms as, one by one, they emerge, arouse or allay suspicions about last night - and then go off to work or school. The young guys are hormonal hunks, with shoulder-length blonde hair and puzzled expressions. One - the iffy one - is always the handyman, helping out in the gardens. The Sheilas are all teeth and tits, their breasts straining athletically out of skimpy blouses.

Hunks and Sheilas are in permanent collision, explaining the almost pheremonal attraction Neighbours has for the 12 to 16 age group. "I want our relationship to be as open as possible," says teeth. Mistake. Her next line is: "I wrecked everything with one kiss." Soon her ravaged boyfriend is seen gazing out to sea - at Harold's spot. And then he's gone, leaving the programme in one abrupt amputation. One second you're supposed to care about his agony, and the next he's buggered off - to be immediately replaced by a country cousin, about whom one of the adolescent females (breasts as sharp as HB pencils) asks, "Is he spunky?"

Is he spunky? Now there's a question that would have a very different meaning in the mouth of a character from This Life (BBC2, Thurs). Such has been the circus surrounding this show that I can hardly bear to mention it. Anyway you've seen it now, and know what happened. A synopsis though, for those stranded on Folegandros during the recent Greek ferry strike. Bad but sexy Miles did marry old Francesca, and Rachel told poor Egg about Milly's incomprehensible affair with O'Donnell. Watched by a grieving Anna, Milly met her best moment when she stomped on to the dance floor and gave Rachel one - bam! - right in the kisser.

All the things that I have to come to like about the series were present in the last episode. A guilt-ridden Milly was being very sick after downing a whole bottle of vodka, and Egg asked "Shall I get you a bucket?", rushed into the kitchen, couldn't find the bucket and snatched up a saucepan, telling his bemused housemates, "Don't worry, I'll wash it up". It was tacky and true and funny, like when - in an earlier episode - Kira and Joe lost a condom during intercourse. It happens, but not often on telly - which is what marks This Life out as genuinely modern.

The relationship between the characters and drugs, for instance, is remarkably casual. They just do it, whether it is Miles snorting a line of coke, or - and look at this written down - Ferdy and Lenny, the gay Scottish plumber, high on E, having passionate anal sex in the loo during Miles and Francesca's reception. Moral: there isn't a moral.

Then there's the more-or-less 100 per cent adultery. Milly cheats on Egg with O'Donnell (who is even more miserable and humourless than she is). O'Donnell cheats on Milly with his wife. Miles cheats on Francesca with Anna. Egg doesn't cheat on anybody and consequently everyone thinks he's a bit soft. Moral: be discreet when you cheat - but cheat. It's the only way of finding out what you really want.

So should it come back? Can it? Miles is now married, Milly and Egg have split up, Milly and O'Donnell have split up, Milly and work have split up, Ferdy wants to move in with Lenny. Well, Miles was important, but Anna is the key. Her feisty vulnerability, her wit and slightly raddled sexiness make her a proper contemporary heroine. And anything Daniela Nardini does seems to be interesting. Provided Anna stays in the house, it can all be reconstructed around her: new loves, disasters, friends to advise, colleagues at work. I could even cope - way down the line - with Anna as a mum. I'd also like to see more of Kira, who, with her two- toned hair and innocent enthusiasm, is a completely realised character.

In my addled state this week, I imagined a cross between Neighbours and This Life, in which you get to see Harold and Madge getting drunk and having it off, and in which Jack Davenport can return to the screen as Miles's long-lost identical twin brother, who everyone thought was dead. This may not be as absurd as it sounds, for, at the end of this episode of This Life, we saw a tanned Mystery Man in a ridiculous Aussie shirt arriving at the wedding reception, taking one look at the mayhem and muttering "Outstanding", happily to himself. Warren was there for a reason - and he looked real spunky.

Now, how about this for bad language? Anna is telling Milly to pull herself together: "You're sad and lonely and fucked-up. Have some fucking self- respect and put us out of our fucking misery, OK?" On BBC2 this swearing is fine. On Channel 4, however, they'd have to justify it by making it part of something like the "Renegade TV" season, which started with Irvine Welsh's The Granton Star Cause (C4, Mon).

This was the very funny and coprophilic tale of useless young Boab (Bob, in English), who - in one day - is chucked out of the soccer team, thrown over by his "burrd" (more breasts), sacked, kicked out of home, beaten up by police turned into a fly by God (Maurice Roeves), and - finally - allowed to wreak brief, poisonous and literally shitty revenge on his tormentors, before being swatted by his sadomasochistic mother. Nothing there that old Miles and Ferdy haven't done. But although the language was foul, and amyl nitrate was taken, this was very much a moral fable. Boab, as God points out, is feckless, purely reactive and a waste of space. He should have taken control of his life, and made something of it. Instead he pissed it up the wall.

Originally Richard Wilson was wanted for God - whose interlude was Welsh's equivalent of the deus ex machina "Grand Inquisitor" chapter in The Brothers Karamazov - but turned the part down. Roeves was (as usual) excellent; it was, however, a didactic role that could have been equally appropriately played by David Blunkett or Gordon Brown.

So why not run it as part of a "Moral TV" season? My rather shallow theory is that this would not have upset the Daily Mail enough. The Mail - though completely ignoring the cheerful rum, bum, E and buggery of This Life - is always ready with a choleric editorial as soon as a nipple or a dyke appears on Channel 4. Which - according to Wildean logic - suits Channel 4 just fine. But one wonders, therefore, where this season business will end. Will we have Degenerate TV? Jackoff TV? Nail Your Dick to a Plank TV (to celebrate the famous Spanner case)? Or - for genuinely polymorphous perverts - how about the Harold and Madge season? No, that's going too far.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
arts + entsWith one of the best comic roles around, it's no wonder she rarely bothers with films
News
people
News
i100
News
Davis says: 'My career has been about filling a niche - there were fewer short actors and fewer roles – but now I'm being offered all kinds of things'
PeopleWarwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Life and Style
ebookAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Voices
A Russian hunter at the Medved bear-hunting lodge in Siberia
Save the tigerWildlife charities turn to those who kill animals to help save them
Sport
Frank Lampard will pass Billy Wright and equal Bobby Charton’s caps tally of 106 caps against
sportFormer Chelsea midfielder in Etihad stopgap before New York contract
News
i100
Sport
Usain Bolt of Jamaica smiles and shakes hands with a competitor after Jamaica won their first heat in the men's 4x100m relay
sport
News
Chancellor George Osborne, along with the Prime Minister, have been 'complacently claiming the economy is now fixed', according to shadow Chancellor Ed Balls
i100... which is awkward, because he is their boss, after all
Arts and Entertainment
The first film introduced Daniel Radcliffe to our screens, pictured here as he prepares to board the train to Hogwarts for the first time.
booksHow reading Harry Potter helps children grow up to be gay-friendly
Life and Style
A small bag of the drug Ecstasy
Health
News
i100
Life and Style
Floral-print swim shorts, £26, by Topman, topman.com; sunglasses, £215, by Paul Smith, mpaulsmith.co.uk
FashionBag yourself the perfect pair
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Commercial Property Solicitor - Bristol

    Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: A VERY HIGH QUALITY FIRM A high qual...

    (Senior) IT Support Engineer - 1st-3rd Line Support

    £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful IT service provider that has bee...

    Wind Farm Civil Design Engineer

    £55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

    Principal Marine Mechanical Engineer

    £60000 - £70000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

    Day In a Page

    Save the Tiger: Meet the hunters tasked with protecting Russia's rare Amur tiger

    Hunters protect Russia's rare Amur tiger

    In an unusual move, wildlife charities have enlisted those who kill animals to help save them. Oliver Poole travels to Siberia to investigate
    Transfers: How has your club fared in summer sales?

    How has your club fared in summer sales?

    Who have bagged the bargain buys and who have landed the giant turkeys
    Warwick Davis: The British actor on Ricky Gervais, how the Harry Potter set became his office, and why he'd like to play a spy

    'I'm a realist; I know how hard this business is'

    Warwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
    The best swim shorts for men: Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer

    The best swim shorts for men

    Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer
    Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

    Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

    Meet the couple blamed for bringing Lucifer into local politics
    Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

    Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

    Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
    Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

    Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

    When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
    5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

    In grandfather's footsteps

    5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
    Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

    Martha Stewart has flying robot

    The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
    Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

    Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

    Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
    A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

    A tale of two presidents

    George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

    The dining car makes a comeback

    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
    Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

    Gallery rage

    How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

    Eye on the prize

    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
    Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

    Women's rugby

    Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup