Hit & Run: Home and Away at home in LA

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The Independent Online

Long gone are the days when appearing on rival Australian tea-time soaps Neighbours and Home and Away was a passport to a panto engagement in Bournemouth or Hull. These days Aussie soap veterans bypass Christmas in the British provinces and head straight for Los Angeles. In fact it seems you can't watch a high-end US TV drama without coming face to face with a former Erinsborough or Summer Bay favourite – most recently in HBO's vampire saga True Blood. This has Ryan Kwanten – formerly Vinnie Patterson in Home and Away – as Sookie's priapic younger brother Jason, and when in 2003 Kawatan got himself an American agent he was simply following a path trod by Neighbours/Home and Away alumni Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce, Naomi Watts, Isla Fisher and the late Heath Ledger.

But who would have predicted Julian McMahon being reborn as the oleaginous Dr Christian Troy in Nip/Tick? Or Alan Dale, dear, doughty old Jim Robinson in Neighbours, reinventing himself in such American TV classics as ER, The OC, 24, Ugly Betty and Lost? I could (and will) go on: Jesse Spencer has, with some symmetry, graduated from Neighbours to House, Holly Valance (after a brief sub-Kylie pop career) has broken into in Prison Break, and Melissa George has graced Grey's Anatomy and given a very mature performance opposite Gabriel Byrne in the Emmy-nominated psychodrama In Treatment. Emily Symons – Summer Bay's big-hearted Marilyn – must now be kicking herself that she chose a future pulling pints in Emmerdale. And is Jason Donovan regretting all those West End musicals?

The big question is why ex-soapies from the Antipodes are in such demand Stateside. Sure, they're pretty cute looking; lord, aren't they fresh and wholesome compared to the half-starved, surgically enhanced local "talent". And as we are often told about the British actors currently crowding US TV, they bring a training and work ethic so absent from indigenous wannabes more interested in enlarging their body parts than extending their range.

But then maybe it's just that if you have acting ambitions and you are Australian, you are almost certain to have appeared in either Neighbours or Home and Away (or both, if you are Guy Pearce). And of course Australians are great travellers – it's almost obligatory to leave the country in your twenties, just the age that Hollywood wants you. As for the oldies, it's only a shame that Ian Smith, Neighbours' very own resurrection case, Harold Bishop, never made it on to 24. Maybe Alan Dale could have a word. Gerard Gilbert

Yeah baby, does my feather duster make you horny?

Our American cousins are not known for mincing their words, and my own American cousin is no exception. We've just finished watching an Austin Powers movie. "British men," Caroline announces, "shouldn't be allowed to breed." Overlooking the dire consequences this would have for our future population (and the fact that Caroline's father emigrated to California from the UK in the 1970s) I jump to the defence of our much-maligned male: "Yes, they should!" I retort.

But within moments of mounting a mental checklist, I'm not so sure. Bad teeth? Dodgy jeans? A misguided sense of their own attractiveness (particularly after a few pints of Stella)? The yank may have a point. But, it transpires, there is one thing that sets the British male apart from his well-turned out, emotionally attentive foreign counterparts: he ain't half handy with a feather duster.

Yes, according to a study from the Oxford University, Brits make better husbands than Italians, French and Americans (in your face, Caroline) because they are more likely to chip in with housework. I can't believe it didn't occur to me earlier. What's more appealing than the prospect of Jeffrey Archer or Bernie Ecclestone in Marigolds? Charlotte Philby

Come on let's twitch again

Forget wailing burglar alarms and fierce dogs. Net curtains, the nosy neighbour's weapon of choice, invented to create an illusion of privacy in tightly packed streets of terraced houses, have been fingered as one of Britain's frontline defences against burglary. Sales of nets are up, and curtain-whitener sales have also seen a hike of 20 per cent. So banish all thoughts of Hyacinth Bucket and embrace the twitchers' trend. "Nets afford security from unwanted snoopers by preventing them from viewing the contents of your home," says Miles Shipside, of RightMove.co.uk. Nets may not be chic, but they do serve a purpose; other simple measures include window boxes and garden gates – anything, in fact, that acts as an obstacle to your valuables. That said, if you live on a street that's netted up, you've probably escaped crime because your neighbours are watching your every move. Which might be scarier than being robbed. Harriet Walker

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