I was a huge fan of Neighbours when it started but switched off towards the late 90's, after Harold's dramatic return.
After dipping in and out over the years, this past year has been the best it's been in about 20 years but it's still not perfect.
A few reasons stand out for me:
1) Too many weak, under developed characters.
In the glory days everyone was a central character and were psychologically developed, even young Lucy Robinson. And the characters were extremely distinct, even dippy Des Clarke was a complex human being that we cared about. Nowadays too many characters are one dimensional stock characters, Nate, Brad and the late Matt Turner being prime examples. And they are boring.
2) It lacks a power family to create drama.
Again back in the 80's the Robinson's were central to the show, and Paul employing virtually half the cast at Lassiters created ample opportunity for drama, as well as creating a strong sense of community. Nowadays the street is fragmented and little community spirit or connectivity seems to exist.
3) The writing is weak.
Neighbours strength was it's dramatised trivia, it's ability to make a storyline out of the most trivial of events: whether it was Gail's antenatal classes, Helen's latest painting or the menu at the coffee shop, something was always happening. Nowadays it lacks that intense focus on the trivia, the dialogue isn't that zippy, and character development seems minimal.
(Like many of the soaps, in its early days it had a very small, close-knit writing and storylining team who worked on it for years and absolutely loved the characters and the show. Over the years, as the show has become a production behemoth, it seems anyone can write for the show and I sincerely believe this underpins the slump in quality. The same has happened to EastEnders, which now has over 40 writers I believe!
4) It's just not funny any more.
Neighbours greatest strength was its comedy; you could guarantee on it making you laugh with every episode, and it's this factor what I believe made it so successful. The street was full of classic comedy characters and pairings: Max and Madge Ramsey, Madge and Harold, Joe Mangel and Henry Ramsey, Mrs Mangel, Eileen Clarke and Hilary Robinson. Nowadays it lacks that comic heart which worked a treat because when drama really happened - such as Daphne or Kerry Bishop's deaths - you felt it to the core.
I admit, it still has its comedy, but this seems diluted compared to how broad and eccentric it used to be.
What do you think?
(As posted on Digital Spy at http://forums.digitalspy.co.uk/showthread.php?t=2099028)