Neighbours gets real...
Neighbours gets real...

For more than 25 years, Australian audiences have been tuning in night after night to follow the lives of their favourite Ramsay Street residents.

But for a special Neighbours episode next week, every minute is going to count as one of the beloved characters faces the thought of leaving Erinsborough forever.

The long-running soap is following in the footsteps of its British brethren by airing a real-time episode, where the 30-minute episode follows an eventful 30 minutes in the life of the characters.

It is a technique made familiar by the serial drama 24, but one that Neighbours script producer Emma Gordon says was a real challenge for the family-friendly soap.

With popular actor Scott McGregor leaving the show, Gordon says the real-time episode was the best way to do justice to his exit.

McGregor's character, Detective Mark Brennan, has been embroiled in a police corruption scandal and, as the star witness in the coming trial, he faces leaving Ramsay Street for his own protection.

On Wednesday, viewers will be immersed in the enormity of his decision as he races against time to convince the girl of his dreams, ex-girlfriend Kate (Ashleigh Brewer), to pack up her life and go with him.

With only 30 minutes before he has to leave for protective custody, every second is important.

"It is a bit different and a bit out of our normal storytelling process but it gives such a sense of tension which is exactly the feeling we wanted to create," Gordon says.

"When you have half an hour to make a decision that will affect the rest of your life, every excruciating minute counts."

To add an extra layer of complexity to the real-time special, the action also takes place between 6.30pm and 7pm, which is when Neighbours goes to air.

The episode was filmed over two nights and Gordon says an extraordinary effort went in to ensuring the continuity was perfect.

Every minute was accounted for, including the time spent away from the action in commercial breaks and the time taken up by mundane tasks such as walking from one house to another.

"Everyone was very mindful of clocks and watches, and you will see a lot of those throughout the episode to keep the tension up," Gordon says.

"On the night they were filming the final climatic scenes it was pouring with rain, which made it awful for our cast and crew, but it just looks spectacular and adds such an atmosphere."

The real-time special is the latest in a string of big events coming up on the soap, which has gone from strength to strength since shifting neighbourhoods from Ten to the digital channel Eleven at the start of the year.

On Monday it recorded 455,000 viewers nationally, making it the highest-rating show on the digital secondary channels that night.

The show is hoping for a further ratings boost in August when Gold Logie winner and television veteran John Wood joins the cast.

Wood, best known for his long stint as Tom Croydon on Blue Heelers, has started filming his role as Martin Chambers, the new head of surgery at Erinsborough Hospital.

Gordon says viewers can expect to see a different side to the familiar television veteran.

"John was a bit worried when he came in and asked if he actually had to do any surgery but I told him most of his stories take place on the golf course or in the bar," she reveals with a laugh.

"We certainly keep that sense of larrikin about him, even though he is very senior, and all the things that people love about John he won't help but bring to the character."

Gordon says the producers aren't giving up on Detective Brennan just yet.

While she cannot reveal whether his witness protection program will see him move to Perth or Adelaide, in true Neighbours fashion, she admits the door will always be open to his return.

"One thing I love about Neighbours is you never know," she says. "Neighbours is Neighbours, it is always your home."

Neighbours airs weekdays at 6.30pm on Eleven.

The West Australian

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