Neighbours ends after 37 years: But what are longest running soap operas in Europe?

Viewers tuned in to say goodbye to Ramsay Street as Neighbours came to a close after 37 years of drama
Viewers tuned in to say goodbye to Ramsay Street as Neighbours came to a close after 37 years of drama   -   Copyright  AFP Photo
By Theo Farrant

On Thursday 28 July 2022, the star-studded finale of the Australian television soap "Neighbours," which ran for 37 years, was aired. 

Margot Robbie, Kylie Minogue, Guy Pearce, Jason Donovan, Natalie Imbruglia and Holly Valance were among the celebrities who returned to fictional Ramsay Street to appear in the send-off of the Melbourne-based drama that helped launch their careers in acting and music.

Some of the better-known actors who have appeared in "Neighbours" since it began in 1985 - but who were not part of the 90-minute finale - include Oscar-winner Russell Crowe and the Hemsworth brothers, Chris, Luke and Liam.

Through its entire run in Australia, "Neighbours" screened as a 22-minute weeknight episode, and depicted the lives of the people living in Erinsborough, a fictional suburb of Melbourne. 

Subsequently, "Neighbours" became Australia's longest-running soap opera drama of all time. 

But what are its soap opera peers in Europe? Let's take a look. 

UK - Coronation Street

Coronation Street, the quintessentially British soap opera, holds the official Guinness World Record for being the longest-running / oldest television soap opera in history. 

The show first premiered in 1960, and has since aired over 10,200 episodes. 

It's set in the fictional town of Weatherfield, based on the real inner-city of Salford, England, and focuses on the everyday lives of working-class people. 

The soap opera is so well embedded in British culture that it was even paid homage to in Queen's 1984 "I Want to Break Free" music video, where all the band members cross-dressed as women in a suburban house. 

Germany - Lindenstraße (Lindenstrasse)

© Raimond Spekking / CC BY-SA 4.0
The cast of Lindenstraße at a press event in 2015© Raimond Spekking / CC BY-SA 4.0

"Lindenstraße" is not only considered Germany's longest-running soap opera; it's also it's first. 

The show first aired in 1985 and ended after 35 years in 2020. 

Largely inspired by the UK's "Coronation Street", the show takes place in Lindenstraße, a fictional street in a Munich suburb, and follows the lives of a diverse array of ordinary people and families.

The triumphs and tragedies of everyday life are explored in the show, including infidelity, unemployment, falling in love, drug addiction, politics, religion and pitfalls of adolescence.

The creators of "Lindenstraße" were never afraid to address controversial or sensitive topics. For example, the daughter of one of the central families once suffered from bulimia; another son was born with Down's syndrome. 

The show also featured the first ever gay kiss on German primetime TV. 

Italy - Un posto al sole (A place in the sun)

This beloved Italian soap opera has just recently aired its 6000th episode. 

"Un posto al sole" ("A Place in the Sun") is set in a fictional apartment building called Palazzo Palladini, located in front of the sea in the beautiful Naples neighborhood of Posillipo.

Through a large ensemble cast, the show explores social problems such as unemployment, violence, discrimination, marginalisation and integration. 

It is also synchronised with the real world calendar, following significant holidays and events, often incorporating current affairs into the script.  

To the surprise of fans, the show's 6000th episode special (broadcasted on 29 July 2022) was narrated by Bricca, the dog of one of the show's main characters, Giulia Poggi. 

France - Plus belle la vie (The Sunny side of life)

VALERY HACHE/AFP or licensors
(From L) Actors of "Plus belle la vie" TV series Elodie Varlet, Simon Ehrlacher, Lola Marois and Bryan Tresor pose at the 61th Monte-Carlo Television FestivalVALERY HACHE/AFP or licensors

"Plus belle la vie" ("The Sunny Side of Life") first aired in 2004 and has since gone on to release over 4500 episodes. 

The series follows the lives of the inhabitants of "Le Mistral", a fictional neighbourhood in the Mediterranean port city of Marseille. 

Similar to the previously mentioned soap operas in this list, "Plus belle la vie" has been groundbreaking in exploring underrepresented issues and themes in TV, such as same-sex marriage and trans-identity

In 2013, it featured the wedding of Thomas and Gabriel, the first marriage between two men ever shown in a French TV drama.

However, after 18 years on air, the show creators have announced the end of the series, which will take place on 18 November 2022, following "a substantial shift in viewing habits".

Belgium - Familie (Family)

Credit: VTM
A photo from Belgium soap TV show Familie, showing vegan cafe owner Zjef (R)Credit: VTM

"Familie" is Belgium's longest-running TV soap and focuses on the lives of the Van den Bossche family, who run an electronics company. 

The Flemish series was first broadcast on 30 December 1991 and continues to be released to this day. In total, more than 7300 episodes have been aired. 

The show caused controversy last year after it was discovered an animal rights group had paid for a pro-vegan storyline to be featured in the show. 

One of the show's characters, Zjef, who runs a food bar, introduces a line of vegan sandwiches which sets off a discussion on the health benefits of veganism. 

The closing credits of the episode revealed the animal rights group GAIA's involvement in the plot line. 

As a result, the Belgian TV Channel VTM was charged around €26,000 by broadcast regulators.