Amazon has said it was not already planning to revive the long-running Australian soap Neighbours at the time of the show’s star-studded supposed finale, as former cast member Guy Pearce made pointed comments about the show’s return at the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts (Aacta) awards on Wednesday.
Pearce was a main character in the soap for three years in the late 1980s, starring opposite Kylie Minogue and Jason Donavan before forging a reputation as a Hollywood actor in films such as The Hurt Locker, The King’s Speech and Memento.
He returned to Australia earlier this year to appear alongside Minogue and Donovan in the farewell episode, which attracted 3 million viewers in the UK alone.
Presenting at the Australian awards on Wednesday night, Pearce appeared bemused that the 90-minute finale that he starred in turned out not to be a momentous swan song as had been expected.
Three months after the finale aired, Fremantle announced that Neighbours would be revived with Amazon on board as new production partners.
“It’s hard to watch, isn’t it? Knowing we’ll never see another episode ever again,” Pearce said on Wednesday, as part of the evening’s tribute to the show. “A painful reminder the things we love can be snatched away, never to return … unless Amazon comes in to save the day and makes our finale look like a rather expensive exercise.”
Pearce suggested fellow actor Margot Robbie, who also began her career on Neighbours, might want the crate of champagne she sent the show’s producers as a farewell thank you present returned.
“I don’t want to say [it was a] waste of time. But still, I’m sure that Margot will be happy,” he said.
Neither Fremantle or Amazon have responded to the Guardian’s queries about the timing of Amazon’s decision to become involved in a new series of the long-running show.
Speaking to US entertainment publication Variety on Thursday, head of Amazon Freevee UK’s licensed content, Shahina O’Mahoney, said Amazon was not involved in any discussions to reboot the show before the finale was broadcast.
“At that point that the show ended, we did not know that we could save it,” she said. “In an ideal world, maybe you do announce something like that before it ends, but that wasn’t an option for us.”
The reaction of sad fans was what motivated Amazon to consider saving the program, she said, adding: “It was almost irresponsible not to look into it.”
Neighbours is now in pre-production and is slated to return to Network 10 and Amazon Prime in Australia, and Amazon’s Freevee in the UK and US, in the second half of 2023.
Former cast members Stefan Dennis, Alan Fletcher, Jackie Woodburne and Ryan Moloney are already confirmed to be returning, but the future of other actors’ roles remain up in the air.
“We’re going to do everything we have to do – in front of and behind the camera – to make sure that we’re delivering a consistent series,” Lauren Anderson, head of AVoD original content and programming at Amazon Studios, told Variety, adding: “The most important thing to us is to make sure that those who love the show already continue to love the show.”