After the Seven Network cancelled their soap opera Neighbours on 12 July 1985 due to low ratings, rival network Ten picked it up and turned it into a success. A couple of years later, Seven's head of drama, Alan Bateman, became desperate to get back into the soap market and began to work out how to launch another soap that was not a copy of Neighbours. While on a trip to Kangaroo Point, New South Wales with his family, Bateman began talking to locals who were "up in arms" over the construction of a foster home for children from the city. Seeing the degree of conflict the "influx of parentless children on a tight-knit community" was having, Bateman came away with the idea for a new serial. He explained "Nobody in the community wanted them to move in and I began to wonder how streetwise city kids would adapt to the new lifestyle. Suddenly I thought, there is my slice of life in a community." Bateman began outlining the storyline and set the serial in the fictional town of Summer Bay. While Seven Network executives were unconvinced by the idea, audience research was positive. The soap opera was initially called Refuge, but the name was changed to the "friendlier" title of Home and Away once production began.
Home and Away has since become the second-longest drama series in Australian television after Neighbours. During the show's first season in 1988, a rape storyline for the character Carly Morris (Sharyn Hodgson) outraged the public and a protest erupted, as viewers deemed it an inappropriate subject to be covering in an early evening time slot. In 2002, several former characters such as Frank Morgan (Alex Papps), Carly Morris (Sharyn Hodgson), Steven Matheson (Adam Willits), Blake Dean (Les Hill) and Sophie Simpson (Rebekah Elmaloglou) returned for a special storyline to mark the 150th anniversary of settlement in Summer Bay. The storyline featured a majority of the cast boarded onto a ferry boat for a night cruise; however, a massive storm ruined the celebrations, leading the boat to sink. In July 2005, Home and Away celebrated its 4000th episode, which saw many former cast members return for Alf Stewart's (Ray Meagher) surprise 60th birthday party. In March 2007, the commercial television industry's Annual Code Complaint Report revealed that Home and Away was the eighth most complained about show on Australian television, and the only drama series in the top ten complaint list. From 1 July 2005 to 30 June 2006, there were 23 written complaints about the show as viewers thought it was inappropriate for it to be shown in its 7:00 pm timeslot.
In March 2009, it was alleged that Seven had agreed to censor a then-upcoming lesbian kiss scene between Charlie Buckton (Esther Anderson) and Joey Collins (Kate Bell), after receiving many complaints from conservative groups and mothers who did not want their children exposed to same-sex relationships in a family show. Seven's head of creative drama, Bevan Lee, later confirmed that the censorship allegations were in fact false and that the scene would still go to air as planned. Home and Away celebrated its 21st year in production in Sydney on 23 July 2009. The mayor of Sydney's Pittwater Council presented cast members with the key to Palm Beach, the filming location for the show. At the end of 2011, Cameron Welsh left his role as the series producer. Welsh previously played the character Mitch McColl from 1999 until 2001 and then became the series producer for Home and Away in 2007. Former All Saints producer Lucy Addario took over as series producer in January 2012. In August 2012, Home and Away's official Australian Facebook page reached one million likes, becoming the first Australian television show to reach this milestone. The Facebook page was established in November 2009 and is followed by fans mostly in Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, Norway and the United Kingdom. In 2013, Home and Away celebrated its 25th anniversary and former cast member Kate Ritchie (Sally Fletcher) returned for a special storyline to coincide with the celebrations. For the first time in the show's history, Home and Away aired a two-hander episode, featuring only the characters Ricky Sharpe (Bonnie Sveen) and Darryl "Brax" Braxton (Steve Peacocke), on 14 February 2016.
Home and Away is set in Summer Bay, a fictional seaside town of New South Wales. Locations within the town include the beach, a high school, diner, bait shop, garage and a surf club, which includes a gym, small kiosk and an upstairs restaurant. Characters in the show live at surrounding neighbouring areas such as the Summer Bay House, Summer Bay Caravan Park, Beach House, The Farmhouse, Pier Flat, and Saxon Avenue. Other fictional towns mentioned and sometimes seen in Home and Away are Mangrove River and Yabbie Creek.
Palm Beach in Sydney's Northern Beaches district has been used as the location for Summer Bay since Home and Away began in 1988. It has since become popular with tourists, and tours to the show's exterior sets at Palm Beach run throughout the year. The exterior scenes are filmed mainly at Palm Beach and at Fisherman's Beach in Collaroy. Interior scenes for the show were filmed at the Seven Network's Sydney studios in Epping until 2010. Following the closure of these studios in early 2010, the interiors are now filmed at the Australian Technology Park in Redfern. The Jackeroo Ranch estate in Kenthurst had been used for the exterior sets of the Summer Bay House and Caravan Park since 1988. After both sets were destroyed by a bushfire in December 2002, the caravan park set was moved and filmed at other locations such as the Waratah Park Earth Sanctuary between 2007–09 and the Lane Cove River Tourist Park between 2010–14. A replica of the Summer Bay House was rebuilt in its original location at the Kenthurst estate several years later, with the exception of a grey roof instead of a red one. The caravan park set moved back to the estate after the house was rebuilt, and both exterior sets made their on-screen returns in 2015. The Summer Bay House is the only house to still be seen on screen since the pilot episode.
Aside from New South Wales, Home and Away has also filmed scenes in other states of Australia. In May 2012, the show filmed scenes at Flinders Ranges and Nilpena Station in South Australia for a storyline in which Casey Braxton (Lincoln Younes) was kidnapped and taken to the outback by Kyle Braxton (Nic Westaway). The following month, Home and Away filmed scenes in Melbourne for the second time. In November 2014, the show filmed an episode at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra with several cast members, as a tribute to the Anzac Centenary. The episode centered around Alf Stewart (Ray Meagher), "who becomes upset with the younger generation's perceived lack of respect for Anzac Day, and joins the school trip to Canberra to visit the War Memorial." Outside of Australia, Home and Away has filmed in Hawaii once and in the UK three times.
In Australia, Home and Away currently airs on the Seven Network at 7:00 pm from Mondays to Thursdays, going up against rival current affairs shows A Current Affair on the Nine Network, and The Project on Network Ten. The show is on air for approximately 45 weeks each year. Each season is usually broadcast from January/February to November/December and goes off air for a couple of months during the Christmas and New Year period. The last five aired episodes shown are available to watch on the Home and Away official Australian website, as part of the Seven Network's catch up TV service. They are also broadcast in an omnibus edition each Sunday on Seven's digital multichannel 7Two.
When the show first began in 1988, it aired at 5:30 pm in Adelaide, at 6:00 pm in Melbourne and Sydney, at 6:30 pm in Brisbane, and at 7:00 pm in Perth. In January 1992, Seven moved Home and Away to the 7:00 pm timeslot across the network. On 3 November 2009, 7Two began airing repeat episodes of the show from the very beginning at 9:30 am, before moving to 9:00 am. Since its premiere, the show had been screened as a 22-minute episode each weeknight. However, beginning in March 2013, Better Homes and Gardens began replacing Home and Away on Fridays to make way for Seven's AFL coverage. Friday's episodes of Home and Away now air on Thursdays at 7:30 pm.
Since 2000, Home and Away has ceased broadcast mid-season for two weeks during the Olympic Games and the episode to screen prior to this is referred to as an 'Olympic cliffhanger'. An olympic cliffhanger episode would usually involve increased drama, with the peak of a storyline, similar to a season finale episode, and the outcome of the cliffhanger to conclude after the Olympics. Olympic cliffhangers have been broadcast in 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2016, with the exclusion of 2012, as the Nine Network screened the 2012 London Olympics.
Home and Away returned for its thirtieth season on 30 January 2017, following the Foxtel special, Home and Away: All or Nothing which will premiere on 26 January 2017.
Home and Away has been sold to over 80 countries around the world, making it one of Australia's successful media exports.
In the United Kingdom, Home and Away was first broadcast on ITV from 11 February 1989 until 8 June 2000. Home and Away was shown twice a day on ITV, with a lunchtime showing and a tea time repeat; many regions aired it at around 5:10 pm, while others at 6:00 pm or even 6:30 pm. The show attracted up to eight million viewers, making it one of ITV's top 30 rated programmes. It also helped boost audiences for ITV's regional and early evening news bulletins. During the show's last year on ITV, Home and Away attracted an average audience of 4.4 million for its early-evening repeats. In February 2000, it was announced that Home and Away would be moving to rival Channel 5 after they bought the rights to the show in a £40m auction deal. ITV reportedly offered twice the amount by Channel 5, but the Seven Network in Australia were swayed by Channel 5's commitment to the long-term future of the show in a deal of more than five years. After its run on ITV ended, Home and Away went off air for 12 months as ITV had an exclusivity clause that prevented any other broadcaster from airing the show for a year. After a delay in screening, Home and Away made its debut on Channel 5 on 16 July 2001. Channel 5 currently airs Home and Away at 1:15 pm each week day, with a repeat at 6:00 pm. UK viewers are able to catch up with episodes on 5* and online via Demand 5. The show is currently six weeks behind the Australian broadcast.
In Ireland, Home and Away is broadcast on RTÉ Television at 1:30 pm on RTÉ One and repeated on RTÉ2 at 6:30 pm each weekday. A repeat of the week's episodes is aired on Saturdays and Sundays on RTÉ2. Irish viewers are also able to catch up with episodes on the RTÉ Player. Home and Away is one of RTÉ's most popular drama series. It was the most watched programme of 2014 on the RTÉ Player with over four million viewers. In New Zealand, Home and Away is broadcast on TV2 at 5:30 pm each weekday. A repeat of the previous day's episode is shown at 11:00 am weekdays and an omnibus edition is shown on Sunday afternoons. The TVNZ website also offers viewers the chance to watch episodes online with its OnDemand service. Home and Away is one of New Zealand's most popular TV series and is one of TV2's highest-rating shows. The show had previously aired on TV3 since 2002, where it consistently won high ratings for TV3 and helped boost audiences for their 6pm news bulletin. However, on 5 July 2013, the show's European distributor Endemol cancelled its agreement with TV3, causing them to lose the right to broadcast Home and Away. In the United States, Home and Away began streaming on the subscription service Hulu on 2 March 2015, beginning with the 2015 season. The service no longer receives new episodes, although the complete twenty-eighth season is currently available.
The launch of Home and Away in 1988 was hoped to help boost the Seven Network's early evening ratings which had been underperforming in previous years. However, the show struggled to attract high ratings, particularly when compared to rival soap opera Neighbours, which was a huge ratings success at the time. By the end of 1988, Home and Away's ratings had improved. In January 1992, when Neighbours' high-rating era was over, Seven moved Home and Away to the 7:00 pm timeslot, putting both shows up against each other. This caused Network Ten to move Neighbours to the 6.30 pm timeslot two months later. During the early 2000s, Home and Away was averaging 1.3 million viewers and in 2007, viewing figures rose to 1.4 million. However, by the end of the decade, the ratings had dropped to an average of 1.1 million viewers. During the early 2010s, viewing figures had further decreased to between 800,000 and 1 million an episode. In 2012, Home and Away was averaging 981,000 viewers, down from 1.039 million in 2011 and 1.021 million in 2010.
In 2015, the show began going through a serious ratings decline. A July 2015 report revealed that the ratings were down 14% compared to the first six months of 2014, which translates to about 140,000 fewer viewers per episode. On 6 July 2015, Home and Away ranked 16th in OzTAM's overnight ratings with 750,000 viewers. The following night, the show fell to an even lower figure of 701,000 viewers. A writer for the Australian Associated Press stated that one of the reasons for the ratings decline could be "the viewing habits of Gen Y, which the show is aimed at, have changed dramatically in recent times thanks to the launch of streaming services, Netflix, Stan and Presto. The exact age demographic that Home and Away targets are the same people who do not subscribe to appointment viewing. They prefer to watch shows when they want and don't want to be dictated to by the commercial networks." A Seven spokeswoman commented that Home and Away was still performing well on digital and social platforms and that the overnight ratings were not the only measure of the show's success.
Home and Away's storylines have ranged from mild to serious issues throughout its run. While the central stories revolve around fostering children, family and teenage problem, school problems and romances, the series has covered several controversial, adult-themed and detailed issues not suitable for young audiences, despite its early evening time of 7:00 pm. Storylines covered include abortion, accidental death, adultery, adoption, alcoholism, amnesia, amputation, arson, autism, bereavement, brain aneurysm, bulimia, bullying, cancer, cage fighting, career problems, child abuse, cults, cyberbullying, domestic violence, depression, drink driving, drug overdose, drug trafficking and drug use, gambling addiction, health problems, hit-and-runs, HIV and AIDS, homosexuality, Huntington's disease, incest, miscarriage, murder, imprisonment, kidnapping, marriage problems, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), paedophilia, post-natal depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, prostitution, racism, rape, revenge porn, robbery, self-harm, sex, shootings (including drive-by shootings), stabbings, stalking, stroke, SIDS (cot death), stillbirth, suicide, surrogacy, teacher-student relationships, teenage pregnancy, terminal illness, and witness protection. The show has also featured many natural disaster storylines, including a cyclone, storm, flood, landslide, earthquake, and bushfires. There have also been several storylines involving car, bus, plane and boating accidents. Furthermore, in addition to the show featuring scenes of moderate to strong violence in past episodes, the special episode, Home and Away: All or Nothing, which became available for online streaming in January 2017, is intended for "adult-only" viewing as it is described as the most violent episode of the entire series, as it contains scenes of strong violence.
Since 1988, Home and Away has dealt with some controversial issues, despite being broadcast in a G-rated timezone. In 2007, the show breached broadcasting rules when they aired a number of episodes featuring Martha MacKenzie (Jodi Gordon) involved with pole-dancing in the G classification, as the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) said that these episodes should have been rated PG as they contained sexual scenes and references. Since 2008, every subsequent episode has been broadcast under the PG classification and often continues to exceed the rating. A 2010 episode which featured Martha McKenzie engaging in a sexual scene with Liam Murphy (Axle Whitehead) on a kitchen table was deemed "too raunchy" by a television watchdog in New Zealand, as the series was also aired in a G-rated timezone at 5:30 pm on TV3. The Early Years episodes which broadcast on weekday mornings on 7Two have been re-rated PG.
Internationally, Home and Away has been edited for daytime viewing on many occasions, in particular for violence or distressing scenes. In New Zealand, it is has received edits to fit the G classification. In the United Kingdom, where classifications do not apply to television broadcasts, the series was heavily cut on ITV for issues that, at the time, were deemed inappropriate for pre-watershed television. When Channel 5 in the UK acquired the rights to screen the series, edits were minimal, although they did occur over several episodes. In Ireland, it has and continues to air complete and uncut, with a 'PS' classification (Parental Supervision, which is intended at for mature audience). On occasions, following an RTÉ One broadcast, the announcer would give contact information for those who may have been affected for distressed by the episode.
When Home and Away began in 1988, it initially focused on the Fletcher family – Tom (Roger Oakley) and his wife Pippa (Vanessa Downing), and their five foster children, Frank Morgan (Alex Papps), Carly Morris (Sharyn Hodgson), Steven Matheson (Adam Willits), Lynn Davenport (Helena Bozich), and Sally Fletcher (Kate Ritchie) – who relocated from the city to live in the seaside town of Summer Bay. At the end of the first episode, Tom and Pippa take in their sixth foster child Bobby Simpson (Nicolle Dickson). The Fletchers bought the Summer Bay Caravan Park and moved into the Summer Bay House. They quickly built strong friendships with the locals, Ailsa Stewart (Judy Nunn), Alf Stewart (Ray Meagher), Donald Fisher (Norman Coburn), and Neville (Frank Lloyd) and Floss McPhee (Sheila Kennelly).
While Home and Away features a mix of young cast members and older, more experienced actors, the show has always had a definite youth focus, with the younger characters dominating much of the storylines. Many of the cast have spent several years on Home and Away, including original cast member Judy Nunn who left the series in 2000 after 12 years playing the co-owner of Summer Bay's diner. Other original cast members Norman Coburn played high school principal Donald Fisher until 2003, and Kate Ritchie departed in 2008 after 20 years playing Sally Fletcher. Both Coburn and Ritchie along with Ray Meagher (Alf Stewart) entered the 2002 Guinness World Records as the longest-serving actors in an Australian drama series. Meagher now holds that record alone and he is the only remaining original cast member in the show. Meagher along with Lynne McGranger (Irene Roberts), Ada Nicodemou (Leah Patterson-Baker) and Emily Symons (Marilyn Chambers) are the longest-serving cast members currently in Home and Away. In 2010, Georgie Parker joined the cast of Home and Away as Alf's daughter Roo Stewart, originally played by Justine Clarke in 1988–89. Alf and Roo are currently the only two original characters in the series.
Throughout the years, Home and Away has featured several guest appearances from celebrities such as John Farnham, Johanna Griggs, Sia Furler, Michael Palin, Ian Thorpe, Lleyton Hewitt, Nick Grimshaw, Eliza Doolittle and Ed Sheeran.
The theme song to Home and Away was written by Mike Perjanik. There were seven different versions of the theme song used throughout the years. The lyrics remained the same since the show's inception, but a number of verses were gradually cut back over the years due to time restrictions. The original version was sung by Karen Boddington and Mark Williams, and used from 1988 until 1994. Their version was released as a single in the UK in 1989 and peaked at number 73 on the UK Singles Chart. A new version performed by Doug Williams and Erana Clark debuted in 1995. From 2000 to 2006, the theme song to Home and Away was sung by The Robertson Brothers and it was first version to use only male vocals. In January 2007, a new version was introduced and performed by Israel Cannan, who played the character Wazza in the show. After Cannan's version received many complaints from fans, the Seven Network decided to re-record the theme song in April 2007 with vocals provided by Luke Dolahenty. A shorter, 15-second version sung by Dolahenty and Tarryn Stokes debuted in 2009 and was the final version of the theme song recorded. The Home and Away theme song is no longer used in the opening titles and has been replaced by a short instrumental version since 2010. However, Dolahenty and Stokes' version is still used in the closing credits for international broadcasts.
The Home and Away opening titles sequence was initially used to introduce the regular characters in the show. The sequences often featured the characters in couple shots or with family and friends, and showed them in familiar settings around Summer Bay such as the beach. The titles for the show's earlier years featured black brush stroke cutouts around the character shots. 2004 saw Home and Away introduce new picture frame-style opening titles, with characters shown posing in and out of large picture frames in front of beach backgrounds. In January 2007, the show debuted new opening titles along with a new version of the theme song. The picture-frame style was still used, but this time the titles featured framed pictures of the characters. In 2009, the opening was reduced to 15 seconds and the characters were removed from the titles for the first time in Home and Away's history. They were replaced by a large photo collage showing various locations around Summer Bay. The decision to remove the cast and shorten the titles was due to time restrictions. Since then, many viewers in Australia and the UK have wanted the full-length title sequence with the cast to return. In 2013, Home and Away introduced a series of five-second opening titles, which currently change every week. The various titles mostly feature scenes of bikini-clad women and shirtless men with surfboards at the beach. The five-second titles remain as of 2017.
Home and Away has received many awards and nominations throughout the years. The show has won 46 Logie Awards from 151 nominations, making it the most awarded program in Logie history. In 2015, Home and Away was inducted into the Logie Hall of Fame. The show has also won twelve Australian Writers' Guild Awards and five Australian Directors Guild Awards.
Since 1988, Home and Away has generated a range of merchandise, including books, magazines, VHS tapes, DVDs and soundtracks. Various annuals and books about the show and its cast and characters were released in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Between 2003 and 2005, several fictional books by Leon F. Saunders and Jane Anderson were released and based on characters from Home and Away. Episodes of the show have been released on several VHS and DVDs. Home and Away: The Movie was the first VHS released in 1989 and contained the 90-minute pilot episode. Another VHS tape, Home and Away: The Official Summer Bay Special, was released in 1996. It celebrated 2,000 episodes of the show and looked back at memorable moments throughout its earlier years. Home and Away: Secrets and the City and Home and Away: Hearts Divided were the first DVDs released in October 2003, and both contained exclusive episodes that were never aired on television. Two further DVDs, Home and Away: Romances and Home and Away: Weddings were released in November 2005 and March 2006, respectively, and featured clips from the most popular romances and weddings in the series' history. Romances featured the pilot episode, while Weddings featured two episodes containing Leah and Vinnie's wedding as a bonus feature. Four soundtrack albums were released between 1996 and 2003 that featured music used on the show as well songs from some of the cast members.
Home and Away has also produced several spin-off episodes. headLand was a spin-off series focusing on a university. It ran from November 2005 until January 2006, when it was cancelled due to low ratings. In 2013, the show launched their first webisode series titled Home and Away Extras, which introduced new characters Andy (Tai Hara) and Josh Barrett (Jackson Gallagher) before they appeared on-air. The four-part websisode series was released on the show's Yahoo!7 website from 7 August 2013. On 19 August 2015, it was announced that former cast members Dan Ewing (Heath Braxton) and Lisa Gormley (Bianca Scott) would be returning for a special spin-off episode titled "Home and Away: An Eye for An Eye". The episode was commissioned specially for the local streaming service Presto and did not air on the Seven Network. It centred around the Braxton family and was a feature-length episode running for over an hour. "Home and Away: An Eye for An Eye" was made available to watch on Presto from 9 December 2015. Following the success of "Home and Away: An Eye for An Eye", it was announced on 6 May 2016 that two more feature-length episodes had been commissioned. The first episode will be available on 19 December 2016 and is titled Home and Away: Revenge. The second special, Home and Away: All Or Nothing, will become available for viewing on 26 January 2017.