|Portrayed by||Lucinda Cowden|
|First appearance||30 July 1987|
|Last appearance||27 July 2005|
|Introduced by||Reg Watson (1987)|
Don Battye (1988)
Ric Pellizzeri (2005)
|Other names||Melanie Mangel|
Melanie Pearson (also Mangel) is a fictional character from Australian soap opera Neighbours played by Lucinda Cowden. The actress was initially signed to the soap on a recurring basis for a few weeks. She made her first screen appearance during the episode broadcast on 30 July 1987. The character departed on 24 October 1991. In 2005, Cowden reprised her role for Neighbours' 20th anniversary celebrations.
Actress Lucinda Cowden joined the cast of Neighbours as Melanie for seven episodes in 1987. She returned for six episodes the following year. Cowden left to star in The Power, The Passion, but after the show was cancelled Cowden decided to call the Neighbours producer about a return. Coincidentally, the actress called on the same day Annie Jones (who played Jane Harris) had decided not to renew her contract and she was invited to re-join the cast as a regular cast member.
Melanie was introduced as the girlfriend of Henry Ramsay (Craig McLachlan). The following year, she returned as Paul Robinson's (Stefan Dennis) temporary secretary. Despite being "a nightmare to work with", Paul realised that she was good at her job and kept her on. Melanie moved in with widower Des Clarke (Paul Keane) and helped cheer him up, following the death of his wife. In her 1994 book, The Neighbours Programme Guide, Josephine Monroe stated that Melanie had a "zany personality, wacky outfits and outrageous laugh". Monroe described Melanie's distinctive laugh as sounding like "a seal having a hernia." Cowden thought that she did not have much in common with her character, except that they are both fun. That aspect of Melanie's personality initially attracted Cowden to the role. The actress also revealed that she did not laugh in the same way Melanie did.
In 1991, Melanie married Joe Mangel (Mark Little) and the two characters exited the serial soon after. Initially Joe and Melanie seemed to have little in common and had not considered a romantic relationship with one another. However, Joe's feelings changed when Glen Donnelly (Richard Huggett) pointed out to Joe that he was wasting his time finding "a new love" when she, in the form of Melanie, was under his nose the whole time. Of Melanie's feelings towards Joe, Cowden told Mary Fletcher from Inside Soap, "Melanie took a long time to realise how she felt about Joe because she's such a dreamer. She has this fantasy about some prince in shining armour who'd come along on a white horse and sweep her off her feet. It didn't occur to her that the man who would make her happy was so close to home."
Melanie was set to marry her fiancé Simon Hunter (Frederick Whitlock) when she was cast in a television dating show along with Joe. When she and Joe won a romantic weekend away, Joe declared his feelings for her and Melanie realised her true feelings for him. Melanie also realised why she was unable to fully commit herself to Simon. Cowden thought the storyline was wonderful and like the viewers, she got caught up in it. Knowing that his children got on well with Melanie was important to Joe and his son, Toby (Ben Geurens), helped him deal with his "awkwardness" towards proposing to her. Melanie turned down the proposal as a joke, but quickly said yes. Cowden told Fletcher that in the end Melanie had fallen for Joe as he was "true, loyal and honest". Joe and Melanie were married in front of their friends and they headed off to Europe for their honeymoon, which also marked their exit from the show.
When Little decided that it was time for him to move on from Neighbours, his decision coincided with Cowden's feelings of restlessness. The actress explained "I'd been in the series for two and half years and it felt to me as if I'd got the best out of Melanie." Cowden continued saying that she did not want to return without Little and have to work on a storyline that would see Melanie falling in love with a new character. It did not feel right to her and she and Little thought Joe and Melanie's honeymoon would be the perfect exit for them. Cowden reprised the role in 2005 and joined several returning cast members for the show's 20th anniversary episode, which was broadcast in July. It emerges that Melanie and Joe's marriage has ended. Cowden admitted that she was sad upon hearing the development, saying "I think Joe and Mel would have stayed together forever but as we aren't going to go back, I suppose the producers had the right to do it."
Henry Ramsay brings Melanie home to meet his mother Madge (Anne Charleston), his sister Charlene (Kylie Minogue) and her husband Scott (Jason Donovan). Melanie's hiccuping animalistic laugh makes Henry's family feel uneasy and Madge and Charlene conspire to set her up with Mike Young (Guy Pearce) and Gino Rossini (Joey Perrone). Henry sees Gino handing Melanie his number and the relationship fizzles out but Melanie and Henry remain friends. Melanie is next seen working as a temporary secretary at The Daniels Corporation for Paul Robinson.
When Henry has relationship difficulties with Bronwyn Davies (Rachel Friend), Melanie is on hand to lend a sympathetic ear during a party. Bronwyn mistakes this for something more and is annoyed. Henry tries to resume dating Melanie after seeing that he is getting nowhere with Bronwyn but Melanie turns him down. The following year Melanie reappears and moves in with Mike, Des Clarke and his son Jamie at Number 28. Melanie's chirpy nature immediately wins Des over but when she interferes in his relationship with Jane Harris by taking a call and blasting Jane for her decision to end things with Des, he is angered but comes to realise a long-distance relationship with Jane would not be feasible and forgives Melanie.
After a one-night stand with Paul, who rejects and hurts her, Melanie finds happiness with nerdy waiter Kelvin Stubbs (Michael Fletcher). When Kelvin makes a pass at Melanie's friend Christina Alessi (Gayle Blakeney), Melanie refuses to believe her until she uncovers evidence of Kelvin being a love cheat and promptly dumps him. Melanie later becomes involved with much older businessman, Roger Walsh (Gregory Ross) and becomes engaged to him but the romance ends when Roger's daughter Tania (Angela Nicholls) opposes the relationship.
When her friend Kerry Bishop (Linda Hartley) is killed during a protest against duck hunting, Melanie moves in with Kerry's widower Joe Mangel and helps with the children Toby and Sky (Miranda Fryer). When Sky's biological father Eric Jensen (John Ley) comes to claim custody, Melanie offers to marry Joe to help him secure custody of Sky, but he politely declines. Melanie begins dating Simon Hunter and becomes engaged to him. Joe is devastated as he has developed feelings for her. When Melanie fills in for a contestant on a dating show, she is shocked to find Joe is her "dream date" and the pair win a romantic weekend together. Joe confesses his feelings, as does Melanie. When they return Melanie ends her engagement with Simon.
Joe and Melanie become engaged and marry in front of their friends, family and neighbours. Within weeks of their wedding, Joe receives a call from England that his mother Nell (Vivean Gray) has suffered a heart attack and to fund the medical expenses they will need to sell Number 32. Melanie and Joe decide to leave, taking Sky with them and leaving Toby in the care of school principal Dorothy Burke (Maggie Dence), in order for him to continue with his schooling. After several months touring Europe, they return and set up home in the country. Toby visits them at Christmas. The following year the family is reunited when Toby rejoins them after a new school is opened in the district.
When Sky returns to Erinsborough in 2003, she reveals to her grandfather Harold Bishop (Ian Smith) that Joe and Melanie had divorced a decade earlier. Two years later, Melanie appears in Annalise Hartman's (Kimberly Davies) documentary about Ramsay, where she is seen living in London and talking about past mistakes including working for Paul and marrying Joe.
A writer for the BBC's Neighbours website said Melanie's most notable moment was "Asking Joe to marry her". Ian Morrison, author of Neighbours: The Official Annual 1992, stated "If Melanie offers to lend a hand beware...her efforts don't always turn out as she would like!" Katy Moon from Inside Soap praised Joe and Melanie's wedding, saying "No one can get hitched in soap these days without some kind of ruckus. But Joe Mangle and Melanie Pearson's wedding was a breeze and harks back to a time of innocence in soapland." Moon commented that Joe had found his match "in bubbly Mel". A Coventry Telegraph reporter observed that Melanie became "a soap favourite" and branded her a "girl next door with a foghorn laugh, the dizzy secretary with a heart of gold who had thousands of viewers tuning in to watch her antics."
The Herald's Neil Cooper was a fan of both the actress and the character, quipping "Cowden was the only real point to Neighbours for three years in the late eighties, the only real spark of ironic life beyond the ready-made airbrushed froth. Or rather Melanie, the character Cowden didn't so much play as wore like a Day-Glo romper suit crash coursing her way through the 'hood, was. Melanie was a hilarious cartoon creation, a ditzy, daffy, polka-dotted, colour-clashing surrealist heart-throb who occupied a planet made in her own garish image, before hitching up with boy-next-door Joe Mangle and leaving the street an all together greyer place." Peter Holmes of The Sydney Morning Herald disliked the character, calling her a "brain-dead freak". Writing for BBC News, Genevieve Hassan included Melanie's laugh in her feature on the show's memorable moments. Hassan quipped, "Madcap Melanie (played by Lucinda Cowden) was best known on the soap for her foghorn, seal-like laugh and her frequent trips to the local Erinsborough astrologer, Madame Zolga."
- Haywood 1991, p.158.
- "Lucinda Cowden". The Soap Show. Retrieved 23 January 2011.
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- Morrison 1991, p.12.
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- "Aussie soap actress to star as Peter Pan". Coventry Telegraph. 21 May 2004. Archived from the original on 11 June 2014. Retrieved 12 April 2014.(subscription required)
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