|Portrayed by||Ian Smith|
|Duration||1987–1991, 1996–2009, 2011, 2015|
|First appearance||30 January 1987|
|Last appearance||20 March 2015|
|Created by||Reg Watson|
|Introduced by||Reg Watson (1987)|
Stanley Walsh (1996)
Susan Bower (2011)
Jason Herbison (2015)
|Occupation||Health food shop manager (1987)|
Newspaper columnist (1988)
Coffee shop owner (1989–91, 1997–2005)
Salvation Army volunteer (1991–)
Grease Monkeys manager (2000)
The General Store co-owner (2008–09)
Harold Wayne Bishop is a fictional character from the Australian soap opera Neighbours, played by Ian Smith. The actor was offered the role by the show's creator and executive producer Reg Watson. Smith made his first screen appearance as Harold during the episode broadcast on 30 January 1987. He departed in September 1991, but returned five years later in October 1996. Harold remained on screen for over twelve years, making him one of the longest-running characters in the show's history.
Smith announced his departure from Neighbours in August 2008. Following a cancer storyline, Harold made his final appearance on 27 February 2009. In December 2010, Smith revealed that he would be reprising his role and Harold returned on 9 May 2011. During his brief return stint, Harold married Carolyn Johnstone (Paula Duncan), a storyline that was suggested by Smith. The character of Harold has been well received by critics and Smith earned various award nominations for his performance, including the Most Popular Personality on Australian Television Logie Award. Harold returned again in February 2015, ahead of the show's 30th anniversary.
Reg Watson offered Smith a role in Neighbours following the end of his television drama, Prisoner, with which Smith had been a script editor. Smith agreed to join Neighbours and asked if he could write for the show too. Smith was given the role of Harold, a part that was only supposed to last for five weeks. A couple of weeks after he had finished filming, Smith was asked back. Comedian Peter Moon revealed in 2009 that he had originally auditioned for the role of Harold. Moon said "Ian Smith beat me to it, so it is kind of weird thinking about the life I could have had. When I auditioned, I went into wardrobe and they gave me a pair of shoes to wear that had Harold written on them". Moon was eventually given a role with the soap twenty years later. Smith was written out in 1991, before making a return in 1996. Harold later became the second longest-running character in the show's history.
Smith decided to go part-time on the show in 2007. He had been ready to depart Neighbours for good, but the producers did not want him to leave. They then offered him a compromise, which would see Smith film for six weeks and then have a four-month break. Smith said that he was "awfully glad" that the producers talked him into coming back and explained, "I'm not retiring, but I am walking away from having to work 13-hour days, day after day." Smith began appearing intermittently during 2008 and this forced the writers to take Harold in a new direction. Harold's first departure saw him leave Ramsay Street for a tour around Australia.
In his fictional backstory, Harold was a stock and station agent, who married a woman called Mavis. The couple had two children, David (Kevin Harrington) and Kerry (Linda Hartley-Clark). After Mavis's death, Harold was left to cope with his teenage children alone. He had a close relationship with David, but Kerry rebelled against Harold's conservative ways and she left to travel the world. David later moved to Adelaide.
Harold is described as being "indecisive, considerate, stuffy and reserved." Harold is a Christian and never misses church on Sunday, he was also once an "enthusiastic" Scout leader. Due to his ways, Harold would not live with Madge Ramsay (Anne Charleston) until they were married. Virgin Media said Harold is "prim and proper" and "an old-fashioned fuddy-duddy." They also state he is the complete opposite of Madge and add he is "famed for his vegetarian ways, tee-total habits and fastidiousness and moralising" Harold's hobbies include playing the tuba, giving his time to the Salvation Army and birdwatching. He once had a comedic alter ego named "Afro Harold." Smith told Inside Soap in 1999 that Harold's "pessimism and pontificating" really got to him, but he agreed with Harold's moral outlook on life.
In 2003, Harold suffered a stroke and his personality changed. He left the Salvation Army, became a "peeping tom", started drinking alcohol and he pinched Izzy Hoyland's (Natalie Bassingthwaighte) bottom. Smith researched strokes and how they affect a person's psyche after becoming concerned that Harold's behaviour would stretch his character's credibility too much. Harold later recovered and returned to his previous ways. Network Ten dubbed Harold the "undisputed patriarch of Erinsborough" and the heart and soul of the community.
Friendship with Lou Carpenter
Lou Carpenter was initially Harold's "nemesis" and rival for Madge's affections. They had both fallen for Madge while they were all at school together. Lou arrives in Ramsay Street to steal Madge from Harold before she marries him, but he cannot stop the wedding and he leaves. Lou later returns and becomes friends with Harold. Oliver said that some reviewers had likened Lou and Harold's relationship to Laurel and Hardy and The Odd Couple. The Courier-Mail said Harold and Lou's friendship was one of their favourite "bromances" on television. They said their most bromantic moment was "When Harold returned to Erinsborough, after being feared drowned for many years, he had no memory of his old life. But when Lou served him jelly one night Harold suddenly remembered how Lou used to tease him at school by calling him "Jelly Belly" and, presto, his memory was restored." Harold is imprisoned after a case of mistaken identity and Lou raises the money for his bail.
Harold later donates a kidney to Lou and they go into business together, founding the General Store. Harold and Lou both fall for Rosie Hoyland (Maggie Millar), which leads to some arguments and Harold destroying a love letter from Lou to Rosie. When Gino Esposito (Shane McNamara) moves in with Harold, the writers decided to tweak the "standard love triangle story" with Lou becoming jealous of the Gino and Harold's friendship. Harold and Gino get along very well and share a love of Broadway musical DVDs. Of this, Peter Mattessi of The Age said "The tension this created between Lou and Harold ("same-sex platonic life-partners", according to Toadie) was a wonderful storytelling twist, and the innuendo made Gino's sexuality clear to those in the know, yet avoided the questions from younger viewers which would jeopardise the G rating." After Smith announced his departure in 2008, Oliver was asked if Lou would be sad about his best friend's exit and he said "Oh yes, definitely, but the old rascals keep in touch all the time. It was a sad farewell. Not just in character, but for me and Ian [Smith] too".
Cancer and departure
In August 2008, it was announced that Smith had quit Neighbours. Paula Lucarelli of Network Ten said "When the discussions were made about his decision to go part-time last year, he said it was only going to be for a short time and then he would let us know. Production was aware that it would be coming." Smith began filming his final scenes in October of that year for a departure in February 2009. Smith revealed that he quit Neighbours, so he could travel more and because he was getting "ongoing abuse" from local people. He explained "You know it's time to move on when you're being hassled outside your home every night by drunk idiots screaming abuse. I got so fed up I ended up calling the police. They were making my life hell."
Chris Irvine from The Daily Telegraph reported that Harold would leave Erinsborough after winning a fight with prostate cancer. After Harold returned from a road trip, he accompanied Lou to see Karl Kennedy (Alan Fletcher). Karl suggested Harold should have a check-up and Harold was later diagnosed with prostate cancer, which needed immediate medical attention. Due to Harold's Christian beliefs and the loss of Madge to cancer, he believed that the diagnosis was "fate trying to reunite them" and he refused treatment. Fletcher said "Harold obviously has a lot of things to think about. He had to weigh up his belief that he'll be reunited with Madge against the love he feels for his friends and family who are still alive. It's a very difficult situation to be in." Harold shut everyone out of his life as he tried to cope with the news. After speaking to neighbour and fellow cancer sufferer, Stephanie Scully (Carla Bonner), Harold eventually agreed to have surgery and underwent chemotherapy treatment.
While cheering up Donna Freedman (Margot Robbie) at the General Store, Harold suffered a heart attack, which left him fighting for his life. His friends and neighbours held a 24-hour vigil at the hospital hoping he would pull through. Harold later flat-lined and Karl, despite knowing it could get him into trouble with the hospital authorities, went against Harold's wish to not be resuscitated. Fletcher commented "Harold's heart stops beating, so Karl chooses to override his wishes and bring him back to life. As he fears, Harold is furious with him when he regains consciousness, insisting that he wanted to be reunited with his beloved wife, Madge, who died of cancer. Because of Karl's actions, Harold feels as though Madge has been taken away from him twice." Harold forgave Karl for saving him, but made it clear that he no longer wanted to live. Harold eventually recovered and he decided to leave Erinsborough to go and live with his granddaughter. Smith's final scenes as Harold were broadcast on 27 February 2009 in Australia. During an interview with Digital Spy, executive producer Susan Bower said she thought the character should have been killed off during the cancer storyline, but she pleased that he was still alive. She added "we've got a lovely photograph of him in the store and we named the store after Harold, at least means that his spirit will always live on."
—Holy Soap on Harold's return
In December 2010, cast member Ryan Moloney revealed to TV Week that Smith would be returning to Neighbours in 2011. Moloney said Smith would appear "for a little bit" and it was later reported by the Herald Sun that Smith would return for six weeks. Smith began filming his comeback scenes in February 2011. He told Holy Soap that he was surprised when he was asked to return to Neighbours and after talking with his wife, they agreed that he should go back for a brief stint. Smith later revealed that he was returning to work because he had suffered during the recession and wanted to earn some money. He also said that the chance to play Harold again was "appealing" and that he did not get a chance to say a proper goodbye to him. Smith vowed that it would be his last return to the show, as he and his wife have plans to travel through central Australia.
Harold returned on 9 May 2011. His return storyline saw him come back to Ramsay Street to help a friend. Smith said that viewers will think they know who it is, but they would be wrong. Smith said "And of course there's human pathos, there's laughs – lots of laughs – [and] a little bit of romance, but I'm not saying who for, because I don't think she/he would like me to let it out. Look, there's a little bit of everything, but the thing is it's all a happy ending and it couldn't be better, and I loved it." Smith pitched one idea for Harold's return and he said that it would be interesting to revisit the character once more. A few months later it was revealed that Harold comes back to Erinsborough after receiving a call for help from Toadfish Rebecchi. Not all of Harold's help is "received as graciously as it's given" and Harold's new relationship with Carolyn Johnstone (Paula Duncan) was not welcomed by some of the neighbours. Smith told Sarah from Inside Soap that when the producers asked him if there was a particular storyline he would like to play, he suggested that Harold should get married and so he returns engaged. Harold's news was not well received by his best friend Lou.
On 16 November 2014, it was announced that Smith had reprised his role for Neighbours' 30th anniversary in 2015. It was also confirmed that Harold would be reunited with his deceased wife Madge, who was thought to appear as a ghost. Smith initially had some doubts about returning to Neighbours again, as he was unsure if he remembered what to do. He said "I worried about remembering the words for starters, and the first scene I remembered the words but I forgot to act. But it's like falling off the horse. The old horse remembered me and I remembered it and we were fine." Smith also said he was sceptical about the storyline with Madge, believing that it would be "one of those American arising from the dead" plots, but after it was explained to him, he thought it had been "cleverly handled" and revealed that it had been dreamt up by Jackie Woodburne (Susan Kennedy).
Harold made his on-screen return during the episode broadcast on 17 February 2015. Harold was reunited with his old friends, Toadie and Lou. When Toadie notices that Harold is quick to change the subject whenever Carolyn is brought up and that he is carrying around a picture of Madge in his wallet, Toadie suspects Harold is hiding something. After calling Carolyn, Toadie learns that she and Harold have broken up. Harold admits that he and Carolyn were not quite the soul mates he has thought they were. He also tells Lou that he was embarrassed as his life was not perfect. Harold gives Madge's grandson Daniel (Tim Phillipps) advice about his future wedding to Amber Turner (Jenna Rosenow), as he wants Daniel to have realistic expectations about marriage.
Madge's daughter, Charlene (Kylie Minogue), calls Harold and invites him to Erinsborough to see Madge. Harold surprises Madge when he arrives on her doorstep and he is keen to rekindle their romance. Harold decides to settle in the area and he opens a health food shop and moves in with Nell Mangel (Vivean Gray), who secretly admires Harold as he is a churchgoer like she is. Harold proposes to Madge, but he calls off the wedding when Charlene wants to move in with Scott Robinson (Jason Donovan) out of wedlock and Madge throws her ring in Lassiter's Lake. Harold takes over the Coffee Shop, when Daphne Clarke (Elaine Smith) goes on maternity leave. Daphne dies and Harold stays on as permanent manager, he also writes for the Erinsborough News.
Eileen Clarke (Myra De Groot) spreads rumours that Harold is a lady-killer and when Harold discovers that people are talking about him, he tries to leave town. Charlene tells Harold that she has not finished working on his brakes, but he does not listen and crashes his car. Harold breaks both arms and Madge realises that she loves Harold and they resume their engagement. Lou Carpenter arrives in town and declares his love for Madge, Harold punches him during a fight. Madge chooses Harold and they marry. Harold saves Des Clarke's (Paul Keane) life and Des offers him a partnership in the Coffee Shop. Harold and Madge later buy Des out.
Kerry shows up and Harold is shocked to find out that she had had a child out of wedlock, but he is delighted to be a grandfather to Sky (Miranda Fryer). Harold invites Kerry to move in with him and Madge. Harold is initially against Kerry's relationship with Joe Mangel (Mark Little), but he sees how much Joe loves her and Sky and gives their relationship his blessing. Joe and Kerry marry and Joe's son, Toby (Finn Greentree-Keane) calls Harold "grandad". Harold and Madge win the lottery and take a trip around the world, they meet Eddie Buckingham (Bob La Castra) in England and he comes home with them. Kerry is shot and killed by a duck hunter, which devastates Harold. He develops a stronger bond with Joe as a result. Harold suffers a heart attack when he discovers that Madge has invited Lou to stay. Harold and Madge decide to go on holiday. During a walk on a coastal path, Madge stops to talk to a painter and when she looks around, Harold is nowhere to be seen. Madge finds Harold's glasses at the edge of a cliff and his body is not found.
Five years later, it is revealed that Harold was swept out to sea and picked up by a trawler. He suffers from amnesia and calls himself Ted (a sly reference to the character he played in Prisoner Cell Block H, Ted Douglas). He decides to work for the Salvation Army after they help him start a new life. Harold turns up in Ramsay Street to collect some boxes from Marlene Kratz (Moya O'Sullivan). As Harold leaves, he bumps into Helen Daniels (Anne Haddy) who is shocked to see him. She tries to track him down and leaves her number for Harold at the Salvation Army shop. Harold calls Helen and comes to see her, but he becomes frustrated as he does not remember the things she tells him and leaves. Helen calls Madge, who had moved away, to tell her that Harold is alive and Madge flies to Erinsborough.
Marlene invites Harold to join her for lunch at the Coffee Shop, where Helen, Lou and Madge are waiting. Harold recognises Madge, but he has no idea that she is his wife until she tells him everything. Harold starts counselling and his memory returns. Harold and Madge renew their wedding vows and they move to Queensland. Harold returns to Erinsborough to play the tuba in a Salvation Army concert and he rents his old house. He and Madge eventually move back and they buy the Coffee Shop. Harold befriends Paul McClain (Jansen Spencer) and he and Madge foster him. They later foster Paul's friend, Tad Reeves (Jonathon Dutton) too. Harold and Madge decided to take over the running of Grease Monkeys, but they later sell the business.
Madge is diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and given six months to live, which devastates Harold. Madge develops septicaemia and Karl Kennedy tells Harold that Madge only has a short time left. Madge dies in Harold's arms. Both Paul and Tad leave and Lou moves in. Rosie Hoyland (Maggie Millar) arrives and Harold and Lou become rivals for her love, but she tells Harold that she just wants to be friends. Harold then finds himself rejecting Valda Sheergold's (Joan Sydney) advances. Harold tries a dating agency and start dating Ruby Dwyer (Maureen Edwards), though she is just using him for money. Harold donates a kidney to Lou and when he is released from hospital, he discovers that his house has been burgled. He discovers that it was Ruby, but he tries to help her gambling problem and she later leaves to see her son.
Sky returns to see Harold and he shocked she is now a rebellious teenager with black and blue hair. Harold offers to tell her more about Kerry and he introduces her to Boyd Hoyland (Kyal Marsh). David, his wife, Liljana (Marcella Russo) and their daughter, Serena (Lara Sacher) also come to town. Harold is unhappy at David's behaviour, the way Liljana takes over his kitchen and how Serena is spoilt. Harold and David make up and Harold invites him to move in with him and Sky. Harold suffers a stroke and his personality changes. Harold becomes rude and selfish, he starts eating meat and drinking and he leaves the Salvation Army. Harold later recovers and goes back to normal. A fire sweeps through the Lassiter's Complex and burns the Coffee Shop to the ground. He sets up a temporary Coffee Shop at the Community Hall with Paul Robinson's (Stefan Dennis) help. Harold goes into business with Lou and they open the General Store. Joe returns and stays with Harold.
Sky, David, Liljana and Serena are involved in a plane crash. Sky is found and days later David's body is recovered. Liljana and Serena are never found. Harold goes into denial and punches Joe, Sky tells him that she needs him and he snaps out of it. Harold blames Paul Robinson for David, Liljana and Serena's deaths and he strangles Paul from behind. Paul survives and Harold later confesses to Paul, who does not press charges. Harold leaves town for a little while and on his return, he discovers that Sky is pregnant. Harold has a brief romance with Loris Timmins (Kate Fitzpatrick) and Sky gives birth to a daughter, Kerry (Claudine Henningsen). Sky moves away to be with Kerry's father and Harold throws himself into work at the General Store. He later decides to pack up and travel around the country. Harold meets Kate Newton (Briony Behets) and they briefly stop over in Erinsborough, before leaving together.
Harold returns for Christmas and goes for a checkup. He is shocked when Karl tells him that he has prostate cancer and needs urgent treatment. Harold does not take the news well, but Karl eventually convinces him to fight. Harold has an operation and begins chemotherapy after speaking to Stephanie Scully. Harold later suffers a heart attack and Karl ignores his wishes not to be resuscitated. Harold's cancer goes into remission and he decides to go and be with Sky. He gives his home to the Salvation Army and says goodbye to Susan Kennedy (Jackie Woodburne) when she sees him taking photos of Ramsay Street. The next day he says goodbye to everyone else and drives out of town. When he stops for tea, he discovers that Lou has been hiding in his camper van and they continue the journey together.
Two years later, Harold returns to Ramsay Street after receiving a call for help from Toadie, who is dealing with the news that his girlfriend Sonya Mitchell (Eve Morey) is the mother of his adopted son, Callum (Morgan Baker). Harold advises Toadie to be more forgiving and speak with Sonya. Harold meets Troy Miller (Dieter Brummer), but fails to pass his number onto Toadie as he thinks he has enough to deal with. After taking some secret calls, Harold tells Toadie that he is engaged to Carolyn Johnstone, a businesswoman. Harold witness a kiss between Sonya and Troy. Carolyn arrives and she and Harold confront Troy together. She also suggests that she and Harold get married in Erinsborough. Lou returns to town and is reunited with Harold. Lou does not get along with Carolyn and thinks she is stuck up. After they argue about Harold's bucks night, Harold gets Lou and Carolyn to compromise on a joint party at Charlie's. Troy physically threatens Harold, who tells Toadie.
On his wedding day, Harold visits Madge's grave to get her blessing. He and Carolyn then get married. Harold and Carolyn later return for their honeymoon and tell Lou that he has taken on too much at the car yard and that he needs to slow down. Lou does not listen to them and he later collapses. Harold tells Lou to start taking his health seriously and Lou announces his intentions to sell the car yard. Shortly before they leave, Callum asks Harold and Carolyn for their help in getting Sonya to move back in. Harold talks to Toadie, who thinks it might be too soon. After saying their goodbyes to Lou, Harold and Carolyn are informed that Toadie and Sonya are moving back in together. Toadie thanks Harold and he and Carolyn leave.
In 2015, Harold returns to Ramsay Street for Daniel Robinson's wedding and the Erinsborough Festival. Harold catches up with Toadie and Lou. He tells them Carolyn could not accompany him as she is working, but then changes the subject when she is brought up again. Harold later makes a phone call to Carolyn and tells her he will send on her things. Harold asks Toadie to help him change his will and after Toadie calls Carolyn, he learns that she and Harold have split up. Harold tells Toadie that he and Carolyn drifted apart after realising that they were not soulmates after all. Harold befriends Sheila Canning (Colette Mann), who flirts with him. Harold begins thinking about Madge and starts to hear her voice. He becomes distracted while driving and crashes through the Erinsborough Festival. When he wakes, he sees Madge sitting beside him. She appears to him again and they converse about all the events Madge has missed and Daniel's wedding.
Madge disapproves of Daniel's fiancée and believes he is better suited to Imogen Willis (Ariel Kaplan). Harold then tells Daniel that marrying Amber would be a mistake and Daniel bans him from coming to the wedding. Madge encourages Harold to go on a date with Sheila and they bond over their families. But Harold later tells Madge that she is the only one for him. Harold tells Susan about Madge and she advises him to live in the present. Sky asks Harold to give up his nomadic lifestyle and move to Port Douglas to help out with her children. He agrees after Sky mentions Madge came to her in a dream, believing it to be a good idea. Harold takes a last look at Number 24 with Madge, who tells him she will not be coming with him. He leaves after saying goodbye to his friends.
Smith has earned various award nominations for his role as Harold. At the 2007 Inside Soap Awards, he was nominated for "Funniest Performance". The following year saw Smith nominated for "Funniest Performance" again and "Best Actor". In 2009, Smith was once again nominated for "Funniest Performance" and "Best Storyline" for Harold's cancer. That same year he was nominated for the "Most Popular Personality" and "Most Popular Actor" Logie Awards.
Television critic Charlie Brooker praised the character of Harold in 2005, saying "Thank God then, for Harold Bishop, who looks precisely the same as he always did – just slightly more so. His is probably the friendliest face on television – a cross between 10 Toytown mayors and a baby". Virgin Media included Harold in their top ten favourite soap characters poll in 2007. They also express that he's become "one of the most popular Ramsey Street residents." After listing his many storylines, Paul Kalina of The Age asked whether there were any plot devices left for the writers to give Harold. He went on to say that Harold's 2008 exit was "a criminally low-key send-off for Neighbours' most colourful and longest-standing cast member. For the best part of two decades, Harold was the moral compass of Ramsay Street, a paragon of the decent-in-a-sliced-white-bread-kind-of-way and nostalgic ideals that distinguishes the squeaky clean Neighbours from a legion of more temperate television soaps." Kalina added that the writers had "better be working up something damned good for when Harold returns."
Ruth Deller of entertainment website Lowculture expressed her sadness over Harold's cancer storyline saying, "Poor Jellybelly. There might have been a little bit of tear-shedding this week at his cancer diagnosis and trip to Madge's grave. We love you Hazza! The current web campaigns to get Ian Smith a golden logie after 20 years on Neighbours also have our support, in a very nominal kind of way." Of his 2009 departure, Deller said "Actor Ian Smith is retiring, which is the kind of behaviour we expect from normal people, not soap stars. He and his wife are going to be 'grey nomads' – the term for Australians who spend their retirement travelling the country in trailer homes. And in a case of art imitating life, that's exactly what Hazza will be doing. [..] To be fair, although I'm sad to see old Jelly Belly depart, it's a nice way to go: much better than him having a second screen death, or moving to live with the whiny Sky. Considering that Harold has had one of the most tragic lives of any Ramsay Street resident (two dead wives, two dead children, a dead grandchild, a dead daughter in law, being missing presumed dead for several years, watching Sky turn from fierce funky teen to moaning nymphomaniac, becoming insane and murderous, being conned by a variety of unscrupulous women and so on), giving him a happy ending is even sweeter." Sarah Megginson of SheKnows placed Harold's departure on her "8 Most Memorable Neighbours Moments".
In 2010, to celebrate Neighbours' 25th anniversary, British Sky Broadcasting profiled twenty-five characters of which they believed were the most memorable in the series' history. Harold was included in the list and they describe him as having no luck in life, they added "Harold Bishop is proof that bad things happen to good people. Harold made Helen Daniels look like a manipulative harpy, and yet the universe still conspired to sweep him out to sea, give him amnesia for several years, and to give his wife Madge terminal cancer. This is all tear-jerking stuff, but the death of his son David's family in a plane crash and Harold subsequently putting a brave face on the situation turned the end of three unloved characters into one of the soap's saddest storylines in years." In April 2012, Harold was immortalised in wax for the Madame Tussauds attraction in Darling Harbour.
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