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Harold Bishop quits Neighbours

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HE'S one of the best loved and most recognisable faces on Australian television but the patriarch of Ramsay St is packing his bags and waving goodbye to his Neighbours colleagues.

After 20 years of playing fuddy-duddy Harold Bishop, veteran actor Ian Smith has decided to scale back his full-time commitment to the soap in a bid to ease into retirement.

While Smith will film his last scenes later this month, he won't exit stage left from the Neighbours set entirely - having agreed to a number of guest appearances next year.

The news of Smith's departure has saddened co-stars, with one Neighbours insider yesterday describing him as "the heart and soul" of the program. :(

"Ian really set the tone of the show, both on the set and behind the scenes," he said.

"As well as being a consummate professional, he's all about creating a positive vibe that brings the cast together.

"He will be very missed but at least he'll be back to say 'hi' next year."

Smith's resignation will disappoint loyal fans of the program - adding yet another a blow to the Channel 10 soap staple which has struggled to lift ratings despite Ramsay St's recent renovation.

While producers have altered scripts and introduced new families and a stream of celebrity guests, the current ratings slide would suggest that not everybody loves good neighbours.

Smith is not just signing-off from playing coffee shop owner Bishop.

His 30-year career in showbiz also includes roles in long-running Australian TV serials Bellbird and Prisoner.

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I'm not a regular Neighbours viewer (anymore :P), but that is a huge shock. Harold really is a true great in the history of Neighbours and when I did regulary watch it, I always enjoyed seeing him on-screen as he brought something special to the show. I'll always remember the episodes shortly after David, Serena and Lilyjana died in the plane crash (one of my fave Neighbours storylines in recent years)...so sad :(. I'll always remember Harold's reaction in Sky's first scene aswell. If I remember correctly, she came through the back door and asked Harold if he wanted some cookies :D. At first he didn't remember her but then of course, the re-union followed!

All the best to Ian and I hope he has a wonderful retirement! :D

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I know, when I read this on another forum I was shocked.

Ian Smith is such a great talent and so professional in his portrayal, very loyal to the character. He's so different to Harold in real life, and he has so made the character unique and he will be missed greatly. The show will miss Harold, no two ways about it, I'm gutted he's leaving.

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