Right, before we go any further, let’s get one thing out the way. I’ve watched Eastenders for a massive percentage of my life; being terrified of early doors Dot Cotton shaped my relationship with cigarettes and men in leather jackets, Pauline Fowler irritated the flesh on my bones until she lay down in the snow and died for decades. It’s safe to say that, albeit unintentionally, sitting down with my family to watch Eastenders on a regular occasion was one of the few times that we would sit down together. There was always a hushed silence punctuated by scoffs of derision when Ian Beale’s moustache bristled its way onscreen. Or when Michelle’s fallen perm waved on the breeze through the market, sometimes pregnant, sometimes not, but always with a miserable grimace on her face. If she was German she would be called ‘dour kraut.’
But as depressing and bleak 80s East London was, to my family in the North, it was a totally different from the one we lived in. And that was great. The Market bustled with knock off clothes stalls and Winstons and Big Rons, whereas we were hit with some of the largest unemployment levels (with the mines and that), so any time that shook off the stigma of being unfortunate Northerners, a constant wherever you went in the 80s and early 90s, was much appreciated. Although there was Geordie Jeans, so take that Maggie Thatcher you crotchety old titwitch.
But for the past few years Eastenders has gone through an invigoration of sorts, with more focus being set on making sure that the headlines are pulling viewers in compared to their competitors like Coronation Street and Family Affai- we couldn’t even finish that sentence without descending into howls of laughter and vomiting. A negative invigoration. A nega-ration. But without the racist overtones.
I’ve placed the full shaft of the blame squarely on the shoulders of Bryan Kirkwood, a man who thought it was a good idea to bring aspects of his previous position as head honcho at Hollyoaks with him to Eastenders. Even though it’s a tradition that youth focused storylines don’t work. Remember Vicky Fowler’s brain mushing transatlantic accent? Or Sarah Hills and her crusade to make everyone in the Square as religious as she was (I’m discounting Sharon and Michelle’s friendship because they both looked like they’d hit the menopause well before Rolie kicked his paws).
He’s single handedly brought us the Baby Swap storyline, thrusting Kat Slater back into our lives when no one asked for it, brought in a whole new branch of the Moon family tree, again that no one wanted, brought back Mandy Salter (apparently the actors who played Sanjay and Gita weren’t available), blew up The Vic and then built it back together, added some sofas and called it a new design. And David Essex.
It’s been attention destroying madness that is almost daring you to turn it over. The madness manifested itself moreso tonight as we saw part woman, part dying hawk, Dot Cotton phoning a telephone banking service to withdraw some money, despite there being no way for her to get access to the money from the handset. Yes, Dot’s old, but surely she knows that you don’t get money from an actual phone. If anything, the fact that this was even written is insulting to older viewers.
So this list is the chances that I would enact if I was magically instated to be Executive Producer.
1. Cut superfluous characters that no one likes: Rose Branning/Cotton/Whatever, Ben, Billy & Lola Mitchell, All Moons excluding Michael, Stacy Slater 2.0 Whitney Dean, Roxy Mitchell.
There’s no point in having characters filling up precious minutes when we could be having Kim doing something fantastic like getting Janine’s name wrong, or getting a sausage roll. Tameka Epsom should be given a bigger part.
2. Stop rehashing the same storylines again and again. Does anyone want to see Max getting hot and heavy with a woman that isn’t his wife? Well some people do it seems, but I don’t. It’s boring and annoying.
The same with the Mitchells. The only aggressive thing he’s done in the past few years is the time that he attacked that cake. Telling us that Phil Mitchell is a hard man but not showing us why eventually dilutes what it means to be a Mitchell. I think it was author extraordinaire Grace Dent who said “Being a Mitchell is like being a Womble. You have to keep reminding yourself or the spells broken.”
3. Stop with the useless stories about a character coming into money only to lose it again. The residents of Albert Square have as much solvency as a chunk of brick.
4. Have Tracy the Barmaid have a fully fleshed out storyline for once. Possibly have her go on a rampage when Alfie says she can’t have the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee off. Or starting a ladies detective agency with Kim!
5. Bring back Danielle.