Tag Archives: Eastenders

BBC Three: Still a magic number

With today’s announcement that licence payer funded channel BBC3 is for the axe, social media is divided about whether the cost cutting move is the right one. Whilst I’m all for brand new up and coming talent being denied opportunities so that Eastenders can have more car crashes, it has to be said that BBC3 has dished up some decent (and admittedly not so decent) material in the past.

Our Man In The North is donning his nostalgia hat and taking a reflective look back at some of the shows born of BBC3. Shows as globally popular as Little Britain, Gavin and Stacey, Torchwood and Anthea Turner’s Perfect Housewife (No? Just me then…) made their humble beginnings on the channel and, whilst Snog Marry Avoid suggests otherwiseBBC3 is undeserved of its reputation as a peddler of trash TV.

ImageFor every Don’t Tell The Bride (which incidentally gave me some GREAT ideas for my own wedding. Dressing the sisters in law as goblins was inspired) there was a fantastic documentary such as Tough Young Teachers, Tourettes: I Swear I can Sing, Young Soldiers and Growing Up With Downs. Far from being the inane programming BBC3 was famed for, the documentaries that were hidden amongst the schedules could be deep, moving, thought provoking and groundbreaking and, whilst a scroll down their documentary history presents other titles such as Eastenders Sweethearts: The Story of Sonia and Martin, Britain’s Worst Teeth and Table Dancing Diaries (in which paperback journals give some very erotic lap dances, I assume), there have been some true gems.   Continue reading

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EastEnders: Proper East End men

johnny mick eastendersProper East End men are tough, ’ard men. They demand respect and a little bit of fear and nothing is as important to them as faaamily.

Phil Mitchell is the prime example of this. He’s a small, dense bundle of bitterness and grievance to whom being “a Mitchell” is the most important thing in the world. The “world” being an area within a half mile radius of the Queen Vic.

Danny Dyer’s Mick Carter – new landlord of the Vic, patriarch of a family that came ready-made with at least six visible members and more in the offing – seemed like Phil Mitchell Mark 2. Faaamily matters to Mick (they stick together, they look after their own etc etc). He has the stance of a boxer and under the veneer of cheeky-chappie Alfie Moon-like charm there’s a glittering seam of thuggery.

More or less from the outset we knew Mick’s son Johnny (Sam Strike) is gay, not least because he’s already enjoyed the pleasures of the lovely Danny Pennant. Johnny was at great pains to hide this from his faaamily, because he didn’t think it would go well if they knew. His mother is the oddly clingy Linda, a woman who reminds me to a disturbing extent of Norma in Bates Motel. And his father is Mick. “You know what Dad’s like,” Johnny told his sister Nancy. “He’d kill me.”

The scene was thus set either for Johnny to carry on pretending he fancied Whitney while making excuses not to go over to her house when they “would have the house to ourselves.” Or for a showdown with Mick, who would doubtless rant that “no son of his” etc etc.

What actually happened was touching and joyful – which is not a word I would normally associate with EastEnders. Even if you don’t usually watch EastEnders, watch the scene on iPlayer, from about 23 minutes in. Mick Carter’s reaction was a million miles from how Phil Mitchell reacted to his own son being gay (a fact which was neatly referred to by Shirley), and it proved that Proper East End men can be emotional and cry and be proud of their children for being honest about who they are.

The writer, Daran Little, said on Twitter the day before that “it’s the only thing I’ve ever written that’s had me in tears,” and you only have to see it to understand why.

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EastEnders: Wedding’s off

Both EastEnders and Coronation Street chose weddings as the focal points of their Christmas episodes. Leanne and Nick were due to tie the knot in Weatherfield, while further south it was Max and Tanya who were looking forward to a trip to the altar. There were some similarities. Both sets of happy couples had been married before – to each other, as well. Leanne and Nick were married when both of them were so young and foolish that he was played by a different actor. Max and Tanya were married for so long they managed to spawn three children, Frowning Abbie, Invisible Oscar and Dot Dot Dot Lauren (whenever anyone speaks to her they use the formulation, “That jumper looks nice… Lauren,” “Happy Christmas… Lauren,” “Are you pissed… Lauren?”).

max tanya eastendersOn EastEnders the wedding was initially off because Lauren had ripped Tanya’s lovely wedding dress in half, destroyed the wedding cake and puked on the carpet (“Pissed again… Lauren”). But Max is a lovely old romantic soul – which must explain why he’s so attractive to the ladies despite looking like a ginger gorilla’s testicle – and he gave Tanya a new wedding dress for Christmas and arranged for some mysterious official to show up so they could get married under the Arthur Fowler Memorial Christmas Tree in the bitter cold of Albert Square. Tanya was obviously thrilled, but less thrilled when a woman turned up and introduced herself as Max’s wife. Yep – Max’s wife.

It wasn’t really Max’s fault that he was already married, he explained. It was partly Tanya’s fault for kicking him out a while back (you remember how self-absorbed she got when she had cancer, the selfish mare) and partly Dastardly Derek’s fault for not sorting Wife 1 out with threats, cash and divorce papers like he’d promised he would.

The upshot was that the wedding was off, everyone hated Derek (including Kat, who was seriously regretting picking Derek as her Secret Lover when he immediately morphed from the last of the red hot lovers to Mr Clingy). This all ended in Derek collapsing and dying of an ‘eart attack in the Square, watched by his loving brothers, his devoted son and his official girlfriend, all of whom hated him.

At least it’s given Moping Alice something to really get her teeth into, acting-wise. Having spent months with a face set to “crestfallen,” we now discover she can do grief and snot-crying like an absolute pro.

Posted by PLA

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EastEnders: Farewell, Fat Pat

The demise of the beloved Fat Pat was both swift and agonisingly slow. Swift because, although she’d had a few dodgy moments with the old ticker, it wasn’t until a doctor officially told her she officially had cancer that she started to go downhill fast. So fast, in fact, that I’m entirely put off doctors. They can apparently kill you just by telling you you’re not well. Pat went from her usual lumbering round the Square under the weight of enormous earrings and the cares of the world, to slumping over the kitchen sink sporting the finest blue rings around her eyes a makeup artist has achieved since Night of the Living Dead.

Yet her actual death seemed to take forever. It was the longest hour of my life. The scriptwriters had apparently decided that Pam St Clement was due at least an Oscar, if not an All About Soap Bubble Award, for her moving and gritty portrayal of a woman expiring from The Big C (which, in Bianca’s interpretation, seemed to stand for Complications. Anyone enquiring about Pat’s health would be informed by Bianca that it was “’Er ‘eart. And… Complications”).

Pat refused to take her death lying down, and insisted on getting up to put the kettle on. “Pat!” everyone admonished her. “You should be resting!” Pat didn’t want to rest. Pat wanted a nice cuppa, or preferably gin. You can’t blame her, really.

The entire neighbourhood called by, ostensibly to pay their respects, but mainly to work out their own personal issues via the medium of Literally Staring Death In The Face. Tanya obviously found it an upsetting experience, both because Pat is one of the few people in Walford with a worse reputation than she has and because she, too, is suffering from The Big C. Derek Branning called in to be even more horrible than usual, and Dot had some kind words and a Bible so Pat wouldn’t go to the hereafter unprepared. Janine, still filled with the spirit of Christmas, popped round to repossess Pat’s house, but even she was forced to reveal her softer side when Pat told her she was the only daughter she’d ever known (erm, what about Diane, proudly displayed in a photo frame adjacent to Pat’s bedside?). Ian popped in for a blub, and Bianca spent a lot of the episode looming around the door frame looking like she had even more Complications than Pat.

And everyone was uttering the D word. Not death – not in front of the kids – but David, as in Wicks, as in the son of Pat, the father of Bianca, and the actor known as Michael French who plays Nick Jordan in Casualty. Every knock on the door, every approaching car, every close up of a shoe – surely this must be him? Nope, it’s Michael Moon. That one’s Ricky. Oh, it’s Ian back again. But finally – the Wicks who was never known as Wicksy (that was Our Simon) turned up. He was introduced to his grandchildren, but poor Whitney was left to introduce herself – presumably no-one could quite work out how to explain her. After a heart to heart with his dear old mum he decided he couldn’t ‘andle it and it took quite a tussle in the rain from Carol to get him to come back indoors, so Pat could die in his arms.

And she even had her own theme tune at the end.

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EastEnders: Magnificent Michael Moon

This Life star Steve John Shepherd joins EastEnders as Alfie Moon’s cheeky cousin,” said the Daily Mail back in July last year. “Even cheekier than Alfie,” they promised, excitedly (and completely wrongly, as it turned out). But further down the page, Shepherd was quoted as saying, “He has hidden depths, which will be exciting to explore.”

And, oh boy, the depths are properly unhidden now. To be honest, I really disliked the character of Michael Moon when he first appeared. He was a slimeball who seemed to be only around for the purposes of upsetting Kat and Alfie, the World’s Most Loveable Couple Ever.

Then he starting sniffing round Ronnie Branning. And, indeed, sniffing Ronnie Branning’s underwear. He seemed attracted to Ronnie by her air of tragedy. Here was a tortured soul who was not averse to a spot of torturing himself, as demonstrated when he set things up to look like Ronnie was once again trying to steal Kat’s baby.

The very depths of Michael Moon’s hidden depths didn’t begin to be revealed until his father Eddie (David Essex) turned up in the Square. Continue reading

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Eastenders: Pat’s All Folks!

WARNING: this article contains SPOILERS

Sad news for Eastenders fans with the announcement that Pam St Clement is quitting her role as Fat Pat Butcher/Evans/whatever else, leaving a void huge in more ways than one.

While many regularly slapped cheeks on the Square may relax with the departure of part two of the ‘you bitch, you caaaahh!’ double act, it’s undoubtedly a big blow for a show which is going through an arguably rocky period.

Pat is a constant in Eastenders; one of those characters which it’s difficult to imagine the show without. They say that no character is bigger than the show, but Pat comes pretty damn close (and that is not a fat joke I’ll have you know!)

The character that takes in every waif and stray, dishes out advice to those in need and harsh words to those in the wrong. Think of a storyline or a family and Pat will have played a part somewhere.

And she’s had her own set of adventures along the way. Knocking down and killing innocent pedestrians ( a Butcher family trait which Frank and Janine kept strong. Ricky’s turn for a roadkill next!), having torrid affairs with her on/off husband, driving around in an ice cream van partially intoxicated, witnessing her husband drop dead of a heart attack and (worst of all) cornering Patrick Trueman in the car lot wearing nothing more than a fur coat are just a  few of her adventures. Pat will be missed, there is no doubt about it.

Certainly, the show will survive without her but I feel that her departure will signal a big transition period for the show where it’s firmly placed roots will begin to disappear. I am sure that it won’t be long until June Brown leaves as Dot either.

For me, Pat was Eastenders;  moreso than other so-called legends such as the preachy and irritating Dot, the pantomime Peggy and the permanently miserable Pauline. I just hope that she gets a truly fitting exit. Walking away after the pub blowing up or dropping dead suddenly in the snow just simply won’t be enough for our Pat.

For a special character deserves a special send off.

Posted By Our Man In The North

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Lustbox: David Essex

I’m making a bit of a habit of lustboxing about older men who were formerly young, pretty men and who are now in soaps. I’ve blogged about Coronation Street’s Anthony Valentine, Linus Roache (not so old, bless him) and Andrew Hall previously.

EastEnders has just gone and trumped the lot of them. David Essex! Cue girly scream and fond remembrance of teenage poster of him in a lovely cream suit which only made his teeth look whiter and his eyes look bluer. And he’s looking absolutely gorgeous. I’d remembered his twinkly eyes and lovely smile, obviously, but what I’d forgotten was his very sexy speaking voice. It’s kind of lazy and gentle, and it makes me come over quite peculiar.

He joins the Moon dynasty (doesn’t that sound exotic?) of Alfie, Michael, Kat and baby Tommy, and is poised to bring some new Moons along with him, so hopefully he’s set to stay in Albert Square for a good long time.

Now please excuse me while I go and fan myself with an old copy of Jackie magazine.

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The British Soap Awards: Coronation Street sweeps the boards

THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS SPOILERS. THE BRITISH SOAP AWARDS AREN’T SHOWN UNTIL WEDNESDAY. IF YOU DON’T WANT TO KNOW THE RESULTS, DON’T READ THIS ARTICLE!

It’s the night that recognises those shows which have been a constant on our screens for up to half a century; a chance for the casts of the soaps to mingle and show that there really is no rivalry (unless their name is Danny Miller, of course!), an opportunity to relive all of those precious and heartwarming moments we’ve seen with our families such as swapping dead babies, seeing a tram slaughter half a community or a fire subtly wipe out two long running residents and also a time for the teenage fans of Hollyoaks and EastEnders to set up multiple accounts in order to ensure the fittest star of their chosen show gets the recognition their pecs deserve.

A total of 17 gongs were handed out to celebrate the over-the-top carnage tearing apart fictional communities and it was a successful night for both EastEnders and Coronation Street in particular. Hollyoaks also fared well thanks to the one man saviour that is Emmet J Scanlan and Emmerdale didn’t go away empty handed either after a mostly gripping year. Even the cast of Doctors, bless them, turned up for a night out and to fill the extra seats that the caretaker on work experience accidentally left out.

So where did the prizes go? The night arguably belonged to Coronation Street which took away an impressive 9 prizes for its dramatic fiftieth year. But, despite taking away over half of the available prizes, Coronation Street was beaten to the main gong by BBC flagship soap, EastEnders, which was crowned Best Soap.      Continue reading

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EastEnders: The war of the Beales

*Contains spoilers* He’s a little weasel, that Ian Beale, isn’t he? “Snivelling” is practically his middle name. Whether he’s sneaking off for sordid little assignations with Ronnie and Roxie’s mother or parading a prostitute around to try and pretend he’s got himself a high-quality girlfriend, he really is a pathetic specimen.

And yet… I can’t dislike him. Maybe it’s because sometimes you get a glimpse that he really does have a good heart – he genuinely loves Jane, and he thought he was doing the right thing and supporting Lucy over her abortion, and he did his best to protect Ben from the thuggery of Phil Mitchell. Sometimes he’s really sweet. And sometimes he’s cynical and snappy and conniving, and I quite like that, as well (in a fictional character, you understand). Even his attempt to divide the house down the middle was a bit limp, featuring as it did just a strip of masking tape down the middle of the dining table. Has he not seen Steptoe and Son?

I like Jane, too. What’s not to like about Jane? She’s genuine, kind, loving, a loyal friend. In a neighbourhood packed full of murderers, thugs, philanderers, the deluded and Janine, Jane is about the nearest thing Walford has to a normal person.

The Beales have been a family at war ever since I resumed watching the show at the start of 2010. They have more ups and downs than the lift at Walford East tube station (or is it an escalator? Have we ever seen it?). Currently it’s all looking a bit terminal, what with Jane picking men up in the pub, Ian picking women up from an agency (how sad, when Heather is available, too).

This week, in an attempt to escape the depressing reality of her disintegrating marriage, Jane tells Masood that they should run away together. Of course this isn’t possible, as no-one would get their post if Masood wasn’t there, and anyway, he loves Zainab, for reasons best known to himself. Despite being all shouty and intolerant and that, Zainab is a bit of a man-magnet, and as well as Masood she also has Slimy Dr Yusuf after her (he is after her, isn’t he? Or is he just after splitting the Masoods up because he’s slimy?). When Yusuf spots Jane and Masood having a cosy, yet regretful, cuddle, it’s just ammunition for more marriage meddling.

Posted by PLA          (more EastEnders here)

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Elstree – home of the medical drama

Neptune House

Living as I do very close to the BBC Elstree studios (it’s not uncommon to see scenes from EastEnders being filmed in my area and I often recognise local landmarks when EastEnders and Holby City venture away from their home patch), and being a huge Holby and EE fan, I was pleased to find a really interesting article about the studios on the ATV Today website. 50 years old this year, the current home of EastEnders and Holby City, among other shows, has a really interesting history, and a lot of it relates to medical drama.

Emergency Ward 10

ITV’s first hospital-based serial drama, Emergency Ward 10, launched in 1957 and moved to the then ATV Elstree studio in 1961. Running until 1967, the action was more romantic than medical, and the star, Richard Thorp, was a huge heart-throb. You might find this a bit hard to believe as you’d probably know him now as Alan Turner in Emmerdale (he’s on the right of the picture)!      Continue reading

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