It’s been an eventful few weeks in soapland of late; with the return of gobby Cilla to Coronation Street, the return of slimeball Robert Sugden to Emmerdale, the return of sinister panto-villain Nick Cotton to Walford and the return of the grumpy Dylan to Casualty but nobody can say that the soaps rely on old faces to bring in the viewers. Oh, no, there has been much, much more going on besides. Unfortunately not all of it has been good. Here’s my every-so-often roundup of what’s hot and what’s not in the world of soaps…
What I’ve LOVED…
More screentime for Gaynor Faye AKA Megan Macey (Emmerdale)
If there ever was a soap actress who was criminally underrated then it is the Dales’ Gaynor. She has proven over the last few weeks that, when given the material, she can consistently deliver some of soap’s strongest performances. Megan’s anguish in the wake of Robbie’s demise, her bitterness against Leyla upon discovering her business partner’s trysts with Jai and her viper-sharp cattiness towards Charity have all been sublime to watch. Megan is a character whose layers are only truly starting to be noticed and, the more I discover about her, the more I enjoy watching her. The tough exterior has long hidden a likeable vulnerability and I hope Gaynor and Megan both stick around for a long time to come. She’s the only one who can keep the Macey name alive!
Steve McDonald’s depression story (Coronation Street)
Could there have been a better candidate for such an important story than Steve McDonald, played by the fantastically versatile Simon Gregson? Taking a character who is often perceived as a joke and who has a tendency to mess around and be light hearted and show that they, as much as anyone else, can be susceptible to the demons of depression has been a worthwhile writing decision. The story is honest and non-sensational; it shows a man reaching his midlife crisis in a very difficult way; finally succumbing to the stress he is constantly under. It accurately captures the mistakes and misconceptions those around someone with depression can make and Simon himself is making a heartbreakingly perfect job of portraying a man at the end of his tether. While it’s sad to see Steve in this way, it’s providing incredible drama and it is important for viewers to go along on this journey with such an established character as, at some time in our lives, almost all of us will have brushes with depression in some way. Well played on this one, Corrie.
Zoe’s Return (Casualty)
The wards of Casualty have been missing a certain warmth since Zoe, aka Sunetra Sarker, danced off to take part in Strictly. So it has been brilliant to see her back recently, even if she wasn’t made to feel particularly welcome. In the wake of the tragic demise of Jeff, the team, more than ever, have needed a warm and positive leader, who has their backs and who is approachable at any time. Instead they have been lumbered with cold and officious Connie Beauchamp. If any team needed a bit of Zoe love, it was this lot and, when she breezed back in, layered with nicotine patches, to have heart to hearts with Dixie and to hear an awkward Max announce that he got some the previous night, it was like she had never been away. With an increasingly close runner up in the form of the brilliant Honehhhh, played by Chelsee Healey, Zoe remains my favourite current Casualty character. No more reality TV for you, Sarker!
Tracy Barlow (Coronation Street)
I never thought I’d find myself highlighting statue wielding killer and junk shop owner TracyLove as one of my soap highlights but in recent months, the character has truly come into her own. Maintaining her catty, selfish side but smoothing out the overly poisonous edges has given Tracy a whole new lease of life. Gone are the days where I grind my teeth with rage whenever Tracy opened her mouth; now I find her utterly hilarious. She hasn’t had a character transplant in order to achieve this; I genuinely just think the writers have finally found the middle ground with the character and are starting to write for her properly. A recent Tracy moment to highlight this point is her dismay at Peter’s life sentence turning very quickly to joy upon being told she’d been upgraded to first class on her honeymoon flights. Still gobsmackingly self centred; but suddenly Tracy is funny. Blanche would be proud!
Ronnie and Charlie’s Romance (EastEnders)
It’s unusual for EastEnders to have a genuinely nice guy and I’m sure it’s only a matter of months before writers decide to send him on a crime spree or turn him into a love rat but for now, I simply love Charlie Cotton. Anyone that can come from the sour loins of evil Nick and still be human enough to melt the coldest of stone hearts (i.e Ronnie Mitchell’s) is surely a stand up guy. Now that Ronnie is pregnant with Cotton Junior (after sampling some Cotton Candy), Charlie is doing the decent thing and standing by her which is quite rare by the normal standards of a Walford resident. More to the point, as he has spent more time with her, Charlie has grown to see Ronnie in a deeper light and watching rom coms and playing Wii games together, along with the token murder confessions and admissions that he lied about his career, sealed their bond. They really do have a nice, endearing spark between them and, while all good things must end in EastEnders, I want to enjoy this sweet coupling for a while to come.
What I’ve LOATHED…
The Community Centre saga (Corrie)
Not even Rita getting tiddly or Audrey pondering ‘hurrey fruits’ could save this debacle. Since she descended onto the cobbles with her wittering, screeching, OTT Shakespearean performances, Yasmeen has rambled on about one cause or another. It started off with her protest over the library and now she has moved on to bigger things; this insufferable community centre which has finally been completed and hopefully now can fade into obscurity and never be seen again. From her cringeworthy announcements on it’s progress to everyone in the Rovers trying to enjoy a drink to her panic attack upon seeing her books were not stacked by genre, the whole thing has been a nightmare to watch and I cannot think of a single reason why writers might have thought this drawn out plot would have been an enjoyable watch for viewers. And, after all of the endurance it took to reach opening day, the place looks like a cold and uninspiring soup kitchen inside with a bookshelf. I’m going to start playing a drinking game when I watch Corrie… every time the community centre is mentioned, I’m downing a large wine. It’s the only way I can get through any more of this dross.
Sam Dingle (Emmerdale)
I’ve never been a top target for the Sam Dingle Fan Club Mailing List but the bumbling groundskeeper has outdone himself in gormlessness and sheer infuriatingly haplessness over these past weeks. Okay, I get that he is upset about Rachel and Archie and I almost sympathise. If it happened to anyone else, then I might have even turned a blind eye to the ridiculous behaviour which followed. But Sam is the executor of his own problems and, while Lisa was making herself ill to pay off the debts he has racked up through being an utter moron, I couldn’t muster a single soft spot for his plight when he discovered Charity’s deceit. His dramatics led to yet more stress for the Dingles as Charity was left in a tomb to die, and almost did due to Sam’s decision not to let her out, and Jai was sent tumbling down some stairs and into a coma. And yet, despite the problems it caused for far more innocent parties such as Lisa, Zak and Samson, Sam was still stuck on ‘me me me’ mode and still is. Put a sock in it Sammy boy.
Alfie Moon (EastEnders)
Another pathetic, self indulgent male who is the master of his own problems, is the increasingly insufferable Alfie, who is bumbling around the Square looking like he’s been living on the streets, having torched his own house with his wife inside. Of course, the real sufferers in this are the likes of Kat, who is permanently scarred both mentally and physically, Stacey who is now homeless and forced to bunk up with rapist Dean and of course, the kids but that doesn’t stop Alfie acting like he’s worst off. As Kat tried to recover in hospital, Alfie was taking up space and leaving chaos in the home of kindly Masood, while yelling at everyone who was trying to help and getting drunk when things didn’t go his way. And, when it looked like the game was up, and Alfie would have to do the first noble thing in months, he took the alternative (aka cowardly) course of action and continued to lie, forcing his oblivious new wife into squatting in a home she believes is hers. Quite how long the brainless ape thinks he can keep this up is beyond me; but then, thinking never was Alfie’s strong point, was it?
Patronising Fiz (Corrie)
Why does Foghorn Fiz talk to Roy as if he is a five year old child? Roy has more life experience and intelligence in his pinky’s fingernail grime than Fiz does altogether so why she speaks slowly and in sing-song, baby like voice when she invites him to dinner or asks if he is all right is beyond me. It infuriates me that the character can’t seem to tell the difference between a baby or a pet hamster and a grown man grieving for the lost love of his life. Roy doesn’t need or want pandering to and Fiz should know that by now. He is an independent man who hates fuss and does not thrive on the sympathy of loudmouth airheads so I wish she would just Fiz off. On a related note, I am delighted for Jennie McAlpine as she is due to become a mother, mostly because it means we will be Fizless for a while and Roy can focus on one of his more genuine friendships, such as the beautiful one he shares with Carla.
What are your current soap highs and lows? Do you agree with mine above or am I way off the mark? Don’t curse me in your head; make your feelings known below, in our comments box which is aching for your views. Meanwhile, throw your praise and abuse at me on Twitter too, by following me here: https://twitter.com/Our_manPLA
Written By Our Man In The North