Friday, 19 February 2010

Stinks in 'ere, dunnit?

Prophetic words from Den Watts there, and co-incidentally the very first line of dialogue ever spoken in EastEnders, way back in in 1985. Since then, the dreary, depressing lives of countless families have trudged joylessly across our screens, making Se7en look like a particularly chipper episode of Glee.

So happy birthday to the BBC's long-running drama, which has conjured up enough misery over the last quarter of a century to push most Samaritans over the edge. It may technically be a 'soap', but everything about EastEnders is steeped in damp and grime. Try watching the omnibus edition and I guarantee that after an hour you'll be expecting Kim and Aggie to pop up with some latex gloves and a rucksack full of Toilet Duck.

All over the world, soap operas depict the drama and incident-packed lives of beautiful people with perfect teeth and hair that would stay in place even if they were fired out of a cannon. The cast of EastEnders, on the other hand, spend most of their time looking like exiles from Terminator:Salvation.

It's not their fault - the show has always made a virtue of under-achievement. When young characters reach adulthood and announce they need to move out and spread their wings, they seldom go further than a a squat on Bridge Street.

Aspirations and ambitions are for the Hollyoaks crowd - if you're an EastEnder, career goals amount to little more than taking responsibility for the service wash. Interested in marketing? Knock up a flyer for karaoke in the Queen Vic. Fancy yourself as the next MasterChef? Try throwing together a few egg sandwiches in the cafe. After all, long-running matriarch Pauline Fowler once dismissed her daughter Michelle's flatmate Rachel as being "all books and salad."

The festive season isn't any better. To most people, Christmas is a time of joy and celebration. For the residents of Albert Square it's like a yearly game of Russian roulette. This year's festive victim was Archie Mitchell, once described as "a psycho in a golf jersey", who met his maker when he was bashed over the head with a bust of Queen Victoria.

So this week's 25th anniversary edition finally unmasked Archie's killer, after several weeks of relentless advertising and the kind of PR onslaught that even Katie Price would consider overwhelming. The key selling point for tonight's show was the fact that it was filmed live on the set in Elstree studios.

Although many viewers will have tuned in hoping to see their favourite characters flub their lines or trip over the camera cables, producers clearly wanted to showcase the performers' acting chops - something they like to do every once in a while with their 'single-set' episodes. These critically acclaimed editions usually involve one or two lead characters reminsicing about the past and staring meaningfully at a chipped teapot or faded photo album for a whole episode.

Given the amount of content that EastEnders has to produce each week, it's hardly surprising that the writing sometimes suffers, or that the performances can be a little rough around the edges. Nonetheless, the production team managed to breathe some new life into the show, which is more than can be said for poor old Bradley, who took a dive off the pub roof and became yet another statistic on Britain's deadliest street.

Happy Birthday to the people of Walford. Thanks for 25 years of drama, excitement and more miserablism than Morrissey's pubescent diaries.


1 comment:

  1. I honestly think there are episodes of "The Wire" that have a more positive take on the human condition than Eastenders, and that's a big problem with the show for me. Most of the people in the show are so stupid and unpleasant, that they usually deserve whatever they get. Which is a big problem if we're supposed to sympathise with them.