4th November 2006
Criminals in soap have to be the luckiest in the
world. Hardly any of them ever get caught, and the
ones who do are in prisons that bear more resemblance
to five star hotels.
The incompetence of the police is the main reason
for the lack of arrests. EastEnders’ Phil Mitchell
continues to roam the streets, despite his criminal
activities; likewise, Emmerdale’s Steph, who on
Wednesday has a shock when, in court, Adam accuses her
of killing Shelly. Bet she doesn’t go down for it.
Also in Emmerdale, Eric Pollard has never been
questioned over the possibility that he killed his
wife. Kim Tate, who let her husband die before her
eyes, escaped in a helicopter, and the Dingles are
perceived as lovable rogues rather than law-breakers
and pull the wool over the coppers’ eyes almost every
If it is not the incompetence of the police
blocking the path of justice, it is the high mortality
rate before criminals even get to trial. Home and
Away’s Zoe was burned to death in the wedding fire
that she caused; even Peter, the copper who tracked
her down, later died. And in Emmerdale this month,
Alan hears that Adam has hanged himself while awaiting
The only good news in this farce is that Coronation
Street’s Jim McDonald is still behind bars and looks
set to stay there, alive and suffering.
21st October 2006
Dying is an art, as Sylvia Plath wrote. You’re telling
me. Can the soaps come up with any more ways to bump
off their characters? Coronation Street’s Fred
collapsed in Audrey’s hallway, eyes wide like a bull
going to the slaughter. This week, on Home and Away,
Peter’s life support was switched off following the
explosion at Martha and Jack’s wedding, and then
Rachel’s mother went. She survived the barn explosion,
only to arrest while sitting comfortably at the
hospital. Now it looks as if there might be even more
casualties when it was revealed, on Friday, that the
helicopter carrying the burns victims had crashed.
Over on EastEnders, Johnny Allen has just popped his
clogs in prison.
Why don’t we see more florists and undertakers,
given the high death toll? With the exception of
Archie Shuttleworth in Coronation Street, the death
industry is all but . . . well, dead. And their
services are going to be in even greater demand in the
coming months. Pauline is going at Christmas in
EastEnders, and there is a shock murder in Hollyoaks
that sees the end of one long-standing character.
Rumour has it that Coronation Street’s Tracy will also
turn her evil hand to murder when she discovers that
Charlie has been sleeping with Maria. So, come on, all
you carpenters, embalmers and florists: there are jobs
waiting to be done.
14th October 2006
Will anyone ever be happy? Not if this week’s
Coronation Street was anything to go by. No sooner was
Bev talking about “beinappy”, and Fred claiming that
he and she were going to have “manyappyearstergether”
than he popped his clogs before the wedding. Blanche
had predicted doom and gloom from the start, having
heard something on the radio claiming that happiness
was a form of mental retardation.
There wasn’t much happiness on EastEnders, either,
where Patrick lost his old friend Cedric, and Minty
was in tears after discovering that SJ had been
playing him for a mug all along.
Over on Home and Away, Peter found himself staring
down the gun of a barrel when he finally came face to
face with Zoe; and in Hollyoaks, the Barnes’ family
were distraught as they faced the future as a broken
home. Over on Neighbours, Sky discovered that her
foetus is under 12 weeks old and therefore cannot be
Happy days indeed! Perhaps what each of the soaps
needs is a laughter clinic, even though EastEnders
might have to introduce a plastic surgeon to bring a
smile to the faces of some residents - what’s it going
to take, Pauline? A face lift, brow lift and two
broken jaws? Thank goodness they’ve ordered more wood
in time for Christmas. At least the final nail in
Pauline’s coffin will raise a few smiles.
7th October 2006
Maybe I’ve been lucky in life, or maybe I’m just
naïve, but it seems to me that most people tell the
truth about most things, most of the time. In soap,
however, lying is the backbone of the drama, as is
being found out.
Everyone seems to be at it at the moment. SJ
continues to lie to Minty over her relationship with
Sid (although there is evidence that she is beginning
to feel guilty about it), and Jane’s lies are about to
catch her out now that Phil has spilled the beans to
Ian over her affair with Grant.
Home and Away’s Charlie, who lied to the hospital
Board in an effort to discredit Rachel before bumping
her off, had his comeuppance this week when he was
finally whisked off by the police, and Debbie’s
incessant lying in Emmerdale has resulted in the loss
of her friendship with Jasmine.
By far the most fascinating liar, however, is
Coronation Street’s David. Not content to pushing his
mother to the brink with his poison pen letters, now
it tuuns out that he has lied about being bullied at
school. He claims he just doesn’t want to go, but it
is clear there is something more complex going on and
that the boy is something considerably more than a
fantasist or troublemaker. Another Richard Hillman in
the making is closer to the truth.
23rd September 2006
Choosing who is going to be the new landlord or
landlady of the local pub is one of the biggest
decisions is soap. Do you go for familiar characters
with whom viewers readily identify, or do you bring in
new blood and, with any luck, a new audience to the
Coronation Street’s Rovers is about to change hands
yet again, now that Steve is buying it and putting his
mother in charge. From where he got the money, given
that his cab firm has roughly two fares a week, is
anybody’s guess, but it’s a smart move on the part of
the show. The place hasn’t been the same since Natalie
Barnes left, and even though the pub gave her a severe
bout of Folding Arms Syndrome, she brought some much
needed life to it.
I’m not entirely sure who owns EastEnders’ Queen
Vic, as everyone seems to own some bizarre percentage
of every business in the Square. I think that Peggy
must be the landlady, although Phil might own a bit,
Grant might own a bit, and, who knows, one of those
extras who never gets to order a second drink and
survives on one glass a night.
Two things hold true in every drinking
establishment: first, there are always more people
behind the bar at any one time than there are
drinkers. And second: not one of them ever gets paid.
16th September 2006
Pregnancy is never a straightforward affair in
soapland. First there is the depression at the
surprise of the conception (virtually nobody knows
about contraception); then there is the issue of
“Shall I have a termination?” If the answer to the
latter is yes, there are repercussions not only for
the would-be mother, but the various men who are
invariably lined up claiming paternity. If the woman
chooses not to have a termination, you can guarantee
that either the birth will be a traumatic event, or
that the post-natal experience will involve great
suffering for mother and/or baby until the child
reaches 18, or until he/she is mown down by one of the
ubiquitous dangerous drivers on the road.
In recent weeks, EastEnders’ Honey’s joy at getting
married and giving birth was shortlived when she
discovered that her baby has Down’s Syndrome; and
Coronation Street’s Claire is suffering from such
severe post-natal depression, she shoved her baby in
front of a car (you see what I mean about those
drivers?). In her case, however, the psychiatric ward
needs to a do a thorough assessment: being married to
Ashley probably pushed her further down the path to
depression than any baby ever could.
The Australians, for the most part, enjoy happier –
and, most significantly, better planned - births than
their British counterparts. They have a lot to teach
us about the birds and the bees.
9th September 2006
Holidays are hard. You try to keep up with the soaps
when you are away, because you know that if you don’t,
you will return to find a whole new cast of characters
about whom you know nothing. They will be talking
about the latest births/marriages/deaths/sexual
conquests, and you won’t give a fig because you have
no idea who anyone is.
Much as I tried to keep up during the past two
weeks, however (it is difficult trying to connect with
Albert Square with the Mediterranean on your
door-step), I can tell I have missed out on some major
things. First, I now recognise only about three people
in Hollyoaks. There is nothing new in that: I
invariably go to sleep for just 24 hours and wake to
find a whole new cast employed by Mersey TV, whose
endless search for Blonde of Britain is the longest
process in showbiz.
There is a new psycho (as if there were not enough
already) by the name of Charlie in Home and Away, and
I have no idea how he got there. Dan has also gone a
bit weird after having had something done to his brain
(last I heard, they were still searching for it), and
Lucas has had a personality transplant.
Thank goodness, among all this mayhem, for the
things that never change: Adam’s hairdo in Coronation
Street – somebody shoot it, please; and EastEnders –
19th August 2006
Everyone needs family support in times of crisis, and when Coronation Street’s Gail told Sarah that she would “be there to pick up the pieces when it all goes wrong”, little did she know how quickly that would be. But sure enough, when Jason did a runner from his marriage, Gail did not go down the “I told you so” route, but supported her daughter in her time of need.
EastEnders’ Mitchells have always been big on “the fairm-ly” and have had to support each other through death, illness, prison, adultery, and many Christmases really too horrible to mention.
It is a thin line between support and claustrophobic controlling, as we have seen with Pauline’s treatment of Martin, also in EastEnders. How that woman has not had a machete through her skull is anybody’s guess, and her son and husband’s decision to continue to live under the same roof makes them certifiably insane.
The Dingles form a united bond in Emmerdale, unlike the Kings, who fall in and out on an absurdly regular basis. As for Hollyoaks, I can’t really be sure who is speaking to whom, because everyone looks the same - although thank heavens, in this, for the new black Valentine family, who are trying to be strong for each other following the death of the children’s mother. Some families, of course, we are just all better off without. Just one word. Ferreiras.
12th August 2006
British children fare less well than their Australian
counterparts when it comes to being entertained.
Emmerdale’s Belle was dispatched to Marlon’s when
Alice was ill and explained that nobody ever played
games with her at the Dingles’. Marlon quickly
produced Twister. Make the most of it, Belle: that’s
your lot until at least Christmas Day.
Over at the Elliotts’ in Coronation Street, Claire
is so busy cooking and cleaning, she has all but
forgotten that she has just given birth. The only
stimulation the baby gets is when Fred’s foghorn voice
arrives at the scene.
In EastEnders, new arrivals Abby and Lauren have to
spend their leisure hours with the Brannings, where
this week they got to make cakes. Whoopee!
By contrast, Amanda’s son Ryan in Home and Away has
to be the luckiest boy on the planet. He gets to be
kidnapped, then whisked off to a runway for a quick
(but failed) getaway with his mother, and his father
Dan is forever turning up to take him off on some new
adventure – when he’s not entertaining the second
luckiest boy on the planet, TJ.
The lack of activities for young people in Britain
is doubtless why there are so many teenage
pregnancies. Maybe if they had all played a bit more
Twister when they were young, they wouldn’t get
themselves into such tangles with their love lives
when they grow up.
5th August 2006
The death of Alice this week on Emmerdale was possibly
one of the most devastating soap farewells of all
time. The long, drawn out nature of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
has been desperately painful to watch, and whatever
one thought of the chicken-loving character, Ursula
Holden-Gill has played out her final weeks with
Most characters on the way to meet their maker do
not die of illness – the cars on the road generally
get them long before any disease gets a chance to set
in (or, in the case of Emmerdale, cars, buses,
buildings, storms, plane crashes etc. etc.). At the
moment, though, the long road to the grave is de
rigeur. Coronation Street’s Mike Baldwin recently lost
his life to Alzheimer’s after months of confusion and
memory loss that, at first, appeared to be just mild
When Home and Away’s Flynn discovered he had liver
cancer, it was the start of a storyline that
threatened even to outlive Tasha’s time wandering
naked through the woods. When it was finally time for
him to go, he decided to leave a video, thereby
ensuring his everlasting life. Unlike Emmerdale’s
Alice, who could not even hold her baby at the end,
Flynn even managed to raise himself from his deathbed
to have one last dance with wife Sally.
Let’s hope that’s enough terminal illness for the
moment. I can’t afford any more Kleenex.
29th July 2006
There are two kinds of lovers: those who opt for
nothing less than Plan A, and those who, in the
absence of anything better, settle for Plan B.
Coronation Street’s Tyrone recognised that he was
Maria’s Plan B this week, when, having broken up with
Chris, she decided that Tyrone was the love of her
life and “the only man who ever made me happy.” When
you have to rely on the likes of Tyrone for your
happiness, you know you’re really in trouble. Wisely,
Tyrone was having none of it and decided to stay with
current squeeze, Molly, because he is “a different
person” with her (that can only be good news, in his
Danny also decided that putting up with Plan B
(Leanne), when there was a possibility of reverting to
Plan A (Frankie) was no longer good enough. “I can
cope with second place,” said Leanne, meaning second
after Danny himself. “But can you cope with third?” he
rather cruelly responded.
In EastEnders, Jane has settled for Plan B and Ian,
when she could have run off with Grant, the A Plus
Plan. And I don’t know what plan Denise is on with her
to-ing and fro-ing between Kevin and Owen, not least
because I don’t even know what planet she’s on.
Personally, in most cases, I’d opt for the GOOMS
Plan: Get Out Of My Sight.
22nd July 2006
Why are soap lawyers so incompetent? Miscarriages of justice rate way above the national average, and at times it seems as if there are more people in jail than on the streets. The latest victim is Home and Away’s Alf, behind bars for corruption – framed by Mayor Josh West, who was yesterday shot dead (at least Alf can’t be accused of that). Until this point, Alf’s greatest crime had been his collection of ill-fitting checked shirts, but the judge was having none of it. Morag, who is possibly soap’s most vociferous yet hopeless lawyer failed to impress with a monologue about Alf being a fine, upright citizen, and that was that.
The most famous miscarriage of justice in soap history was that of Coronation Street’s Deirdre, also framed for fraud by a tie salesman posing as a pilot, with whom she had been enjoying a relationship. Again, her fine track record counted for nothing when it came to the judge’s summing up.
Emmerdale’s Charity was found guilty of murdering husband Chris, when in fact he had framed her from beyond the grave. And Steph got away first with trying to murder her father and then actually murdering Shelly.
Where are all these lawyers training? Even when a mildly competent one turns up, such as Coronation Street’s Maya, they quickly turn into nutcases - as she did, burning down all Dev’s shops to avenge him for rejecting her. The law has never been more of an ass.
15th July 2006
Why does nobody own a dishwasher? Despite there being
two or more wage earners in some households, people
still spend an inordinate amount of time in front of
the kitchen sink, washing and drying dishes.
Coronation Street’s Ashley and Claire had a pile of
them on Monday, despite the fact that she looked about
to pop the baby before the suds went down (a bit of a
change from the early days, when Ashley would not so
much as let her lift a feather). Throughout the
process, Claire wittered on about whether Ashley
wanted to attend her ante-natal classes; he banged on
about the only subject he has in his repertoire –
Joshua: the name that has people running for cover,
owing to the torrential spittle that invariably
accompanies its utterance by Ashley.
Over on EastEnders, Sonia and Gus used the
washing/drying process to become closer and, after Gus
apologising for moving in for a kiss, Sonia went for
it big time. It was both to thank him for being good
for her and to comfort him, as he had just cut his
It was a week for kitchen sink drama. In Home and
Away, Tasha was washing the dishes and got her hand
stuck while trying to retrieve her bracelet. Robbie
came to the rescue and, from under the sink, WAS
HAVING TO SHOUT EVEN MORE LOUDLY THAN USUAL. Tasha
finally pulled herself free, but knocked out Robbie in
the process. His response? He proposed. That must have
been some bump.
8th July 2006
Who has the worst time in soap marriage? Husbands or
wives? In EastEnders and Coronation Street, the women
do all the cooking, ironing and cleaning, and (for the
most part) the men all the bonking. In Emmerdale the
men have no time for work because they are too busy
sleeping around, and the women no time for cleaning
because they are always sozzled. In Hollyoaks no one
stays married long enough for us to be able to judge
with any certainty. And in the Aussie soaps, there are
so many accidents, kidnappings and illnesses that no
one is ever around their spouse long enough to
recognise them, let alone be able to judge how good or
bad the marriage is.
Who would be EastEnders’ Pauline Fowler, for
example? Destined to spend her life in that
launderette, she has been confined to that shabby
overall bearing the same daffodil roughly since St
David’s Day 1998. When she gets home, she has to cook
Martin’s tea and, worse, listen to him. Now she has
acquired a husband who has turned out to be an ex-con.
Who would be Peggy Mitchell either, spending one
half of her life working behind the bar, and the next
drinking endless cups of tea in that tiny kitchen
Soap women undoubtedly have it worse than the men,
who, on the whole, are a lazy, ungrateful bunch. Only
the women up at Emmerdale’s Home Farm have anything
close to a decent life. Personally, I put it down to
those little light breakfast wines they drink.
1st July 2006
There are very few children, especially sons, enjoying
happy relationships with their fathers these days.
Coronation Street’s Sean thought he had found his,
only for Brian to tell him, on Father’s Day, that he
was not his natural dad. Now he has to start his
search all over again.
Also in the Street, Joshua is unable to enjoy a
relationship with his natural father, Matt, because
Ashley refuses to let him see him. All that looks
about to change now that the courts have become
The arrival of Max Branning in EastEnders this week
caused immense stress for his father Jim, and equally
as much for his own son, Bradley. And despite an
impasse between Phil and Ben, the latter still looks
more terrified of his Mitchell dad than if the Loch
Ness monster had landed on his doorstep and swallowed
Ian, too, brought disgrace on himself, preferring
to pursue his rise up the social ladder rather than
attend the school’s parents’ evening.
It’s not all bad news for dads, though. Home and
Away’s Graham may have been brain dead until someone
switched off his life support this week, but at least
he managed to spend some quality time with daughter
Beth, after years of being out of her life. As she
clung sobbing to him, telling him how much she loved
him, all was forgiven.
But why are there so few decent fathers in soap?
The usual reason given? It’s their mothers who are to
24th June 2006
Why does nobody discipline young people anymore? The
week before last, Emmerdale’s Belle gave a mouthful to
Edna, and the latter was forced to endure something
that was nothing less than bullying.
Belle was at it again this week and told Shadrach
to “Shut your cakehole.” Much as I echo the sentiment,
even I would hold back in the name of good manners. At
least when Jack had a couple of wayward sons, we
learned something about respect and decency; but now,
kids treat their parents like dirt, and nobody seems
to bat an eyelid.
In EastEnders, Courtney treated both her father and
her grandmother with utter contempt; if Grant did not
abandon her at the airline check-in, or, even better,
among the lost baggage when they left, I will be never
fly BA again.
Coronation Street, however, continues to hold the
moral high ground. From the cradle to the grave,
parents treat their children as if they have only just
popped out of the womb and order them around with
Draconian sternness. In some cases, this leads to both
parents and children learning a great deal – as did
Sally and Rosie; in others, characters take two steps
forward in order to take three back. One can only
despair for poor Gail with David, as she continues to
see the best in her son and makes excuses for his
behaviour - refusing to believe, as the rest of us
must surely know by now, that he is the Devil
17th June 2006
One of the biggest differences between British and
Australian soaps is the way characters meet their
respective ends. If you live in Albert Square, you are
likely to die in a road accident (despite the fact
that no ever drives more than 10 mph). Likewise, in
Emmerdale, where vehicles still manage to crash even
in the absence of any other vehicles on the road (and
heaven help you, should there be an inconveniece like
a bus-stop on your route.
EastEnders has had its fair share of road
accidents, too, but these days you are more likely to
be shot in the middle of the wood. Given the rate at
which the corpses have been piling up under every
spare bit of turf, the moles will be calling a council
meeting to discuss their increasing lack of housing.
The Australians endure a greater number of natural
disasters (a bit of snow from a machine at Christmas
is as tough as it gets for the EastEnders). Rivers,
the bush, hurricances – all conspire to wreak regular
havoc on the residents of Summer Bay in Home and Away.
And how cruel, that Flynn, who has treated everyone
through their injuries, should this week have
succumbed to liver cancer.
Such diseases, together with mental illness, are
also more prevalent in Australia, but the sun and sea
bring a feelgood factor to the shows. However, Flynn –
you’re better off where you’ve gone than where you
were. Trust me. If the cancer hadn’t got you, the
workload would have.
10th June 2006
Is there a job lot of “potential unconvincing coppers” on every agent’s books? A group of actors who can’t get full-time jobs on a soap, but are okay for ringing on doorbells or looking good in beige macs?
They turn up all the time, yet we never see them in anything else, and my goodness, do they give it their all when they get a chance - presumably just in the hope that they will be spotted and moved on to higher things (which they never are).
There are quite a few of them about at the moment. Two turned up to arrest Hollyoaks’ Becca this week and could not have given her a harder time had they suspected her of being Jack the Ripper. Over on Coronation Street, another couple of heavies arrived to arrest Steve on charges of causing death by dangerous driving and leaving the scene of an accident. Norris, as always, was quick to spot the arrival of the cop car. “You must be relieved,” he said to Gail, “ . . . that they’re not stopping at yours for once.”
The mystery is how, despite the heavy cop force in soap, that very few of them ever manage to get anything right (or is that just a reflection of real life?). At least half of Emmerdale should be banged up permanently for the various crimes committed, but no, they continue to wander freely on what increasingly feels like one big funny farm. Small wonder the cops are too frightened to make any arrests.
3rd June 2006
There has been a lot of talk about the nature of responsibility in relationships this week. In Hollyoaks, the affair between teacher Becca and pupil Justin became public, when Becca told husband Jake about it. In Home and Away, Dr Rachel Armstrong, who is treating Kim, said that she could no longer be his doctor, after confessing to Leah that she has feelings for her 19 year old patient. He has feelings for her, too, but was warned off by his dad, who expressed the importance of boundaries in professional relationships.
It’s never stopped anyone before. Coronation Street’s Dev has knocked up so many of his shop assistants, he can’t even remember how many children he has (a bit like his memory for his shops, too). Kevin Webster had an affair with Natalie Barnes when she was his boss at the garage; and his then estranged wife, Sally, also had an affair with her boss at his garage offices (why is the smell of oil such an aphrodisiac?). Emmerdale’s Charity Dingle made a career out of sleeping with her bosses.
Abusing one’s position in soap is, as in life, extremely common; sex can be as much about power as lust. The person with the power enjoys their apparent position of superiority and is flattered by the admiration he or she is getting; the minion enjoys having someone to look up to. Inside every man and woman is a John Prescott just bursting to get out. And that’s a feat and a half.
8th April 2006
There are lots of things that mothers do to protect
their kids, but sleeping with any potential boyfriends
their daughters might have is pushing things a bit
far. But that’s what Hollyoaks’ Kathy did this week,
in an attempt to stop daughter Sarah seeing Rhys. She
is determined that Sarah is going to be a swimming
champion and does not want the distraction of boys
interrupting her progress. It doesn’t seem to bother
her that she has probably destroyed Rhys in the
process, after telling him that the sex was no good
(it still beats swimming, though).
Boys are invariably seen as the main evil that
girls are going to encounter and the most likely thing
to bring about their under-achievement. Coronation
Street’s Sally all but had a nervous breakdown when
she discovered that daughter Rosie was sleeping with
Emmerdale’s Cain is just as obsessive about
daughter Debbie, and you can only imagine with horror
the reaction there will be if Debbie decides to go
down the Lesbos route.
In Home and Away, the penny still hasn’t dropped
with Beth that her children are adults. She
practically had to be hospitalised when she discovered
that Robbie and Tasha had spent the night together,
and I suspect she has been on medication ever since
they moved into their apartment.
Why can’t these parents just accept that their
children prefer sex to homework?
1st April 2006
Mental illness has hit all the soaps at some point in
history, with varying degrees of success. EastEnders’
Joe was practically climbing the walls on all fours
before anyone realised something was wrong; only when
he cling-filmed the cupboards and his mother
discovered she couldn’t get her corn flakes out in the
morning did anyone see fit to take action.
At the present time, Coronation Street’s Mike is
suffering from Alzheimer’s, and the storyline could
not be more moving. The confusion suffered by the
victim is desperately poignant; the devastation
suffered by those who have lost the man they have
always known, equally so. The Street has, quite
brilliantly and bravely, not been afraid to temper
this potentially depressing storyline with some
humour, most notably from Leanne and Blanche.
Meanwhile, over at Summer Bay, Home and Away’s
Irene is in the throes of mental illness, but only
because she is being poisoned with mercury crystals by
policeman Corey. The only person I know to have been
through such an experience before is the first Emperor
of China, who thought that consuming mercury would
enable him to live forever. Heaven forbid that it
should have that effect on Irene.
Emmerdale’s Zoe became schizophrenic for a while, a
condition which bizarrely made her want to have sex in
a Land Rover with Scott. Hollyoaks’ Mandy has also had
more than her fair share of mental problems, first as
a husband batterer, then as a post-natal depressive.
Why not just section the lot of them and have done
25th March 2006
Everyone has their favourite characters and families
in soap, but there are some who are so irritating,
your instinct is to reach for the remote the second
they appear. These are the Fast Forward Families.
EastEnders established the FFFs with the Fast
Forward Ferreiras, a family of such mind-numbing
intensity that plunged the show into the abyss from
which it has struggled to emerge ever since. Today,
the Fowlers have taken over the FFF mantle, with
tedious conversations between Joe and Bert, and
Pauline making endless cups of tea to try to comfort
her vapid son.
In Coronation Street, the FFF is the
Elliott/Peacock clan, where Ashley is trying to act
all macho in the light of Matt turning up, demanding
to see his son. In the midst of all this fighting, no
one has noticed that poor Joshua – the subject of the
feud – hasn’t been fed in weeks. At this rate, there
won’t be anything left of him over which to argue.
Emmerdale’s Dingle clan have been a FFF for years.
As individuals, out and about in the village, they are
perfectly acceptable, but put them together in that
rundown house, and the tedium becomes the black hole
of every episode. The disgusting Shadrach, with his
foul hygiene and eating habits, is unwatchable; Lisa
never shuts up; and newcomer Alice is yet another blot
on this already bleak landscape.
Some families will never stoop to FFF level, but
the list is growing shorter: Coronation Street’s
Barlows, EastEnders’ Mitchells, Emmerdale’s Kings, and
. . . Er, that’s it.
18th March 2006
Has no soap character ever been taught table manners
or dining etiquette? In EastEnders currently, two
households have plastic bottles of Heinz ketchup on
the table at every meal, and one (the Millers,
inevitably) has a much cheaper version that is
unrecognisable even by my supermarket voucher saving
In most soaps, no one ever cleans up after a meal,
everyone eats like a hog, and, when they wheel out all
the stops for a “special” occasion, what do they have?
A bottle of plonk on the table and two of the cheapest
glasses available from the Tacky Props R Us
Surely someone, somewhere, would have bought a nice
set of glasses for a wedding present (heaven knows,
everyone gets hitched often enough), yet everyone
remains dependent upon the bog standard dozen for a
pound that you can buy on any market stall. Even
special occasions are bereft of any show. Coronation
Street’s Roy, for instance, when he wants to show
Hayley a good time, locks the cafe door and whips out
a couple of night lights and a frozen lasagne
(anything that delays advance to the bedroom is a
blessing, I suppose).
On Home and Away, Alf arriving with a red snapper
is tantamount to a revolution - because no sooner does
anything appear on the table, than the lads are called
away to rescue someone from the latest
Ah, it was so different in my day. Sit down. Shut
up. Eat up.
11th March 2006
At a time when the rest of the nation is being
encouraged to eat healthily, soap characters continue
with their bad habits.
Having brought her daughters up on a diet
consisting almost exclusively of fish fingers, burgers
and baked beans, Coronation Street’s Kevin and Sally
Webster are doing no better as the girls approach
adulthood. This week, they took them out for yet
another pizza, which is now their staple diet.
On EastEnders this week, Martin suggested a
takeaway, but even when characters go to decent
places, they don’t eat much. When they do go out, it
is usually at a curry house. Fargo’s is an occasional
hot place, and in recent weeks has entertained three
couples. But Billy and Honey ate nothing because they
were canoodling, Sonia couldn’t eat because she was so
repulsed by Martin, and Mike and Dawn managed just “a
bottle of house wine” (the waiter was required to be
psychic to determine red or white).
In Hollyoaks, the staple diet is sex and drink and,
occasionally, a takeaway (how does Il Gnosh survive?).
In Emmerdale, Marlon is constantly cooking in the
Woolpack kitchen, yet hardly anyone ever orders
anything, despite constant references to going there
for meals. How the café hasn’t gone bust with its
weekly sales of three slices of toast and half a dozen
teas is a miracle.
I can only imagine that given the amount of weight
the actors have put on within a couple of years, that
offscreen their mouths are rarely shut.
4th March 2006
You can’t help feeling that if everyone were a little
more security-conscious, they might have fewer
break-ins in their homes. Despite its proximity to
areas of heavy crime, Coronation Street is dire when
it comes to locks and bolts.
Charlie’s place has just one Yale lock right next
to a pane of glass (hasn’t anyone heard of mortice
locks? And how can anyone get insurance without
them?). Rita’s place was done over a couple of weeks
ago, and she still has not thought to get panic
buttons installed. No, instead she moved in with
Emily, whose front door is as insecure as everyone
EastEnders’ café door hangs so badly from its
hinges, a donkey could walk through the crack; and
Pat’s house must be permanently unlocked, because as
more people arrive to live there, nobody ever gets any
extra keys cut.
The residents of Summer Bay in Home and Away mostly
leave their doors open and then wonder why they find
complete strangers permanently ensconced in their
kitchens. Flynn was being kept captive this week
behind a plywood door with just one Yale lock, and yet
it still needed two policemen to burst through it.
Now there are security problems in Hollyoaks, and
the police have been advising students to look after
Any security firm would make a killing in the
soaps, cutting the crime rate into the bargain. On the
other hand, anything that gives Rita Sullivan a scare
is all right by me.
25th February 2006
While Hollyoaks and Home and Away continue to
concentrate upon nubile young people, all of whom look
the same, the other soaps have gone quite heavy on
storylines featuring their older characters.
In Coronation Street, Emily is traumatised at
having come face to face with her husband’s killer,
Ed, while Rita is traumatised at having had her home
ransacked. I’m not sure that she would have felt so
bad as to move in with Emily temporarily, but it gave
them the chance of reminisce about how long they have
known each other (Noah was shopping for wood at the
time, so you get a rough idea). Norris, who has moved
in to Rita’s, was rather touching, as his joy at being
by himself quickly turned to loneliness.
In Emmerdale, Betty is terrified to be alone in her
own home, following Terence’s threats, and in
EastEnders, Pat was smarting under the insult from
Yolande that she was just “a sad, old woman.” Maybe.
Doesn’t stop her getting her kit off in cold
Portakabins at night, though, does it?
Pat’s affair with Patrick excepted (it was just
plain daft), storylines with older characters add real
substance to the drama. Hence the reason why Home and
Away’s Alf and Neighbours’ Harold remain such popular
characters; likewise, EastEnders’ Dot and Jim.
It’s all about balance - even though sometimes, you
just want that balance tipped in one direction. Right.
Now I have to get back to my Hollyoaks Hunks 2006
calendar and see who’s got his kit off for March.
18th February 2006
You can always guarantee celebrations around
Valentine’s Day, and this year was no exception.
Pauline married Joe on EastEnders (that’s a life
sentence and a half), and there was a double wedding
in Emmerdale that saw Viv marry Bob the second time
around, and Donna marry Marlon (whose stag night fell
on the anniversary of his last wedding to Tricia).
Inevitably, everything goes wrong at a soap
wedding. In EastEnders, Pauline sat on a bench,
wondering whether she was doing the right thing, and
Emmerdale’s Viv and Bob were married separately after
he arrived late, having gone for a reverse vasectomy
the day before (as you do . . .).
The two occasions could not have been more
different in tone: EastEnders went for reflection and
poignancy, Emmerdale went for laughs (not least in the
brilliant, hilarious costumes) – although not
exclusively. Donna’s declaration of her feelings for
Max among the Yorkshire Dales, and Marlon’s subsequent
speech (“I love you enough to let you go”) was
incredibly moving and utterly believable.
There was also some exquisite writing in
EastEnders, as Pauline faced her fears. “All I know is
Pauline Fowler,” she said, teetering on the edge of a
How long these marriages will last is anyone’s
guess, although if soap history is anything to go by,
things do not bode well. Newlyweds Martin and Sonia in
EastEnders are so on the rocks that lifeboats have
been called. But for the moment, Cheers! I give you
the brides and grooms.
11th February 2006
Musical houses is a regular feature of soap, and it’s
getting worse. No sooner does someone get their feet
under the table than the ructions start and they find
themselves on their way again. And it is especially
bad for the young people.
You have to feel sorry for Emmerdale’s Debbie, whom
everyone seems to forget is just a kid. Lisa’s
physical attack on her this week was deeply
disturbing, and she found herself locked out of the
house by her own father. When she returned, the aggro
started again and ended with Cain disowning her; the
poor girl is now back at Ashley’s.
In Hollyoaks, Darlene turned up at Craig’s, because
she doesn’t want to move south where her stepmother
Liz is moving to try to get a job. Already she is
making everyone’s life hell. “You just don’t
understand women yet,” Frankie told her upset son.
Where Darlene’s concerned, he should have asked her to
come with a manual.
In Emmerdale, Aaron is resenting having been dumped
with Chas because his stepmother is having another
baby; and in Home and Away, virtually no one grows up
in their own home: first it was Pippa taking all the
kids in, and now Sally.
Where are Social Services to investigate all these
stray youngsters? Tagging them might be the only
solution to keeping track of where they are.
4th February 2006
As Valentine’s Day approaches, there is a higher than
average number of people enjoying a bit of romance.
EastEnders’ Pauline is finally acknowledging the
feelings she has for Joe (watch out for Monday’s
episode), and Billy is all gooey-eyed over Honey, now
that she is carrying his child.
Also on Monday, in Coronation Street, Tracy is
thrilled when Charlie asks her to move in with him,
and on Wednesday Maria finds herself back in the
dating game. Things look less good for Fred, however,
who this week eagerly awaited the return of Beverley,
only to discover that she had gone to visit a man she
met on the cruise. “ ‘E’s called Greg,” Shelley
informed him, “ ‘e’s got ‘is own business, an’ ‘e
lives in Kent.” How do these women do it? If I went on
a cruise, all I’d get would be the cabin boy offering
me half a lager.
Romance is also big on the agenda in Emmerdale, as
plans for the double wedding on 16th February go into
full throttle, and in Home and Away, Ric has just
confessed that he still loves Cassie.
Of course, this being soap, happiness among couples
will never last. Emmerdale’s Nicola and the lovely
Simon have broken up, and EastEnders’ Garry and Minty
remain as unlucky in love as Pat is in jewellery. You
can’t help feeling that if they, like all the other
soap singles, just spread their wings a little further
than the local pub, they would stand more of a chance
28th January 2006
Soaps go through cycles, which generally change when a
new producer comes on board and wants to make his or
her presence felt. But there are periods when all of
them seem to be filled with doom and gloom, and, this
month, that must be down to everyone, from runner to
executive producer, suffering from SAD syndrome.
Hollyoaks’ OB is suffering from a broken heart,
Cameron from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and Mel is
an alcoholic (and that’s even before we get to her
family’s financial problems).
Coronation Street’s Sally has infuriated Rosie by
reporting her to the police for having under-age sex,
psycho-teen David is getting his kicks from jamming
reflexogists’ hands in car doors, and Mike has
EastEnders has returned to an almost permanent diet
of depression (you know they’re desperate when they
give Pat the role of flirt), and Neighbours has
enjoyed a plane crash.
In Emmerdale we have Alice’s cancer and the
after-effects of Steph’s child abuse, and there was
yet another intruder this week in Home and Away. When
will these people just learn to lock their doors? It
would cut intrusion and kidnaps by at least nine
At least when Family Affairs was around, they
lightened the load by having things to laugh at –
Cat’s clothes, Gary’s hairdo, Meredith’s everything.
But so far, this year, the only light relief we get is
when the credits roll.
However, spring is in the air, and with it the
promise of better times to come. In my dreams, I
21st January 2006
There are a lot of babies around at the moment. Sunitahas just given birth to twins in Coronation Street,Alice has a son in Emmerdale, Tony and Mandy have adaughter in Hollyoaks, and the news is that Honey isgoing to fall pregnant in EastEnders. Poor baby.Imagine coming into the world and the first thing yousee is those scary eyes. You’d be racing back to thewomb quicker than you can say Honey Monster.
Soap babies are unlike babies in real life. Theyare only ever gorgeous creatures who are adored bytheir parents. “They’re the most wonderful things I’veever seen,” Dev said of his new offspring this week,before Sunita decided she wanted to go it alone as asingle mum.
Very few soap mothers suffer the after-effects ofgiving birth. Post-natal depression is virtuallyunheard of (although Hollyoaks’ Mandy was unable tobond with her infant), and babies rarely cry. If theydid, they would quickly be replaced with a quieterone. They do not vomit over their parents’ clothes,and viewers’ delicate sensibilities are saved fromviewing the contents of babies’ nappies.
It is only when babies reach toddler stage that theproblems start. Coronation Street’s wonderful Joshuastarted to join in conversations the second he couldopen his mouth – unlike Emmerdale’s Victoria, who hasonly just learned to speak.
And the really, really bad news? You could givebirth to a baby who turns out to be like CoronationStreet’s Rosie Webster. Now that really is good reasonto take precautions in the first place.
14th January 2006
"We make a pretty good team, me and you," said Home and Away's Kim to Hayley this week. Over on Hollyoaks, Steph was telling Cameron: "We're a team, aren't we?'
Couples are wont to tell each other what great teams they make, when the reality is that the team has already fallen apart in the dressing room. In the Aussie soap, Kim and Hayley do not yet know that Scott, and not Kim, is the father of Hayley's baby; and in Hollyoaks, Steph and Cameron are about as effective a combination as a vegan's egg and spoon race.
Couples need to feel that they are united in the face of adversity, however, although it rarely gets them very far. EastEnders' Dennis and Sharon often claimed to be a great team, and where did it get them? He is currently lying six feet under, and she still hasn't managed to locate a shop to replenish her mascara supplies.
Other great soap "teams" include EastEnders' Frank and Pat (Please, please, keep them both on the bench), Coronation Street's Jack and Vera (mediocre midfielders), and anyone who happens to come within spitting distance of Emmerdale's Louise (anyone's for a slice of orange at half time).
With so many claiming their great team-playing skills, who is it that no one ever produces a result that enables them to go top of the league in the relationship premiership? No one is happy, most people do not want to be with the person they are with, and transfers are never more than a few quid away. |
31st December 2005
Maybe it's me, but it seemed there were even more corpses around in 2005. EastEnders lost Dirty Den, Nana Moon, Andy (anyone remember him?), and, yesterday, Dennis. Hollyoaks lost That Bloke (can't remember his name; they all merge into one on that show), and Emmerdale lost Max King. Alf's ex lover died in Home and Away . . . The list goes on.
The means by which people lost their lives remain as unimaginative as ever - car crashes, illness - although Dirty Den's demise at the end of a doorstop in Albert Square was one of the best departures in years. Even when they are not being killed on screen, the EastEnders are keen to keep Corpsewatch up to date, and in the new year we can expect news of Kathy's demise, too.
Family Affairs, which was the biggest death of the year, having been axed, was keen to keep death in our minds even when characters turned out not be on their way out. Hot on the heels of Chloe being told she had cancer came the disappearance of her sister Mel, whom everyone presumed had been murdered (she turned up at Christmas). Then mum Chrissy got breast cancer.
The Grim reaper is never very far away in soapland, and death comes second in interest value only to the discovery of an illicit affair. If the Reaper doesn't get you, your hormones will, and, if you're very unlucky, so will Pat Butcher. So it's into 2006, still accompanied by the man with the scythe. I can already smell the embalming fluid.
December 24th 2005
No matter how many times we hear Slade wishing everyone a Merry Christmas, very few people ever have one. If their spouse is not having it away with someone on a table dangerously close to the turkey, they are having a fight in the local pub.
The lack of festive cheer is rife again tomorrow. In Coronation Street, Carol resumes drinking and makes a fool of herself at the Clock, and the Battersby-Browns (I just love that name) end up having to deep fry their meal - with explosive results.
There is very little to be happy about in Albert Square, too, when Sharon is rushed to A & E with suspected food poisoning, and Sonia and Martin argue over breaking up. The presents are none too great, either, and Dawn gives Keith a nasal hair trimmer. To be honest, though, nothing short of a topiarist is going to be able to make anything of that hirsute mess.
In Emmerdale, Belle goes missing, and Jimmy finds himself in a police cell; and the festivities are interrupted in Family Affairs, when Chrissy collapses. In Hollyoaks, the Ashworths' Christmas dinner is dependent upon emergency seating and microwave curries. Is it me, or are soap Christmas Day disasters way above the national average? Even so, Yuletide is not what it used to be. The Mitchells fairm-ly dinner is EastEnders was once the highlight of the day, with Phil threatening to spontaneously combust as the rows/sexual tension escalated. This year, the Slaters' chicken nuggets steal the show. Enjoy.
17th December 2005
Declarations of love are rare in soap. Most affairs are either an adulterous bonk or instigated following half a lager and a packet of pork scratchings down the local. On the whole, older characters are too jaded to be spouting OTT sentiments, but you can always rely on EastEnders' Frank to deliver when it comes to gushing nonsense.
True to form, he returned to EastEnders at the end of November, declaring his undying love for Pat, whom he claims to have always loved. He claimed he always would, too, before she scarpered (leaving, presumably, another opportunity for him to return at a later date, heaven forbid). For the most part, however, it is the young people in soap who fall in love. EastEnders' Ruby already had a crush on Juley, but losing her virginity to him just sealed her feelings in the love stakes. She shared her feelings with Sonia, who recalled a time when she felt the same way - first, about Jamie, then Martin. Come on, Sonia: that's not just scraping the bottom of the barrel, but under it, too.
Over on Hollyoaks, Steph and Cameron have declared their love, as have Ric and Cassie over a Chinese in Home and Away (I tell you: two chopsticks and these girls are anyone's). Tasha and Robbie, meanwhile, decided that they now loved each other so much, they were ready to move their relationship on to the next level. Sadly, it wasn't below sea-level.
10th December 2005
Parents are forever complaining about their children, but the youngsters have just as much to contend with. No sooner did Coronation Street's Sally Webster finish nagging Rosie than she moved on to Sophie. Not only did she dislike her new-found cousin Nicolette, she this week discovered that Sophie had been wandering the streets at night, smoking. Kevin and Sally could not have been more furious had she come back and told them she had turned serial killer.
Jamie, too, has had his hands full. His father was sleeping with his girlfriend; his alcoholic mother has moved into his house; and now his step-mum is hitting the bottle as she grieves for her broken marriage. Over on EastEnders, Stacey has had to contend with a bi-polar mother, who this week attempted suicide. She survived, although it's not hard to see why. If you want to top yourself on a railway line, don't choose one in the north of England, because you can never rely on the trains running; the Trumpton Express would be a better bet. In Home and Away, Leah and Dan even eloped to escape the fuss that their respective mothers were making about the forthcoming wedding (although they backed out at the last minute).
And in Emmerdale, the King brothers have just had to deal with the fallout from their dad making a pass at Sadie. Don't imagine, then, that once you are past your teens, the problems with parents diminish. Invariably, staying in the womb is the better option.
3rd December 2005
As if parents did not have enough to worry about bringing up their own kids, now, as the youngsters get older, they have their friends to contend with.
EastEnders' Rosie and Keith are having the worst time of it. First their daughter Demi got pregnant by her teenage boyfriend, who later died of a drugs' overdose; and now, son Darren is mates with with the dreadfully snobby Kylie.
Coronation Street's Sally has hardly fared better. Despite paying a fortune for Rosie and Sophie's private education, Sally has seen her daughters choose the most unsavoury of friends. Rosie hangs out with a vegetarian, animal rights activist Goth, and this week Sophie turned up with the ghastly Nicolette. Alas, she turned out to be Sophie's cousin from Sally's "scum" side of the family. "You're my Aunty Sal, how cool's that?" she announced, as Sally hyperventilated with shock and disdain.
Having taken a decade to learn to speak, Emmerdale's Victoria is now socialising, too. Her best friend is Kayleigh, daughter of Martin, who has been enjoying an on/off relationship with Louise. Kayleigh is also trouble, and this week arrived at the Woolpack to inform Louise that Diane told Victoria that she (Louise) has a commitment problem.
Hollyoaks' Rob has got it in for Nicole's friend Hannah, whom he thinks has been leading his daughter astray. But then all soap kids choose friends who bring out the devil in them. With parents like most of them have, who can blame them.
Those skeletons just keep tumbling out of closets. I go away for just one week and return to find that Coronation Street's Dev has three children, plus one grandchild - and all this on top of the two buns he already has baking in Sunita's oven. Even by Dev's selfish standards, it's hard to believe that he just consigned all this to the past and never so much as dropped a hint to anyone about his history.
The revelation of long buried secrets is the backbone of soap. Bodies under concrete (Brookside, EastEnders), affairs (every soap going), lies about parentage (EastEnders) - everyone, at some point, has something to hide. The suspense lies in when they choose to reveal it - usually, in front of a packed pub, when at least one person will end up decking another.
Some secrets are not worth the storyliners' paper they are written on. Take this week's EastEnders. Ruby said she was going to the lingerie party, but was, in fact, meeting Juley. Unbeknown to her, Phil spotted her kissing him in the street and went straight to Johnny. Is Ruby nuts? One, you don't lie about your whereabouts until all your alibis are in place; and two, you don't kiss your secret love in full view of everyone in front of the Vic. Heaven help Ruby when she has to keep something really, really quiet, such as how she has managed to get a college place without buying one book.
Meanwhile, in the midst of all this excitement, we can look forward to the big Christmas secret: who is in the coffin? Wood suppliers are laughing all the way to the bank in Walford these days.