Blog Gold: #EELive

Sometimes even best laid plans just don’t happen. This blogpost originally due to be posted on 20th February just didn’t make it through the net – but here it is… it’s pure blog gold!

30 years young... EastEnders celebrated it's 30th anniversary in style
30 years young… EastEnders celebrated it’s 30th anniversary in style

There’s nothing wrong with a good ol’ reinvention from time to time. Doctor Who, a long term favourite of this blogger, reinvents himself quite literally every time the lead actor leaves the role however in other shows it is more of a difficulty. That’s why it is so pleasing to write a blog post with such positivity about EastEnders thirtieth birthday episodes.

Soap landmarks are a thing of the here and now. Let’s be honest aside from Coronation Street it wasn’t until the explosion of soaps in the 1980s that they really became a big thing. Now as they reach big milestones, twenty, twenty-five, thirty – producers and fans see it as a good time to celebrate what the show has become and what it could be and with varying degrees of success.

I remember, ten years ago sitting in a university bedroom with my Mum who was visiting for the weekend watching Dirty Den (Leslie Grantham) meet his maker. Even my Mum wasn’t convinced they’d actually kill him off second time around but the episode was signed off and the deed was done – much to the chagrin of subsequent producers of the show who would have loved to have had such a popular character on board as they sought to retool the show in the mid-2000s. The problem as has been widely documented in other sources, it was a difficult time for the show and you could even argue the producer of the day just didn’t get what EastEnders is about.

It’s here where EastEnders at 30 or #EELive has been so successful. Dominic Treadwell-Collins is an EastEnders fan, he understands what the show is about and what has made it so successful for the last thirty years. As his team have demonstrated to great effect throughout these celebrations they don’t just understand the characters that they created such as Mick and Linda Carter (Danny Dyer and Kelly Bright), they also understand long standing characters who sometimes get forgotten like Dot (June Brown) and most notably Ian (Adam Woodyatt).

There are some that could argue that the Beales and Mitchells were a largely spent force in EastEnders as little as three years ago. Lucy had gone off to have a head transplant, closely followed by Peter. Jane had left. Ian felt like he was paired with Denise almost out of convenience as they were both long standing characters. Sharon was floating around Albert Square with no real reason to stick around, and Phil was just getting on with it. It is a true credit to the team at EastEnders that in such a short space of time these two units in particular along with the Cottons have found themselves back in tip-top form. What has been missing from the show for too long after the departure of Diedrick Santer in 2010 was a producer that could draw on the strength of the show’s past to craft the show’s future and the ‘Who Killed Lucy’ storyline along with its many offshoots has enabled ju st that.

The love to the past is one success, the other lies in the reinvention of the show. Could #EELive become a standard soaps live up to for big shocks now? The tweets I read screaming at the end of last night’s flashback episode ‘OMG, they’ve gone live!’ as Lucy’s killer was about to be unmasked. Totally unexpectedly of course, given people were led to believe the ‘flashback’ episode was pre-recorded. Now of course the Beales are going to be plunged straight into another massive storyline has they deal with the fall out, not realising amongst all of this chaos another Beale bombshell is about to land in Albert Square with the shock return of Kathy (Gillian Taylforth) later this year shaking it all up as well – the shock return, naturally, being broadcast live.

The final reason for EastEnders success this week is love to the future. Storylines are being given time to breathe, but they are also being used to set up the next chapter. The Carter story is far from over, Kat and Alfie (Jessie Wallace and Shane Ritchie) are exploring life without each other, Dot is resigning herself to a prison sentence for the death of Nick (John Altman) whose body was found last night in a wonderful juxtaposition to the first scene back in 1985 and as for the Mitchells – after Phil’s mysterious behaviour, Roxy (Rita Simons) and Charlie’s (Declan Bennett) one night stand and the arrival of the mysterious Vincent (Richard Blackwood) who knows? One thing for certain is EastEnders is fast becoming must see television once again and in turn is reinventing the rules of soap just as they did when it all started in 1985. Happy Birthday EastEnders!

EastEnders continues on BBC1 Mondays & Fridays at 8pm, Tuesdays & Thursdays at 7.30pm.