Monday, November 19, 2012

Improving EastEnders in 2013? My Response

Here's a special song to a special person ... nudge nudge wink wink...

There's a very interesting and thought-provoking thread on Digital Spy Soaps Forum at the moment. You can read it in its entirety here. Parts of it are so thought-provoking, I had an inherent sense of deja vu, a veritable Roberta Flack moment.

I'd like to take the time to respond to various of the posts in that thread, since freedom of speech is randomly practiced in the fascist environments known as discussion fora.

First, from the initiator of the thread:-

I know what several may be thinking - another moan about EastEnders thread. But as EastEnders fans, and viewers we deserve better than what TPTB are currently offering. If you read the spoilers, you'd think EastEnders have a number of storylines coming up - yet in televised form, the show has been completely and utterly static - and worst still, a lot of these up-coming storylines showcase the worst of EastEnders rather than the best.

Take Lauren and Joey, or 'Jauren'. Jacqueline Jossa's acting talent peaked at Branning week and has been absent ever since. That's admittedly, down to the TPTB characterising Lauren as a lazy-arse entitled drunk, more than anything else. David Witts by far is the worst actor in EastEnders. His diction is appalling, and his ability to do a facial expression beyond trying appear 'moody' is extremely limited. His imitation of an EastEnd accent is tragic.Both characters are generally uninteresting. Lauren has little dimension to her character, beyond being incredibly self-interested; and drinking when fate provides her with any old excuse to do so. Joey has a daddy complex; which is same old - and he's a hypocrite with it. That's as far as Joey goes. Yet, Lauren and Joey have been billed as the 'big thing' as even, the 'new Shannis'. Yet the writing for Jauren would contradict those assertions. 

There has been no illustration of Joey and Lauren building a genuine bond; or a relationship. All it appears is that the two cousins have an uncontrollable urge to kiss/shag each other. Yet, by a couple of kisses we are supposed to believe Lauren is the love of Joey's life; and that this is love story. As, I guess we were supposed to believe that Whitney is just unlucky in love. The Brannings have been in static motion of replaying the same scenes over and over again amongst themselves. While we need continuity, we need progress in storylines - this doesn't appear to be happening. How many times will we have to endure the 'Branning brothers back together again' routine in the Queen Vic? How many try-hard glances will occur between now and December for Lauren and Joey, and for that matter Kat and any old' Branning brother? 

That in itself is the very low depths of sensationalism and poor writing. It's simply not believable even in the most sensationalist storyline of all, Kat would give worrying looks at all three Branning Brothers, despite the fact she's supposed to be sleeping with just the one. Unless we get a real shocker, and that's she's been having it off with all three! Just like how many meaningless scenes will have with Tanya trying on a wedding dress? Or Tanya/Kat/Sharon in the Club - with scenes like the last only design to encure 'tension' (as if) for Kat. How many times will we saw Cora suddenly in a miserable state? I'm not buying it, and we know the writing must be awful because for the poor characterisation of Cora, Ann Mitchell is a fine actress; as fine as they come for EastEnders. Yet her heartbreak for Ava which was supposed to be emotive came off as OTT; and was as filler as the comedy scenes which have been an overdose on EastEnders recently. EastEnders did humour best during 'The Big Week' to break up the far more serious drama occurring for the Mitchells. It does not work, as general storylines for episodes. The rot with sort of nonsense arguably goes way back to the Alfie’s condom-caper saga a couple years back. 

And the best humour often tends to be far more subtle and causal than the obvious, overtly embellished efforts TPTB have in mind for Kim. With EastEnders, once you've seen one episode in the last month you've seen them all. There's little variation. From Tanya pitying any old soul (Bianca's next on the list folks, this December), Derek's ambiguous threats to Max, Lucy being a biatch, Lola's tears, Jauren, and Kat and Alfie going through the motions. Carol's been pretty much the only refreshing thing to hit EastEnders, aside from a few Roxy/Michael scenes. Relationships have generally been poorly written in EastEnders. For all the drama that surrounded Zee and Mas, in the aftermath of Syed's lies - what was the point when Zee could virtually walk back in the Masood home, and have no repercussions for her actions whatsoever? There was no aftermath there whatsoever. Why are Sharon and Jack even happening and furthermore why is there a planned love triangle between the two and Phil; Shack is as fake as Jauren. 

It was built on a shag, a kiss tease and Sharon having nowhere to live. It is a convenience set-up, not a love story and Malsen and Dean have no chemistry. It's just laziness on the part TPTB they couldn't think of any other way to reunite Sharon and Phil - because let's face it - Shack are filler. They will go down in the same vein as Sharon and Ross and the fireman - forgotten unions. Alice and Ray are nonstarter. The only mileage out of that is Derek's reaction, and he'll be dead soon anyway. Twitney has failed, and Whitney and Tyler may as well bow now; they have little point to EastEnders; they'll never get to A-list character status, they don't work as secondary characters either. There is too much of a focus on younger characters; EastEnders strength' is in the over 25s. The Brannings expansion is simply ludicrous at this stage; with many of the additions from 2007 simply proving fruitless. The Brannings were at their strongest in 2006-2007; when they were kept at more of a minimum in comparison to now, and the family unit was reasonable, and they had interesting characters in Max, Abi, Bradley and Jim. 

EastEnders is now even being overtaken by Emmerdale - it's been more than two weeks since their 40th, and this isn't the first time in recent weeks Emmerdale has been a real threat for EastEnders - and this is work under Blackburn, a much derided EP. Corrie, even at a poor level is getting up to 9 million - even when Corrie isn't trying it's better than EastEnders. There are viewers up for grabs, if EastEnders takes it. But EastEnders is in crisis, even if it is a silent one - seven million viewers at most is poor, for a show which could get 10 million two years ago. 

EastEnders, in order to come in with a bang in 2013 needs to do the following, I believe;

- Create a buzz around the show - currently, there's little buzz. You hardly hear anyone in your local Asda talk about Kat's shagger, or Jauren. Santer wasn't the perfect EP, but they need to take a leaf out of his book in terms of buzz. He was excellent at creating that, especially during the Stax era - which was a completely different show to the EastEnders we see; take this ad as an example; his 'There's more to EastEnders' - back then, there was. 

- Really, make EastEnders an 'ensemble show' - right now, EastEnders centres around the Brannings, and young characters with any other character lucky to get extra airtime, and if they do, is likely just a part of a Branning ensemble piece - as Sharon, has found. Next year should chronicle much less Braning focus, with the Mitchells, Masoods, Foxes, and especially the Beales getting more airtime. 

- For drama surrounding relationships, rely less on affairs and will/they won't they routines

- Balance out sensationalism with gritty realism storylines, and make sure they're properly researched; continuing with Ian’s depression for instance, and seeing him reclaim his businesses realising he’s been conned by his daughter. See Lauren genuinely take steps to deal with her alcoholism – maybe we could focus on generational alcoholism in the Branning family, an issue which TPTB have ignored?

- Continuity; make sure the pacing of episodes regarding characters makes sense; with a variety of characters making appearances rather than just the same people and make sure characters just don't disappear suddenly. Make sure stories have aftermaths. 

- Make some axings; Some characters have reached the end of the road - one of them is Kat, especially. The others are Joey, and Alice - and if they don't find something else to do with her - Lauren. Jack should go; it's been five years now - he still as boring as ever. There’s more as well.

- Introduce new characters, not attached to current families between 25 - 40, and 50 - 70. Introduce a new family. 

- Make the Beales an important family again

- Focus on the Queen Vic as a focal point of the show again

All contributions, of any POV welcome

(Sigh) And to think I used to get pilloried regularly for lengthy posts.

BIB1: Sounds familiar. I seem to recall saying much the same thing for many a month, both when I was on the forum and, certainly, since I've had the blog. Can't disagree with what I've just said. (You left out the bit about Lauren gurning; trust me, she gurns. And "Loey" sounds much better than "Jauren." "Loey" pretty much describes what they are morally as well - pretty damned low.)

BIB2: Whoever is writing this tripe doesn't understand in the least, the concept of a love story, and I'm not even going to touch on "Shannis" because "Shannis" was a plot device played out between two characters of unequal importance and who gave off the air of a mother and a recalcitrant son far earlier than Jane undertook that role toward Ian - except Jane and Ian weren't as pretty.

Lauren and Joey haven't said more than two sentences' worth of jibberish small talk since he slithered onto the Square. Nothing more than "Oy, how are you?" or "Warraya up ter?" or something incomprehensible and trite. How can what is supposed to be a loving relationship be based on that? It can't. It's simply lust, and - I have to say - Lauren, Lucy and Whitney are all minor league sluts who share their blokes. All three have had a taste of Tyler. Give it a few more months, and after Joey's boned Lauren, he'll move onto Whitney when she tires of Tyler, who's become the ubiquitous dependable bloke. Then it will be Dexter's turn. 

This is just bored lust. She's there. She's pretty. He's there. He's ugly, but has a body built on steroids and probably a big dick, so the inevitable will happen. (There, I said it. David Witts is plug-bloody-ugly. There's no resemblance whatsoever to Nigel Harman, and I seriously think he has an adenoidal problem, which is why he mouth breathes. Mouth breathers most generally suffer from halitosis, so I bet he's really sexy.) The problem is this group of writers are aiming their material at the lowest common denominator of viewer, who'll buy anything when it comes to lapping up EastEnders.

Of course, the couple have no chemistry. Lorraine Newman, herself, said that when they cast an actor for a part, they mould the character to the actor and not vice versa as is usually done. In this instance, you're asking Jacqueline Jossa (who is who Lauren really is) to fancy David Witts (on whom Joey the tadpole is based), and it's not working.

As Newman, who seems to contradict herself regularly in her vain attempt to project a corporate image, has said that she's not going to be big on promoting relationships, a really innovative storyline concerning all these priapic, fuck-sharing teens, would be a massive case of chlamydia, and the mystery of who really started the epidemic.

BIB3: TPTB should just give up on these girlie friendships. They missed out on what could have been and should have been (and still could be) the biggest of them all - Shirley and Denise. Kat, Tanya and Sharon sharing a drink at the R and R (and in the afternoon!) in a pale imitation of three girlfriends out on a gossipy lunch. Please. Don't insult my intelligence.

Sharon would never be friends with someone like Tanya, and Tanya would virulently hate someone like Sharon. Tanya's all false niceness. Her friends have to be woebegone, plainer women who bask in her glory and who make her feel good. Watching Sharon devolve into a Branning satellite and worship at the altar of Saint Tanya has been a massive fail. As for Kat, with either of them, I wouldn't think Sharon would be anything other than civil to Kat after their previous association, and she's someone Tanya would avoid like a bad smell. She may be the wife of the Vic's landlord, but she also reminds Tanya of the sluttery from whence she came.

And Cora is the perfect example of a character created on a whim without any defining arc. Peggy goes. Pat goes. Bryan Kirkwood decides the Square needs a matriarch. Hey- presto! We have Cora. Not only has she gone, within a year, from a bullying, hectoring, drunken ASBO granny, who got evicted for harrassing a single mother, to the Mother Superior of the Square, it's patently obvious that "Ava" is a plot device added recently to flesh out Cora more sympathetically and also to give her a daughter on whom to focus since Jo Joyner is leaving.

In fact, that's probably when the idea for Ava cropped up - a few months ago. Hey, she's got to have a family on whom to focus. I know! We'll give her a long-lost daughter - a la Danielle, a la Sharon and Carol Hanley! I don't even doubt that the thought crossed someone's mind, initially, to make Sharon Cora's daughter, but someone slapped that down with an edgier suggestion of making Cora's daughter bi-racial, which would evoke even more sympathy for the woman who made a habit of bullying and badgering pregnant women.

Did I mention Cora is a drunk? Well, that too.

BIB4: Can't disagree with what I've said from the getgo.

BIB5: Ditto again. But the problem is that EastEnders simply don't know when to stop. This is an ensemble show, and it's always existed as an ensemble featuring various families and social dynamics on the Square. I swear there have been some episodes, recently, which either feature nothing but Brannings or include a member of that family in every vignette. The whole lot should be pared right back to Max, Carol and Abi.

BIB6: People stick with Corrie because it's never been unfaithful to its brand. It may go through bad periods, and it probably is at the moment; but it contains constants with whom people identify and in whom they can invest properly. Newman talks about this lot of loser young people being the staple and future of the show, but look at Corrie. Bill Roche has been with the show since its beginning. He was a young man and now he's pushing 80. Simon Gregson, Jane Danson and Jack P Shepherd have grown up on the show, as has Sam Aston. They really are the next generation.

And its alumni haven't done so badly, themselves. Suranne Jones and Sarah Lancashire never looked back, and Rob James-Collier (Corrie-by way of Downton Abbey) is the next big Brit about to burst onto Hollywood. He's evidence of a good actor. His character on Corrie was the Mancunian equivalent of Dennis Rickman, yet the character he plays in Downton is the total polar opposite. I doubt you could get David Witts achieving that spectrum.

Doctor Bench writes:-

Excellent post but what would you do about the broken family units? The Mitchells only comprise of Phil, Billy (unfortunately), Roxy, Jay and Shirley (who needs to go). The Beales only have Ian, Lucy and Bobby (irrelevant) so what would you do about that?

Personally, I'm sick and tired of EE right now and have been watching clips from better recent years (2001-2003, 2005, 2007) and the sheer quality was incredible. In fact, the only era I haven't enjoyed anything about has been 2011-present. I know I said this all earlier today but no one actually gives a shit about the show anymore. There's just no buzz surrounding the show right now, nothing to get people talking. It's sad because it used to be just about the best thing on television. 
First of all, let's get something straight. The Mitchells could be easily repaired by Sharon and Phil getting together. OK, let's get the Shannis situation done and dusted. Sharon didn't trust Dennis. She didn't trust him to behave responsibly, and she was proven right. Dennis should have beaten the shit out of Jonnie Allen and either finished the job (we know he was capable of killing) or else not thrown the bastard his cellphone. Not smart. But all of the people who know about Phil's part in this are either dead (Jonnie, Jake, Danny, Dennis) or are Mitchells who live far away from the Square (Peggy and Grant). I can't see Peggy returning, more's the pity; and only if Grant came back and had a fit of jealousy, might he divulge the secret. 

Anyway, I don't buy the cack that Dennis was the love of Sharon's life. If Grant had stayed around and Dennis had lived, Sharon would have been shagging Grant before the end of 2006.

As for previous good years, you should check out some of the episodes during Matt Robinson's tenure - 1997 to 2000 (the Milennium episode was his last). That was stupendous - Ian Beale's non-wedding to Melanie. And, of course, there is always the 90s epitome - Sharongate. Check out Patgate from November 2000 as well. That's how you expose a cheating spouse.

And you're actually right, Dr Bench, no one of any viewing tenure gives a shit about this show anymore - except the teens and the usual shippers.

From big  dan:-

Whitney just comes across as selfish as the other young characters, not someone seriously damaged by abuse. That brings me onto Kat, who also is still the tart, but has lost all of the heart. Tanya and Max are also supposedly love's young dream, but imo it is down to the actor's ability and chemistry that makes this believable rather than what we have seen in the show. I dunno, I just don't think the writers have really made it all that believable that someone quite simple and shallow would be the love of someone like Max's (a bit of a complex anti-hero) life. Tanya does have different sides to her, but it comes across as more inconsistent than complex. Tamwar is another victim of the writing; he is no longer witty and sarcastic, just bitter and rude. I don't buy that this is just a reaction to this year's events anymore; it's been a long time now and it doesn't seem there's going to be any on-screen acknowledgement of his massive change in character. 

Great observation! Whitney and Kat are emblematic of what's wrong with EastEnders at the moment, and Kirkwood grew that like stoners grow grass. There's no doubt that each woman has had a traumatic background, but there comes a time in one's life where they rise above that and stop blaming it or citing it as a free pass to behave inappropriately. They are the eternal victims, and there are plenty of them about at the moment.

Whitney is, according to Bianca, "special." So the fact that she was abused as a child gives her leave to treat fellows who are nice to her like shit while she lusts after the latest bad boy. She's thinking constantly of Joey now whilst living with Tyler. But she's entitled to do that? Why? Because Tyler's nice to her and loves her? As for Kat, her situation is even worse. She is the classic abuse victim who has become, herself, an abuser. She is an abysmal mother and an even worse wife. The only person in that household for whom she holds any real affection is dippy Jean.

And I totally agree about Max and Tanya's co-dependent relationship. Max gets bored by domesticity, but when the chase gets too close, he uses domesticity as his safe shield. Tanya is his "dependable bloke", but she's really not the love of his life. That's Stacey.

From someone called J-J:-

Stop hiring models and start hiring actors, honestly who the hell is casting these 'actors' some of the recent additions have been awful!

 Bring back the characters of Peter Beale and the masoods daughter (cant remember the name sorry).

Peter Beale? No. Not even a recast. We want to get away from latent adolescents. As for Shabnam, the actress quit because - after a year - no one had decided the direction in which to take her character. They're adding a new satellite to the Masood household soon, although to me this is unrealistic. The girl is coming to England for an arranged marriage and the Masoods are her de facto guardians. But do her devout family realise that the Masoods have two divorced sons, one of whom re-married his gay partner? Do they realise that the Masoods, themselves, are living in sin?

 Bit late for this one but dont give 'Fatboy' the real name of Arthur as he can never be taken seriously, especially when you pair him up with a much older, sexier and serious Denise 

I disagree. This was the only storyline which showed any original initiative and integrity; and Denise and Arthur actually had chemistry. I wish TPTB had had the balls to continue with this.

Stop trying to convince us that Sharon is sexy - she just isn't

I can see what you're saying, but TPTB only have her act in that ridiculous, breathy Dolly-Parton-imitates-Marilyn-Monroe-and-ends-up-Miss-Piggy when she's around Jack. Watch her interact with old standards like Phil and Ian, and it's like another character. That's when Sharon's sexy, when she's not trying to be.

Oh please, vaslav37:-

 I firstly want to say this- EastEnders writers need to shape up or face getting the boot, some of us would love to have a writing job on EastEnders - it would be my dream job, some of us have Fanpics and to be honest all of them are better than the real thing right now. The writers are paid handsome salaries and should appreciate how lucky they are too write for this great show.

The absolute last thing EastEnders needs is someone like you in the writing room - the man who insisted Sharon was Cora's daughter, and who, if he were a writer, would effect that, with Tommy Steele showing up as dear old dad. Then Cora would be installed in the Vic to drink the profits while the Brannings took over Walford and changed the name to BranningVille.

Go away.


 First there isnt a single character i care about!


And bumpandgrind:-

 Kat and Alfie are a problem. I’ve personally really enjoyed their recent scenes and it’s genuinely a breath of fresh air seeing them united and happy. I do think Lorraine Newman inherited a poisoned chalice in relation to them as a lot of the damage has been done under Kirkwood’s tenure. She couldn’t scrap the cheating storyline so has little choice then to let it play out. Despite it being one of the most inappropriate plots in recent times, I do think it has the potential through the reveal / aftermath process. I seem to remember everyone hating the Little Mo / Alfie relationship but then praised the episode where Kat found out and all hell broke loose. What is clear is that an arguing couple in the centre of the Vic - the main focal point for the show - doesn't work. They're certainly not Den and Angie and the writers should stop trying to make them fit that mold. 
I agree, and I think Kat is a spent force, which is a pity, because there was nothing wrong with Kat when she left, and the people who created an iconic character simply blew her apart. This is a prime example of someone going from hero to zero.

Any other character in a situation like this would leave the soap. Let's face it, whenever there's an affair concerning major characters, someone leaves. This is what should have happened with Stax. Either Stacey should have left, and let the Brannings reconcile, or Tanya should have left and let Max develop. Instead, we've got a co-dependent yo-yo couple (and two other incipient ones in Mas and Zainab and Alfie and Kat).

Because Kat is going nowhere. One of the few things Newman made abundantly clear in her recent interview was her determination to repair Kat. As for Alfie, I think Roxy will be the Vanessa to his Max. She will be the catalyst which, eventually, sees Alfie forgive and reconcile with Kat - that will be the Christmas storyline for 2013.

I also think that Newman tweaked the Shaggerman storyline and extended it, for better or worse, to tie into the All-Things-Derek Branningapalooza Christmas promises to be. Had BK stayed, this would have been tied up, as the PR originally said, in October, and Jessie Wallace would have been toast.

The ever prescient Scrabbler:-

In our first episode Shirley would be killed by a doormat, Jack would be diagnosed with a fatel bout of Erectilebentfunction and Janine would run over Whitney 100 times before being awarded an OBE for services to the community. 

Shirley is a tragic waste of character, and she will be one of the first casualties of 2013. When Newman stated categorically that she wasn't planning on bringing back Shirley's family, she's essentially isolated the character and sealed her fate. It would have been nothing less than interesting watching Shirley as a mother and grandmother and learning why she abandoned her children in the first place.


  1. Considering PrincessPlagiarist - oops, I mean 'Perfect' - rips you off and actually quotes your blog verbatim under the guise of it being her own work, it seems odd that none of your grammatical skills have managed to rub off on her whatsoever.

    I quit reading her long, tedious, try-hard posts months ago because they are so bleeding difficult to comprehend due to the horrendous construction of her prose. She is the literary equivalent of David Witts' diction. Unintelligible.

    1. I thought they taught you about plagiarism as well as homynyms and synonyms well before university. Obviously not these days.

    2. Princess P's posts are so similar to yours, I thought she was you!

  2. Wow, thats a week of my life I will never get back! You were right on the button (as usual :) ) with you predicions about Ava as soon as she was mentioned. Yes, she is mixed race, as you said. She wont be a Deputy Head for long though, she will be selling tee shirts on the market and shacked up with Max by next Christmas.
    Definteley a replacement for Tanya.

    I would like to see Peter back (where is he and what is he doing anyway?), but in another couple of years. He will be past that bloody teenage crap by then. I would like to see him as a successful businessman, and work alongside Ian, a real Father/Son partnership. Lucy would have wandered off, following a cow, catches it, bbqs it and comes back with some meat on her bones and some intelligence. Which means another new head.
    Sharon and Phil just have to end up back in the Vic together. It just aint working with Kat and Alfie. I thought Roxy was suppose to be running it? How can she, with those two ganging up on her and making all the decisions? I just think the Capri needs some more miles put on it.

    Dr Bench, go back before 2000 if you want really good EE. Go back to the late 80s.

    Just seen the spoilers for shagger reveal "You've got the wrong brovver" really?

    Come on EE. Stop rehashing and living on past glory. Give us something orginal to talk about.

    Professor Plum