Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Daily Star's Big Tease

On a wet, windy and miserably Saturday evening, The Daily Star, that go-to tabloid for soap news, sets the Digital Spy soap sheeple's collective heart a-flutter by promising the reveal of a major EastEnders' actor who's set to quit the thing.

People are waging bets on anyone "major" from Phil, Ian or Max to Jean, Big Mo and Tracey.

Me (as in my opinion)? I'm hovering around three people, none of whose leaving announcements would surprise me - Linda Henry, June Brown or Charlie Brooks.

I'll tell you who it won't be before I tell you why I think it will be one of the above.

First of all, let's work from the hypothesis that there is a category of EastEnder actor who is deemed "untouchable," meaning he or she will leave when they want and on their terms. Those people would be, I'd say, Steve McFadden, Adam Woodyatt, June Brown and Jake Wood. For good measure, I'll throw in Letitia Dean and Charlie Brooks. The rest are easily axeable.

But, having said that, in my opinion, it won't be ...

Adam Woodyatt: Woodyatt has always said he wanted to be the show's version of Ken Barlow. He's there for the duration. Besides, TPTB let him have sufficient time off to work with the various charities he patronises, and he also has his own budding photography business. Woodyatt, along with Letitia Dean, is one of two original characters left in the show. EastEnders works, for Ian Beale, to Woodyatt's schedule.

Steve McFadden: That doesn't mean McFadden hasn't considered leaving. He thought about going shortly after Barbara Windsor announced her departure. In fact, I would wager one of the conditions of his remaining was Letitia Dean's return, and the rebuilding of the Mitchells around Phil and Sharon.

Jessie Wallace: Wallace left "by mutual consent" the last time, which is a euphemism for getting sacked. Very seldom do actors get a second chance like that, so she's going nowhere, especially since it's known that the reparation and restoration of Kat and Alfie is going to be Lorraine Newman's pet project for 2013.

Shane Richie: Richie quit the last time, because he thought Hollywood was beckoning when he got the opportunity to voice a cartoon character (a rat, as it was) in a Hollywood film. When his career didn't take off, he didn't think twice about returning when asked. And now that he has a second and very young family coming on with au pairs and school fees to pay, he's going the distance.

Scott Maslen: Diederick Santer thought he was being clever, headhunting Maslen. Apparently, Jack Branning is Phil Hunter by another name. Maslen's a wooden actor, who knows when he's onto a good thing, and EastEnders is a nice little earner. As well, he's got children whose school fees need paying, and he's not about to find anything like what he's got now if he leaves. Also, he's won the ubiquitous Sexiest Male gong, and after such a high profile pinch from a show which is now non-existent, TPTB are stuck with Scott Maslen.

Letitia Dean: Unless TPTB have so fucked around with her character that she isn't a happy bunny and leaves, throwing them the stiff middle one on her way out the door. Dean returned singing the praises of how she wanted to stay long enough to be developed into the next proper Walford matriarch. Forget Cora the Bora. Pat was roughly the same age as Sharon when she returned to the Square.

Jake Wood: Wood has a sideline, which is a nice little earner. He's the voice of the iconic character, the GEICO Gekko, in the US. While no one may know Wood's face, they certainly know his voice. GEICO is a major MAJOR entity, and they would be paying Wood big bucks to front their ad campaign as a voice actor. So, if Wood decided to pull the plug on Max, it wouldn't hurt him financially. Not that much. But Wood's got one year to go on a three-year contract, and - besides Phil Mitchell - Max is one of the most nuanced characters in the show at the moment, and certainly the Branning worth keeping.

Jacqueline Jossa, David Witts, Hetti Bywater, Tony Discipline: More's the pity. No talent, no experience, playing themselves, but cognizant of the expression "Money for nothing and the chicks for free." They're paid too much for too little talent, and they flaunt it brazenly.

It could be:-

Patsy Palmer: I don't think she's fussed about the show. She's made it perfectly clear that her children are her first priority. If this six-month on-off contract thing she negotiated last year is up for discussion next year,she may very well have opted not to go ahead with it. Wouldn't surprise me.

Shona McGarty: After being forcefed a diet of Twitney about which the viewers complained, the ubiquitous yoghurt incident in ASDA and getting a suspension for being late continuously, McGarty just might see the writing on the wall. After Yoghurtgate, TPTB sidelined her and Tony Discipline to the point that their characters were non-existent. Rumours abounded in the spring that McGarty wanted to go in order to pursue a singing career, and she received good reviews with the song she sang on Children in Need. It may be she's jumping before she's pushed.

Very likely contenders:-

June Brown: Immediately before she took her break earlier in the year, Brown sounded wistful about staying on. She's 85, after all, and she was open in expressing how much she missed Barbara Windsor and Pam St Clement, saying there was no one she really knew anymore. If she decided to go, having been lumped and dumped amongst the Branning family, it would be understandable.

Charlie Brooks: When she returned in 2008, she was adamant that it wouldn't be for more than a year. Brooks is one of the few actors on the show who is capable of playing different types of roles believeably. In other words, every other role she takes isn't turned into "Janine-Butcher-with-a-Different-Name." (Yes, Lacey Turner, I'm thinking about you). The Jungle show can be humiliating, but it's also a make or break experience for some actors. Careers have been rejuvenated and sometimes have gone in other directions because of exposure on that show. Charlie did I'm a Celebrity for a reason, and I'll bet it was astute. I can see Janine returning, taking Scarlett and leaving.

But it's most likely to be ...

Linda Henry: Newman was schtum about plans for Shirley in 2013, but adamant that none of her previous family (Carly, Dean or Zsa Zsa) would be returning, nor would her unseen sister Tina be introduced. She has no job, no money and no connections to the Square. By establishing her character as a Mitchell doormat, who's been thrown out and labelled "Surplus to Requirements", she has no future and no direction. There's only so many times she can wreak havoc on Phil in the name of vengeance (which we all really know is her weird interpretation of "love") before it risks becoming a joke. It's not far off that now.

Only fifteen minutes to go.

Tick ... tock...

Update: Nina Wadia ... whoda thunk it? Another death or will Mas be caught having an affaire with the fragrant Ayesha?

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