Saturday, December 21, 2013

A New Broom - Review: 19.12.2013

Daran Little is back! Arguably, one of the best writers of the soap genre, the man, himself, has returned to writing for EastEnders. Even before seeing his name on the credits, you knew this was his work - the smooth dialogue, the research involved, the accurate mentioning of the past (albeit there was a bit of retconning going on).

Someone on DS wished he'd return to Corrie. Be careful what you wish for. The man who gave the world, Peter Barlow's bigamy, the unforgettable Dicky Hillman and Todd Grimshaw's poignant coming out storyline, could very well be seconded to the helm of Corrie in time for its fifty-fifth, if Stuart Blackburn inflicts any more damage. After all, someone has to rectify the Newman Sharon-job Blackurn's done on our Todd.

A filler episode, but nonetheless very important because it gave us a foretaste for things to come. And very watchable,

The Creature from the Black Lagoon Attempts to Be the Wise Woman of Walford. I Think Not.

Although I like the character of Tina Carter, I'm growing bored with yet another feckless childwoman, the mother of a twenty year-old, who dresses like the archtypical Village Idiot, and acts like a fourteen year-old. Why do EastEnders insist on having characters like Tina, whose charm is wearing off after only a couple of weeks' appearances? 

She's not exactly Monty Python ..

I don't understand this character. Is she retarded? How did she cope raising a child? And how did she go, in three short years, from living with a man in Spain to having been a lesbian all her life? How did she go from being fat and fiftyish to being slender and thirtysomething?

It's called "retconning," and EastEnders 2.0 is heavy on the stuff. Take Shirley's sudden family. We'd heard of Tina in the context of Zsa Zsa, when the girl turned up to finish high school, but we've never heard of a younger brother. These siblings are significantly younger than Shirley, and she allegedly raised them, but they would still have been children when she was eighteen, married to Kevin and giving birth to James, so why was there no previous mention of this?

Now it's being revealed that Shirley's got a soft spot, almost maternal, for Tina and Mick. She indulges the simpleton Tina, who dresses like a court jester, and who is still feckless enough to steal from her sister-in-law, who has shown her nothing but kindness, without compunction. And she and Shirley revel in it.

You look at Shirley's softening features toward the mollycoddled Tina, and you watch her giving worldly wisdom to Lola, who's having doubts about Peter's silence,and you really sincerely have to wonder what went on that she was such a dire mother to her children. Linda, her own sister-in-law, finds what Shirley did disgusting.

And onto the subject of Linda, who's about to be one-half of the new take-over for the Vic.

No, not that Linda Carter, but Shirley's sister-in-law, played by Kellie Bright. I wasn't familiar with Kellie Bright, and I've never seen anything she's done, but initial impressions were good. She looks more than just a bit like a less tartier Roxy Mitchell, flourescent leggings, aside, but she was good. The scenes with her and Linda Henry were great, and they gave us some insight into the (retconned) family dynamic.

So Shirley has a history of burning down businesses? Remember she not-so-long-ago demolished Ian Beale's restaurant. Remember her excuses? First, it was an "accident." Then it was something, amazingly, that Beale deserved because of his part in covering up Heather's murderer's identity. Even though he was bullied into doing so by Phil and Ben.

It seems that the fact that Shirley burned down her brother's pub, fifteen years ago, and on Christmas Day, leaving him and his young family (boy, that Mick must have been a boy-wonder publican) homeless, was also an "accident." And she'll probably reckon that Linda "deserved" it as well, especially as it seems Linda is the fly in Shirley's ointment, for having forced a man to "choose" between his sister and his wife.

Really, there is no contest.

Shirley is a marmite character played by a good actress, but I can't see any positive force in moving someone so hard, bitter and twisted centre-stage on the show. One either loves Shirley or despises her. She's done too many bad things in my eyes to merit my welcoming her onto the frontline of the show.

Pat, she ain't.

Speaking of marmite characters ...

Carol the Martyr.

Don't get me wrong - I'm as much a NON-fan of Carol and Mas as I am the totally retconned relationship she has with David, but I hate to see her using Masood so blatantly. Er, Masood is Muslim. His family have never celebrated Christmas before. They had no need to do so, yet this year, Masood is "celebrating" Christmas with Carol and her dysfunctional brood.

I wonder if she's included Tamwar and Ajay in that invitation, or are they to sit, brooding, about the house, not celebrating Christmas?

I also wonder at all the cheerleaders wanting David to settle down with Carol, especially those who don't know David Wicks. Even when she was younger, Carol was never the type David fancied. She's gone from dowdy to dowdier, and she looks like a granny, turkey neck and all.

David's types are Sadie Young or Nikki Spraggan or, in a pinch, Roxy Mitchell. Carol was only ever for comfort sex.

The storyline is a good one, especially linking Carol's mother's reference and the fact she died from cancer. Reenie Branning was very much a part of Carol's marriage storyline back in 1995, but by the time we were re-introduced to Jim Branning in 1999, Reenie had died. It's quite poignant having Carol rush to do everything her mother did and hoping that this would instil some sort of memory with her children and grandchildren.

It's still hard for me to feel sympathy for such a prickly character, and one caught up in her own self-importance to the degree that when she's miserable, everyone else has to feel her pain too. Or be damned.

Does Terry work? I know he's a cab driver, but - like Charlie Slater - he seems to spend an inordinate amount of time lolligagging about the Square. Cabbies roam far and wide, but Charlie and now Terry spend most of their working day in Albert Square, as does everyone else.


The Beale twins have turned twenty. Suddenly Lucy's sporting a tan in the depths of December and kissing Danny Pennant, who's not only pushing thirty, but unemployed and bi-sexual as well; Peter has been camping in the depths of winter, and now he's bonking Lola.

These two make such a charming pair, but it's difficult to know how long or if Lucy (not a DTC signing) and/or Danny will have a shelf-life longer than a year on this show.

Queen Janine.

Easily, the two characters carrying this show at the moment are Janine and Michael. Their interaction was made all the more richer tonight by the references to their shared past, in particular, with Pat. Newer viewers won't know that David lived with Pat and Frank (and subsequently Pat), when Janine was still a child. He was kind to her, and regarded her as a younger sister. 

In this episode, we got to see the depth of Janine as a character. She's been let down so many times by people close to her - starting with Frank - that she's got massive trust issues, which is why she looks out for Number One. I don't blame her either for stitching up Alice, who was working against her criminally, or for killing Michael, who was plotting her death and who would have remorselessly killed her.

Janine is lonely and she's isolated. Pat is dead, Ricky and Diane are far away. The Jackson-Butchers whine at her for hand-outs and then treat her like shit. All it takes is for someone to reference family, and Janine's vulnerability shows. And David knows this.

Lifting he up to put the fairy on the Christmas tree, acknowledging Pat's earrings as Christmas decorations, preying on Janine's vulnerabilities. I hated him for this, and I'm Team Janine all the way. 

I really hope she gets away with this, and that David is left without a pot to piss in.

Good episode.

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