Sunday, November 16, 2014

Johnny, We Hardly Knew Ye

Oh, woe is me ... Stan is going to die, Dean is a rapist and now ... now Johnny Carter will be no more.

Certain Millennial viewers are clever in some aspects. A sharp-eyed Millennial on Digital Spy spied earlier this week the fact that all references to EastEnders had been removed from Sam Strike's Twitter blurb, to be replaced by his agent's contact details.

From the cesspit of third-rate celebrity stalking, experience tells the fanbois that this can only mean one thing - Sam Strike was leaving EastEnders.

Then next day, their suspicions were more than confirmed: Strike not only was leaving, he'd already left.

This much can be definitely ascertained: The lad chose not to renew his contract, for whatever reason. Some say he wants to devote more time to extreme sports, others say he's shy by nature and wasn't enamoured of the cheapish celebrity lifestyle on tap as a member of the BBC Bratpack. Good for him.

Whatever the reason, he chose to leave, and his choice must be respected, as much as it may have enraged the elfin Dominic Treadwell-Collins, in creating his Carter Empire.

Within weeks of his first appearance, Johnny "came out" in a brilliantly scripted episode, followed by a few weeks of his mother's denial of his sexuality and his parents' stopping his sister's marriage to a thoroughly undesireable young man of dubious character who just happened to be black.

There followed, in both instances, both Carters making the sort of remarks a lot of people of their ilk make regarding the gay and ethnic communities - remarks of the sort which identified the Carters as mildly homophobic and racist - in other words, they could tolerate gays (but not in their family) and blacks/Asians were OK (as long as their children didn't marry/sleep with any of them).

Of course this version of EastEnders being fairly spineless in relation to the original product (cf: Nick Cotton referring to Fatboy as an "immigrant" where in his original guise, he would have been deemed something else by Nick, who used to pepper his language frequently with "Paki" and other overtly racist terms), and so this dubious aspect of the Carters' character has been wiped clean.

And so after Johnny's initial declaration, the character was put on ice - although everyone and his brother knew that Johnny was being preserved, a dandy in aspic, for the return of Ben Mitchell. Think of it! Phil's son and Shirley's nephew/grandson bonking over the grave of Heather.

Alas, that was never to be. Just as Patsy Palmer's departure put paid to the BRCA storyline, concerning Sonia and her amazing sonic tits, so the Johnny-Ben ("Jen"? "Bohnny"?) was never to be.

Now the usual suspects are wondering if DTC will effect an immediate recast. Answer? No. 

Yes, EastEnders replaces departing characters with new characters, and if the fanbois removed their heads from their collective arses long enough, they would just about see the image of Paul Coker loping into Walford on the horizon. We got more than enough references to him and to his back story this week to realise that there won't be a recast of Johnny.

Not now, maybe not ever. The Carters are still an unknown force. Already we know that Stan will depart via death, Johnny is leaving before Christmas, and Dean the rapist will depart in the spring. Even contractual agreements aren't enough to bind actors who don't want to give the show the long haul, and we know there are a gaggle of Carters gasping somewhere, awaiting the call (or the re-call). That isn't counting the satellite possibilities of Buster Briggs AKA Andy (surely, the worst kept secret identity in the show's history) having children of his own to add to the fray.

Johnny is gone. In the future, he'll be a name of someone living in Manchester. Or Brighton. Or even Italy with Luca.

That's as much a given as Ben Hardy's as-yet unspoken departure, because James Bye, as Martin Fowler, can only be seen on his family's fruit and veg stall.

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