ATV Today profiles outgoing EastEnders boss Diederick Santer.
Following the news that EastEnders Executive Producer Diederick Santer is to step down from the role in the new year and hand over the reins to former Hollyoaks supremo Bryan Kirkwood, ATV Today takes an in profile look at the man who has been responsible for some of EastEnders most successful and controversial storylines…
Diederick became EastEnders head honcho in October 2006 but what did the man do before he took over one of Britain’s top television series? Diederick graduated from the University of Leeds with a degree in Psychology and the History of Philosophy of Science.
His TV Career began ten years prior to his EastEnders appointment in 1996 when he became a freelance script reader for United Productions. After that he took up the role of Script Editor on the first two series of hit ITV drama Where The Heart Is. Following this Diederick moved to Granada where he continued to script-edit working on series such as A&E and The Last Train.
Joining The BBC
He joined BBC Drama production at the turn of the century where he produced the first three series of hit hairdressing drama Cutting It. He continued his producing career at the beeb by producing The Taming Of The Shrew and the Bafta-nominated Much Ado About Nothing for BBC One. In 2006 his lavish production of Jane Eyre proved a hit with critics and viewers alike.
In October 2006, Diederick became Executive Producer of EastEnders and gained a place on the board of BBC Drama Production. His first credited ‘Enders episode was 5th January 2007.
Taking over the BBC’s best known soap opera must surely be a daunting task but Diederick is one man who rose to the challenge. Shortly after he joined the soap casting was announced on two new Asian characters who would later form part of a full Asian family. The Masood family have been one of the most successful additions to EastEnders with fans warming to the popular clan consisting of matriarch Zainab (Nina Wadia), father Masood (Nitin Ganatra), daughter Shabnam (Zahra Ahmadi) and son Tamwar (Himesh Patel). Although Ahmadi later quit the series the family were joined by estranged son Syed (Marc Elliott) in 2009. Two other hugely popular characters Diederick Santer introduced to EastEnders are sisters Ronnie and Roxy Mitchell played by Samantha Janus and Rita Simons. A huge marketing campaign saw that their arrival was a hit with viewers and since then the pair have continued to remain popular with viewers and subsequently have remained right at the heart of the programme.
Not only has Diederick Santer introduced a string of highly successful new characters to the soap he has also revived several past ones securing the returns of hugely popular characters including Ricky and Janine Butcher and Bianca Jackson. From the new year they will be joined by other members of the Jackson clan Carol, Robbie, Sonia and Billy. He has also been responsible for the short term returns of Steven Beale, Clare Bates, Diane Butcher and Sam Mitchell. With the reintroduction of Sam Mitchell earlier this year the role was returned to the original actress Danniella Westbrook.
Throughout 2007 and 2008, the show began to have an increasing focus on the popular Branning family. Max and Tanya’s turbulent relationship gripped the nation with storylines focusing on affairs, rivalry and even attempted murder more than once. Max’s affair with daughter in law Stacey was one of the show’s longest running storylines which built momentum over a full year. When the affair was finally revealed during the Christmas 2007 episode EastEnders was the most watched TV programme that year with over 14 million viewers tuning in for the fallout.
Under Diederick Santer EastEnders has remained dominant when it comes to Soap Awards picking up gongs on a regular basis. The show was named Best British Soap at the 2008 and 2009 British Soap Awards and Most Popular Soap at the National Television Awards in 2007 and 2008. Other awards include two TRIC awards for TV Soap Of The Year in 2008 and 2009 and Best British Soap at the Inside Soap Awards in 2008 and 2009. The show has also maintained healthy viewing figures gaining on ITV soap Coronation Street which had been clearly dominant in the ratings for several years prior to this.
Other storylines and episodes during his reign at the beeb saga will remain notable for include soap’s first single hander episode starring EastEnders veteran Dot Branning (June Brown) reflecting on her past and the future, a storyline featuring Ben Mitchell being tormented by his dad’s new girlfriend Stella, a pedophilia storyline with the characters of Tony King and Whitney Dean, a violent attack on the Vic in 2007 and the story of Ronnie Mitchell’s long lost daughter coming to Walford to find her mother and later being killed off. Additionally, Diederick also introduced a set of new opening and closing titles to the programme, initiated a production shuffle behind the scenes of the soap, produced EastEnders first real time episode, and introduced the show’s first disabled character Adam Best (David Proud).
Although Santer’s reign over EastEnders has been a successful one with a string of popular storylines the show has not been without controversy. Two stabbings, a gay kiss, tackling the taboo subject of pedophilia, a storyline involving a threatened home caesarian on one character and the death of character Danielle have all met with some controversy and a number of viewer complaints.
“For me, he’ll be remembered as the bloke who said he didn’t know why the EastEnders logo rose from the bottom of the screen to the top. Erm, like water dear as your opening titles revolve around the river Thames. Goes to show you can get a degree at Uni but it just doesn’t always give you the common sense of the basics in life darling!” – TV critic Vivian Summers.
Diederick will leave his EastEnders post on February 20th following the show’s 25th anniversary.