ATV Today’s resident critic Queenie Le Trout presents her guide to saving BBC One soap EastEnders.
There’s no denying that EastEnders isn’t at the top of the game at the moment and hasn’t been for quite some time. There’s been a string of lacklustre storylines and characters which have failed to entertain viewers and the soap has been hit by the departure of some key cast members – even if some of them were only temporary.
With a new producer coming in to shake up the residents of Albert Square the BBC is hoping the ratings will rise, audiences will be happy once more and the press will be silent on the ‘troubled’ soap. So what can Dominic Treadwell Collins do to turn around EastEnders?
For a start he can sort out the scripts. What the soap needs is believable scripts with real dialogue. EastEnders badly falls down in this area; some of the lines are totally clichéd and a lot of the dialogue just isn’t real. People just don’t speak the way a lot of the characters do especially in London!
With the scripts comes humour; the best humour always comes through witty lines not the slapstick rubbish EastEnders usually goes for in an attempt to prove critics wrong that there’s no humour in the soap. Coronation Street is funny because it has some excellent lines and eccentric characters and that’s exactly what EastEnders needs. It needs some larger-than-life characters to liven up the soap and what it absolutely MUST NOT do is give these characters depressing storylines to bring them crashing down.
With more humour and better scripts comes strong and intelligent characters. Let’s be honest a lot of characters in soaps are utterly thick. They act the way the storylines dictates rather than how they would naturally react to circumstances. The storylines should be character driven not the other way around!
What EastEnders needs is some really strong, intelligent characters who can develop their own set of storylines without the usual load of clichéd tripe – like teen pregnancies, how many more times can EastEnders go down that route? You know it would be nice if for once the soap showed teen characters being sensible and practicing safe sex!
The storylines don’t all need to be about affairs and gangsters; EastEnders needs to get back to the domestic storylines; small scale stories about ordinary life. It needs some rivalries too but not the kind that involves Phil Mitchell and his current enemy trying to kill each other. The kind that involves two people competing against each other for a lover or a job or who has the best house. The normal kind of rivalry you experience every day and the kind that can lend itself to the occasional slanging match in the street or cat-fight.
EastEnders is very good at making topical references to big events going on – such as the Olympics – but what it’s lacking is a political edge. The country has been in recession for several years, there’s been major strikes across the country, there’s been protests and demonstrations and there’s been riots. Where is this reflected in EastEnders? Has anyone even mentioned the Bedroom tax in Albert Square? As anyone mentioned fighting for their pensions? As anyone attended any of the demonstrations?
There’s been so much political turmoil over the past few years and barely any of it has been referenced in EastEnders. EastEnders needs to be bold and brave; it needs to get back its political edge and have characters take about politics. Albert Square is a working class place and there would naturally be resistance amongst some of its residents against that current Con-Dem government. The Sun and the Daily Mail might go nuts if EastEnders got more political but who gives a toss about those rags?
If soaps are meant to reflect society then they dam-well need to sit up and take notice of the huge changes on society and they need to get political! We need to see characters attending demonstrations, we need to see characters rallying against the government and we need to see characters slagging off the government. But, of course, we need to see the other side of the coin too because, naturally, there will be some characters who will have a more favourable opinion towards the government and that should be reflected too – in essence a balance of opposed and for. And let me just remind you that when EastEnders first started back in the 80s it didn’t hesitate to have characters discuss politics!
You may not agree with me darlings but those are my suggestions for how EastEnders could be saved.