Following on from the, frankly, brilliant post earlier looking at how Bryan Kirkwood has essentially failed anyone who’s watched Eastenders, is watching Eastenders, or is going to watch Eastenders in the future, I thought I was continue the logical path of reasoning (take *that* people who say I can’t follow things thr) and suggest a few ways that anyone with half the brain of a chimpanzee and the balls of an elephant could make Eastenders infinitely better.
Obviously refraining from doing the obvious things, like blasting the Square into space, or bringing in massive family secrets like every series of Desperate Housewives (although having David Jason narrate episodes was almost my final point) these ideas will, hopefully, show everyone watching that Eastenders has definitely gone down the wrong track and can’t turn around because it’s a bloody one way system Susan, I’ll end driving into traffic won’t I.
Get Rid Of ‘The Untouchables’
‘The Untouchables‘ is a term that I created to describe characters that, some people behind the camera deem too important to let go. These generally seem to be actresses who look good crying (so that leaves out Danniella Westbrook) and who they write massive plots around; for instance, Ronnie Mitchell, Kat Slater, Stacey Slater. I’m sure that it’s because they’re dedicated workers who put 110% into their roles, but after a few years of having everything revolving around Kat because she looked amazing when she cried that time and looked at the moon with Alfie, it becomes slightly passé to see the notching up of drama taking them to more and more unbelievable heights.
Take Stacey Slater as a prime example. She came in as a feisty girl with an eye for men (read: generic Eastenders blurb, but we’ll speak of that later) and left a murderer, on the run with the death of her ‘true love’ on her conscience. I’ve lived on my street for 28 years and not one person has had to leave the country because their neighbour has stabbed themselves and blamed them. Perhaps I live in a more affluent area than the grimy East End of London, or perhaps Eastenders has started a Cold War with the likes of Coronation Street that neither can back down from (while Emmerdale slowly builds up it’s armies with euthanised homosexuals and abusive vicars). Instead of nuclear arms, there’s tram crashes and battered Hefferlumps.
All the while, more and more effort was being put into Stacey’s character because producers found out that she could cry and was, essentially, a tart with a heart (one of the pivotal archetypes featured later on) and a mini clone of Kat Slater.
As well as being one of ‘The Untouchables’ the option is also there to fade into the background and become the white noise of the show; or what show runners would call ‘the heart of.’ The Heart Of The Square. The Heart Of The Street. The Heart Of The Close. A prime example; Arthur ‘Fatboy’ Chubb.
He might be funny with his strange language and unusual dress sense, but he’s an indicator of Eastenders trying to cling onto their realism by creating a hyper-surreal version of the upcoming grime scene. It might reflect the upcoming grime scene, but reflect it to what? Most of the people who watch Eastenders will think Wretch 32 is a grade of spanner and not an insufferable prick, so why try and emulate something they’ll not have any intention of knowing about? It was the same with Mary The Punk. Adventurous look at a subculture, yes. Heart of gold but face of tin? Yes. But a true representation of anything? Probably not, no.
This also applies to: The Moon Brothers – no one is *that* cheeky chappy without a severe mental collapse, Billy and Lola Mitchell – the relationship is a little Lolita, and how long has she been pregnant for? Is she having the gestation period of an elephant? Rose Cotton – the neck, Lord, the neck, and Patrick Trueman.
I could talk about how saying “family” and “empire” until the blue cows go home, but it can be easily summed up by an excellent quote from the brilliant Grace Dent
being a Mitchell is exactly like being a Womble. You MUST keep remembering you are one or the spell’s broken
Stop Using Archetypes
Some people who watch Eastenders are very stupid, it’s the law of averages, there’s bound to be some out there, but even those people will think that seeing a production line of Kat Slaters rolling off whenever they need a flawed female to make a multitude of mistakes, is a bit much.
It’s understandable really. Kat Slater was a tremendous character, she carried Eastenders for years. Watchers wanted to see her finally win. And she did, to an extent. And all was great. But what was barrelling towards us before Kat had even ridden off into the sunset? Stacey Slater. A mini version of Kat, twenty years into her past, with identical mannerisms and characteristics.
She continued the time honoured tradition of Hopeless Slater Women.
- Kat was raped when she was a teenager; Stacey was raped by Archie Mitchell.
- Kat had a child when she was very young; Stacey left Walford clutching her daughter
- Kat wore some awful outfits; Stacey wore a catsuit one time
- Kat had an eye for her latest conquest; Stacey went out with Callum Monks
These are just four ways that Kat and Stacey are similar. There are more, but that could take up hours of your time figuring out.
Kat begat Stacey, Stacey begat Whitney, Whitney begat Lola.
Think of some more inventive characters. A good example is Kim Fox. A comedic actress who’s brought a new level to the dumbed down story lines that drudge along and bump into one another. She might never have a massive plot that grabs everyone’s attention, but that doesn’t make a difference somehow. Seeing her garish outfits and brash ways makes Tameka Empson one of the greatest things to come to Eastenders for a while.
Perhaps she’s get dragged down like Jane did (remember when she a hippy chick when she first came into it? What happened Jane?), or leave before something terrible happens to her, but until then, she’s brilliant.
This might seem like a simple point, but how annoying does Eastenders get when you know there’s a massive story ramping up, around September, and you have to sit through it all, despite it not being that interesting or entertaining.
Or when Phil Mitchell picks up a bottle of vodka. It might be great for a little while, but until he became a crack addict, his alcoholism was more of an annoyance than anything else. He’d slur his way around the Square, abusing market workers with a face like Eton Mess until he fell into a cake or got shot by someone. It was boring, and although it’s a terrible thing to suffer through in real life, it’s pretty boring to watch. Plus, whenever anything goes wrong in the Mitchell World a bottle of vodka is just in Phil’s reach. If you had a dangerous addiction to alcohol, would you keep vodka in your house? Who needs vodka that much? Just keep some Aftershock in random pockets. Much less obvious.
There’s a place for issue driven stories in Eastenders, but at the same time, there’s definitely something to be said for controversial plots that bring in the viewers. Because no matter how fervent a watcher you are, knowing that Phil is back on the plonk again isn’t going to make you watch. But Ronnie playing baby roulette and totally missing the point about PND was great for a small while.
This can also be said about some other plots as well, and character points.
Take Jack Branning.
His initial family secret when he first arrived in the Square was that he managed to get his daughter shot, or something, and that’s why she was in a wheelchair. Let’s face forward a few years, and he’s fighting for custody of his other daughter (the one we only see when we need to know that Roxy is struggling with a job), banging on about how he wants to be a dad and that Roxy is stopping him. But where’s your other daughter Jack? He’s a bad episode of Jeremy Kyle.
This was one of the more jolting aspects of that plot, we were led into in expected to have an amnesiac blur about Jack’s character. If that part of Jack’s history isn’t relevant, then why is this one? Or when he was shot in the head but was walking around a few weeks later, like he had just pulled a muscle.
Something you’ll notice is that the majority of these points can be followed back to poor writing. And there’s nothing that I can do about that. Although my plan of being the new Diederick Santer is currently underway.