Getting drawn back into Eastenders

Last week I stopped watching EastEnders (this is a BBC soap opera set in a fictional mostly white east end of London, without any Bengalis or Somalis) because I finally became exasperated with how the unengaging, dislikeable characters kept making fools of themselves. I can’t remember which bit put me off, but it was something to do with somebody making a really ridiculous decision that would ruin his or her life. Was it Minty accepting a proposal from Sam Mitchell? Can’t remember.

Way back, my Mum said that it was harder to get through a book if you don’t care what happens to the characters; as I recall, she was talking about the Jeanette Winterson book, Sexing the Cherry. Eastenders today is like that, and I remember that the last time I gave up on watching it, that was the reason as well. A large proportion of the characters, and certainly those who seemed to be dominating the stories last week, are either unpleasant or stupid, or both. This is particularly true of the younger characters. The story about how Phil Mitchell became a crackhead, after going to pieces when his daughter disappeared with her mother after he hit the bottle, has been widely denounced as preposterous and the Lucas/Denise story is right out of the Brookside book of ridiculous, sensational storylines.

What’s worse is the theme of pretty much every outsider turning out to be nasty or scheming — look at Adam Best, who seemed nice enough for most of the time he was in it, but then started offering Lucy Beale exam papers in return for sex (and thus cheating on his girlfriend Libby). Then there was Glenda and her son, whose scam on the Mitchells seemed to run for weeks and then peter out. Stacey’s friend Becca, from the psychiatric hospital, seemed vulnerable at first, but is now busy trying to turn Stacey Slater against her mother. (And the Slaters are the most miserable family ever invented.) The only really likeable character is Libby, but she’s a minor character and is getting written out of it later this year.

Well, next week they are running it five days a week (as opposed to four, most weeks) and the climax is set to be a big fire at the Vic, a climax of the current Phil-the-crackhead storyline. Meanwhile, Becca is set to “reveal her true colours in a shocking showdown with Stacey” and Ricky Butcher has to reveal that he may be the father of Sam’s baby. So, I’ll be watching bits of it up until that point (whether it’s on at 7:30pm or 8pm, that clashes with getting my food ready for the end of the fast) but I shouldn’t think I’ll bother with it after that.

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