Monday, 23 February 2015

EastEnders Live Week

You donut
I haven't watched EastEnders for seven years.

I watched it at the start in 1985, much to my dad's chagrin, mostly because I was fascinated by the layout of Albert Square shown on a map in the Radio Times. But when Neighbours started I switched loyalty, as more girls at school were following life in Erinsborough than life in the East End, for a reason that I suspect had something to do with Jason Donovan and Guy Pearce being a lot easier on the eye than Nick Berry and Tom Watt.

But nonetheless I continued to follow EastEnders off and on through school and university, before a housemate in London got me hooked back on it properly. And when BBC3 started showing a repeat of that night's episode at 10pm it became compulsory bedtime viewing. I can't say it was a guilty pleasure, because EastEnders has never been what you might term pleasurable viewing - it's essentially a load of rasping people having miserable lives, moaning a dot-to-dot script of cliched lines like "She's faaaaamleee", "Leave it aaht", "You're 'avin' a laaaaf in't ya?" or "He ain't worf it, Fill". But I was guilty of continuing to watch it despite it driving me mad with its repetitive plots. Nothing ever seemed to change, apart from an occasional redecoration of the Queen Vic after it burned down. Again.

So I was probably looking for an excuse to stop it wasting my life, and moving to York was it. I didn't live in London any more, so it seemed inappropriate to follow a London-based soap opera. I couldn't bring myself to replace it with Yorkshire's equivalent, Emmerdale, and so I happily left "continuous family drama" behind once and for all and dabbled in Downton Abbey instead.

But when EastEnders held its 30 year anniversary "Live Week", I couldn't resist tucking in again.

In reality, by now Walford should have been declared "up and coming", meaning that house prices would have shot through the roof and all the die-hard locals sold up to tosser investment bankers and gone to buy a gated mansion out in 'aalow or Saaafend with the profit. After all, Victorian squares are highly desirable. Especially ones with excellent Tube links into town. And especially ones with a historic bench in the middle.

Our version of the "Minute Mart" in Crouch End,
which we called the Zombie Shop
after it was used as a set in Shaun Of The Dead
The Queen Vic would have gone gastro, the Minute Mart been replaced with a branch of Boulangerie Paul, Booty become staffed by (admittedly excellent) travelling Australian hair stylists, and Ian Beale's food empire been bought out by Jamie Oliver or Mark Hix and gone all New York loft in decor.

But no.

The Queen Vic toilets had had a Laura Ashley makeover ready for someone to give birth in them, but that was the only discernible difference. Ian Beale has opened a posh burger bar where people moan about the prices, but the ones quoted were still £5 cheaper than GBK or Byron. (I don't think GBK or Byron have marriage licences either.)

I was worried I wouldn't be able to follow the plot or know who anybody was, but with the exception of Danny Dyer, the cast was exactly the same as it was seven years ago. This was partly because some folk - Peggy, Tanya - were putting in guest appearances. Some characters had new heads - Peter, Martin, Ben and the rising from the dead Lucy. Who wasn't the only person rising from the dead - Nick Cotton and Kathy Beale are in fact alive. Well, Nick isn't now. ("Stinks, in 'ere!") But he's been dead at least two times before, and I wouldn't be surprised if they manage to regenerate him in another ten years' time.

The only person I wasn't sure about was when Tanya asked Jane about someone called Adam. But that turned out to be a live boo-boo as Tanya had just referred to Ian by the actor's real name. Whoopsie.

Depressingly, it was the usual Groundhog Day storylines. Ian Beale was getting married again. The wedding reception was in the Queen Vic again. Tanya was trying to get back together with Max again, having conveniently forgotten that she had tried to bury him alive a few years ago. Max was still having an affair with anything in a skirt. Sharon was still pouting. Kat was still drunk, though her bra size appears to have increased considerably. (As has Ian Beale's waistline, which as it burst out of his tux at least makes him look like he runs a chippy.) People were still slapping people. People were still carrying guns in bouquets of flowers. Someone was trying to set fire to the Vic. People's voices are so husky with fag abuse that it's now completely impossible to make out any consonants whatsoever.

And Lucy's killer turned out to be her little baby half-brother. That live reveal did make me gasp "Ooh!", if only because it was the only time Jane had a different facial expression to the one she had worn all evening (really shocked as opposed to mildly alarmed) . I don't know how Jane confessed to Ian that it was Bobby who did it because our supermarket delivery turned up ten minutes in to the all-live episode. So one minute Ian was throwing plates around the kitchen thinking his wife had murdered his daughter, and the next they were all sobbing around the dining room table trying to work out what to do with Bobby. Send him off to borstal now, I tell you. All those computer games will only lead to trouble. Haven't you read We Need To Talk About Kevin?

I lived either Southwest or North in London and my forays East were therefore sporadic - a visit to the William Morris gallery in Walthamstow, Sutton House in Hackney or the Geffrye Museum in Dalston, a party in Plaistow, a Turkish kebab on Harringay Green Lanes, evening drinks with friends working for Lehman Brothers at Canary Wharf before the Crash, a walk along the Greenway to Beckton before the Olympic Stadium was built. Actually, I am surprised Walford hasn't been bulldozed to make way for Crossrail. (You can now see Canary Wharf from Albert Square. That was something new.)

Canary Wharf

Besides, nearly all the cast of EastEnders actually lived near me in Crouch End as opposed to the East End, on the good side of the East Coast mainline tracks. In my four years there, I squished up next to Jake Moon in a bus shelter in torrential rain, had the locker next to Carly Wicks in the gym's changing room, worked out opposite Dennis Rickman in the gym, saw Phil Mitchell moaning to someone on Priory Gardens near Highgate tube, and Minty smiling in Florian's Bar and the Vietnamese cafe next door. And - true fact gleaned on a guided tour - a room in the art deco Hornsey Town Hall on Crouch End Broadway was used to play the role of Walford Registry Office. Before whoever was getting married went off to have their reception in the Vic.

Hornsey Town Hall

But that's it. No more 'stenders for me. I am done. For another 30 years at least. Altogether now - # Doof-doof...doof-doof-de-doof-doof... #

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