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TV: Eastenders’ Silly Habit

Wikipedia fact: "EastEnders is a long-running, popular and award-winning television soap opera, first broadcast in the United Kingdom on BBC One on 19 February 1985. It currently ranks as one of the most watched shows in the United Kingdom."

Wikipedia fact: "EastEnders is a long-running, popular and award-winning television soap opera, first broadcast in the United Kingdom on BBC One on 19 February 1985. It currently ranks as one of the most watched shows in the United Kingdom."

I don’t actually watch Eastenders these days (or any of the other UK soaps).  By the time I stopped a few years ago the “big three” of Emmerdale, Eastenders and Coronation Street were on too much each week, and didn’t tell interesting stories consistently enough to keep me interested for the time investment they required.  I do still loosely follow what’s happening, which is why I ended up reading an interview with Eastenders’ Cheryl Fergison, who plays Heather Trott.  She was discussing the upcoming (maybe it’s even been on by now, I don’t know) baby drama and the identity of the father (which isn’t revealed in the interview).

The part of the interview that got to me is this:

*Mild Spoilers Follow*

(Interview Link)

Then Heather decides to contact the father…
“This is where I think the writing’s been really clever. When you watch it, you’ll see what I mean. They have the suspects – Minty, Phil, Darren and Billy – and all their phones ring. Heather leaves a voicemail on the daddy’s phone to let them know that they’ve become a dad. There are several cuts to all the various suspects and you see each of them flying to the hospital…”

So Heather contacts the mystery father, and at that exact time every one of the suspects receives a call and then each of them dashes out somewhere, with presumably only one actually heading to the hospital.  Taken on its own it’s a little contrived and silly, but not too bad, I guess.  The problem is that Eastenders is alone among the soaps in that they do this regularly (in fact, I don’t remember it ever happening in the others).

To resolve the “Who Shot Phil Mitchell” storyline, Phil went to the door of the shooter (he survived the shooting, obviously, but kept their identity a secret so he could confront them himself) and knocked.  Next it showed each suspect in turn, all responding to a knock on their door.  One opened the door off-screen, Phil greeted them, and the episode ended.  It was a silly way to stretch things out that little bit further.

Or there was another mystery father situation when Vicki Fowler discovered she was pregnant and called the father to meet in the pub and discuss it.  Again, at that time each of the suspects received a call, and when Vicki went to meet them in the pub they were all in a row at the bar, having a drink.

Those are two examples that I can think of, and I found it dumb each time.  I’m told by people who still watch the soaps that Eastenders even did it fairly recently with the mystery of who reported fugitive Sam Mitchell to the police, showing several people making a phone call.

The worst part is that it’s wholly unnecessary as a way to create mystery, and in fact it’s even more mysterious if you actually don’t show anybody.  Heather or Vicki calls their baby daddy without showing who answers, and arranges to meet.  If you need to stretch it out an episode, just keep them out of shot.  Heather’s in the hospital with the baby and a nurse approaches to say that the father’s arrived.  Cue apprehensive look look from Heather, episode ends.

Phil knocks on the door to confront his shooter, and with the camera angled properly still doesn’t need to show the shooter or give away the address (which is actually the shot they used anyway to end the episode).  The police track down Sam, and without showing anybody it makes everybody a suspect, without coming across as needing to spoon-feed suspects to the viewers.  It still preserves the mystery, keeps it stretched out to the same length of time, and has the added bonus of not coming across as so unlikely and ridiculous.

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Categories: News (TV), TV Tags: , ,
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  1. October 26, 2009 at 01:36

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