Thursday, 19 February 2015

From Weatherfield to Walford

Well, in the spirit of civility and good relations, we should at least raise a foaming tankard of Newton & Ridley's and toast the thirtieth birthday of that other soap. Yes, it was on this day in 1985 that curious Corrie fans first got a chance to size up the new kid on the block.

Back in the day I was more than happy to watch both shows. The 'Enders omnibus fitted nicely into a Sunday afternoon, post-lunch spot and that remained my viewing habit for several years. What became apparent in the early days was that the BBC soap was offering something rather different to Corrie. Weatherfield, at the time, seemed to be a haven for single women. We had Bet, Rita, Mavis, Phyllis, Emily and Ivy all shuffling around without a bloke in sight. Albert Square gave us families, something in short supply on the cobbles at the time.

Maybe 'Enders pitched itself in the right place at the right time. Corrie was a bit cosy and the cast upheaval of 1984 was still making the show seem unsettled. Channel 4's Brookside had gained plaudits for its realism but by the end of the year, the first of many sieges would have been staged on the Close and the show's slow death began. Emmerdale was still Emmerdale Farm in 1985 and probably still had storylines about Dolly Skilbeck falling into a bucket of sheep dip.

EastEnders did get blamed for its apparent tokenism in the early days but it battled on with uncompromising stories about teenage pregnancy, drug addiction, homosexuality and domestic violence. Not the stuff of Corrie and in its favour, our beloved soap didn't try and emulate the goings on in Albert Square. Weatherfield's grittier storylines were introduced in a stealthier manner. Hilda's mugging, Alan Bradley's attacks on Rita and the devastation caused by the loss of Liz McDonald's baby daughter were handled with care.

It's probably fair to say that neither of the soaps are much like they were on this day thirty years ago. Maybe they learned a little from each other. EastEnders eventually realised that a little comedy will keep people watching. Corrie escaped from the slumbering mid-1980s and began to reflect more aspects of every day life. As well as crashing cars, exploding buildings and every wedding day going down the drain.

I've not watched 'Enders since Tiffany Mitchell got squashed by Frank Butcher in 1999. The unrelenting misery finally broke my spirit. Tonight though, one more time, I will tune in and cheer them on. Tomorrow though, back to the cobbles.

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Zagg said...

I used to be an Eastenders fan back in the day. I loved the Den Watts story line in the beginning and stayed a true fan for many years. The return of Nick Cotton wreaking havoc each time he came back, the Mitchell bothers slinging their weight around, Dot, Pat Butcher....I loved them all. I watched up until Sharon returned and then it got too soapy for me. Too depressing and too much heartache and bad boy characters.
It was fun one upon a time...and now I feel old.

Anonymous said...

My husband and I watched on an American channel starting at the first season. Then we lost track and I tried watching about 10 years later. I found it to be very dark, with a lot very unlikeable, violent characters so I stopped it was far too depressing. I still have a soft spot for Dot though.

BarrieT said...

Its a shame you don't watch Eastenders anymore as its currently got an amazing producer and our very own daran little as writer. Its a lesson in how to produce a soap well. 12 months ago bryan kirkwood ran it into the ground much like staurt blackburn is doing now. But from the very first day domenic treadwell collins took over as producer its been absolutely on fire. Every episode has a cliffhanger that you just cant wait to see what happens next. Sad to say that corrie pales in comparison and these days i just watch with the sound on but my head in my ipad. I do think if it wasn't for Eastenders 30 years ago we would never have the big explosive christmas day episodes. That all started with Den serving Angie divorce papers on xmas day. The BBC started the xmas day episodes. Happy Birthday Eastenders, best soap on TV (at the moment). Corrie producer, watch and learn.

Beth said...

Barry T.... Interesting. I haven't watched EE in many, many years as I found it bleak and lacking in the warmth that Corrie always gave. I watched last week due to the hype and was v pleasantly surprised. I thought maybe as it was a big week as it was a one off but the rest of my friends and family tell me no, that it's fabulous right now and Corrie is a v poor imitation. This saddens me. 1) Because I know they are right, 2) I want to keep watching because it's good, where as Corrie is a habit that's on but I tune out doing other things 3) How critical it is to have a strong Producer. 4) Darren Little, come back, we need you!

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