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Friday, 19 February 2010

Eastenders...the drama before the storm...

BBC One, 17/02/09, 7.30 p.m.

Evening all, Rooster here!

As fellow TV blogger King Edward is constantly reminding me, it is strictly forbidden for members of the Royal Family to be assembled together in the same place at the same time lest a terrible accident befall them and the entire lineage be discontinued in one fell swoop. Why he insists on reacquainting me with this fact every time we meet, I do not compute. As I have repeatedly taken pains to remind him, I have seen King Ralph; I am au fait with Royal protocol.

The creative team responsible for Eastenders would do well to take note. At its dramatic climax, last night's extended episode saw at least 95% of the Square assembled in the Vic. This strikes me as very lax: had the mock ceiling collapsed or the set been hit by a mudslide, the producers would have found themselves knocking on Sophie Lawrence's door, begging her to emote in the ruins. Needles to say, she is undoubtedly capable of the task but is nonetheless unlikely to accept given her considerable success in the music business.

The episode itself, based around two weddings (Bianca & Ricky and Bradley & Stacey), made a very slow, almost plodding start but picked up once the nuptials got under way. Bianca's wedding was an all bells and whistles kind of affair, somewhat reminiscent of last night's equally brilliant My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding and was punctuated (but not punctured) by the arrival of her mum, Carol. Stacey and Bradley were wed in surprisingly staid circumstances at the local Town Hall, ably assisted by Stacey's crazy mum
and Bradley's dad and Stacey's one time lover , Max.

Of course, the ghost of Archie loomed large over the Vic once the two wedding parties had ill-advisedly assembled there. Possibly in a crazed reaction to recent events, Roxie and Peggy seemed to be having some sort of fascinator-off. Peggy gave a good fight but Roxie emerged victorious, looking like a 40s sex siren to Peggy's whorehouse madam. Meanwhile, her crazed sister, Ronnie (played by the ever-hammier Samantha Janus) bitch slapped Janine into a three-tier wedding cake. Of course, Ronnie ended up with (fake) blood on her hands after hurling some recently-discarded red paint onto the poster of her father grinning menacingly down from above the car lot.

This penchant for mock-theatricals has long been a feature of Eastenders. Of course, motifs such as Archie's snowglobe and Pauline's infamous doorstop are more high camp than high class and no doubt the production team take great pleasure in indulging their penchant for melodramatic prop use. All power to them! In any case, all that theatrical flair should come in handy for tonight's live episode, which this extended episode was clearly designed to whet our appetite for. The episode closed with Bradley poised to do a runner and everyone looking increasingly like a suspect.

To its credit, Eastenders has managed to build up a genuine sense of excitement about the "Who killed Archie?" storyline. Perhaps they learned their lesson from the dreadful, drawn out disaster that was the "Who Shot Phil?" debacle which, although only running for a matter of months, seemed to drag on for years and culminated in a whimper, rather than a bang. It always seemed to me rather like a post-dinner party game of Cluedo that had somehow dragged on into the wee small hours: no-one actually cared who had done it any longer and they just wanted it to end. Perhaps it was Eastenders' recent foray into online entertainment (the frankly dreadful E20 - please abort mission asap) that has reveled to them the fickle nature of the modern viewer. We are looking for instant gratification, thrills, spills and excitement, not some long drawn-out saga with an unsatisfactory conclusion. After all, those seeking such an experience can shop at Asda. I myself will be whisking through the Waitrose express self-check out this evening before settling down to watch what I hope will be a similarly slick televisual triumph.

Rooster x

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