Once again it was relentless gloom in the UK’s soaps yesterday, EastEnders offered yet another dismal attempt to rival the classic Christmas episode where Den handed divorce papers to Angie. It’s been twenty years and the writers have yet to come up with anything to match the episode which was so effective it’s set the template for every soap’s festive offerings ever since.
This year the plot revolved around the thoroughly unlikable Roxie and Sean and the paternity of their baby. Cue some so-so actors shouting at one another and the usually monosyllabic Sean suddenly adopting an articulacy his character has never before hinted at.
Of all the soaps, EastEnders is the worst for changing the personalities of their characters to suit the plot, it’s utterly unconvincing and suggests a real lack of talent in the writer’s room.
In Emmerdale the unconvincing sale of the Church plot spluttered to an apparent close while the village’s younger cast members had an adventure on ice which, we presume, lays the ground for the discovery of the dead policeman’s body.
Oddest moment of the episode was the inexplicable decision of the ambulance crew to leave three of the gang in the middle of nowhere after two of their mates had nearly just died.
Coronation Street’s festive offering had underwear maker Tony Gordon engaging in a spot of intimidation and implied torture, a scene rendered only slightly less than absurd by the talents of Gray O’Brien (Gordon) and Kenneth Cope.
Increasingly the soaps seem to be written and produced by people who don’t care how unbelievable the end result is.
I recall reading The Making of Star Trek in which Gene Roddenberry talks about how writers should approach working on the show. In an extract from the writer’s bible he sets out a number of scenarios aboard a US Navy warship, advising writers that what seemed unbelievable on the warship would be equally so aboard the Enterprise.
Modern soaps require a similar test, few other dramas would expect audiences to swallow the revelations and developments soaps serve up on a weekly basis.
A show like Spooks would be laughed off the air were Harry to suddenly reveal he were Adam’s father but soaps think nothing of introducing previously unmentioned offspring or making ‘dramatic’ revelations about the parentage or fidelity of characters, seemingly unaware of the credibility gap this creates.
More melodrama than drama, these plot devices were once rare on British TV but since the success of 80’s supersoaps such as Dallas and Dynasty have become increasingly commonplace.
What were once relatively realistic, character driven dramas are increasingly pantos reliant on plot stunts and gimmicks to prop up falling viewing figures.