The admission by EastEnders boss John Yorke that the show is “not realistic” certainly got a lot of coverage but I can’t help thinking the show’s problem is a lack of plausibility, not realism.
As Yorke – the BBC’s head of drama production – should know, television is full of great yet unrealistic shows which have an internal logic and discipline that keeps them on the right side of the ‘what if…’ line.
Many of the BBC’s biggest drama hits – Torchwood, Doctor Who, Life on Mars, Spooks – are highly fictitious but remain plausible because the writers know where to draw the line. The audience is happy to go along with the story because it ‘feels real’.
EastEnders – a show in which characters bury spouses alive with no consequences – fails that same plausibility test.
If Spooks was produced by the EastEnders team, Harry & co would engage in Moonraker-like space battles every other week live on News 24 and no-one would bat an eyelid.
Like millions of other lost viewers, I used to watch EastEnders when it was a twice-weekly, high quality programme worthy of the time investment.
Despite the excuses all TV bosses peddle, the people who no longer tune in aren’t all doing so because we’re off playing the XBox. The reason I don’t watch EastEnders – and indeed many other shows – is because they’re poor, insipid, shadows of their former selves.
In the case of EastEnders it’s impossible to recognise the relentlessly negative portrayal of London which the BBC besmirches the capital with as the rightly lauded series Julia Smith created.
Somewhere along the line the tales of family loyalty and the hardships of ordinary working class people morphed into an endless parade of wannabe mobsters, stunt casting and melodramatic plot lines created, not to advance the story, but to temporarily win back viewers driven away by falling standards.
From the ‘that’ll do’ writing through to the AmDram ‘acting’, via the insipid direction, the show is poorly made guff with no redeeming features. There’s no aspiration – creatively or narratively – about the show.
The Ian Beale who 20 years ago wanted to go to catering college and improve himself rather than work on the family stall – a story of working class aspiration and self-betterment – has been turned into the Square’s resident wimpish whipping boy.
This is about the time fans point to triumphs at awards shows as evidence that I’m wrong. When EastEnders beats Upstairs Downstairs or Sherlock to an award made by an expert panel I’ll sit up a take notice.
As things are, it’s normally up against other poorly made soaps at dedicated award shows or relegated to a special category which serve no purpose other than to make award ceremonies look relevant.
A brave BBC would realise the show has become a sad shadow of its former itself and put it – and the audience – out of its misery.