Today exemplified why I watch Coronations Street and hate Eastenders.
Coronation Street is flying at the moment. They’ve even managed the almost impossible: a storyline with children at the centre of it done relatively well. Normally TV shows show the 10-15 gap appallingly. They are normally precocious in some way and generally just use words and phrases an adult imagines a person that age speaks. (Admittedly this isn’t that odd given the nature of screenwriting/acting/soap operas.)
Coronation Street’s recent bullying storyline has been done quite well. It has managed to not have to sensationalise it and make it have an impact. Two young girls forced a slightly younger boy into girls clothing, using some force. They also filmed themselves doing it on one of their phones. I know, a believable storyline: stop the clocks.
Of course Coronation Street is mainly brilliant when it is believing believable. But, much like most things, it is often unmissable when it gets a bit ridiculous (serial killer operating on a small street, tram falling off a bridge etc.) Brilliant is better than unmissable for me as a viewer.
I think TV bosses prefer unmissable. Which has come to mean murder storylines generally – or the milder choice of wedding being abruptly stopped at the alter when it is revealed (by the bride) that the groom is having the child of the vicar. Rarer still are the episodes where we see romances fulfilled, particularly will-they-wont-they couples getting together. Or an unlikely couple come together.
The latter option is easy. Take two people and slowly build up a bit of chemistry and let the viewer sense something is there before even the characters do. Throw the odd spanner in the works (one of them has a partner, then they are both single but a misunderstanding gets in the way, then the other one gets a partner etc.) and bob’s your uncle. Soaps can literally use this again and again. And they do.
The problem is when you use the same characters again and again. As with anything that is essentially a repetition there is diminishing interest. I saw ten minutes of Eastenders tonight* and it’s not a show I care for. I used to watch it avidly. But that hasn’t been the case for quite a long time now. I probably catch the odd few minutes every 6 months or so and it generally lives up to the stereotype of it I have in my head: everyone is miserable and/or angry, people who hate each other stand very close to each other in the same corner of the pub and have snide digs at each other – and Ian Beale is in it.
What I have seen a couple of times back when I used to watch it was Kat and Alfie loving each other but messing it up somehow. Them realising they were meant for each other must have happened two or three times before I stopped watching Eastenders. Then a few years later when I moved in with my partner Eastenders became a thing in my home again. It was on in the background occasionally, as I shook my head. I did, however, notice that Kat then Alfie returned to the soap having earlier left. They were no longer together but were involved in the arc of remembering that they loved each other etc.
That has clearly gone awry again as what I saw tonight was Alfie on the verge of marrying the sister of the woman from Game On and rushing off – actually he went over the verge an did marry her – then he realised he actually wanted Kat and ran off. Kat was, of course, boarding a plane to Ibiza leaving Walford FOREVER.
In what must be the most used trope in will-they-wont-they TV dramas, Alfie then set off to declare his love for Kat and stop her leaving his life FOREVER. Not afraid of cliché, not afraid of repition the writers gave Alfie a troubled path to the airport and then gave Shane Ritchie lots of things to run into and fall over when he got there [didn’t he have a long slapstick journey the first time he slept with Kat?]; he was slamming into people who weren’t even in his way as he ran through the airport. Would it have really been so difficult to choreograph it a little more believably?
It became so predictable that I can’t believe any of Eastenders’ many viewers were in any doubt about the outcome whatsoever. Of course Alfie got there – seemingly having a passport at the ready, just getting easily through all security, managing to convince the man who’d closed the gate that he had to let him through because he had to tell the woman he loved how he felt (because that would definitely make someone at an airpot ignore protocol).
That wasn’t it for breaching the rigorous security he ran up the stairs to the plane as they were being removed and banged on the door. The plane’s cabin staff OF COURSE just opened the door and asked him to take his seat and patiently waited as the declared his love to Kat. They only politely removed him after about five minutes of refusing to sit down. He was politely dragged off by the staff after Kat refused to come back with him. How could she trust him again?
Of course the moment Alfie was walking away resigned to losing Kat she appeared out of the plane. She had changed her mind and would now leave the plane. Which no-one saw coming at all.
It was all so fucking predictable it lacked any joy whatsoever. Back over in Weatherfield they are managing to get much more joy out of someone dying of cancer. Admittedly there is quite a lot sadness with the Hayley Cropper storyline as well. So much so that it has been a bit of a relief to have a bit of a break from them last week. But it is still eminently more watchable than rehashes of storylines for the umpteenth time.
Perhaps Eastenders can win me back again – I am definitely at the metaphorical airport, boarding the plane – flight to ‘Never going to watch this shit again’. Who will they send to beg me to stay? My money is on Danny Dyer. Apparently DD is going to play a salt of the earth family man who takes over the Queen Vic when he joins the soap soon. So that is something refreshing and unlike anything Eastenders had done before.
I predict he has an affair with Kat Slater by next Christmas.
*Because I was waiting for the next thing on the channel as it was on – how old school is that? This was after I’d watched yesterday’s Coronation Street on Sky+ because I watch stuff when it’s convenient for me, ok? Gees already, it’s 2013.