Regular readers may well roll their eyes at the sight of Eastenders in the headline again, but as anyone who tuned in over Christmas will tell you, the sitcom has drifted from regular melancholy into the absolute zero of acute depression.
A few of the current threads seem designed to make viewers slit their wrists. They may as well slot split-second banners in the film reels saying ‘END IT NOW’ in a bold black font, just to kick the public that little bit further into the pit of despair.
So, put on your party hat, pull out your party poppers and get down with us as we celebrate the most miserable Eastenders threads of 2009! (so far).
Dotty, Dot and the Non-reformed Nasty Nick
Even casual viewers will know a bit about Dot’s blighted past where her son is concerned. He’s tried to poison her, always stolen from her and is generally a complete, drug-addled bastard. So, at Christmas time – a time for giving – writers decided to bring back the malevolent offspring. For one episode he was convincingly reformed and I expected a slow-building but subtly well-written build up to his dastardly intentions. Instead, by New Year, a hundred heavy-handed hints made the blatantly obvious oncoming conclusion plain, meaning we’ve months of watching Dot tragically kid herself ahead as dramatic irony looks wearily on from the side of the stage. Happy new year.
Max, Tanya, Lauren and Lies
At the centre of last year’s Christmas-time borderline-incest infidelity scandal, this story is running and running. And running. Then meandering a bit and now faltering to some sort of conclusion. After alcoholism, a confusing bit with a gun and an intentional road crash, Tanya’s banged up in the least secure prison in Britain, where it seems to be perfectly legal for a woman on trial for attempted murder to socialise, unobserved, with the bloke she’s accused of trying to kill in her cell (not even through the bars, as might be a bit more realistic). Everyone knew young Lauren had done the driving when she admitted as much, and I don’t think I’m far wrong when I say that every viewer is probably hoping young Abby (the little shit) gets put away for life in some weird twist of fate in the next couple of weeks.
Sean, Roxy and Jack’s Three-Way Disaster
Poor Sean had mended his wicked ways when he discovered he had a daughter – and the fact she was premature even seemed to strengthen him. He was almost completely sane by the time he found out (on Christmas Day, round the table, naturally) that the kid wasn’t his. It was it’s mother’s sister’s ex-boyfriend’s. This resulted in lots of laying about depressed in the launderette, baby-kidnapping, falling into an icy lake and tons of screaming and wailing. I think we were meant to feel sympathy for Sean – which was misjudged really, considering most viewers are still reeling from the period of time in which Sean was dealing coke, being a complete sod to everyone and physically torturing much-loved character Gus. Good riddance Sean then – even if he was a well-acted figure of fun.
Bianca, Whitney and the Sex Offender
And now to possibly the most depressing story of the bunch. We all know Whitney was abused by her adopted mother’s boyfriend. Well, Bianca found out, Tony got arrested and now we’re having to suffer the consequences – a damaged teenager, Bianca at a loss, Ricky looking confused (plus ca change…) and lots and lots of crying. The only light at the end of this particular tunnel came with the recent arrival of Janine Butcher (Godbless her), the best ever Eastenders pantomime villain we’ve had for a while. A good move by bosses, bringing her back. Last night she delivered a nasty line to Bianca when told she’d upset Whitney: ‘Oh – is that my fault? But I’m not the one who bought a paedo into the house?’.
What an awful woman.
So, if these four tales of warm, hard-grafting East End types from the working classes don’t fire up the cockles of your heart, I’m not sure what will.
Knees up Muvva Brown! etc…