Tag Archives: eastenders

Save the Surprise: Kat Slater and the Hand of Fear

Over in EastEnders, Kat Slater (yes, technically Kat Moon now, but like all soap characters her true name remains the one she had when the public first fell in love with her – you can keep your “Bet Gilroy”s and “Dot Branning”s, thanks) is having an affair.

Affairs are a soap’s bread and butter (check: mixed metaphor?) and so to make this one more memorable it’s been decided we shouldn’t yet find out who the secret shagger is. Instead there have been a series of remarkable scenes in which Kat pouts and drops her knickers for an unseen force. Particularly startling was the one in which it appeared as a silent shadow on the walls of the Queen Vic’s cellar. Even allowing for the ludicrous idea that any of Albert Square’s gobby residents could shut up for more than a couple of seconds, it lent the affair an odd air of telefantasy – like Sapphire and Steel if they’d left boxes of cheese and onion crisps lying around.

Since then we’ve seen her simpering at a disembodied, twitching hand and glancing guiltily at a sinister creeping FOOT from beneath the bedclothes. It’s all very exciting. Or it would be if, as viewers, we had any investment at all in wondering who it is. We’ve been presented with a series of suspects, each of whom keeps smugly fondling their phone whenever Kat composes a saucy text. But the mystery’s meaningless. ‘It’s been an affair that has left EastEnders‘ viewers playing detective,’ wrote the Daily Mail this week in a tedious article that I shan’t link to. Nothing could be further from the truth. There’s no detective game to play because there are no actual clues – each suspect is shown to be as equally likely as the others. Sure, we can guess at who it might be, but our guessing is based on what we think producers’ intentions are, not on anything generated organically from the characters. It’ll be much more interesting once it’s all out in the open and poor Jessie Wallace – an excellent actress who deserves a lot better than this – has someone to play against.

Secrecy’s pretty big on the telly this summer. EastEnders have loved a whodunnit since their first and best – the Who Got Michelle Fowler Pregnant? saga, which this current plot harks back to with the phonecalls business – but now it applies to big public events too. The audience at the dress rehearsal for the Olympics opening ceremony were asked to #SaveTheSurprise, and I’m glad they did – the two long hours of contestants proceeding in was sorely in need of the clever and moving pay-off it got with the metal petals. Meanwhile, those who saw the preview screening of Doctor Who‘s season opener were begged not to reveal that new companion Jenna-Louise Coleman appeared in it. I’m not so sure about that one – it’s not like her appearance was a big twist at the end of the episode, like River Song’s in A Good Man Goes To War or Rose’s in Partners In Crime; she was in it right from the start, and knowing that much counts as no more of a spoiler than knowing that the Daleks and their Asylum were too. The real surprise was in the exact nature of her appearance, and a press release along the lines of ‘You’ll meet the Doctor’s new companion too, but maybe not as you’d expect’ (and cue speculation) would cover that.

I don’t know, I think we’re too twitchy about spoilers generally, not that I’d ever deliberately spoil something for someone else if I could avoid it. If something’s worth watching then it can’t hinge solely on its surprises, and it should be just as enjoyable if not more so the second time around. That was true for Asylum of the Daleks, and for the Olympics opening ceremony, but sadly not, I’m afraid, for Kat Slater secretly shagging a silent cellar shadow.

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The Olympics opening ceremony vs Richard & Judy

Four billion people are expected to tune into the opening ceremony of the London Olympics this Friday. Massive numbers like that are hard to process so let’s compare it with some other globally important TV moments and their reported viewing figures.

(click it for full size)

There you go. It’s on the large side. It’ll influence how the rest of the world sees the UK for many years to come. But maybe you still don’t want to watch. So how are the other channels competing? Well BBC2 have got Hermione Norris narrating a documentary about isolation in Snowdonia, which seems like quite a pointed attack on anyone not interested in the Isles Of Wonder show.

ITV1 has pretty much rolled over and surrendered, with a repeat of the first episode of Vera, while Channel 4, Channel 5 and Sky 1 are going for business as usual/heads in the sand with The Million Pound Drop, Big Brother eviction night and Stella respectively.

Well done to those channels offering something genuinely different on the night then. BBC3 are turning their backs on Britain with dog frolic pic Beverley Hills Chihuahua (in which Drew Barrymore voices a spoilt lapdog who runs off with a gruff, sexy German Shepherd). BBC4 are celebrating Irish rock with a profile of Thin Lizzy. And best of all, the gold medal goes to ITV2 who have an episode of The Only Way Is Essex prepared – it’s a genuine alternative to national pride.

Tied up with string: March

A SONG

In case you can’t tell from the last post, I bloody love Plan B’s Ill Manors. A top ten hit that says out loud that calling any of us ‘chavs’ is a rotten, fucked-up thing to do. While being exciting and confrontational instead of worthy. With Shostakovich breakbeats! Here‘s my favourite article about why it’s so good.

A TV EVENT

The sad demise of EastEnders‘ Heather at least meant an excuse to give her a ludicrous send-off. So her hen night saw Hev & Shirl breaking into a brilliant and  unlikely Mel & Kim dance routine..,

…which led Andi to suggest it just needed a slo-mo sepia treatment to turn it into a proper tribute, which of course I couldn’t resist…

It’s what Heather would have wanted. I don’t think Hazell Dean will ever again be mentioned on primetime tv.

ANIMAL OF THE MONTH

I’ll spare you any of the morbid photos I’ve taken, but I’m now in the last month of working somewhere so blighted that my walk from the station regularly leads me to step over dead rats littering the street. Here’s to the lovely rats. Let them run x

Tied up with string: January

Usually I like to take a moment at the end of each month to share any music, films, adverts etc that I’ve enjoyed so much I think anyone (who doesn’t already like whatever sort of thing it is) would appreciate them. But to be honest January’s been a bit bleak in that respect. There’s been one very interesting album released, yes, but that’ll be getting some special treatment of its own in an upcoming post very soon. Which leaves us with:

AN ACTING MASTERCLASS

I’ve never been to drama school, but I understand they teach you to use your eyes for the big stuff. Not so for Joshua Pascoe as Ben in EastEnders. He’s created a whole new acting discipline based on expressing yourself with ONLY YOUR MOUTH. Here it is.

Chucky Venn Diagram

Chucky Venn arrived in Albert Square tonight as Bianca’s ex/Morgan’s dad. What can we expect from him? I’ve drawn a Venn diagram in which we can look at the patterns surrounding the characters he’s played before.

And there we have it. So let’s hope that EastEnders finally brings all these tropes together. Ray could do some dirty work for Derek Branning and enjoy some hot sex complications with a selection of characters (let’s say Kim, Denise, Ben and Big Mo) before a final explosive ending of some kind. Sorted.

Tied up with string: August

AN ACTRESS

I bloody love Ann Mitchell. She was a childhood hero in Widows and now here she is as a regular in EastEnders, dispensing unpalatable truth in that gravelly voice like it’s 1983 again. Her brilliant performance has elevated a certain piece of dialogue into being the most quotable EastEnders line in ten years:

FYI, the previous ‘most quotable line of ‘Enders dialogue since 2001′ was given to Syd Chambers (Nina Toussaint-White, seen in Doctor Who this week as “Mels”), who introduced herself to Bradley with the dog-related chat-up line “My Sugar’s taken a shine to you.”

(Poor Sugar.)

AN ALBUM

Toddla T’s Dance With Me is a big favourite already. I have all the time in the world for thoughtful party albums, and what a party this is. The whole thing is stuffed with beats and dripping with sex, quite literally in the lyrics of Cherry Picking, in which Róisín Murphy quotes Pierre-Joseph Proudhon and boasts she can break a lover’s fingers with her vaginal grip before climaxing with what we can only call an ‘I’ll have what she’s having’.

ANIMAL OF THE MONTH

It is the spider in my bathroom, who, for setting up in a high, quiet corner and deciding to stay all summer, is Charlotte from Charlotte’s Web to my mind. We’ll have to gloss over the evening when I drunktweeted about trying to hold a conversation with her. And let’s not think about the County Fair and the coming of Autumn. I can’t bear it.

A Message To Your Heart – The Tao of Ronnie Mitchell

EastEnders characters aren’t generally allowed to enjoy happiness for very long. But even by those standards Ronnie Mitchell’s time on the soap was alarmingly glum and unlucky. You can count the moments of true, untainted happiness she had in Albert Square on the fingers of one hand, assuming you’ve had all the fingers on that hand amputated.

Ronnie’s staggered through her time in ‘Enders like Tess of the d’Urbervilles, blighted by rape, betrayal and the loss of a child (or three). She’s been at the mercy of heartless men, she’s made terrible decisions and she’s been the victim of cruel, cruel fate. Always with the cruel, cruel fate. Even Thomas Hardy would have sucked his teeth in and thought twice before subjecting her to some of the tragic ironies she endured. As Samantha Womack said in an interview recently, she’s had to cry and scream every day for years. Well it’s been a great performance and some unforgettably miserable times, and I’m going to miss her.

In 1991 Samantha Janus (as she was called back then) represented the UK at the Eurovision Song Contest. Let’s let her uplifting message play as we consider how different Ronnie’s life might have been if she’d followed the advice in the song…

Half the world is hungry, just through being born.

And every day is a compromise, for a grain of corn

Despite the world’s booming overpopulation problem, Ronnie’s been characterised more than anything by her obsession with getting fertilised and having a child. Having given away her baby as a teenager, and later tricked into believing her daughter had died, she was desperate to get pregnant again. And she’d do anything from piercing her boyfriend’s condoms to seducing a man convicted of trying to kill his own daughter to get there. Generally it was Jack she turned to for sperm, and fair enough, as he had already fathered children with Ronnie’s sister AND her cousin. It seemed like a good biological match.

And half the world have too much, their only hunger is their greed

Through politics and ignorance, half the world’s in need

It was Ronnie’s dad Archie’s greed for power that did in for her. Whether he was raping her, tricking her, or causing her miscarriage by pushing her into the bar of the Queen Vic, it was always a laugh-a-min when they got together.

A message to your heart – it’s alright

Say a little prayer And sleep tonight, oh…

Tomorrow you’ll still be in paradise

Poor Danielle. The BBC spun the storyline out for the best part of a year — that Danielle was Ronnie’s long-lost, presumed-dead daughter but wasn’t sure enough of her mother’s affections to tell her so — and then concluded the plot with the most affectingly evil masterstroke imaginable, as the truth came out and the two were reconciled JUST as Danielle got knocked over and killed. I didn’t go as far as all the fans who petitioned the Beeb to bring Danielle back (er, how, exactly?) but I did have a little sniffle.

A message to your heart, walk on by

Till you hear the voice of conscience cry, oh…

There but for the grace of God, go on

If only Ronnie HAD walked on by on New Year’s Eve. The baby-swap plot, as Ronnie put her dead son in Kat’s crib and sneaked off with her friend’s healthy baby, was quite possibly the grimmest thing the BBC have ever shown on a festive occasion. It certainly attracted more complaints than any other storyline has ever done. I’m glad everything got resolved so elegantly tonight for Ronnie’s last episode. And I bloody hope she comes back.

They don’t see the children with hunger in their eyes

And the time has come for changes, though for some it’s much too late

A message to your heart indeed. Terry Wogan didn’t see that coming.