History of EastEnders

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EastEnders original titles sequence, 1985-1993

EastEnders was launched at a critical moment in the BBC's history and was intended to demonstrate the BBC's ability to produce popular programming. It started airing on the night after a major identity change for the channel, with the show representing the "new face" of the BBC. Some critics at first derided the new offering, as it was clear that the BBC wished to bridge the gap between the network and its competitor, ITV.

The BBC brass was vindicated, however, when EastEnders became wildly popular and displaced Coronation Street from the top of the ratings for the rest of the 1980s and much of the 1990s and 2000s.

A previous UK soap set in an East End market was ATV's Market in Honey Lane between 1967 and 1969. However this show, which graduated from one showing a week to two in three separate series (the latter series being shown in different time slots across the ITV Network) was very different in style and approach to EastEnders. The British Film Institute describe Market In Honey Lane thus:

It was not an earth-shaking programme, and certainly not pioneering in any revolutionary ideas in technique and production, but simply proposed itself to the casual viewer as a mildly pleasant affair. [1]

EastEnders, while also featuring an East End street market, would be very different in its approach and impact.

Conception and preparations for broadcast[edit]

In March 1983, just under two years before EastEnders hit the screen, the show was just a vague idea in the mind of a handful of BBC executives, who decided that what BBC1 needed was a popular bi-weekly drama series that would attract the kind of mass audiences ITV was getting with Coronation Street.

Julia Smith and Tony Holland, the creators of EastEnders.

The first people to whom David Reid, then head of series and serials, turned were Julia Smith and Tony Holland, a well established producer/script editor team who had first worked together on Z-Cars. The outline that Reid presented was vague: two episodes a week, 52 weeks a year. After the concept was put to them on 14 March 1983, Smith and Holland then went about putting their ideas down on paper; they decided it would be set in the East End of London.[2]

There was anxiety at first that the viewing public would not accept a new soap set in the south of England, though research commissioned by lead figures in the BBC had revealed southerners would accept a northern soap, northerners would accept a southern soap and those from the Midlands, as Julia Smith herself pointed out, did not mind where it was set as long as it was somewhere else. This was the beginning of a close and continuing association between EastEnders and audience research, which, though commonplace today, was something of a revolution in practice.[2]

The show's creators were both Londoners, but when they researched Victorian squares, they found massive changes in areas they thought they knew well. However, delving further into the East End of London, they found exactly what they had been searching for: a real East End spirit — an inward looking quality, a distrust of strangers and authority figures, a sense of territory and community that the creators summed up as "Hurt one of us and you hurt us all".[2] These themes that were found for the setting can still be found in a present day episode of EastEnders.

When developing EastEnders, both Smith and Holland looked at influential models like Coronation Street, but they found that it offered a rather outdated and nostalgic view of working-class life. Only after EastEnders began, and featured the characters of Tony and Kelvin Carpenter, did Coronation Street start to feature black people, for example.[3]

They came to the conclusion that Coronation Street had grown old with its audience, and that EastEnders would have to attract a younger, more socially extensive audience, ensuring that it had the longevity to retain it for many years thereafter.[2]

They also looked at Brookside but found there was a lack of central meeting points for the characters, making it difficult for the writers to intertwine different storylines.

So EastEnders was set in Albert Square. The first stage of the exterior set was built in 1984,[4] and had to be made to look as if it had been standing for years. This was done by a number of means, including chipping at the buildings with pickaxes. The EastEnders lot was designed by Keith Harris, who was a senior designer within the production team together with Supervising art directors Peter Findley and Gina Parr.[2] Then in 1986, he added an extension to the set, building the fourth side of Albert Square, and in 1987, Turpin Road was added, which included buildings such as The Dagmar. In 1993, George Street was added, and soon after Walford East tube station was built. The set was constructed by the BBC in house construction department under construction manager Mike Hagan. The initial build took 6 months to complete.

The target launch date was originally January 1985.[4] Smith and Holland had just eleven months in which to write, cast and shoot the whole thing. However, in February 1984, they did not even have a title or a place to film. Both Smith and Holland were unhappy about the January 1985 launch date, favouring November or even September 1984 when seasonal audiences would be higher, but the BBC stayed firm, and Smith and Holland had to concede that, with the massive task of getting the Elstree Studios operational, January was the most realistic date. However, this was later to be changed to February.

The project had a number of working titles — Square Dance, Round the Square, Round the Houses, London Pride, East 8.[5] It was the latter that stuck (E8 is the postcode for Hackney) in the early months of creative process. However, the show was renamed after many casting agents mistakenly thought the show was to be called Estate, and the fictional postcode E20 was created for Walford, instead of using E8. Julia Smith came up with the name Eastenders after she and Holland had spent months telephoning theatrical agents and asking "Do you have any real East Enders on your books?". However, Smith thought "Eastenders" "looked ugly written down" and was "hard to say", so decided to capitalise the second 'e'.[2]

Initial character creation and casting[edit]

A photo of all characters and animals who first appeared in EastEnders in 1985

After they decided on the filming location (BBC Elstree Studios in Hertfordshire), Smith and Holland set about creating the twenty-three characters needed, in just fourteen days. They took a holiday in Playa de los Pocillos, Lanzarote, and started to create the characters. Tony Holland created the Beale and Fowler family, drawing on his own background. His mother, Ethel Holland, was one of four sisters raised in Walthamstow. Her eldest sister, Lou, had married a man named Albert Beale and had two children, named Peter and Pauline. These family members were the basis for Lou and Pete Beale and Pauline Fowler. Holland also created Pauline's unemployed husband Arthur, their children Mark and Michelle, Pete's wife Kathy and their son Ian. Julia Smith used her personal memories of East End residents she had met when researching Victorian squares. Ethel Skinner was based on an old woman she had met in a pub, with ill-fitting false teeth, and a "face to rival a neon sign", holding a Yorkshire Terrier in one hand and a pint of Guinness in the other.[4] Other characters created included Jewish doctor Harold Legg, the Anglo-Cypriot Osman family, Ali, Sue and baby Hassan, black father and son, Tony and Kelvin Carpenter, single mother Mary Smith and Bangladeshi couple Saeed and Naima Jeffery. Jack, Pearl and Tracey Watts were created to bring "flash, trash, and melodrama" to the Square (they were later renamed Den, Angie and Sharon). The characters of Andy O'Brien and Debbie Wilkins were created to show a modern couple with outwardly mobile pretensions, and Lofty Holloway to show an outsider; someone who did not fit in with other residents. It was decided that he would be an ex-soldier, as Tony Holland's personal experiences of ex-soldiers were that they had trouble fitting into society after being in the army. When they compared the characters they had created, Smith and Holland realised they had created a cross-section of East End residents. The Beale and Fowler family represented the old families of the East End, who had always been there. The Osmans, Jefferys and Carpenters represented the more modern diverse ethnic community of the East End. Debbie, Andy and Mary represented more modern day individuals.[2]

Once they had decided on their twenty-three characters, they returned to London for a meeting with the BBC. Everyone was in agreement, EastEnders was to be tough, violent on occasion, funny and sharp — set in Thatcher's Britain — and it would start with a bang (namely the death of Reg Cox). They decided that none of their existing characters were wicked enough to have killed Reg, so a twenty-fourth character, Nick Cotton was added to the line-up. He was a racist thug, who often tried to lead other young characters astray.

When all the characters had been created, Smith and Holland set about casting the actors for the show. The first actor to be cast was Bill Treacher, a Z-Cars veteran who had been considered for the role of Arthur from the conception of the show. Anna Wing was then cast as Lou Beale, due to her upbringing in Hackney, and having the face and voice that Tony Holland had imagined. Peter Dean was cast as Pete Beale after doing a stand-up cockney routine in his rehearsal. Gillian Taylforth was originally considered to play Sue Osman, but the creators of the show envisioned Sue as a brunette, and Taylforth was blonde. She was considered too young and pretty to play Kathy Beale, until Holland and Smith heard her voice, which was rough and gritty like a market trader's. Susan Tully, already famous for starring in Grange Hill, was cast as Michelle Fowler due to her enthusiasm about the teenage pregnancy storyline she would be taking part in. Her enthusiasm for the show lived on, and since leaving as an actor in 1995 she has directed some episodes.[6] Matthew Robinson, the show's lead director, had Wendy Richard in mind to play Pauline Fowler. However, she was famous for playing the glamorous Miss Shirley Brahms in Are You Being Served?, and it was expected that she would be too glamorous for the role of a forty-something downtrodden housewife. When Richard met Matthew Robinson, she told him she was bored of glamour and wanted to play a character her own age.

Paul J. Medford was recommended by four separate agencies, and was subsequently cast as Kelvin Carpenter. Likewise, 16-year-old Adam Woodyatt was recommended by his previous agency, and cast as Ian Beale. Oscar James was then cast as Tony Carpenter. He was pleased with the portrayal of a black family in a soap opera, and Smith and Holland liked the idea of James being physically larger than Medford. Leonard Fenton and Sandy Ratcliff were recommended by writer Bill Lyons, and were cast as Dr. Legg and Sue Osman, respectively. Tom Watt was recommended for the role of Lofty Holloway, and cast because Holland and Smith liked his gauche, childlike appearance. Ross Davidson, a sporty working-class Scot was eventually given the role of Andy O'Brien, despite Holland and Smith feeling that he came across as a male chauvinist. Letitia Dean was cast as Sharon Watts due to her dirty laugh. Linda Davidson was cast as Mary Smith as she was born and raised in northern England, and her background and accent would fit in with the character's. Smith and Holland had both worked with the actress Shirley Cheriton on their previous television series about nurses, entitled Angels. Cheriton had proved an extremely popular addition to the cast of Angels and had secured herself a large number of fans. Both Holland and Smith perceived Cheriton to be a "rung or two up from her working-class origins", but she was not posh either, which was perfect for the part of Debbie Wilkins. They initially worried that Cheriton would have reservations about playing a person who was not immediately liked by everyone, but Cheriton liked the role so she was instantly hired. Holland and Smith were at war as to who to cast in the role of Ali Osman; Holland wanted Turkish Haluk Bilginer to play the role, as he had the physical appearance and he believed Sandy Ratcliff would "make mincemeat" out of the other actor, Nejdet Salih. Smith disagreed; Salih was an actual Turkish Cypriot, and lived in the East End with his large family. To resolve the dispute, both actors were given a reading session with Sandy Ratcliff. Salih secured the role after making a sexist remark about her bad time-keeping. Bilginer later went on to play Ali Osman's brother Mehmet. Shreela Ghosh was a late casting. She was cast as she liked what the creators were doing with an Asian couple, and was right for the part.

Leslie Grantham was considered too sexy when he auditioned for Pete Beale, and was cast as Den Watts instead. Julia Smith stood by this decision when she found out that as a young soldier in Germany, he had shot and killed a German taxi driver during an attempted robbery and had served time in prison. Actress Jean Fennell was cast as Angie Watts, but as rehearsals began, it became clear she was not right for the role that Holland had conceived. Four days before filming began, Julia Smith had to tell Fennell that she had been axed from the show, and cast Anita Dobson instead. Dobson read the part well with Grantham, and "spat like a tigress and purred like a kitten".[2]

Final preparations[edit]

Through the next few months, the set was growing rapidly at Elstree, and a composer and designer had been commissioned to create the title sequence. Simon May (music)[7] and Alan Jeapes (visuals) created it, and it remains one of the most recognisable title clips in television. The visual images were taken from an aircraft flying over the East End of London at 1000 feet. Approximately 800 photographs were taken, and pieced together to create one big image. The credits were later updated when the Millennium Dome was built.[8]

The launch was delayed until February 1985[4] due to a delay in the chat show Wogan, that was to be a part of the major revamp in BBC1's schedules. Julia Smith was uneasy about the late start as EastEnders no longer had the winter months to build up a loyal following before the summer ratings lull. The press were invited to see Elstree and meet the cast and see the lot — and stories immediately started circulating about the show, about a rivalry with ITV (who were launching their own market-based soap, Albion Market) and about the private lives of the cast. Anticipation and rumour grew in equal measure until the first transmission at 7 p.m. on 19 February 1985. Both Holland and Smith could not watch; they both instead returned to the place where it all began, Albertine's Wine Bar on Wood Lane. The next day, viewing figures were confirmed at 17 million. The reviews were largely favourable, although after three weeks on air, BBC1's early evening share had returned to the pre-EastEnders figure of 7 million, though EastEnders then climbed to highs of up to 23 million later on in the year. Following the launch, both group discussions and telephone surveys were conducted to test audience reaction to early episodes. Detailed reactions were taken after six months and since then regular monitoring has been conducted.

1980s broadcast history[edit]

Press coverage of EastEnders, which was already intense, went into overdrive once the show was broadcast. With public interest so high, the media began investigating the private lives of the show's popular stars. Within days, the scandalous headline the producers had all dreaded appeared — "EASTENDERS STAR IS A KILLER". This referred to Leslie Grantham, and his prison sentence for the murder of a taxi driver in an attempted robbery nearly 20 years earlier. This shocking tell-all style set the tone for relations between Albert Square and the press for the next 20 years.

The show's first episode attracted some 17 million viewers, and it continued to attract high viewing figures from then on.[9]

By Christmas 1985, the tabloids couldn't get enough of the show. 'Exclusives' about EastEnders storylines and the actors on the show became a staple of tabloid buyers daily reading.

From its early days, EastEnders featured "gritty" storylines involving drugs and crime, representing the issues faced by working-class Britain.[10] High profile early storylines included the cot death of 14-month-old Hassan Osman, Nick Cotton's homophobia, racism and murder of Reg Cox,[11] Arthur Fowler's unemployment reflecting the mass unemployment of that era, the rape of Kathy Beale in 1988 by James Willmott-Brown[11] and Michelle Fowler's teenage pregnancy. The show also dealt with prostitution, mixed-race relationships, shoplifting, sexism, divorce, domestic violence and mugging.

Mary Whitehouse argued at the time that EastEnders represented a violation of "family viewing time" and that it undermined the watershed policy. She regarded EastEnders as a fundamental assault on the family and morality itself. She made reference to representation of family life and emphasis on psychological and emotional violence within the show. She was also critical of language such as "bleeding", "bloody hell", "bastard" and "for Christ's sake". However, Whitehouse also praised the programme, describing Michelle Fowler's decision not to have an abortion as a "very positive storyline". She also felt that EastEnders had been cleaned up as a result of her protests, though during the 1990s commented that EastEnders had returned to its old ways. Her criticisms were widely reported in the tabloid press as ammunition in its existing hostility towards the BBC. The stars of Coronation Street in particular aligned themselves with Mary Whitehouse, gaining headlines such as "STREETS AHEAD! RIVALS LASH SEEDY EASTENDERS" and "CLEAN UP SOAP! Street Star Bill Lashes 'Steamy' EastEnders". Despite the criticism, EastEnders became wildly popular with audiences, often displacing Coronation Street from the top of the ratings for the rest of the 1980s.

Writer Colin Brake has suggested that 1989 was a year of big change for EastEnders, both behind the cameras and in front of them. Original production designer, Keith Harris, left the show, and co-creators, Tony Holland and Julia Smith, both decided that the time had come to move on too; their final contribution coinciding with the exit of one of EastEnders most successful characters, Den Watts (Leslie Grantham).[12] Producer, Mike Gibbon, was given the task of running the show and he enlisted the most experienced writers to take over the storylining of the programme, including Charlie Humphreys, Jane Hollowood and Tony McHale.[12]

According to Brake, the departure of two of the soap's most popular characters, Den and Angie Watts (Anita Dobson), had left a void in the programme, which needed to be filled.[12] In addition several other long-running characters left the show that year including two original cast members, Sue and Ali Osman (Sandy Ratcliff and Nejdet Salih) and their family; Donna Ludlow (Matilda Ziegler); Carmel Jackson (Judith Jacob) and Colin Russell (Michael Cashman). Brake has indicated that the production team decided that 1989 was to be a year of change in Walford, commenting, "it was almost as if Walford itself was making a fresh start".[12]

At the time the programme had come under criticism in the British media for being too depressing, and according to Brake, the programme makers were determined to change this.[12] In 1989 there was a deliberate attempt to increase the lighter, more comic aspects of life in Albert Square. This led to the introduction of some characters who were deliberately conceived as comic or light-hearted.[12] Such characters included Julie Cooper - a brassy maneater; Marge Green — a batty older lady played by veteran comedy actress, Pat Coombs; Trevor Short (Phil McDermott), the "village idiot", and his friend, northern heartbreaker Paul Priestly (Mark Thrippleton); wheeler-dealer Vince Johnson (Hepburn Graham) and Laurie Bates (Gary Powell), who became Pete Beale's (Peter Dean) sparring partner.[12]

Brake suggests that humour was an important element in EastEnders' storylines during 1989, with a greater amount of slapstick and light comedy than ever before. He has classed 1989's changes as a brave experiment, and has suggested that while some found this period of EastEnders entertaining, many other viewers felt that the comedy stretched the programme's credibility somewhat.[12] Although the programme still covered many issues in 1989, such as domestic violence, drugs, rape and racism, Brake reflected that the new emphasis on a more balanced mix between "light and heavy storylines" gave the illusion that the show had lost a "certain edge".[12]

By the end of 1989 EastEnders had acquired a new executive producer, Michael Ferguson, who had previously been a successful producer on ITV's The Bill. Brake has suggested that Ferguson was responsible for bringing in a new sense of vitality, and creating a programme that was more in touch with the real world than it had been over the last year.[12]

Changes in the 1990s[edit]

A new era began in 1990 with the introduction of the Mitchell brothers, Phil (Steve McFadden) and Grant (Ross Kemp), successful characters who would go on to dominate the soap thereafter. As the new production machine cleared the way for new characters and a new direction, all of the characters introduced under Mike Gibbon were axed from the show at the start of the year.[12]

Other characters introduced under Michael Ferguson included the Tavernier family, pub landlord Eddie Royle, as well as the afore mentioned Mitchell brothers and their sister Sam.[13] At EastEnders Ferguson was responsible for storylines such as the return of runaway Diane Butcher, giving Mark Fowler HIV, Mo Butcher’s Alzheimer’s, Nick Cotton’s attempt to poison his mother Dot Cotton, and the murder of Eddie Royle. After a successful revamp of the soap, Ferguson decided to leave EastEnders in July 1991.[12]

Michael Furguson was succeeded by both Leonard Lewis and Helen Greaves who initially shared the role as Executive Producer for EastEnders.[12] Lewis and Greaves formulated a new regime for EastEnders, giving the writers of the serial more authority in storyline progression, with the script department providing "guidance rather than prescriptive episode storylines".[12] By the end of 1992 Helen Greaves left the serial and Lewis became executive and series producer.[14] Among the notable storylines that aired under Lewis' tenure were, Arthur Fowler's affair with Christine Hewitt, Pat Butcher's drunk-driving accident, the death of Gill Fowler, Sharon Mitchell's affair with her brother-in-law Phil Mitchell, and the reintroduction of Cindy Beale. Other characters introduced included, Mandy Salter, Richard Cole, Sanjay Kapoor, Christine Hewitt, Nigel Bates, Natalie Price and the Jackson family, while axings included Pete Beale, and some of Tavernier family.[12] Lewis decided to leave EastEnders in 1994 after the BBC controllers demanded an extra episode a week, taking its weekly airtime from 1hr (two episodes), to 1.5hrs (3 episodes).[15] Lewis felt that producing an hour of "reasonable quality drama" a week was the maximum that any broadcasting system could generate without loss of integrity.[15] Having set up the transition to the new schedule, the first trio of episodes — dubbed The Vic siege — marked Lewis' departure from the programme.[12]

Barbara Emile then became the Executive Producer of EastEnders.[16][17] Storylines that aired under her tenure included Sharongate, Nigel and Debbie Bates' wedding (an on-screen celebration that aired to mark the show's 1000th episode), and Ricky Butcher's love triangle with best friends Bianca Jackson and Natalie Price. Characters introduced included Tiffany Raymond, Roy and Barry Evans. Emile remained with EastEnders until early 1995 and was succeeded by Corinne Hollingworth.

At EastEnders Hollingworth was responsible for storylines such as Michelle Fowler falling pregnant to her nemesis Grant Mitchell; and Ricky Butcher's love triangle with his wife Sam and girlfriend Bianca Jackson. Hollingworth's contributions to the soap were awarded in 1997 when EastEnders won the BAFTA for "Best Drama Series." Hollingworth shared the award with the next Executive Producer, Jane Harris.[18]

Harris was responsible for introducing the di Marco family, the Flahertys, Irene Hills, Lorna Cartwright and bringing back Frank Butcher and Dot Cotton as full-time characters. Axings included characters such as Ted Hills, Frankie Pierre and Felix Kawalski. Storylines that aired under her tenure included Phil Mitchell’s alcoholism, Ricky Butcher and Bianca Jackson’s first wedding, the critically panned Ireland episodes, and Cindy Beale’s attempted assassination of Ian Beale, which brought in an audience of 23m in 1996, roughly 4m more than rival Coronation Street.[19][20]

In 1998 Matthew Robinson was appointed as the Executive Producer of EastEnders. During his reign EastEnders won the BAFTA for "Best Soap" in consecutive years 1999 & 2000 and many other awards. Robinson also earned tabloid soubriquet Axeman of Albert Square after sacking a large number of characters in one hit including; Sanjay Kapoor, Gita Kapoor, Neelam Kapoor, Michael Rose, Susan Rose, Bruno di Marco, Luisa di Marco, Chris Clarke, Ruth Fowler and George Palmer. He later went on to axe others characters including Tony Hills, Simon Raymond and Huw Edwards. In their place Robinson introduced new long-running characters including Melanie Healy, Jamie Mitchell, Lisa Shaw, Steve Owen and Billy Mitchell.

2000s[edit]

John Yorke then became the Executive Producer of EastEnders in 2000. During his time, York was given the task of introducing the soap's fourth weekly episode and managed a win over long running rival Coronation Street in a rare head-to-head showdown. He axed the majority of the Di Marco family and helped introduce popular characters such as the Slater family. As what Mal Young described as "two of EastEnders most successful years", Yorke was responsible for big ratings winners such as "Who Shot Phil?", Ethel Skinner's death, Jim Branning and Dot Cotton's marriage, abusive Trevor Morgan, and Kat Slater's revelation to her daughter Zoe that she was her mother. Yorke was also responsible for the recasting of Sam Mitchell in January 2002.

The Queen and Prince Philip visited the set in 2001 and were shown around by actresses Wendy Richard and Barbara Windsor.[21]

In 2002, Louise Berridge succeeded John York as the Executive Producer. During her time at EastEnders, Berridge introduced characters such as Alfie Moon, Dennis Rickman, Chrissie Watts, Jane Beale, Stacey Slater and the critically panned Indian Ferreira family. The Ferreira family also received criticism from the Asian community, who branded their storylines unbelievable and poorly researched, referencing the family's apparent mix of Muslim, Christian and Hindu characters. Also in 2002 and 2003 she wrote out top characters like Mark Fowler played by Todd Carty who had been in the show for over a decade, Lisa Fowler played by Lucy Benjamin who was one of the shows top characters at the time and also the Evans family which included Barry, Natalie & Roy.[22]

Berridge was responsible for some ratings success stories, such as the Alfie/Kat love storyline, "Janine kills Barry", Trevor Morgan and Jamie Mitchell's death storylines and the return of one of the greatest soap icons, "Dirty" Den Watts who had been presumed dead for fourteen years. His return in late 2003 was watched by over 16 million viewers, putting EastEnders back at number one in the rating war with the ITV's rival soap Coronation Street.[23] However, other storylines, such as a storyline about a kidney transplant involving the Ferreiras, were not well received,[22] and although Den Watts' return proved to be a ratings success, the British press branded the plot unrealistic and felt that it questioned the show's credibility.[24] A severe press backlash followed after Den's actor, Leslie Grantham, was outed in an internet sex scandal, which coincided with a swift decline in viewer ratings.[22][25] The scandal led to Grantham's departure from the soap, however the occasion was used to mark the 20th anniversary of EastEnders, with an episode showing Den's murder at the Queen Vic pub.

On 21 September 2004 Berridge quit as executive producer of EastEnders following continued criticism of the show. The following day the programme received its lowest ever ratings (6.2 million) when ITV scheduled an hour long episode of its rival soap, Emmerdale, against it. Emmerdale was watched by 8.1 million people.[26] Kathleen Hutchison was swiftly appointed as the Executive Producer of EastEnders, and was tasked with quickly turning the fortunes of the soap. During her time at the soap Hutchison axed multiple characters, and reportedly ordered the rewriting of numerous scripts. Newspapers reported on employee dissatisfaction with Hutchison's tenure at EastEnders.[27] New characters introduced by Hutchison included Jake Moon, Danny Moon, Johnny Allen and Ruby Allen. In January 2005, Hutchison left the soap and John York (who by this time, was the BBC Controller of Continuing Drama Series) took total control of the show himself and became acting Executive Producer for a short period, before appointing Kate Harwood to the role.[28]

Harwood stayed at EastEnders for 20 months before being promoted by the BBC. During her time at the soap Harwood introduced the characters of Dawn Swann, Honey Edwards, Deano Wicks, Carly Wicks, Kevin Wicks, Shirley Carter, Chelsea Fox, Sean Slater, Denise Fox, Libby Fox, Bradley Branning, Max Branning, Tanya Branning, Lauren Branning, and Jay Brown. These characters replaced the likes of Chrissie Watts, Dennis Rickman, Sharon Rickman, Little Mo Mitchell and most notably, original character Pauline Fowler. Wendy Richard, who played Pauline commented that her decision to leave EastEnders had been taken after the storyline involving Pauline's marriage to Joe Macer. Richard felt that this storyline, along with Pauline's development into a miserable manipulator had devalued the original creation of the character.[29]

On Friday 11 November 2005, EastEnders was the first British drama to feature a two-minute silence.[30] This episode later went on to win the British Soap Award for 'Best Single Episode'.[31]

In October 2006, Diederick Santer took over as Executive Producer of EastEnders. He introduced several characters to the show, including ethnic minority and homosexual characters to make the show 'feel more 21st Century'. Characters he introduced included Zainab Masood, Masood Ahmed, Christian Clarke, Whitney Dean, Tiffany Dean, Ronnie Mitchell, Roxy Mitchell, Archie Mitchell, Jack Branning, Heather Trott, Lucas Johnson, Ryan Malloy, Syed Masood and Amira Shah. Santer has also reintroduced past and popular characters to the programme including Bianca Jackson,[32] Ricky Butcher,[33] Janine Butcher,[34] Sam Mitchell,[35] Liam Butcher, Owen Turner, Liz Turner,[36] Carol Jackson and Billie Jackson.[37] Robbie Jackson and Sonia Fowler returned for a week of episodes to mark EastEnders 25th anniversary, while Santer also reinstated Diane Butcher for a week of episodes in 2008, and brought back the characters of Clare Bates and Steven Beale for a period of a few months.

On 2 March 2007, BBC signed a deal with Google to put videos on YouTube. A behind the scenes video of EastEnders, hosted by Matt Di Angelo, formerly Deano Wicks on the show, was put on the site the same day,[38] and was followed by another on 6 March 2007.[39] In April 2007, EastEnders became available to view on mobile phones, via 3G technology, for 3, Vodafone and Orange customers.[40] On 21 April 2007, the BBC launched a new advertising campaign using the slogan "There's more to EastEnders".[41] The first television advert showed Dot Branning with a refugee baby, Tomas, whom she took in under the pretence of being her grandson.[42] The second and third featured Stacey Slater and Dawn Swann, respectively.[43][44] There have also been adverts in magazines and on radio.

In 2009, producers introduced a limit on the number of speaking parts in each episode due to budget cuts, with an average of 16 characters per episode. The decision was criticised by Martin McGrath of Equity, who said "Trying to produce quality TV on the cheap is doomed to fail." The BBC responded by saying they had been working that way for some time and it had not affected the quality of the show.[45]

2010s[edit]

From 4 February 2010, CGI was used in the show for the first time, with the addition of computer-generated trains.[46]

EastEnders celebrated its 25th anniversary on 19 February 2010. Santer came up with several plans to mark the occasion, including the show's first episode to be broadcast live, the second wedding between Ricky Butcher and Bianca Jackson and the return of Bianca's relatives, mother Carol, and siblings Robbie, Sonia and Billie. He told entertainment website Digital Spy, "It's really important that the feel of the week is active and exciting and not too reflective. There'll be those moments for some of our longer-serving characters that briefly reflect on themselves and how they've changed. The characters don't know that it's the 25th anniversary of anything, so it'd be absurd to contrive too many situations in which they're reflective on the past. The main engine of that week is great stories that'll get people talking. [...] The wedding is the perfect opportunity for us to bring back the much-loved Jackson characters — Carol, Sonia, Robbie and Billie."[47] In the live episode, Bradley Branning was killed off running from the police, only hours after having married Stacey Slater. It was then revealed that she had murdered Archie Mitchell in revenge after he raped her. Viewing figures peaked at 16.6 million, which was the highest viewed episode in seven years.[48] Other events to mark the anniversary were a spin-off DVD, EastEnders, Last Tango in Walford, in which Bianca's daughter Tiffany attempts to track down Carol, and an Internet spin-off, EastEnders: E20.

Santer officially left EastEnders in March 2010, and was replaced by Bryan Kirkwood. Kirkwood's first signing was the reintroduction of characters Alfie (Shane Richie) and Kat Moon (Jessie Wallace),[49] and his first new character was Vanessa Gold, played by Zöe Lucker.[50] In April and May 2010, Kirkwood axed eight characters from the show, Charlie Slater (Derek Martin), Libby Fox (Belinda Owusu), Minty Peterson (Cliff Parisi), Adam Best (David Proud), Danny Mitchell (Liam Bergin), Liz Turner (Kate Williams),[51] Zsa Zsa Carter (Emer Kenny) and Leon Small (Sam Attwater).[52] Kirkwood also recast the roles of Ben Mitchell and Lauren Branning, replacing Charlie Jones with Joshua Pascoe and Madeline Duggan with Jacqueline Jossa respectively.[53] In addition to the axings, actors Barbara Windsor[54] (Peggy Mitchell), Tiana Benjamin[55] (Chelsea Fox), Preeya Kalidas[56] (Amira Shah), Lacey Turner[57] (Stacey Slater) and Gillian Wright[57] (Jean Slater) all announced that they would be leaving in 2010. It was subsequently announced that Jean would be returning to the soap just a few months after she left.[58] Windsor's departure left a hole in the show, which Kirkwood decided to fill by bringing back Kat and Alfie, which he said would "herald the new era of EastEnders."[59][60]

EastEnders started broadcasting in high definition on 25 December 2010.[61] Old sets had to be rebuilt, so The Queen Victoria set was burnt down in a storyline (and in reality) to facilitate this.

In 2011, Kirkwood introduced Eddie Moon (David Essex), the father of Michael Moon's (Steve John Shepherd) and the first main casting of 2011.[62] It was also announced that due to the popularity of character Fatboy (Ricky Norwood), who originally appeared in EastEnders: E20, his family would be extended with the introduction of his father Ashley Chubb.[63]

In November 2011, a storyline showed character Billy Mitchell, played by Perry Fenwick, selected to be a torch bearer for the 2012 Summer Olympics. In reality, Fenwick carried the torch through the setting of Albert Square, with live footage shown in the episode on 23 July 2012. London 2012 chairman Sebastian Coe said: "The announcement is a great addition to the Olympic Torch Relay Route. I'm sure the people of Walford will now start planning their celebrations. Along with people right round the UK, the residents of Albert Square will be getting involved to make this their moment to shine." Fenwick said, "When we first discussed the storyline, my initial thought was that I'll now have to get fit. While this may be a fictional one-off for Billy, it's a real once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me and I am thrilled that Walford and Albert Square will be part of this amazing event."[64] BBC director for London 2012, Roger Mosey, said: "I like this, in media terms, that it's the real torch, the real procession going to Walford. It will be live when it goes there and so potentially you can broadcast EastEnders for three or four minutes on the News Channel because the torch being in Albert Square is a news event. I like the idea of the real torch being in a fictional place."[65]

In 2012, Kirkwood chose to leave his role as executive producer and was replaced by Lorraine Newman, who reintroduced original character Sharon Watts back into the show. However, the show lost many of its significant characters during this period including Christian Clarke, Syed Masood, Zainab Masood, Derek Branning, Tanya Branning, Jack Branning and Michael Moon who had all left the show in 2013. Samantha Womack reprised her role of Ronnie Mitchell after a two year absence earlier in 2013.

Newman stepped down as executive producer after sixteen months in the job in 2013 after the soap was criticised for its boring storylines and its lowest-ever figures pointing at around 4.8 million.[citation needed] Dominic Treadwell-Collins was appointed as the new executive producer on 19 August 2013[citation needed] and was credited on 9 December.[citation needed] He has axed multiple characters from the show including Carl White (Daniel Coonan), Kirsty Branning (Kierston Wareing), AJ Ahmed (Phaldut Sharma), Poppy Meadow (Rachel Bright), Ava Hartman (Clare Perkins) and Sam James (Cornell S John).[citation needed] New characters to arrive under his tenure include Mick Carter (Danny Dyer), Linda Carter (Kellie Bright), Johnny Carter (Sam Strike), Nancy Carter (Maddy Hill)[citation needed], Stan Carter (Timothy West)[citation needed] and Babe Smith (Annette Badland)[citation needed] and has re-introduced Sonia Fowler, Rebecca Fowler,[citation needed] Shabnam Masood[citation needed], Stacey Slater, Deano Wicks, Honey Edwards, Tanya Jessop, Peggy Mitchell after her 4 year absence, Nick Cotton, Rainie Cross, Marcus Christie, Charlie Slater and Anthony Trueman son of one of EastEnders Icon Patrick Trueman.[citation needed]. Actors Charlie Brooks, Jasmyn Banks, David Witts, Patsy Palmer, Michael French, Maisie Smith, Devon Higgs, Terry Alderton, Jerzey Swingler, George Sargent and Hetti Bywater) all quit or left their roles of Janine Butcher, Alice Branning, Joey Branning, Bianca Jackson, David Wicks, Tiffany Dean, Morgan Butcher, Terry Spraggan, Rosie Spraggan, TJ Spraggan and Lucy Beale respectively.

Treadwell Collins planned storylines for EastEnders which included the Who Killed Lucy Beale? storyline which will conclude in February 2015, Carol Jackson's breast cancer, Alfie Moon's arson, Kat Slater's face disfigurement, Linda Carter's rape by Dean Wicks, the revelation that Mick Carter is Shirley Carter's son, not her brother, Nick Cotton's fake death, return and real death, the New Year's Day car crash on the day of Ronnie and Charlie's wedding which saw Emma Summerhayes killed off and Ronnie Mitchell in a coma, Shabnam Masood's secret daughter Jade Green,Stan Carter's cancer and death, Shabnam Masood and Kush Kazemi's stillbirth son Zaair Kazemi and Stacey Slater's postpartum psychosis. The storylines where proven popular and this gave EastEnders one of its biggest ratings ever.[citation needed]

Celebrity appearances[edit]

Many celebrities have appeared in EastEnders. Robbie Williams has made a cameo appearance on the telephone in the Queen Vic and is a big fan of the show.[66] Martha Ross, mother of television presenters Jonathan and Paul, was an extra in the programme, as a market stallholder, from its inception[67] until November 2006, when she was fired for leaking a Christmas storyline, which Paul repeated on his LBC radio show.[68] Before the Spice Girls, Emma Bunton was cast as a troubled youth in the soap.[66] Also, Big Brother 7's Nikki Grahame once had a background role in the show.[69] Blue Peter presenter Peter Purves also appeared in 1987 as Martin Hunter, a patronising television reporter.[66] David Walliams played a friend of Alfie Moon in 2003. Mayor of London Boris Johnson appeared as himself in the episode broadcast on 1 October 2009.[70] The previous Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, accused the BBC of political bias for allowing Johnson to appear in the programme.[71]

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