TV soap operas are as quintessentially English as banging on about the weather (hard to sleep in this heat at the minute, innit?) or losing at the football (aww, but didn't they do well?).
But soaps are so much more than long-term television mainstays, they're a barometer for the state of the nation throughout history. A televisual time capsule reflecting back Britain’s evolving culture, fashion, politics, technology, and attitudes – or at least, drive to change attitudes, whether audiences were ready for it or not.
Gritty, Brit-ty TV is also very us, isn't it? Forget the glitzy suburban propaganda we're used to seeing churned out from the US. British soaps have always expertly floated the realities of life using kitchen sink drama, from mundane highs to the gut-punching lows – although, admittedly, there's a lot of the latter. Soaps have helped real, everyday people feel seen way before the advent of reality TV or social media.
For this month's issue, we decided to mainly focus on the UK's big four - EastEnders, Coronation Street, Emmerdale, and Hollyoaks. Of course, there are plenty of other late (and great) soaps: Casualty, Neighbours, Home and Away, Brookside, Crossroads, Doctors, The Bill, Family Affairs, and Holby City to name but a few.
But, of course, we had to focus all those years of TV down somehow. Now we're a year into Digital Spy magazine, we thought what better time to turn our attention to the backbone of our brand. We're as proud of our illustrious, long-running soap coverage as we are of our long-living website.
So we tasked our resident Walford Watchdogs and Cobbles Correspondents – Soaps Editor, Daniel Kilkelly, and Deputy Soaps Editor, Sophie Dainty – to compile a list of the most groundbreaking characters in soapland history. Including a beautiful cover by artist, Matthew Brazier, and animation by Issy Muir.
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It was no easy task: Corrie's been going for 62 years for starters, and soaps still have a fair way to go, not least in terms of racial representation. So, we focussed on their success in breaking taboos, normalising the marginalised, and helping push the country forward to a better tomorrow, by creating everyday drama that became bigger than the soaps, and stayed with us all for years to come.
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