Thanks to an unrelenting year-round schedule, our soaps have to create a huge amount of pure story. It's no wonder, then, that not every plot and character is always a certified winner. There will be misfires.
But what about those soap opera ugly ducklings which – plot twist – transformed into beautiful swans right at the end? Here's our entirely subjective countdown of those times when soaps snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.
1. Molly and Kevin's affair (Coronation Street)
If your other half ever announces that they want to do a 'fun run', keep a close eye. It was the joys of charity fundraising which led to one of Corrie's most divisive affairs ever – 'Molvin'.
Molly Dobbs was never the most popular character, but when she started sleeping with Kevin Webster – the employer and alleged best mate of her sweet-natured husband Tyrone – all bets were off.
Fans loathed this pairing, although in fairness the story had some good twists. Kev's plan to leave unsuspecting wife Sally was curtailed when she discovered she had breast cancer. Molly's realisation that Kevin, not Tyrone, was the father of her baby Jack also led to some tense moments.
The pay-off of the long-running affair came during Corrie's 50th anniversary tram crash. Poor Molly, who had left Tyrone, was crushed beneath the tram in Dev's shop. Before she expired, she revealed the truth about Jack's paternity in electrifying scenes to a shocked Sally – leading to an almighty fallout.
We can't quite believe that Ty still works at Kev's garage, though. And we do wish that Molly had listened to her Auntie Pam. #BringBackAuntiePam
2. The return of Den Watts (EastEnders)
The resurrection of Den Watts in 2003 didn't turn out to be quite the miracle that poor Sharon, or EastEnders bosses, had hoped for. Lightning doesn't always strike twice, and Leslie Grantham just couldn't recapture the magic of Den's 1980s glory days.
We don't blame Den for not being overjoyed that his adopted daughter was having a love affair with his biological son. But when he meddled with Dennis and Sharon – aka 'Shannis' – he earned the wrath of viewers. Sleeping with Zoe Slater was one icky move too far, while stealing The Vic from the Mitchells just felt like going through the motions.
When the BBC gave Grantham his marching orders thanks to his off-screen antics, Den's camptastic exit finally saw his storyline become must-see. Having earned the wrath of three wronged women – Zoe, Sam Mitchell and the utterly fabulous Chrissie Watts – Den was killed with a dog-shaped doorstop and buried underneath The Vic. Oh, the indignity.
3. Debbie and Ross's affair (Emmerdale)
Emmerdale occasionally revisits the attraction between Debbie and Ross, but it didn't exactly set the world on fire the first time.
When Debbie was engaged to Ross's brother – decent, reliable Pete – she began an affair with his bad-boy sibling. Viewers couldn't really see any sparks, though, and the chemistry-free pairing was a poor successor to Ross's captivating but doomed romance with tragic Donna.
However, when a helicopter crashed into the village hall during Pete and Debbie's wedding – and Pete learned of her betrayal via a recording immediately after – we were hooked. In the fallout, an enraged and heartbroken Pete 'killed' his brother, leading fans to think that Michael Parr was out of the show. But the story was far from over…
4. Callum's reign of terror (Coronation Street)
Lanky drug dealer Callum Logan thankfully lasted less than a year in Weatherfield. Kylie Platt's nemesis – and biological father of her son Max – raged a war of terror on the Platts that ultimately cost him his life. But he always felt like too much of a panto villain to ever be truly menacing.
It wasn't much fun seeing Kylie being lured into her old drug habits, or seeing switched-on Sarah falling under Callum's spell. The custody battle between Callum and David did give Jack P Shepherd some good material, though.
Much like Den Watts, it was Callum's demise which turned the story round. In a live episode to mark ITV's 60th anniversary, Callum attacked Sarah in electrifying scenes. Thanks to Kylie and a conveniently placed wrench, Callum was a goner.
A semi-permanent resting place beneath Gail's granny flat awaited him. The paranoia that ensued between Sarah, David and Kylie was brilliant stuff.
5. Holly Barton's return (Emmerdale)
Now, bear with us here. Holly Barton's sudden death from a drug overdose provided some of the most raw, grounded and emotionally affecting soap scenes of the past few years.
But the months leading up to it felt a little like Groundhog Day, with many beats that we'd seen before during Holly's previous stint. The lies and deception of the addict, the pleading from her mother Moira and the suspicion from her brother Adam. Maybe we're being unfair, but it felt like retreading old ground.
Little did we know that Emmerdale was preparing to pull the rug out from under us in the most heartbreaking way. Firstly, by giving us that glimmer of hope with Holly kicking her habit and finding a sweet romance with Jai. And then with the sobering, all-too-real moment when poor Moira found her daughter dead in her bed.
Sometimes life – and soap – surprises you in the most devastating way.
6. The sixth-formers (Hollyoaks)
In 2018, Hollyoaks village is home to a strong set of defined families. But back in 2011, the show was plagued with an influx of nondescript sixth-formers who viewers just didn't warm to.
The trials and tribulations of Neil, Jono, George, Tilly and Maddie didn't provide many memorable moments – until an epic stunt in 2012 dubbed 'Enjoy The Ride'. Thanks to a stolen minibus crashing into a double wedding reception, three of the sixth-formers met their maker (along with poor Rhys, who we did actually mourn).
So it was farewell and 'we hardly knew you' to Neil and Jono. And it was good riddance to the truly detestable bully Maddie. Her Final Destination-esque exit, which saw her killed by a flying door when the minibus exploded, was instant karma for her leaving poor Neil to die.
George and Tilly survived the disaster, but their days in the village were numbered. Laters.
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