7 lessons other soaps could learn from EastEnders

Laura Morgan
Photo credit: BBC

From Digital Spy

You've listened to all the lessons EastEnders, Emmerdale and Hollyoaks could learn from their arch-rival Coronation Street, and now it's time to turn the tables. EastEnders may have been in a slump this summer, but new boss John Yorke is on a mission to make sure it claws its way back up to the top, and by Christmas we predict it will be firing on all cylinders again.

What's so special about EastEnders is they have all the fundamentals in place – gripping cliffhangers, sensational seasonal storylines, and a carefully selected cast of amazing actors. This is why we know they'll rise again.

So, come on, class, listen up because we've got seven wise lessons straight out of Walford...

1. Creating tense cliffhangers

In the world of Walford these are better known as the duff-duff moments, and 'Enders been keeping viewers on the edge of their sofas with them for 32 whole glorious years. Often only reserved for their very best characters, the instantly recognisable drumbeats at the end of an episode have become synonymous with the countless dramatic moments that immediately want us wanting more.

It's not the other soaps' fault that they're missing a similar climactic sound effect, but their cliffhangers don't really have same impact because of it. And for those emotional endings that mark the death or departure of dearly loved character, there's 'Julia's Theme'. Guaranteed to make every hair on your body stand on end.

2. Delivering cracking Christmas storylines

It's a yearly ritual every December 25th for soap fans and their families to sit down after dinner and get stuck into another festive feast – the EastEnders Christmas Day episode! It's always highly anticipated, and rarely ever a letdown.

We've been treated to some truly iconic showstoppers over the years – Den serving Ange her divorce papers in 1986, the 2007 Max and Stacey affair reveal in the Brannings' living room (how was that 10 years ago?), the end of Archie's reign of terror courtesy of the Queen Vic bust (and Stacey!) in 2009, and more recently an explosively violent showdown in 2014 when Mick learnt Dean had raped Linda.

The other soaps have tried to compete with the brilliance of these not-so-merry masterpieces, but their efforts often look a bit lame in comparison. Time to up the ante, guys. We want more than turkey and tinsel from you this year.

3. Bringing the New Year in with a bang

There's no such thing as a post-seasonal slump for 'Enders. As soon as Crimbo is done and dusted, they're gearing up for the next best thing – the New Year's Day episode! They often revolve around weddings. Who remembers Christian trying to crash Syed and Amira's nuptials in 2010, or Mick saying "I do" to Linda dressed in her frilly pink dressing gown?

And what about Ronnie and Charlie's big day in 2015 that ended with Roxy nearly killing them in a car crash? Little did the sisters know they'd be welcoming 2017 in at the bottom of a swimming pool... The pair's watery exit was a impactful way to kick off the year, proving once again why EastEnders are so damn good at getting us geared up for another 365 days of tears and trauma.

4. Having those OMFG big reveals

Yep, we're talking about those jaw-dropping bombshell moments that have gone down in television history. Whether it's a bolt out of the blue or the long-anticipated reveal of a storyline that's been bubbling away for months, such as Sharongate or the 'Who Killed Lucy Beale?' saga, 'Enders always delivers with aplomb.

And in an age where we think we've seen it all in Albert Square, they still have the ability to keep surprising us. Who can honestly say they ever predicted villainous James Willmott-Brown was the mastermind behind Max's mental revenge plan? Just another example of an ingenious plot twist to keep us on our toes.

5. Unforgettable live episodes

When it comes to live episodes, EastEnders are arguably in a league of their own after the phenomenal 30th anniversary week. That doesn't take anything away from Corrie and Emmerdale's own amazing lives, but what 'Enders were able to achieve in that raw, intense and highly-charged two-hander between Adam Woodyatt and Laurie Brett was an acting masterclass worthy of one of those gold figures they dish out in Hollywood every February.

Most importantly it was unforgettable. No soap fan is going to easily forget the jaw-dropping moment when little Bobby Beale stood there in his dinosaur PJs and admitted to beating Lucy to death with a jewellery box. Likewise, the cliffhanger ending to their 25th anniversary live when Stacey was unmasked as Archie's murderer. Maybe the trick here is to hinge live episodes on whodunit reveals.

6. Casting well known stars in interesting roles

Former producer Dominic Treadwell-Collins was the master of this. Case in point – Danny Dyer. Before he won our hearts as soft-hearted family man Mick Carter, people would have only associated the Cockney actor with playing potty-mouthed wide boys in low-budget Brit films. Or how about casting acclaimed thespian Timothy West to play sharp-tongued alcoholic Stan? He was superb!

Former child actress and trained dancer Bonnie Langford is a million miles away from her former roles as feisty and flirty Carmel, and we love her character even more for having two left feet.

And the doubters have been well and truly silenced with the casting of Blue singer Lee Ryan as Whit's fella Woody Woodwood. He's music to our ears, and once again 'Enders have chosen well.

7. How to make believable faaamily units

What we mean by this is that not only do most of the families in E20 have great on-screen chemistry, but they all look as if they actually could be related to one another. There are geniuses at work in the EastEnders casting department, we're telling you!

It may have taken three attempts to find the perfect Ben Mitchell following his return in 2006, but Harry Reid was worth the wait – shame he's leaving (FYI, we're devo) – and you couldn't get more of a mini Jo Joyner than Lorna Fitzgerald.

Unlike some other soaps we could mention, but aren't going to, 'Enders tend to stay clear from casting actors in their early thirties playing parents to kids only five years younger. As Ali G would say, they're keeping it real, and for that we say thank you.

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Digital Spy Soap Scoop video – hit play below for all the latest EastEnders gossip, as Carmel has a guilty confession to make and Linda shares her secret with Mick.

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