8 unpopular soap characters saved with one quick fix

Daniel Kilkelly
Photo credit: Getty Images/BBC/ITV/Lime Pictures/Digitalspy.com

From Digital Spy

When a new soap character fails to hit the mark or an established regular suddenly becomes a turn-off, the producers have two options. They can either swing the axe – earning the poor actor a spot on our Soap Movers table – or go back to the drawing board with some clever writing to turn things around.

The good news is that it's often easier than you might think. Don't believe us? Here are nine times the soap gods were able to save a character with just one quick fix...

1. Carla Connor (Coronation Street)

Photo credit: ITV

The quick fix: Making her BFFs with Roy

We loved Carla from the start and she was always pretty popular in our book, but that's certainly not how Corrie bosses saw it. Speaking very candidly in 2016, ITV's drama director John Whiston admitted that the show's writers had a major re-think after research showed the wider audience just wasn't warming to Carla. There's no accounting for taste...

Needing an opportunity to show Carla's softer side, Corrie came up with a cunning plan to make her close friends with Roy Cropper, hoping that some of his popularity would rub off on her. Much to their relief, it worked.

Speaking at the time, John explained: "For a long time we were playing long stories with Carla. She is a consummate actress, but somehow she was not breaking through in the research. We thought, 'What can we do to show a different side of her?'

"She had a soft spot for Roy Cropper – this strange character we all love. That boosted her image and it showed she must be a nice person to like Roy." Shame she later ran over his girlfriend, though.

2. Grace Black (Hollyoaks)

Photo credit: Lime Pictures

The quick fix: Making her desperate for a baby

When Grace Black was introduced to Hollyoaks in late 2013 as the even-more-evil sister of Clare Devine, the fan reaction was pretty vicious. Understandably, viewers just couldn't warm to the gun-toting gangster, who had a nasty habit of kidnapping half the cast and threatening to kill them on a weekly basis.

But just when we thought it was time for the writers to cut their losses and kill Grace off, there was a drastic change in direction. After a year of high-stakes gangster storylines, Grace finally showed she had a heart when she suddenly became determined to start a family with her bad boy partner Trevor Royle. This also sparked Grace's unlikely friendship with Esther Bloom, who offered herself up as a surrogate mum after Grace was told she couldn't get pregnant.

Speaking to Digital Spy about Grace in 2014, Hollyoaks boss Bryan Kirkwood was refreshingly honest: "I acknowledge that we didn't get Grace's character right at first and I feel I let Tamara Wall down. Tamara is a gifted actress and a big funny warm personality, and I'm sad the audience didn't see that side of Grace earlier. We have done a lot of work on the character with Tamara and have now given her friends, family and a great big beating heart."

3. Fatboy (EastEnders)

Photo credit: BBC

The quick fix: Making him Dot's housemate

You may still be mourning the loss of Fatboy after his grisly death at Christmas 2015, but let's not forget that he wasn't always the most popular character on the Square. When he was first introduced to EastEnders in early 2010, Fatboy's loud and brash personality was way too much for many viewers, who branded him annoying. (Well, we're probably toning it down there, actually.) Soap critics in the papers also gave him a particularly hard time for his constant use of street slang.

In 2011, EastEnders delved deeper into Fatboy's backstory by introducing his father and giving him a sham marriage storyline with short-lived character Mercy. But it wasn't until he moved in with Dot afterwards that we saw the Fatboy haters finally pipe down and give him a chance.

Fatboy may have just been Dot's housemate at first, but they soon developed one of the Square's strongest and most heartfelt friendships, finally giving the character wider appeal. In fact, we can't help feeling Dot has been a little lost without her beloved Arthur – will she ever find out his gruesome fate?

4. Carly Hope (Emmerdale)

Photo credit: ITV

The quick fix: Making her April's childminder

We may be missing her now she's left the village, but we haven't forgotten how annoying the newly-recast Carly Hope was when she returned to the village in 2015. Spiteful and opportunistic, Carly got her father Bob embroiled in a fraud scandal and also had an infuriating habit of getting his wife Brenda's name wrong, constantly calling her "Wendy".

Carly redeemed herself just a tad when she spoke up for Bob in court and saved him from a prison sentence, but we still had our doubts about her until she was hired as little April Windsor's childminder.

Former Hollyoaks and Casualty star Gemma Atkinson had a great on-screen chemistry with popular young star Amelia Flanagan and their characters became firm friends, giving Carly a place at the heart of the show at last.

Speaking to Digital Spy in January 2016, Gemma explained: "When I read the first few episodes I thought: 'Oh my gosh, there's not one turning point where she can redeem herself!' I was a bit panicked at first, but now pensioners come up to me in Morrisons and say they love Carly. When I first started, they were all telling me to stay away from Bob, so it's nice to have that turnaround."

5. Paul Robinson (Neighbours)

Photo credit: Channel 5

The quick fix: Giving him a brain tumour

Neighbours caused a fan frenzy when they brought back legendary character Paul Robinson in the 2004 season finale. Starting as he meant to go on, Paul ruthlessly set fire to the Lassiters complex – paving the way for two years of crazy storylines including affairs, dodgy business deals, covering up a murder and even blowing up a fruit van for fun.

Although we all enjoyed the ride at first, Paul's criminal antics grew tiresome after a while and fans eventually started calling for a comeuppance. As a result, Stefan Dennis was summoned to the producer's office and told that he was being written out – shock horror!

Just one week later, though, the Neighbours team changed their minds after being hit by a sudden flash of inspiration: they could press the reset button by giving Paul a brain tumour and blaming all of his evil behaviour on that. Sounds crazy, but it worked.

Speaking in 2016 about the off-screen chaos, Stefan recalled: "Rick, the technical producer, came running up to me as I arrived at the studio and he said, 'I've found a way to keep Paul'. Then of course that was the brain tumour story and the rest is history."

6. Ben Mitchell (EastEnders)

Photo credit: BBC

The quick fix: Recasting him

It may sound harsh, but sometimes the best way to get a character back in the good graces of fans is with a totally fresh start. When Ben was jailed for killing Heather in 2012, it was only ever a matter of time before he returned to the show, given his strong family ties.

The Joshua Pascoe version of Ben had become pretty hated after cruelly culling kind-hearted Heather, but what better way to help us forget the past than by giving the teenage killer a brand new head?

When Digital Spy exclusively revealed that Ben would be recast in 2014, EastEnders insiders promised that the character would go in a completely different direction upon his return. Since Ben hasn't killed anyone since, they've actually delivered on their promise.

He may be leaving the show before 2017 is out, but we still think Harry Reid has established the definitive version of Ben and has done the unthinkable by turning him into a character we've warmed to, perfectly portraying his complexities and vulnerabilities. Bravo!

7. Robbie Roscoe (Hollyoaks)

Photo credit: Lime Pictures

The quick fix: Making him look better by comparison

Bad boy Robbie was one of the most horrible characters Hollyoaks had seen when he descended on the village in 2013. As well as committing armed robbery at Price Slice and making false abuse allegations against his uncle, Robbie targeted his teacher John Paul McQueen with weeks of vile homophobic abuse.

Robbie also became something of an inspiration for his younger friend Finn O'Connor by leading him astray, but somewhere along the way, Finn became even more evil than his menacing pal. When Finn raped John Paul after hours at school one night, Robbie was naturally disgusted by his actions and cut all ties with him.

With Finn getting worse by the day and a remorseful Robbie trying to do the right thing, Hollyoaks somehow convinced us all to forget how bad Charlie Wernham's character had been in those early episodes. He never really did get his own comeuppance for how he treated John Paul, with everyone's attention so focused on Finn.

Hollyoaks boss Bryan later told us: "I am delighted with the journey of Robbie Roscoe – a charmless hooligan became a character with depth and heart through the John Paul ordeal and that for me is an interesting story."

8. Jane Beale (EastEnders)

Photo credit: BBC

The quick fix: Attack by hockey stick

Did EastEnders really think through their big Lucy Beale denouement? It's a question that still divides fans. After we discovered that Bobby Beale was Lucy's killer and that Jane had helped to cover it up by dumping her stepdaughter's body on Walford Common, it was very difficult to think of her in the same way again... mainly because she should have been in jail!

Some fans accused EastEnders of ruining the Beales with such a dark storyline, wondering how they could ever come back from it. But just when it seemed like Jane would never be punished for her disturbing actions, the final chapter of the Bobby story saw the deranged schoolboy turn on his stepmum by attacking her with a hockey stick.

Suffering paralysis as a result, Jane faced a long journey of recovery. Call us cynical, but it was hard not to see it as a clever tactic to suddenly make us sympathise with Jane again. More recently, fans also felt for her when Max Branning bullied her out of town. Will we ever see her again?

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