Is it just me or is the quality of UK soaps sinking fast into an abyss of awfulness. Eastenders is just grim watching. Nothing amusing ever happens unless Ian Beale’s called upon to do something dramatic. The other week I witnessed a plot-line which saw a pregnant non-married young woman acting as surrogate for a pair of Walford yuppies, kidnapped by the woman doctor who was one of the surrogacy benefactors, tied to a bed with handcuffs and threatenned with having the womb slit open and the baby snatched from her. Now I may have got a bit of the story wrong but not a lot. It’s not exactly light and frivollous is it? And the story-lines seem to run for ever. I catch an episode every month or so but I’m sure Phil (lookie likey pasta paulie 5 points) the bruiser Mitchell was going out with the psychopathic woman torturing his little rabbit of a kid, before we went to Italy. R tells me it’s all coming to a head at the moment. Wow; Italy has witnessed 4 changes of government and 3 eruptions of Mt Etna and won a World Cup in the meantime. Mamma mia.
Corrie used to be a bit of a laugh as it never took itself too seriously. Again I don’t watch very much but now it seems to be full of real issues like the problems of assimilating E European immigrants, death from alzheimers, death from murder, families wrent apart by greed/evil and then there’s Liz McDonald played by Beverly Callard who seems to be shagging her way round Weatherfield at the moment. I’m sure Beverley’s a lovely lass but she’s got that two-tone hair colour that you see worn only by very young stylists with too much time on their hands because they’re crap at hairdressing. The other night she was nearly caught in flagrante with her bit of rough and we were treated to seeing her in her undies hiding on some balcony. I’m not a prude but Liz McDonald was a young woman when Bobby Charlton was still playing up the road and even though she was wearing the red tackle (in honour of Utd), it kind of made you want to look away a bit.
It wasn’t exactly on the Hollyoaks scale of sexy young things, but that’s all Hollyoaks consists of it seems. So far as I can tell there is no meaningful plot other than boy meets girl, girl removes clothes partially, fade to black, cue theme tune. It’s not exactly Brideshead Revisited. And so we come to Emmerdale, the soap I’ve never watched until recently, and now I seem to catch it most evenings courtesy of R. It is unbelievable. You might know all this already but at the centre of this fantasy Yorkshire Dales village is the most dysfunctional family you could ever meet. Ladies and gentlemen I give you the Dingles. I’m sure it’s a script-writer’s joke – you know rhyming slang for something – hell probably. There’s Sam who’s dopey, Shadrack (!) who’s in-bred, Marlon who cannot be an actor but must have been delivering the milk one day and was press-ganged into the crew, Eli the bad one, ‘our’ Beth the apparent genius kid with an accent like Chanelle, and mum and dad Zack and Lisa. These two will never make it onto the set of Hollyoaks. We are talking ‘local people’.
Other characters include the old dear Betty Eagleton who always, always wears a woolly hat, inside or out but with no explanation as to why. I don’t know whether it’s a charcater feature or whether the actress needs to do this. It’s driving me mad. It’s like old blokes who wear their cloth caps in the car. Why do they do that? The rain isn’t falling inside the car. Is it the cold – if so TURN ON THE BLOODY HEATER CONTROL. Honestly, you’d think it was costing them extra to run it – like central heating. Anyway, another interesting character is Duke Woods. Oh yes, he plays your archetypal old Yorkshire grumpy f*cker. Cor they must have had to scour the region for this bloke. Fat, bald, bigoted, intolerant, short-tempered, plays cricket, sounds and talks like Geoffrey Boycott, thinks his son’s a pansy for being sensitive etc. Not a bit stereotypical. He’s my favourite.
Then there are the many old-stagers who have been shipped in to give the programme some reet class. It’s packed with ’em; that old Shakespearean thesp Freddie Jones who over-acts like crazy as some bumbling codger and none of the regular actors can spot his cues (wonderful), there’s Linda Thorson who was the 3rd Mrs Peel in The Avengers (I used to think she was very hot but there aren’t so many clinches up close these days). So for eye candy for the blokes there’s former page 3 girl Linda Lusardi who is to acting what Michael Winner is to humility and shyness. Finally ladies and gentlemen, may I present Patrick Mower – he of the ravishing good looks, cleft chin, easy smile and magnetic personality from all those 7o’s action shows called Target or Bullet or Revolver. He’s still a decent looking chap but he cannot escape the role of the ‘I say, Ding Dong, Dai Llewellyn’ character. Despite being at least 65 years of age he wears leather neck chokers with tasteful chrome ingots, black shirts opened to the waist, panama hats at a jaunty angle, red socks, stripey blazers and loafers. He remains quite a catch but you sense only in his own imagination. It’s just compelling to watch him trying to pull every young thing who comes into the programme only to imagine that he’s probably doing the same thing for real off-set too. I’d smile so much if I were to find out that his tastes were actually like that of that other glorious 70’s hero Peter Wingarde – distinctly ginger.