Rewind: Soap File May 2009

Welcome to this months Rewind: Soap File, looking back at the world of serial from the last four weeks.

In this issue the life and times, in pictures, of soap survivor Gabrielle Drake as well as a look at Five’s new promotions for Neighbours, Coronation Street is bringing back old faces while usually squeaky-clean Home and Away is at the centre of some controversial scandals and EastEnders bring yet more social awareness to the screens.

The Drunk and the Bore Return To Rovers

It was revealed last week by Digital Spy of all places that Corrie has-beens Jim and Andy MacDonald are set to return. Pardon me while the news doesn’t exactly set my heart racing. Mavis or even Bet coming back for a stint I might break out in a sweat over, but the drunk (Phil Mitchell will never be beaten as the best UK soap drunk) and bore-a-minute Andy raise no excitement here.

They’re returning for Steve and Becky’s wedding – take two. Let’s hope its better than the farce which was described as ‘the wedding of the year’ only to be trounced by Peggy and Archie Mitchell’s in EastEnders weeks later – which was real drama rather than the pantomime pap Coronation Street spewed up.

The sister of a cleaner who knows someone who apparently washes the windows at Granada Manchester told us an insider had told them: “It’ll be a right lovely event won’t it chuck. You can bet there’ll be the usual Corrie slapstick laced with some sort of drama, but unlikely this time it’ll be Jim whacking someone or getting pissed hen, they wouldn’t go back to that old rope again would they cock?”

A quote from the current Corrie exec was also released to the public, but it was the usual spin modern-day producers say.

As always we’ll have to just wait and watch to see how good, or bad the wedding – take two, will be.

Everybody Needs New Neighbours

Aussie soap Neighbours is currently being heavily promoted by broadcaster Channel Five. Adverts have been appearing across the UK as part of the new “Sunshine” trailers for the long running daily saga.

Several billboard versions have been released, with slogans such as “Kylie Who?” [pictured below] suggesting its time people caught up with the new Neighbours and moved on from the past.

Meanwhile a television trailer showing classic clips through to modern-day Ramsay Street regulars suggests that with the Fremantle produced soap you can ‘Let the Sun Shine In’. Five say that the new promotions are “a reminder of why life’s always good on Ramsay Street.”

Neighbours originally aired for over twenty years on BBC One before switching to Five amid much protesting from fans. The series was devised by soap mogul Reg Watson, who forged his television career in the UK co-devising ATV’s Crossroads in 1964 before returning to his native Australia in 1974; where he created such soaps as The Young Doctors and Sons & Daughters.

Neighbours airs on Five weekdays at 5.30pm. The ‘sunshine’ trailers can be viewed here.

News Wrap:

Keeping It Straight On The Street: Samuel Robertson – the former Coronation Street actor who’s now starring in BBC Scotland’s soap River City – told the Daily Record newspaper that his Weatherfield character of Adam Barlow [who was aborted in 1987, but we over look that episode apparently] was set to become bisexual.

He said: “At one point they were going to make Adam bisexual, and I was bang up for that. Playing a guy who was proper bisexual, into guys and girls and as cool as a cucumber with it.

“It would have been great, I was excited about it at the time. But I think they decided it came too soon after Bruno Langley’s gay storyline.”

Hollyoaks Actress ‘Lands’ On BBC One: Ex-Hollyoaks actress Summer Strallen is to star in a new BBC wartime drama Land Girls. Its part of Aunty Beebs marking of the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War and evolves around the women’s land army.

Sad Emmerdale: Maxwell Caulfield informed us in May that he often feels a genuine sadness over his soap plots. So do the viewers, which is why they’ve been turning over to The One Show rather than watch the sadness of a once great serial descend further into pantomime pap.

Note to Emmerdale actors, it might be nice to try and act as if you mean what you’re saying rather than sending it all up. It’s not Eldorado you know, you can take your characters seriously, even if the writers don’t. Duncan Preston once said he only worked on Crossroads to buy some new furniture. What’s his excuse for staying in Emmerdale for so long?

Is it paying for a villa in the South of France? Because frankly his character is just Mr Clifford from Acorn Antiques without the humour, and makes even the worst character in Crossroads look impressive.

Peacock Plot: Apparently Coronation Street’s Claire Peacock is to take centre stage in a dramatic summer plot. I take it she’s had acting lessons then since I last saw her? I’ve seen more convincing drama and acting in a fan club tribute to Crossroads! Apparently she might die – we can only hope!

Read All About It: Former Soldier Soldier and Coronation Street actress Denise Welch is to write a tell-all autobiography. I’m not however really sure there is that much left untold – after all she lets it all out on Loose Women with the other classy media ladies.

Don’t Be So Nosey: Danniella Westbrook has insisted that she isn’t worried about her return to EastEnders. Speaking last month to The Mirror she commented:

“I’m not nervous. People keep saying that everyone is worried about how I’m going to cope but I’m a 35-year-old wife and mother, and I cope on a daily basis. It’ll be great closure for me to finish something I started. It’s also important that cast members who I let down when I was using drugs see me in a different light. I have to earn their respect back.”

In Pictures: The Telly Times of Gabrielle Drake

Having returned to the world of soap last week with a second stint in Coronation Street we look back at some of Gabrielle Drake’s TV moments.

More Social EastEnders

Never afraid to venture into controversial waters, EastEnders is once more broaching social awareness with the arrival of a new character, who happens to be disabled. The character, Adam Best, will be played by David Proud. The new character is an Oxford University student who arrives in Walford to visit his mother, Manda – played by Josie Lawrence – during his holidays.

David Proud in a statement says that he is “delighted and honoured to be joining such a talented cast. I’m very excited and looking forward to bringing the character to life.”

Self-possessed and a bit of snob, Adam thinks his mother’s boyfriend Minty isn’t good enough for her and neither is the Queen Vic in all its quaintness.

Executive Producer, EastEnders, Diederick Santer, said: “I’m delighted to welcome David to EastEnders. He’s a fine young actor with a wonderfully dry comic delivery, playing an interesting – and possibly rather irritating – character. I’m sure he, and his character Adam, will be strong additions to EastEnders.

“In recent years, we’ve had a number of regular and guest characters with disabilities – some of them children, like Janet Mitchell, and more recently Syd’s son Noah. We’ve also told the story of Jean Slater, who suffers from bi-polar disorder.

“But this is the first time we’ve had a regular adult character with a visible disability played by an actor with a disability. It’s about time.”

The EastEnders casting is part of a bigger drive by the BBC to hire more disabled talent at the corporation.

The BBC’s Director of Vision, Jana Bennett, last week launched an online database of disabled actors, comedians and performers with disabilities – Disabled Actors and Performers Directory.

The new venture is part of a range of initiatives across BBC Drama, Comedy and Children’s intended to support and raise the profile of disabled actors and performers within the BBC and across the industry.

The directory has been created with the support and collaboration of many talent agencies including Spotlight and Equity. It will be available to both in-house and independent production teams as an accessible research tool.

Jana Bennett comments on the new scheme: “It’s critical that to connect with all of our audiences, we want to authentically reflect the lives of disabled people on-screen.

“The Talent Alert workshops kick-off our nationwide search for the best disabled actors and performers from around the UK which will help us attract more disabled actors to a career in the arts, online and on screen.”

Earlier this year ATV News looked back at some of the big disabled soap characters, you can read it here.

Soap Quote: “While I can do it, while they want me, I’ll be there.” – William Roache speaking to The Sun.

Roache, who has played Ken Barlow since 1960, reaffirms his commitment to Coronation Street. We hear that after his death they’re planning on making him into a nice table – so that he can continue being Weatherfield set dressing.

Pointless Interview ‘Dale?

Having read a recent interview with the current Emmerdale producer I came away really none the wiser to anything interesting concerning the programme. Very nice to discuss the new characters – yes that’s yet more new characters – but none of the issues dogging the show are questioned, such as the lagging ratings, the dire dialogue, the cast thinking it’s a sitcom and the pantomime plots. Spin away as much as you like, it can’t change the product.

We were told last year the show would be revitalised with better stories and characters. It didn’t happen, so I won’t hold my breath for any improvement with the latest tripe spouted about new dynasties and dramatic plots. How long before the show resorts to another stunt or disaster?

Having It Away

When you think of Home and Away, you may think of the attractive young characters, the amusing older cast and the fact it is essentially good family viewing. Or to be blunt; it has a squeaky-clean image.

So its rather surprising that the show is wrapped in a bit of controversy after 20 years on air.

First off one of its male stars has admitted to making home-made porn, which he showed to other cast and crew on his mobile phone at the studios. Actor Lincoln Lewis recorded the sex tape with a fellow – unidentified – television star. Network Seven, the channel which airs and produces the soap, has disciplined the actor and told him apparently to seek counselling!

And just like a bus, two come along at once, with the other news that Home and Away actress Jodi Gordon was found cowering in the bedroom of a suspected gangster just days after being reported missing – suggests an Australian newspaper. Gordon reportedly revealed to Police that cocaine had been taken earlier in the day before she was found.

Sometimes the off-screen antics of the cast is more interesting that what is happening in the show.