It’s been a long year and a half full of high points (the Brannings Christmas 2017) and low points (Gangs of Walford). Overall, John Yorke’s second turn as EastEnders Executive Consultant/Producer has fallen short of the “New Era” or moment of “Sorting it out” fans were anticipating. EastEnders is still third among the top soap operas behind Coronation Street and Emmerdale. The ratings haven’t strayed past 6.5 million viewers, only occasionally making it past 6.1 million viewers (according to BARB TV Set Viewing). Although the latest episodes have been awesome, they don’t reflect the overall quality of the shows this year.So…what has Yorke accomplished this year? To be fair, there have been some GOOD moments that has happened this year. So…
1. New Characters/Actors…
Yorke hired Katie Jarvis (Hayley Slater) and Ricky Champ (Stuart Highway). Both have added a needed boost to the Slater and Carter storylines. Jarvis’s acting is amazing. Her scenes are enjoyable to watch whether it’s with the Slaters or other characters in the square. Champ’s acting has been phenomenal. His performance has given Kellie Bright (Linda Carter) a chance to show the acting range she’s acquired from many years in the business. Danny Dyer (Mick Carter) has been able to expand Mick’s range beyond the critique that he is just playing himself.
2. Returning Characters/Actors…
The best returns have been Jessie Wallace (Kat Slater) and Tanya Franks (Rainie Cross Branning). Wallace has been great since her return. You can’t have a house full of Slater women and not have Kat around. Franks was the surprise return. I’ve enjoyed watching the Rainie/Max/Jack triangle. Now that Rainie and Max have custody of Baby Abi, I can’t wait to see what happens with their family.
3. Big Storylines…
Let’s start with the Branning saga around Christmas. Watching Max, Abi, and Lauren on top of the Vic roof was breathtaking. It was the perfect surprise reveal! The storyline was so emotional right up to Abi’s funeral. Then month’s later, we see Max come back into town with another reveal–a new wife, Rainie Cross.
The Knife Storyline was another big moment. It started out strong. We saw the raw pain in Carmel Kazemi’s eyes when she found out Shakil was dead. The funeral scenes with family members of knife crime victims was one of a kind. It was one of the most emotional moments on EastEnders this year.
With the GOOD, you also have the BAD…
1. Building up some families while ignoring others
In his most recent interview, Yorke said that one of his main goals was to build up Albert Square’s families. Well, Yorke did if their names were Slater or Carter. Both families had a wonderful year in the square. We had the return of the Kat, Mo, and Jean Slater. The Carters had a new storyline that didn’t involve getting money to save the Vic. (Finally!) However, there was a cost.
Ian Beale lost everyone except for his mom Kathy Beale. The Mitchells had Ben move away after a disastrous relationship with Luke Wilmott-Brown. Then we all know what happened to the Brannings and the Kazemis. Finally, Yorke broke up Kim Fox-Hubbard’s family by sending Vincent Hubbard off to an unknown fate. (Still unknown at this date.) Sadly, many families have suffered under Yorke’s tenure.
2. Inconsistent storyline pace/dropping plot points/questionable moments…
Speaking of character suffering, EastEnders has plenty to offer in their storylines. The Knife Crime storyline was one of the high points of the year. However, it fell short of expectations. We spent time watching Mick Carter take center stage even though he hardly spent time with Shakil or Kush. The focus quickly shifted from the pain of the Kazemi/Taylor families to Mick’s emotions about not helping Shakil.
At one point, Karen Taylor and Carmel Kazemi were comforting him in the laundrette. Then we didn’t see any reference to the storyline for another 2.5 months. In fact, Kush Kazemi’s grieving was played out over weeks with breaks in between. (I still don’t know why Denise Fox was kept out of that part of the storyline.)
Other dropped plot points: the kiss and potential love affair between Kathy Beale and Masood Ahmed; the random girl Kush slept with while he was grieving; Vincent Hubbard’s fate and what happened to the Albert. Maybe once Kate Oates and Jon Sen begin, fans will get some answers for these dropped plot points.
3. Yorke has his favorites and it shows on screen…
If we look at the characters who receive the most screen time, they fall into three categories: Blonde, Blonde, and Feisty Brunettes. Yorke definitely has his favorite females on the show. (I’m not saying their characters aren’t enjoyable or that the actresses aren’t good at their craft.) They appear frequently and have the most interesting storylines. Can you imagine if Mick Carter was grieving the loss of one of his sisters and Linda Carter was not even around? Other characters would even ask where she was. Unfortunately, Denise Fox isn’t blonde, and I guess her presence during Kush’s toughest time wasn’t important.
Yorke also has a serious issue with using his diverse characters. Once he got rid of Ben Mitchell, the show had only two LBGTQ characters. There’s also a limited amount of male characters who appear on the screen at one time. (That’s a new one I just noticed this past month.) Other shows like Hollyoaks manage to have a diverse list of characters and provide those characters with quality storylines. (Many of these storylines are unrelated to their diversity and are just…regular storylines.)
I feel that EastEnders misses out on discovering new couples and character friendships if there are fewer moments for characters to interact.
Overall, Yorke’s second tenure as Executive Consultant/Producer has been lukewarm. I’m sure he accomplished what he hoped for– he gave the Slater Family an open platform to shine. The Carters were lucky to be a part of that ride. Now as we wait for Christmas and New Year’s episodes, we can also look forward to the Oates/Sen era of EastEnders.
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