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EastEnders (1985- )

Courtesy of BBC

Main image of EastEnders (1985- )
BBC, tx. 19/2/1985 -
Bi-weekly 30 min episodes, colour
CreatorsTony Holland
 Julia Smith
Production CompanyBBC
ProducersJulia Smith, Mike, Michael Ferguson, Leonard Lewis, Barbara Emile, Corinne Hollingworth, Jane Harris, Matthew Robinson, John Yorke, Louise Berridge, Kathleen Hutchison, Kate Harwood, Diederick Santer, Bryan Kirkwood
Theme musicSimon May

Cast: Adam Woodyatt (Ian Beale); Steve McFadden (Phil Mitchell); Pam St. Clement (Pat Wicks/Butcher/Evans); Barbara Windsor (Peggy Mitchell); Wendy Richard (Pauline Fowler); June Brown (Dot Cotton/Branning); Sid Owen ( (Ricky Butcher); Todd Carty (Mark Fowler); Ross Kemp (Grant Mitchell); Perry Fenwick (Billy Mitchell); Letitia Dean (Sharon Watts/Mitchell/Rickman); Natalie Cassidy (Sonia Jackson); John Bardon (Jim Branning); Patsy Palmer (Bianca Jackson/Butcher); Laila Morse (Mo Slater); Gillian Taylforth (Kathy Slater); Ricky Groves (Garry Hobbs); Derek Martin (Charlie Slater ); Lacey Turner (Stacey Slater/Branning); James Alexandrou (Martin Fowler)

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The lives of the people who live in and around Albert Square, Walford, E20.

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Since its launch in February 1985, EastEnders has become such a television institution that it's startling to recall that it's considerably younger than Coronation Street (ITV, 1960-), Emmerdale (ITV, 1972) and even the BBC's own Pobol y Cwm (BBC/S4C, 1974-). Set in the fictional borough of Walford, London E20, it follows the lives of the families who live in Albert Square and drink at its local pub, the Queen Vic.

It was initially created by producer Julia Smith and writer-director Tony Holland (both veterans of the BBC's long-running Z Cars, 1962-78), and intended as a response to the success of Channel 4's Brookside (1982-2003), to which it bore a strong resemblance. Memorably direct in its approach to difficult social issues such as crime, abortion, gay love, racial tension, underage sex, schizophrenia and AIDS, EastEnders' thoroughly-researched coverage of these issues often earned considerable praise from experts and charities.

A notable feature of EastEnders, particularly in the early years, was its multicultural casting, an attempt to offer a more authentic portrait of life in a working-class district than the audience was used to seeing in television soaps.

Not everyone was a fan. Veteran 'clean up TV' campaigner Mary Whitehouse commented:

It is at our peril and our children's peril that we allow EastEnders, with its verbal aggression and its atmosphere of physical violence, its blackmailing pimp and its prostitute, its lies and its deceit and its bad language, to go unchallenged.

However, it was far more enthusiastically received by the tabloid press, particularly the red-tops, which would regularly feature stories about the programme, and not only coined the nickname 'Dirty Den' for the Queen Vic landlord Den Watts, but also revealed that actor Leslie Grantham had served a lengthy prison sentence for murder. Coverage like this pushed the programme to record-breaking ratings, most notably the 1986 Christmas Day episode, in which Den served Angie (Anita Dobson) with divorce papers in front of 31 million viewers.

EastEnders initially revolved around two main families, the Beales and the Fowlers. Increasingly, additional members of the Watts clan were introduced, while the 1990s saw the arrival of the Mitchells and the Jacksons, and the 2000s the Slaters. Ian Beale (Adam Woodyatt) is the only character to have appeared consistently from the first episode, though Dot Cotton (June Brown) and Pat Butcher (Pam St. Clement) also date back to the 1980s.

Michael Brooke

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Video Clips
Complete first episode (28:27)
Production stills
Albion Market (1985-86)
Hammond, Mona
Holland, Tony (1940-2007)
Jordan, Tony (1957-)
Smith, Julia (1927-1997)
Walker, Rudolph (1939-)
Windsor, Barbara (1937-)
Soap Opera