Thursday, June 30, 2011

Eastenders 1987



I guess this is around Christmas 1987. The soap opera Eastenders had a story where Arthur stole money from the Christmas club he ran, and this transgression, and its associated guilt and shame precipitated a nervous breakdown. It was something like a Greek tragedy translated into the simple language of teevee drama. And for this kind of thing it was probably pretty good. But could you imagine television being able to articulate this kind of moral delicacy now? How can you demonstrate social horror attending a minor theft, in a society where the establishment steal with impunity every day, and everyone knows it?

If anything pleases me about the current Tory government, and the same goes for New Labour, it’s that it’s only necessary to recall David Cameron’s Mr Punch wickedness, that appalling creep Philip Hammond, or the wretched Gove, for one's own indiscretions to pale into insignificance.

10 comments:

W. Kasper said...

God I remember that storyline vividly. Enders was so much better in its first years, before 'Dirty Den' hype kicked in (it's almost unwatchably bad now). Arthur's unraveling was a brilliant, poignant, scary performance. It had pretty good acting before it became a retirement fund for gameshow hosts and comedians.

However, Corrie still rocks when it's on form.

catmintfour said...

all true - one thing that has moved on - judging from this clip - is standards of interior design in the UK

W. Kasper said...

I've was aquainted with a few (young-ish) soap writers back in the day. They bounce from soap to soap like a mini-mafia. Quite odd, fragile people with somewhat sheltered backgrounds (they all worshipped Morrissey!) - this may be reflected in the strange notions about they propagate about the working class. People buying houses after finishing their A-Levels, teenage Lolitas and 60s-style gangsters on every street.

I think in earlier days they actually knew the kind of people they wrote about, with a bit more life experience. But I suppose you could say the same about journalists too.

cm4 said...

I guess for real soap opera heads a lot of the pleasure is about the dilemmas in the story, and the social background of the story is of less importance. A soap opera in outer space would maybe work for this. I find Eastenders jarringly fake with its petty proprieter businesses - the caff, the shop, market stalls - no office work, no factories, no trades ...no Wetherspoons. And not so many arms length relationships - the halfway friendships of permanent civility. I suppose some of the interest in social issues that the 80s soaps catered for found a sort of substitute product in the 00s docusoap - Life of Grime, Airport? ... isn't there one called Scroungers about people on the dole?

cm4 said...

I think Hollyoaks might have a realistic sociology - university, houseshare, temp job - but i find something about this programme unaccountably offensive - I can't watch it for more than thirty seconds

W. Kasper said...

Hollyoaks seems to have a fair few property-owning entrepeneur teens too. It's supposed to be Chester, but isn't made there and no-one has the accent (maybe they worked out 'posh part of Liverpool' wouldn't work). It's a bit like Neighbours with its dreamland suburbs. I suspect it was created to appeal to that show's young audience (with added soft-porn elements, like its exploitative 'late night specials').

But small business is the staple way of life in soaps. Even Coronation St. despite it's reoccurring class-war plots and factory workers. Eastenders is bizarre for it - barrow boys and barmen buying London flats with a few months' savings. They would have been trust-funded out of Albert Square by now!

The reality shows that replaced it are even more 'ideological' in that they're usually from the perspective of authority (cops, doctors, dole investigators, even hotel managers etc.) with 'the public' as a blurry background of troublemakers and arsey customers.

I reckon a full-on sci-fi soap (no wars or invasions or anything, just personal relationship stuff) would be a massive hit nowadays.

cm4 said...

didn't they have a supermarket on Coronation Street? There's no Tesco Metro on Eastenders, no Poundland. Actually, there might be a case for the BBC to make their soap realistic for the sake of providing information by which the youth might orient themselves in society - how much a person earns in retail, or cleaning offices, the lifestyle this entails, the chain of command ... the pros and cons of training to be a hairdresser sort of thing. Otherwise it might as well be set in space.

The thing with Eastenders - I was thinking about the old Blake's Seven, where the actors did this thing of really showing off that they were trained to do Shakespeare. The show had a lot of mannerism about it, but that was part of its charm. Part of what's bad about eastenders is that it's incredibly mannerist, probably more than Blake's 7, but tries to position itself as a veritable mirror of society.

Anonymous said...

Unlike in the West, Soviet sci-fi films invariably told a moral tale and placed humanity's urge to explore and the idea of progress at their core.

Where Western "product" focuses on war and fighting aliens or gratuitous adrenaline rushes, the Soviets underlined the potentially tremendous opportunities which space travel offers humanity.

Apart from their technical accomplishment, that sense of wonderment is probably why they still wear their age so well

W. Kasper said...

Yeah - the Street supermarket. The Reg Holdsworth cult!

And Eastenders is ridiculously mannerist. More Guy Ritchie or Parklife than kitchen sink.

Racking my brains trying to think of western sci-films that aren't about monsters, oppression, war or armageddon. Why can't they just get along?

catmint said...

um ...

Mothership Connection

Button Moon

think that might be it