28 July 2002
When it was recently announced that John Yorke was vacating the producer's chair at EastEnders, and new producer Louise Berridge would be helming the show, hopes were high that storylines would be improving. After all, it was John Yorke who had steered the show into its current emphasis on murder, mayhem, and illicit sex. It was John Yorke who master-minded the Slater family and then made them the central characters on EastEnders. And it was Yorke's terrible idea to make Jamie Mitchell & Sonia Jackson a couple as well as have Sonia suddenly go bonkers and kidnap Chloe. Judging from chat-room postings I have read, it seems most fans of EE were breathing a sigh of relief at the management change.
One month (more or less) later, and I for one am already nostalgic for Mr. Yorke. Things started out well; my least favorite recent story (Zoe and Anthony) was going to be shelved due to unforeseen circumstances (i.e., Michelle Ryan's breakdown). Michael Greco's precipitous departure left the writer's struggling with a hero-less plotline, so Jason was hurriedly brought aboard in an effort to plug the Beppe-gap. Not great, but in the circumstances, forgivable. Kim Medcalfe's unfortunate car accident suddenly left the show without an ingénue (however aging). So how does Ms. Berridge react to her suddenly depleted cast? She fires one of the most beloved, longest running actors on the series, Todd Carty.
Anyone who's read my previous Postcards has probably guessed that I have always had a soft spot for the character of Mark Fowler. As portrayed by Todd Carty, Mark has been a consistently interesting character as well as a character who has remained consistent. No strange and sudden shifts in personality for Mark Fowler (at least, not until now!). No, viewers of EastEnders knew Mark would always be there in the Square, the stalwart support of the Fowler family and an island of continuity in a sea of shifting characters. Mark's wives might come and go, his HIV status might fluctuate, but the leather jacket and soft heart would remain.
To my mind, the firing of Todd Carty is a clear indication of the direction Ms. Berridge plans on taking EastEnders. It's obvious that the lynchpin residents of Albert Square (the Fowlers, the Beale's, the Evans) will be less and less important if not entirely deleted. My guess is from here on out we will be treated to a parade of pretty faces, all young and well-dressed. You thought some of John Yorke's storylines were improbable? Within 6 months we'll probably all be looking back at his reign as a Golden Age!
So who's next on the chopping block? Wendy Richard? Pam St. Clemens? Barbara Windsor? I wouldn't be surprised. The only reason June Brown will be staying is because of the recent popularity of her double-act with John Bardon. I guess they'll get to be the token pensioners of Albert Square.
I have spent many Postcards to you griping about the recent decline in storylines. I hate to sound like a broken record, but I REALLY mean this: the firing of Todd Carty is the beginning of the end for EastEnders as I've known and loved it over the years. I can already foresee a time coming soon when I will no longer be bothering to watch it as the only difference between it and American TV will be the accents. Louise Berridge will be the death of Albert Square.