There was a - no doubt - apocryphal story in one of the tabloids last week that EastEnders bosses are intending to turn Dawn Swann into the next Pauline Fowler. Now, whether or not she is being handed the Sacred Cardie, it sounds like a bold and possibly interesting development. How long could Dawn carry on being another pretty face, lucky/unlucky with men?
After the trauma with Mad May and Rubbish Rob, it makes a kind of sense that she is realising that she needs to concentrate on being a mother to Summer. We have had signs of a slight change in her character; wanting to create a family with Jase and Jay, finally taking action over the hideous state of the Miller house and, of course throwing Tegs' swivel-eyed Mum-monster out on her ear. It's the creation of a very modern matriarch I suppose, and we do seem to be seeing less of feckless Dawn, dumping her baby on Mickey or Keith while she pops to the Vic. I realise her character is not universally popular, but, if this news item is in any way true, it is indicative of EastEnders and Diederick Santer's efforts to rediscover the programmes roots and its original premise of strong families and characterisation. That sense of history and continuity has been all the more evident with the return of Ricky and Bianca.
The Frank Butcher funeral episodes were, of course powerfully touching, for obvious reasons, but the use of flashbacks was also a potent reminder of EastEnders' past, when its sense of community and focus on character was at its height. Long before misguided attempts to turn the programme into a laughing stock and two smoking barrels by importing Scooby Doo villainy that just didn't belong. The ridiculous resurrection and reburial of Den Watts, the hapless Ferreiras - oh I feel weak just thinking of those times. The point is, this is a potentially exciting and crucial point for EastEnders, because it's been on air for nearly a quarter of a century, it has its own backstory. Now is a good time to acknowledge its history and use it to progress into the future.
Bianca seems to be very much her mother's daughter, fearlessly struggling to keep her family together. It's a neat touch that her children are almost a mirror image of herself and her own siblings: Robbie, Sonia and Billy. Pat now has to face a future knowing that Frank can't be a part of it, but his children can and probably will be. Are there signs of Frank in Ricky? Slightly weak, but good hearted all the same. One suspects that he and Bianca are probably (like Frank and Pat) soul mates, but can they ever get together again, or is it too late anyway?
The cast has also been expanded over the past eighteen months, key families have added members, some new faces, some returning ones. There are outstanding individual characters and unfortunately, some weak ones. One hopes those weaknesses are to do with storyline issues that can be resolved. Either way, I look forward to this meeting of old and new, the past and present creating a hopefully, vibrant Walford future.
One last thing - I was going to say, surely there could never be another Ian Beale? But there is , his name is Bobby and he likes playing with scissors and letting his sister take the blame. Watch this space....