EastEnders Did Den Watts get EE off the ground in 1985 or was he overrated?

Discussion in 'UK Soaps Forum' started by soapfan, Apr 11, 2018.

  1. soapfan

    soapfan Soap Chat Member

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    1984-85 was a bizarre time for Coronation street, the BBC and British Television in general, as the BBC launched its own long-running soap to rival Coronation street with Den Watts introduced from the start with Albert Square as his stomping ground.

    Was he overrated because he was married to Angie who made him look good when running The Queen Vic together?

    Did Den get out of his depth by 1988 when Angie finally left for good with the way Den was already involved with The Firm (Brad Williams and Gregory Mantel) and burning down the Dagmar as part of the involvement with The Firm?

    Would Den Watts have been much different from Eddie Royle and Larry Lamb's Archie Mitchell?

    If Den had arrived in 1990-1991 after escaping from prison and being the overprotective father of Sharon, would it have been the same sort of outcome as 2003-2005 where Den finally got his comeuppance where Sharon saw him for what he really was?

    Had Den not arrived what could've happened or been changed? Aside from the obvious change in storylines I'm referring to the show itself.

    Would Michael Melia or Larry Lamb would have been cast in EastEnders much earlier in the 1980s playing a different sort of character or lover of Angie Shaw/Watts, Angie Watts going by her maiden surname of Shaw and alcoholism being explored more with Phil and Grant arriving in 1988 and Angie and Phil flirting and bonding over alcoholism, unhappy family relationships and an affair?

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    Last edited: Apr 14, 2018
  2. ArchieLucasCarringtonEwing1989

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    I don't think Den was overrated during hid 1985-89 run, the fact he was so complicated as a character made him very intriguing to watch.

    He loved Angie, possibly more than any other woman but he was on self destruct mode, he loved Sharon as any father would, she represented what was and could be his respectable side.

    He was deeply loyal to those in Walford even if he didn't show it, he never lorded it over his friends and neighbours.

    The Mitchell bros on the other hand I would say are overrated, yet at the same time they were needed back in 1990.

    Phil and Grant were completely different to Den, their complicated natures stemmed from an abusive upbringing and Grant's unresolved issues with being a veteran of the Falklands war, and being smothered by Peggy, plus they always had each other, Den acted alone.

    I hated Den's return as TPTB turned Den's fatherly love for Sharon into something sinister and creepy, sure he was a manipulative bastard but he loved all his children, I don't think Den of 1985-89 would ever have treated Dennis the way his 2003-05 version did.
     
  3. soapfan

    soapfan Soap Chat Member

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    I suppose the question we should be asking if is if Michael Melia or Larry Lamb should have been cast as Den Watts, because the truth is Leslie Grantham first and foremost should never have been allowed to get a job in acting or been released from prison at all, after his dark past.

    Back to Den though, he was as Phil rightly put it "a jumped up jack the lad out of his depth" and throwing Den across the room with one hand.

    Den didn't love Angie at all, he loved Jan Hammond more.

    Phil operated alone too after 1999, Phil and Grant fell out in 1999, or did you forget? It would have been different if Phil and Grant both left for good in 1999 and Jim McDonald had never left Coronation street in 2000.

    Den Watts/Leslie Grantham comes across as cocky and too full of himself and a dirty old man as well, you're not seriously telling me you'd like someone like that? I'd have more respect for someone like Phil Mitchell/Jim McDonald if they were real people.

    EastEnders could easily have began without Den. Also, Angie would have been the Bet Lynch/Liz McDonald of EastEnders.
     
    Last edited: Apr 11, 2018
  4. ArchieLucasCarringtonEwing1989

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    But Phil became worse, much worse after Grant left, Grant I think was the better Mitchell brother because he wanted to change, especially after Tiffany died.

    Den loved Angie and Jan, he kept a photo of Angie in his wallet right up until he died

    I try to set aside people's personal lives, however sordid and nefarious out of the actors performance.
     
  5. soapfan

    soapfan Soap Chat Member

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    Den was awful in 2003-2005, EastEnders nearly got cancelled because he was so rubbish, he was awful, sleeping with Zoe and spending most of the time causing trouble before he got killed off, but I agree Phil needed bringing down a peg or two with the armed robbery set up. Den only looked good in the 1980s because of Angie.

    Phil only became worse because of what Grant AND Kathy did to him, I mean who wouldn't. Grant didn't exactly change after Tiffany died either, he caused her death in the first place and then assaulted a Social Worker when he couldn't look after Courtney properly and only wanted Courtney when it was convenient for him whilst he was at the gym and his involvement with Milligan & Frater.
     
  6. Ome

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    Is this correct?

    They would actually cancel a programme because of one character?
     
  7. ArchieLucasCarringtonEwing1989

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    I wouldn't put the blame all on Den as to why storylines were messed up in late 2004-2005, that was down to the producer at the time.

    Mid 2006 was pretty dire if I remember correctly and Den was long beneath the ground by that point.

    I do however wonder how things would've turned out had Phil and Grant arrived in 1988 along with Angie staying around until 1994?
    There would be no Sharongate, as more than likely Angie would have affairs with both Mitchell bros and marry one of them and run the Queen Vic, possibly Angie would get pregnant in her forties and would most definitely clash with Peggy.
     
  8. soapfan

    soapfan Soap Chat Member

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    Yes they would, because Den/Leslie Grantham thought he was bigger than the programme. He was asked to return in 1991, but his ego wouldn't let him.
     
  9. soapfan

    soapfan Soap Chat Member

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    We need to be realistic though. Realistically, Angie would only do her 1980s stint and never return, so TPTB could only have asked her to stay on for at least 1 more year until 1989. Also, Barbara Windsor should never have been cast Peggy in the first place. Jo Warne was the better Peggy, a different sort of character and more believable as the mother of Phil and Grant. Jo Warne's Peggy clashed with Pat. I think Jo Warne's Peggy got along better with Angie and Sharon also.

    I think Grant/Angie is disgusting, they'd be old enough to be mother and son - eww. It would make more sense for Phil/Angie instead.

    I'm just disappointed that Julia Smith didn't introduce Phil and Grant in 1988 instead of Den from the beginning in 1985. Grant wouldn't have been around as much though because he'd be in the Army/Falklands.
     
  10. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    I think it was the tension between the characters, and the electricity between the two actors, that made them such a hit.

    Well yeah he did get out of his depth - that was the point of the story.

    Yeah, they were three very different characters.

    Sharon was a very different character in 1991 to what she became in 2005 so probably not.

    Angie was very much defined by her relationship with Den so without him, she'd have been a very different character. The Mitchell brothers who arrived in 1990 were much more cheerful, happy go lucky characters than they later became. Their family dysfunction wasn't really apparent for the first couple of years. The idea that their father was an alcoholic wasn't introduced until much, much later.

    Hmm, I'd say that was debatable.

    Well, he was sarcastic and he took the p*ss out of them. I'd say most of his relationships were kind of ambivalent.

    I think part of what sparked between Grantham and Dobson was the fact that he was so raw and inexperienced as an actor and she was the oppoiste -- a technical and emotional powerhouse. It made for a fascinating combination. Ricky Tomlinson and Sue Johnston had a similar dynamic on Brookside at the same time.

    I don't think I agree with that. And I really like that Louise Jameson was responsible for "discovering" him as an actor while he was in prison.

    Yes and that's what made him an interesting character.

    Certainly when we first met him, yes.

    You're conflating the character with the actor which makes it confusing to talk about.

    Apparently Phil's quite boring in real life and just talks about boats all the time. I was chuffed when Jim MacDonald followed me back on Twitter, but then I was disappointed by some of his political views.

    She kind of was anyway, only better.

    Grant and Phil tended to swap personalities back and forth throughout the ninetles. They took it turns to be the really bad one while other was more of restraining influence. It worked very well.

    I loved his relationship with Dennis.

    There was all the stuff with Michelle. That was great too. And I liked his relationships with Lofty, Ethel, Kathy, Pauline. Arthur, etc. etc.

    Grant and Kathy bonded over Phil's alcoholism and cruel behaviour when they were all in Paris in 1997. That's a good example of when Phil was the "bad" brother and Grant the sympathetic shoulder to cry on.

    I have fond memories of 2006: the Foxes, the Masoods, the (Kevin) Wickses and the Brannings all arrived at around the same time and it was great. There again, the end of the Johnny Allen era was a drag.

    I can understand about needing some distance from a show like EastEnders for a while, before considering a return. You need time away before you can look back and miss something.

    Angie was the same age as Kathy. She'd have been twelve years older than Grant.

    I think the Mitchells arrived at the right time. Grant left the army in 1982.
     
    Last edited: Apr 11, 2018
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  11. soapfan

    soapfan Soap Chat Member

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    Well Angie yes, but Den wasn't a patch on Phil especially, even though he was cleverer than Grant.


    Yes Eddie and Archie were different characters from Den, but its just the choice of actor chosen to play Den that I don't agree with. Michael Melia or Larry Lamb would have been better choices.


    Because of the talent of Anita Dobson, it would have been nice to own storyline/special year/season during 1988-1989 with having an affair with Phil and bonding over alcoholism. It would have been interesting if Den's mother had been cast, but the closest the viewers got to that were interactions with someone like Dot and the heart to heart in the Launderette. Phil always drank when he was under stress and had the temper with Sharon during Sharongate, and it got built on during 1996.


    What originally was meant to transpire was that Brookside THE soap of the 1980s, not EastEnders, where EastEnders was basically Coronation street and Brookside rolled into one and EastEnders would have been cancelled during 2003-2005, but Brookside lost its way in 1991 when the parade row of shops was built/sensationalism, it tried to be too much like Coronation street and EastEnders and it was sabotaged to make EastEnders look good. I agree about Ricky Tomlinson and Sue Johnston, I actually preferred Brookside and Family Affairs to EastEnders and Hollyoaks.


    Well it's quite the reverse with Terry (Brian Regan), who went into acting first and prison second, and one would wonder whether Leslie Grantham or Brian Regan was worse.


    You're confusing Steve McFadden and Charles Lawson with their on-screen characters, you're right in one sense, but I said if Phil and Jim were REAL people and not fictional characters.


    Angie didn't have the longevity of Bet Lynch/Liz McDonald, so she wasn't as good.


    Shannis was what ruined Den's 2003-2005 stint, if TPTB hadn't paired Dennis and Sharon up, then Den and Dennis would have had a better father-son relationship.


    The Michelle stuff was awful and I HATED how Lofty never found out about what Den did and punched the cocky, smug bastard. You wouldn't catch Phil and Grant behaving like Den did.

    Like you said Phil and Grant went back and forth, but I mentioned the Grant and Kathy stuff to justify Phil changing after 1999/2000.

    Angie (Anita Dobson) was born in the 1940s, Kathy (Gillian Taylforth) was born in the 1950s and Grant (Ross Kemp) was born in the 1960s, so Grant/Angie would've been wrong. It's as disgusting as asking Den and Dot to have a romantic relationship despite a 20 year age gap between both actors!

    I agree about Grant, I always found Phil the more compelling brother and Steve McFadden the much better actor though. Phil most definitely should have been brought in during 1988. Without Grant there'd have been no Sharongate though and punching that cocky David Wicks for serenading Sharon and provoking him and throwing Dennis onto the piano after he announced his arrival by punching Phil to the floor.
     
  12. ArchieLucasCarringtonEwing1989

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    The age gap doesn't bother me, its only a decade or so between Angie and Phil, which is the same as Phil and Kathy.

    I like most of 2006 as well, in fact I generally see the years
    2000-2006 as EE's second golden era, there may have been flaws in certain years: namely 2004, but there was a real healthy balance of
    Hardmen, tight knit family groups, the Watts vs Mitchell feud, which saw most of the Mitchell's out of Walford for most of 2003-2005,
    Unforgettable moments (YOU AINT MY MUVVA, YES I AM!), Who Shot Phil, Shannis, Alfie taking Nana Moon to the D Day Beach memorial was one of the best written episodes ever, there was a real appreciation the shows history back then, without lingering too long on the past.

    I think the 00s era of EastEnders gets a bad rep but it was actually not at all bad, unlike the EastEnders of recent years
     
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  13. soapfan

    soapfan Soap Chat Member

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    Well yes, I meant the age gap of Grant (Ross Kemp) and Angie (Anita Dobson), but Phil (Steve McFadden) and Angie would be fine and same with Phil and Kathy.
     
  14. ArchieLucasCarringtonEwing1989

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    I think Angie, could have had longevity but Anita Dobson obviously decided to move on, which was fine, the only reason why I think Peggy is hyped up is because Barbara Windsor played her, she was and is the epitome of old school, 1960s, Kray Twins era, East End glamour girl and that was great, I love Barbara Windsor, but I could never quite take to Peggy as I could with Lou and Angie.

    I see Peggy as a combination of Lou Beale and Angie Watts, by the Time BW took on the role in 1994, both Lou and Angie had been offscreen for some years and the show was lacking both a larger than life landlady and a strong Matriarch which the Mitchells' needed but at the same time someone who no one knew since Peggy wasn't from Walford, Peggy filled both roles perfectly and if the aim was to have a Lou-Peggy composite character then maybe Barbara Windsor was the right actress, though I did like Jo Warne in the role too
     
  15. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    To me, Den and Phil were completely different characters so I never felt the need to choose one over the other.

    Different, certainly. Better, who can say? Melia does a good job of playing ordinary men. Whether he has that extra spark than Grantham had as Den, I'm not so sure.

    Maybe, but I never felt the lack of her. Den was a loner and that suited his character. Besides, there wasn't that much emphasis on long lost relatives and extraneous family members in the show's early days. It was all about the community and the hierachy within the Square. That was the main family, and Den and Angie were a central part of that.

    Everyone in EastEnders drinks when they're under stress.

    Brookside was very much out on its own because it was new and different and it was on Channel 4 which hardly anyone watched. I mean, it was brilliant but it was nothing in terms of popularity compared to Enders, Crossroads and Corrie.

    I know what you mean, but it was more than that. It had its own sensibility. And Enders was far, far more multi-racial in its early days than Corrie or Brookside ever were.

    I doubt that's true, but maybe you know more than I do.

    Do you mean Brookside was deliberately sabotaged? By who?

    It's not for me to judge either of them.

    Not really. I just like calling them Phil and Jim cos its funnier.

    I can't imagine them being real. The only Enders characters who have truly felt like real people to me are Rod Norman (aka Rod the Roadie, Mary the Punk's boyfriend), Rachel Kominski (Michelle's lecturer/landlady) and Nancy Carter.

    Quality and quantity aren't always the same thing. Angie was a star who shone briefly but brilliantly.

    I wouldn't have wanted Den and Dennis to have a better relationship. I liked that it was so screwed up.

    I loved it, loved it, loved it! It never went where you thought it was going to go.

    I thought that was brilliant -- the aching, open-endedness of it all.

    I'm not sure how the Mitchells are relevant to what happened between Den and Lofty.

    Re-watching the whole show, I tried to pinpoint a moment or a storyline where Phil definitively changed and went over to the dark side once and for all, but I don't think there is one. He just behaved as badly as the writers needed him to for any given storyline, and it sort of worked. Still does.

    Angie and Kathy were both born in 1950. Grant was born in 1962, the year after Phil.

    Dunno about the actors, but Dot was born in 1936 and Den in 1947, the same gap the seperates Kathy and Phil.

    Re-watching the whole thing, 2002-2005 was the period I found the most tough going (so far), but yes, there's still some great stuff along the way. Kat, Andy Hunter, Jim and Dot were the characters that shone most brightly through the dark times.

    Although, fascinatingly, they completely altered Nana Moon's backstory involving her husband to incorporate the D-Day Landings. I don't say that as a criticism, I thought it was really creative.

    I like 'em both!

    But there's only one year between Phil and Grant so it wouldn't make that much difference, surely?
     
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2018
  16. soapfan

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    I disagree, The Beales and The Fowlers were THE main family(s).

    That's an unfair criticism to aim at Brookside, I mean both Family Affairs and Brookside had the disadvantages of being on Channel 4 and Channel 5, when the BBC and ITV were always the 2 top main channels. Considering the fact the BBC and ITV lost the 2 Australian soaps (Neighbours and Home And Away), it would make sense for Thames/Talkback Thames to bring back Family Affairs on ITV (the same London-based company whichever it was who made Minder and The Bill.) I discussed bringing back Family Affairs on another thread, so I won't get off the subject about it here.

    I always preferred Family Affairs to EastEnders, where Family Affairs was the Coronation street of the South and represented London better than the abrasive EastEnders.

    By clueless producers after the 1980s that thought it was good idea to turn it into a clone of Coronation street by introducing the "Parade" row of shops and stupid sensationalism like Sue Sullivan being pushed off the scaffolding with her young son, Jimmy on drugs, the body under the patio etc, need I say more, it got too much and completely ruined and deserved all it got in the end.

    Well you do get real life men like Phil Mitchell and Jim McDonald working as a pub landlord or mechanic.

    Yes, so she'd soon get forgotten about. The least TPTB could have done was keep Angie for 1 more year for the Phil/Angie stuff in 1988-1989.

    Well maybe, it's almost like Phil and Ben, and Phil's relationship with his daughter Louise is like the overprotective father that Den was towards Sharon, hence the recent Hunter Owen stuff.

    It was cruel what Den did to Lofty, Lofty was an honest person in a dishonest world, imagine if it was someone with a mental disability like autism or down's syndrome being taken advantage of and it was to you a family member or close friend, wouldn't you be angry too at what had happened? I know I would.

    Well I suppose the only example I could give was the way the friendship between Nigel and Grant was crafted, they both liked Lorraine, but Lorraine and Grant weren't exactly honest with Nigel, they went behind his back.


    Well Phil remained consistent in character due to the actor's excellent understanding of Phil, but I Grant definitely changed though in 2005/06, but maybe because Ross Kemp couldn't be bothered putting the effort in as the BBC had to bribe him with money to return, and Ross Kemp's acting was a mellowed Grant who said he had therapy to calm him down and pulling silly faces and raising his eyebrows, but his 2016 stint was more like the old 1990s Grant again when he threatened the punter in the bar and snogged Belinda. I always liked Phil better than Grant, Grant was just pathetic the way he treated Sharon, it was horrible to watch him in the early 1990s being a nutter, until he got arrested in 1993 for hitting Sharon. It was worse than Phil and Kathy in 1996/97.

    Well not the fictional characters DOBs, I meant the actor's DOBs as that's a more realistic and accurate one.
     
  17. ArchieLucasCarringtonEwing1989

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    The Beale/Fowlers and the Watts are often cited to be the two main families of the early days, both families were involved in some of the biggest, memorable storylines of the era: Kathy being blackmailed over her first rape which resulted in the birth of her daughter, Mark's delinquency, Arthur's unemployment and breakdown, Pauline's late in life (by 1985 standards) pregnancy, Michelle's own teen pregnancy as a result of a one night stand with her best friends adopted father, Den and Angie's tempestuous marriage which lead to the biggest ratings in soaps history, yet to be beaten.

    Still though it was always an ensembled piece, and largely still is, just some families are just era defining than others, the Beale/Fowler and Watts clans dominated the 1980s, the Mitchell's dominated in the 1990s into the early 2000s, and again in the 2010s sharing the stage with the Branning family, while the mid 2000s belonged to the
    Watts (albeit with newer members), Slater and Moon families.

    I'm kinda glad that Angie did leave when she did, @James from London is right, she was a brief shining star, who exited just before she burned up, Angie was too big a character to keep around long term, had her and Den stayed in the 1990s the Mitchell bros either wouldn't have showed up or if they did it they would only be around for a few years, I like shows that are every changing and EastEnders does this well, same with Emmerdale, both have rich histories and back-stories yet they both keep moving forward.
     
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  18. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    I meant that the Albert Square community itself functioned like a family in the early days -- the sense of hierachy, the characters' interwoven histories, etc. -- which is why they didn't need to bring in extraneous relatives. But yes, the Beales/Fowlers were absolutely at the heart of that family.

    Saying Brookside was less popular than the other soaps isn't a criticism of the show itself.

    Except Angie wasn't forgotten. I mean, we're still talking about her now!

    Possibly, only Den didn't set out to hurt Lofty, but to help Michelle. Lofty got caught in the middle. Den liked Lofty which just made it all the more interesting.

    But because it's drama, you're shown the story from different perspectives - Michelle's, Den's, Lofty's - and so it isn't as black and white as one party being completely cruel and another completely innocent. Besides, it's good for drama to make the audience angry sometimes. Justice doesn't always prevail in life so why should it in fiction?

    Yeah, Steve McFadden manages to make sense of pretty much anything the writers throw at him.

    Well, they clearly wrote him differently when he came back but Ross Kemp didn't seem to know how to play this new version of Grant so he just delivered all his lines sarcastically. It didn't really work.

    That version of Grant was really interesting. He was like a wounded animal lashing out. Later on, he got so big and shouty there was nowhere left for him to go.

    As you were talking about the fictional characters hooking up, I'd have thought the characters' ages would be more relevant than the actors', but as you're the one with the age issues, I guess it's up to you.

    Yeah, Angie's story was kind of over by the end of '87 -- although her low-key exit in '88 was interestingly odd.
     
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2018
  19. ArchieLucasCarringtonEwing1989

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    Yeah in a way it was, there was no Julia's theme for one thing, it was very low key for such a larger than life character, but the same time it made sense, Angie no longer cared for Den in the same way she once did, and if she did it was a small spark.

    People nowadays mock exiting the series in a back of a black taxi but Angie's exit is strangely iconic for that reason, who needs big explosions or plane crashes to exit a show, sometimes simply leaving with a rucksack heading to pastures unknown is a great exit.
     
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  20. soapfan

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    Well yes, it brings me to another point regarding Lou Beale (Anna Wing), who also left in 1988. I think Lou was more likeable and believable as the battleaxe, I hated how Pauline changed after Lou left and how TPTB spent the remainder of the time plugging that gap by putting Lou's traits onto Pauline's character. Lou/Anna Wing could have remained up until the early 2010s until her real life death. People criticise how Phil changed after Grant left, but i'm surprised more people haven't been critical of Pauline's change after Lou died.

    Well Phil and Grant were close brothers, but Phil defended Grant and loved him like a good brother and didn't set out to hurt him either with Sharon, which was why Sharon choose Phil eventually.

    Well justice prevailed with Sharongate, where Phil begged Grant to beat him up and getting some sort of justice for it, unlike Lofty getting justice for what happened between Den and Michelle.

    That would have probably been Kate Harwood's tenure as EP, getting characterisation wrong.

    Well Den, Angie and Dan Sullivan wouldn't have been high on drink and drugs and trying to burn the pub down. Coronation street always remained consistent in it's green/yellow exterior, but EastEnders changed it from black/brown/yellow to green/yellow and then since remained in the red/yellow when even after Phil last burnt it down. I'd like for the EastEnders pub to go back to black/brown/yellow exterior again.
     
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2018

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