Soap Eastenders is set in the East End borough of Walford (Postcode E20). Focal figures in the shows early years were the Fowler family led by the indomitable Pauline and the her put upon husband Arthur (who would later have a nervous breakdown in spectacular fashion) and their kids Mark and Michelle. Pub landlord Den (Dirty Den as he became known) and his brassy wife Angie quickly became the focus of most of the media attention lavished on the show in its early days. Den and Angie’s daughter Sharon was best friends with Michelle Fowler who happened to get herself pregnant by Sharon’s father.
Other important characters from the shows early years included Dot Cotton and her evil son Nick, Pauline’s Mum Lou and the elderly Ethel Skinner, local GP Dr Legg, Pauline’s brother Pete Beale and his family (wife Kathy and son Ian). Asian shopkeepers Saeed and Naima Jeffrey and Turkish cafe owner Ali Osman provided the ethnicity.
During the early ‘Den and Angie’ years the show was incredibly popular beating all comers. Since Den’s departure (being ‘hit’ by gangsters) there has always been a ‘hard man’ type character in the show with the brutish Grant Mitchell ruling the roost at the Vic for many years.
Eastenders has never been shy of tackling the big issues, Aids, murder, teenage pregnancy, cancer and even euthanasia have all had an airing on the show. The show is most probably the most depressing of the UK soaps (although Brookside runs it a close second).
During its most popular spell several of the stars even had hit singles (Anita Dobson with a vocal version of the theme tune and Nick Berry getting to number one with Every Loser Wins).
First episode broadcast 19 Feb 1985 and on 19 February 2010 a special live episode was broadcast as part of a long running storyline involving the characters of Arnie Mitchell who was murdered by Stacey Slater.
Over the years there have also been various spin offs and “bubbles” aired on TV – these have been Civvy Street, Dot’s Story, Eastenders: E20, M.I.T, Pat And Mo, Perfectly Frank and Ricky and Bianca.
There were also two direct to video stories (a few of the soaps experimented with these in the late 90’s but it was a fad quickly over) these were The Mitchells – Naked Truths and Slaters in Detentions (these were both around the hour long mark).
Meanwhile Eastenders Revealed was an occasional BBC-3 series going behind the scenes of the show.
UK / BBC-1 / x30 minute episodes / Broadcast 19 February 1985 – continuing
Creators: Julia Smith, Tony Holland / Theme Music: Simon May
Key cast members have included:-
BILL TREACHER as Arthur Fowler
LESLIE GRANTHAM as Den Watts
ANITA DOBSON as Angie Watts
WENDY RICHARD as Pauline Fowler
SUSAN TULLY as Michelle Fowler
DAVID SCARBOROUGH as Mark Fowler(1)
TODD CARTY as Mark Fowler(2)(-September 2002)
GILLIAN TAYLFORTH as Kathy Beale
ADAM WOODYATT as Ian Beale
LETITA DEAN as Sharon Watts
JUNE BROWN as Dot Cotton
JOHN ALTMAN as Nick Cotton
GRETCHEN FRANKLIN as Ethel Skinner
PAM ST CLEMENT as Pat Wicks/Evans
TOM WATT as Lofty
LINDA DAVIDSON as Mary Smith
MIKE REID as Frank Butcher
SOPHIE LAWRENCE as Diane Butcher
SID OWEN as Ricky Butcher
DANIELLA WESTBROOK as Sam Mitchell
ROSS KEMP as Grant Mitchell
STEVE McFADDEN as Phil Mitchell
MARTINE McCUTCHEON as Tiffany
LINDSAY COULSON as Carol Jackson
DEAN GAFFNEY as Robbie Jackson
MICHAEL FRENCH as David Wicks
NICK BERRY as Simon Wicks
PATSY PALMER as Bianca Butcher
MICHAEL GRECO as Beppe Di Marco
MARC BANNERMAN as Gianni Di Marco
CARLY HILLMAN as Nicky Di Marco
LOUISE JAMESON as Rosa Di Marco
LEILA BIRCH as Teresa Di Marco
SHAUN WILLIAMSON as Barry Evans
JAMES ALEXANDROU as Martin Fowler
TAMZIN OUTHWAITE as Melanie Healy
DANIELA DENBY-ASHE as Sarah Hills
NATALIE CASSIDY as Sonia Jackson
MARTIN KEMP as Steve Owen
NADIA SAWALHA as Annie Palmer
LUCY SPEED as Natalie Price
JOE ABSOLOM as Matthew Rose
CRAIG FAIRBRASS as Dan Sullivan
DEREK MARTIN as Charlie Slater
LAILA MORSE as Mo Harris
ELAINE LORDAN as Lynne Slater
JESSIE WALLACE as Kat Slater
KACEY AINSWORTH as Maureen Slater
MICHELLE RYAN as Zoe Slater