Friday 20 September 2019

EastEnders Live BBC1 TV review: 'Note to EastEnders HQ: This was Windsor/Dyer, not Pacino/De Niro'

Nick Carter and Peggy Mitchell go head to head at the Vic. Kind of.
Nick Carter and Peggy Mitchell go head to head at the Vic. Kind of.

Ellen E Jones

This week marks 30 years since Dirty Den kicked down the door of No 23, Reg Cox’s flat, remarked “Cor, it stinks in ‘ere”, and began the very first scene of the very first episode of EastEnders.

What better way to celebrate three decades of cockney calamity than with a week of (hopefully mishap-filled) live episodes? Or almost live episodes. In the run-up to Friday’s all-live extravaganza, each of this week’s episodes includes “live inserts”, starting with the first part of Ian and Jane’s nuptials.

EastEnders has gone live before. In 2010, during the 25th anniversary, Scott Maslen aka Jack Branning forgot his lines and Peggy (Barbara Windsor) accidentally called Janine “June”, but then, as EastEnders’ big boss Dominic Treadwell-Collins admitted this week, viewers would feel let down if everything went exactly to plan.

We might have preferred it, however, if the one notable fudge hadn’t occurred in the crucial final scene. Did Max Branning say to Abi, “She knows… whether you killed Lucy”? Or did he say, “She knows… well, that you killed Lucy?” Grammar suggests the latter, but that’s no guarantee.

READ: Grace Dent on 30 years of Eastenders - here's to never being boring

Other than that, the live scenes worked so seamlessly, they’d have been difficult to distinguish from the pre-recorded material, had they not been flagged up by an “#EELive” badge in the corner of the screen. But fear not, there’s bound to be a visible boom or missed cue before the week is up.

In the meantime, producers had more party tricks up their sleeves. Peggy was back in the Square for the first time since 2013, although she only stuck around long enough to offer Dot some religious guidance, and run a finger over the dust which had accumulated on the Old Vic’s bar. No one insults Danny Dyer’s housekeeping and gets away with it, and that was about as much as the new landlord could stand: “You heard me! Get out of my pub!” he roared.

READ: Who killed Lucy? Ian Beale is prime suspect in fans' poll

Peggy left meekly enough, however. It was hardly the clash of titans we’d been led to expect. Presumably the spectacle of these two top-tier Eastenders sharing a screen is deemed exciting enough to render decent dialogue unnecessary. Note to EastEnders HQ: This was Windsor/Dyer, not Pacino/De Niro.

New face and former MTV presenter Richard Blackwood was also introduced as a villain with some connection to Ronnie in two underwhelming scenes. You may remember Mr Blackwood as the novelty rapper responsible for such hits as “1, 2, 3, 4 Get With The Wicked”, but even that imaginary soundtrack couldn’t supply his entrance with the sense of occasion it so badly lacked. Was that eye twitch supposed to look villainous?

READ: Eastenders star Jake Wood confirms he said 'you' after fluffed lines left viewers in limbo

It was gothic goddess Dot Cotton who haunted our nightmares instead. She’d transformed Nick’s hideout at No 23 into Walford’s answer to the Bates Motel and spent a good portion of the episode inside, with the curtains drawn, conversing amicably with Nick’s slowly rotting corpse.

No one noticed, of course, because currently there’s only one murder on Walford’s mind. After 10 months of steadily waning interest, we’re starting to care once more about who killed Lucy Beale. So who killed Lucy Beale? The big reveal is due on Thursday (the actual anniversary of the soap’s first episode). Let’s hope it’s audible.

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