I've spent my Christmas writing a new TV show for the BBC. It's called Chronic Depression and I am going to ask for it to be screened on Christmas Day next year. I haven't finished writing all of it yet but I have decided that the plot will feature bigamy, domestic violence, hysterical scenes of shouting and screaming, non-stop passive aggressiveness, sexual intimidation and, as a grand finale, the death of a family member where the rest of the relatives look on with a mild vindictiveness.
I can hear the families shout "quick nan, put the brandy down in the kitchen, Chronic Depression's started and someone's already started crying." It'll be a sure fire hit.
For those of you that haven't realised I am actually just repeating what 9.4 million of you watched this year on Eastenders. Now, I don't watch Eastenders but considering that so much fuss is made every year I thought I'd give it a go.
I know that the soap aims for drama but I wasn't prepared for the underlying sinister air that pervaded the entire show, or in fact how comically bad it was. My festive favourite included the character of Kat Slater, who spent the entire episode in tears (or close to tears) and ended the show bent double crying into a puddle in Albert Square. My runner up goes to poor, wedding dress wearing Tanya Branning who seemed so desperate to wed Max she still asked him "are we getting married?" when Max's existing wife turned up on their doorstep.
If I were Max, I'd be nervous because it was only in 2009 that Tanya drugged and buried him alive. Next episode I bet Tanya will be in Walford market buying heavy duty bin bags and a balaclava.
This brings me nicely on to the subject of death. The writers of Eastenders seem to consider it as normal as mince pies. This year 'evil' Derek pegged it but since 2004 there have been a total of 11 deaths across Christmas and New Year. To make Derek's death more realistic in this year's episode I'd have had paramedics and the police on the scene immediately. Because after 11 deaths in eight years the local emergency services should have been parked outside the Queen Vic anyway.
After watching the episode I really don't know why the Radio Times doesn't come with a an anti-depressant attached to the front cover with a simple message that reads "take one an hour before Eastenders."
Eastenders is supposed to be a show highlighting the highs and lows of real life. Is this really what real life has become? I don't think it is.
This year, I've spent Christmas with my friends and family and I didn't have to tell any of them I intended to re-marry someone who'd buried me alive. My own festive highlight, was seeing a rather creative friend make something called Christmas Toast (patent pending). For those of you who may not be the next Heston Blumenthal, it's ideal. It involved cutting Christmas shapes out of toast and then decorating them like savoury Christmas cookies. My own favourite was a snowman comprising of toast, cream cheese, carrot for the nose, and peppercorns for eyes (tweet me if you want the full recipe).
The reason I'm telling you this is that, firstly, this is no doubt the sort of slightly festive example of festivity that happens in so many households at Christmas. Secondly, if one of my friends can offer some creativity to bring some Christmas spirit to something as simple as toast surely we can expect the writers of Eastenders can do a bit better for their handsome licence fee?
Sure, the BBC will claim that it's the cliff hangers and the knife edge drama that people want at Christmas. But is that view just a sad reflection of how far the writers of Eastenders have fallen? Apple's Steve Jobs didn't do focus groups because he thought the creativity of Apple and its products would create demand. And after the iPod, iPhone and iPad who would argue with him?
Similarly, if you did focus groups for watchers of Eastenders they'd tell you that it's the death, drama and depression that makes them tune in. But considering we all pay 130 quid a year for BBC surely the writers of the BBC can give us drama and festive spirit worthy of a Christmas special and not the hour of sinister and joyless television that they served up this year that made my friend's Christmas Toast look worthy of a Michelin star for creativity?
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