When Eastenders announced the appointment of Dominic Treadwell-Collins as executive producer in summer 2013, there was a sense that it couldn’t come soon enough for the show. It had been well documented in the media that ratings for the soap had fallen, whilst for the first time ever the show failed to win a single award at the British Soap Awards. Treadwell-Collins’s appointment came soon after in which he vowed to “give EastEnders its balls back,” and with the arrival of the Carter family over the Christmas period the show is fast becoming must see television once again.
The casting of Danny Dyer in autumn 2013 caused a sensation in the press and amongst fans, creating a talking point for the show before he had even arrived on the Square. Whilst most famous for playing ‘hard-man’ roles he was cast against type portraying family man Mick Carter, a loving husband and caring dad. Last week saw emotional scenes between Mick and his son Johnny (the brilliant Sam Strike) who confided in his dad that he was gay. Viewers had previously seen Johnny share a kiss with local Albert Square resident Danny Pennant (Gary Lucy), but attempted to keep the kiss and his sexuality a secret from his family. The scenes were sensitively written and acted and felt incredibly realistic, as a viewer it was hard not to feel a lump at the back of your throat as Mick put his arms around Johnny and told him how proud he was of his son. The revelation caused social media to light up with praise for the scenes as well as receiving extensive critical acclaim. The storyline is exactly what Eastenders do best; pure drama with gritty, realistic stories that viewers care about and gets everyone talking about the show again.
The rest of the Carter family are female (even Lady Di, their pet dog), strong women with a strong backbone, the type of women who have always had a place in Eastenders history. (Think Angie Watts, Pat Butcher and Peggy Mitchell). The family was conceived around the brilliant Linda Henry (Shirley) whom Treadwell-Collins called a “soap icon” and who had been vastly underused in 2013, appearing in only a handful of occasional scenes. Linda Henry has always been one of the soap’s strongest actors and it’s great to see that Treadwell-Collins feels the same way, creating a family around her and promising to explore her back story in more detail. With the arrival of her sister Tina (Luisa Bradshaw-White) the pair make a convincing double act but it’s clear that both characters will have their own storylines whilst they played a crucial role in Johnny’s recent revelation, encouraging him to be truthful to himself and his family, showing a more sensitive side to Shirley and developing her character. Mick’s wife, Linda (Kellie Bright) is perhaps the most interesting of the new Carter family, there is a sense that she is perhaps hiding some revelations of her own and is the one member of the family who has struggled most with Johnny’s admission that he is gay. Outwardly she appears girly and feminine, often seen with curlers in her hair and dressed in various shades of pink, yet the warmth of her appearance contrasts with her inner turmoil and aloofness over her son’s revelation, refusing to accept he is gay and attempting to carry on as normal. It will be interesting to see how her character develops over the coming year. The Carter’s daughter, Nancy (Maddy Hill) is a recent addition to the show but made a bold entrance, kicking and screaming whilst being carried out of her own wedding by her father Mick. She is the antithesis to her mother outwardly, favouring joggers and tracksuits as attire (they were even her choice as a bride) and is seemingly closer to her dad. But like her aunts she demonstrated a more sensitive approach to her brother’s revelation and proved to be a strong support to her brother, it will be fascinating to see how their relationship as siblings develop.
The Carters are a strong family unit and their addition to the show has only strengthened it, already creating talking points in their first month, whilst ratings are slowly but steadily increasing. With the announcement of more Carter family members on the way it is clear that Treadwell-Collins is keen to establish them at the centre of the soap and the Square and with a strong group of actors and well received storylines there is every chance that they will prove to be as popular and successful as the Slaters, Brannings and Masoods and get everyone talking about Eastenders again.
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Contributed by Rachael Miller