Well we’ve been waiting for this day for what seems like eons – and now it’s here! EastEnders turns thirty today – and I feel so old! When the show first aired, who’d have thought that three decades later we’d be still be tuning in – and that Sharon and Ian would still be in it?
As part of EastEnders thirtieth celebrations, the BBC are showing the first ever episode of the London-based soap opera which began on 19 February 1985. If you’d asked me if I’d ever watched the first episode, I’d have said no. I had absolutely no recollection of seeing it and I don’t recall the infamous opening scene where Albert Square regulars Den Watts, Arthur Fowler, and Ali Osman kick down the door to Reg Cox’s flat and find the pensioner dying. Incidentally there is to be an ode to this first ever scene in tonight’s episode.
So I thought I’d take a Butchers (pardon the pun!) at this iconic episode which was to change the course of weekday television viewing forever. We were introduced to the Fowlers, the Beales, the Watts, the Osmans and the Jeffereys, plus we got our first introduction to ‘Nasty’ Nick Cotton – though no sign of his ‘Ma’ Dot. We also got to meet the lovely Dr. Legg. It’s amazing how young everyone looked, especially Ian who looked as though he was living a carefree existance. If only he knew then what we know now…
As it happens, I realised that I had actually watched this episode as I remember many of the scenes so clearly. I remember Sue Osman’s and Kathy Beale’s argument in the café where Sue tipped Kathy’s teas down the sink. Kathy then went out to the stall and told Pete that there was no tea because of ‘bloody Sue.’ I also recalled Kathy having a dig at Sue when the Osmans walked into the Vic just as Kathy was starting her shift there.
It was also in this episode that Pauline and Arthur Fowler discovered that they were going to become parents again – that’s right, little Martin Fowler was on his way. But despite being happy about the baby, the Fowler’s were worried as Arthur was finding it hard to get work (as were most of the population in the mid eighties) and they were more than a little afraid of the reaction of Pauline’s mother, the legendary Lou Beale. As it turns out, it all kicked off – in a scene I remember very well – but what was supposed to be so tense turned out to be quite hilarious for the viewer. And the non-stop shouting over each other was an indicator of the shape of things to come…
There were also signs that Den Watts had quite an eye for the ladies and was going to be quite a handful for his wife, the long-suffering Angie – we just didn’t realise how much! And the glimpse back into television three decades ago was fascinating. There wouldn’t be racial slurs and name-calling for example, unless it was relevant to the storyline and there’s less swearing today on the Square – we don’t even hear ‘bloody’ as much now.
I thoroughly enjoyed this trip back down memory lane and watching all those much-missed characters who made EastEnders what it is today. but now I have to return to the present as a very special episode of EastEnders is about to start – and I want to witness television history as they reveal the killer of Lucy Beale.
Happy birthday EastEnders!