Do you remember when EastEnders was good? It was around the start of the new millennium and my only memories of that momentous occasion for humankind are of a soap storyline of such brilliant emotional depth that it will never be matched ever again. Trevor and Little Mo; possibly the most frightening EastEnders plot ever (no mean feat when Phil Mitchell haunts the screen like a zombie suffering PMT every five seconds). As the sorry tale ended in Little Mo going to prison for murder, if you listened closely enough, you may have heard the sound of BBC executives weeping into their coffee mugs, losing the only thing that was keeping the turgid muck going.
Who can forget the moment when Little Mo, the sweet, innocent, unassuming Little Mo of old, was plunged head-first into her Christmas dinner? Even nowadays, when we’ve been programmed to be faintly indifferent to blood, guts and gore on television, something about Trevor and Little Mo sends shivers down my spine. Watching twenty-five hours of explicit schlock horror movies couldn’t match the intensity created by one minute of that storyline.
Trevor’s death left an emotional chasm at the heart of EastEnders which hasn’t been plugged since. With every failed marriage, stupendous death, or misunderstanding with Ian Beale, the writers are like chimps charged with writing Shakespeare; if they keep writing and writing and writing they might discover something as good. But my money’s on the chimps reciting “Henry IV” before I care about EastEnders again.
But try they must. So the witless writers bring characters back from abroad, apparent death or social service intervention. Down the years, this approach has seen the return of Bianca, “Nasty” Nick Cotton and Dirty Den. If I ever was to play a part in a soap opera, I would probably be cast as the condom which splits after a drunken sex escapade between two characters who later realise they are related. I’m aiming for the stars, me.
EastEnders may have hit a creative dead end, but some shows are filling the gap. One such delight hits all the right targets of teenage life.
The Inbetweeners is a sideways glance at full-blooded adolescence through the eyes of four Averages Joes and is much more realistic than the surreal drama of ‘Skins’ – the least passable show depicting the young adult lifestyle since ‘Byker Grove’ tried to reinvent itself for the new century, coming across like a fork shower of British youngster’s lives seen through the eyes of a Daily Express columnist… “Look, they’re all queer, drunk, addicted to narcotics and shagging anything that moves”.
It’s not that Skins isn’t great fun – it is – but the drugs, the drink, the roster of better-looking-than-you-could-ever-hope-to-screw girls and boys, all whingeing about their lack of cocaine and intercourse, has little relevance to the world in which us teenage brats have grown up in.
It’s a world full of confusion (did that girl just smile at me or am I seeing things again?), angst (what if I don’t do anything about it? She’ll think I’m not interested) and regret (I’m sitting at home watching Location, Location, Location; I should have at least asked if she wanted a bunk-up), not the casual debauchery which has characterised Skins’ rise to critical acclaim.
Skins does actually have some rather good acting and a plethora of well-known faces. But the low-brow smutty humour that populates The Inbetweeners is so much more funny and true. To illustrate the point, only the other day, my mates were discussing what to do if one of them was having sex on holiday in Spain; “Because I don’t wanna walk in on you getting a BJ” said one – proof The Inbetweeners is much more convincing than Skins (and that my friends let their imagination run wild).
Nearly every misunderstanding revolves around sex and the sequence in which the lads decide to be “the boys who go to clubs” is awesome. It is a question I have often asked myself. Why is everyone else going to clubs and chatting up girls, while I’m reading The Guardian and listening to Jarvis Cocker’s solo stuff?
Simon ends up wearing a tramp’s shoes and losing the girl of his dreams because he smells of piss, while Neil cuts his knob on a can of beer, tending to it in the bathroom before he is chucked out because the security guards reckon he’s wanking. That is the sort of thing that would go wrong if I ever ventured in to clubs. Making a dick of myself is a pastime for me, but doing it in front of hundreds of people my age looking for someone to bonk is not my idea of fun.
Calling something “The Best Show on TV” is a high accolade, but I there is a clear winner. Congratulations The Inbetweeners. Now quickly, make a third series.