BBC bosses are bracing themselves for a barrage of complaints this festive season, after it was revealed that a character in popular soap Eastenders was to enjoy a quiet Christmas devoid of the abject misery usually associated with the programme’s festive storylines.
In a recent press release, Eastenders producer Sheila Micklethwaite outlined how chirpy stall holder Winston, played by David Okawande, would controversially spend most of the five-hour Christmas special happily watching his young children unwrap their presents, partaking in a traditional Christmas dinner and then slowly dozing off in front of Doctor Who. ‘Eastenders has always been about facing difficult issues head on,’ said Micklethwaite. ‘Viewers can rest assured that we won’t be pulling any punches – unlike Winston, who doesn’t punch anybody.’
Eastenders last hit the headlines earlier this year, when sassy Queen Vic barmaid Sam joined friends at a New Year’s Eve party which passed without incident. When the character shockingly failed to get stalked, sexually assaulted or murdered, shamefaced scriptwriters were forced to introduce a baby swapping story in order to redress the balance of relentless despair.
Speaking in an interview in the Radio Times, Okawande described the plotline as ’one of the most challenging pieces of acting’ he has ever been asked to achieve. ‘It was truly harrowing and very hard work – especially the scene where I help Winston’s wife with the washing up – the theme of goodwill to all men really goes beyond what Eastenders is all about. ‘
‘Viewers can expect to have their preconceptions shattered in a myriad of ways,’ he warned. ‘For instance, for most of the time I’m actually smiling – in stark and brutal contrast to the dour joyless expressions of the rest of the cast. At one stage I’m even called upon to laugh and wish everyone a merry Christmas! If that’s not pushing the envelope of contemporary serialised television drama I don’t know what is.’
BBC executives have however promised that lovers of festive depression will not go uncatered for. Strictly Come Murdering premiers on Christmas Day on BBC 1, after the Queen’s Speech.