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1986 was EastEnders' second year.
Production and Storylines
Angie and Den
The biggest story of the year, and the one that not only gripped a mass audience but also confirmed EastEnders as a series with serious dramatic potential was the ugly, protracted disintegration of Angie and Den's marriage. The year started with the warring Watts trying to make a go of things, if only for Sharon's sake - but, behind the bar-room smiles, both were up to their old tricks. Den was still seeing Jan, while Angie herself was still hitting the bottle and flirting with anything in trousers in a desperate attempt to get attention. The first crisis of the year came in March, when Angie took an overdose of sleeping pills washed down the gin and was discovered only by accident when Den returned to the Queen Vic after a row with Jan.
What started out as a cry for help almost turned into the real thing - and it didn't do poor Sharon much good when she found out that her mum was prepared to leave her in that way. Angie bounced back, pleased to have secured Den's attention for a little while, and set off on a holiday to Ibiza full of hopes for a second honeymoon. Her dreams were dashed, however, when Den left her in the lurch and returned to London for some undisturbed nookie with Jan. Angie came back to the Square determined to salvage what was left of her pride - which she did by starting an affair with the nice male nurse Andy, temporarily estranged from Debs. After this, things went from bad to worse. Den was increasingly distant and hostile; his mind, after all, was elsewhere as unknown to everyone he'd just become a father for the first time in his life. Angie drowned her sorrows in a sea of booze, prompting Dr. Legg to warn her that she was becoming a full-fledged alcoholic. Faced with the truth, she broke down in front of her shrink and confessed she was nothing but a 'clown', and that Den could never love her.
Jan, meanwhile, was losing her patience, and decided to bring matters to a head by giving Den a two-week ultimatum: leave Angie, or lose me forever. Angie knew what was coming, and used every trick in the book to avoid the confrontation - but, finally cornered by Den, she turned the tables on her philandering husband by telling him that she had a fatal illness and only six months to live. Den, revealing a rare shred of decency, realized that he could not leave a dying woman, and told Jan it was all over (it wasn't).
The reunited couple flew to Venice for a romantic holiday - which was ruined when for reasons best known to the scriptwriters, they ran into Jan herself. Angie hit the bottle again, and in a drunken moment on the homecoming Orient Express she confessed to the barman that she'd told Den a rather large lie. And Den heard it all...
The resultant endgame lives in soap history as one of the great domestic dramas ever filmed. Den consulted a lawyer, and started hinting darkly about a special Christmas surprise. Angie, blithely unaware that her secret was out, went into a frenzy of festive preparations - only to be handed the divorce papers on Christmas Day itself.
Lofty and Michelle
While Den and Angie's marriage was falling to pieces, Michelle and Lofty became man and wife - but only just. A warm friendship developed into something more serious when Lofty, a chivalrous soul, decided that he wanted to take care of Michelle and her child, and proposed marriage to her. Michelle didn't say yes, but she didn't say no either; being a sensible girl, she knew it wouldn't hurt to have a man in reserve when the time came.
Worried about her financial future, and overwhelmed at the responsibility of raising a child on her own, Michelle quickly decided that Lofty wasn't such a bad bet after all, even though she loved only one man - Den. Lofty had no idea and was walking on air for a few weeks. eagerly looking for work in order to become the Great Provider. Only his chronic asthma prevented him from becoming a traffic warden.
Michelle gave birth in May to a daughter, Vicki (she later claimed that her daughter was not named after the pub on the floor of which she was conceived). Lofty smothered mother and daughter in over-eager affection and rushed Michelle into naming the day, while the rest of the Fowler clan pressurized her into going for a big, traditional wedding with a white dress, bridesmaids (Sharon, of course) and a big reception afterward. Michelle, stunned by childbirth, was too tired to argue (much).
On the morning of the wedding, however, she heard the still, small voice of common sense whispering in her ear, and after a tense confrontation with Den, whom she still loved desperately, she realized that she couldn't go through with a wedding that would, after all, be a sham. Lofty, left at the altar, reacted by having huge asthma attacks and repeatedly listening to Wicksy's soppy Ballard 'Every Loser Wins' - could things really be that bad?
After causing maximum pain and embarrassment to everyone, Michelle changed her mind again and sneaked off with Lofty for quick, quiet wedding away from the gaze of Walford. And so, for a while, they were Mr. and Mrs. Holloway.
Sharon and The Banned
Sharon Watts started to show signs of the diva-like behaviour that would make her one of Walford's most enduring female characters. Bruised by her parents' marital difficulties - and who wouldn't be? - she sought the approbation of peers and was a natural choice for Miss Walford 1986 when the locals staged a carnival. Sharon's pride was somewhat dented when her ceremonial throne collapsed during a test run - sabotaged, or just not strong enough for her ample figure? Undeterred, however, Sharon succumbed to the showbiz bug, possibly as a result of befriending a worldly-wise drag queen who had been briefly entertaining at the Vic earlier in the year.
Her next attempt at fame and fortune came when the Albert Square youth formed a band - with Sharon, naturally, as the lead singer and frontwoman. This not only gave her a chance to show off; it also enabled her to play off her various male admirers, among them Ian - who, for a brief but glorious time, enjoyed the romantic attentions of the girl he'd admired for so long. At first, the band was called Dog Market, and, to nobody's surprise, they failed to set the world alight. After a change of image, they became The Banned - but, after one disastrous gig at the Vic, they realised that they were still useless and decided to call it a day. Sharon paraded around the Square telling anyone who'd listen that it was time to grow up and face their new responsibilities as school-leavers and job-seekers.
Arthur Fowler started life as the epitome of cockney decency; a good bloke who would never set the world on fire but could always be trusted to do the right thing. That went badly pear-shaped in 1986 when ashamed by his failure to hold down a job and desperate to give his daughter a wedding that the family could be proud of, he started to dip his fingers into the Christmas Club money.
It started innocently enough. Arthur had been collecting money around the Square, and couldn't resist borrowing a little to blow on an all-night poker game in the café. It soon became apparent, however, that he'd done much more than that and, when Pauline quizzed him over his lavish plans for Michelle's wedding, he confessed that he'd stolen the lot. They tried to keep things quiet, but the lies started piling up and eventually Arthur, in a moment of madness, staged a fake burglary at 45 Albert Square and told the police that all the Christmas Club money had gone.
It took the police no time at all to realize that this was an inside job, and Arthur cracked under the pressure of their interrogation. For the last few months of the year, we watched Arthur's queasy descent into depression and madness. He spent whole days doing jigsaw puzzles, watching daytime TV or locked in his shed at the allotment. Finally, on Christmas Day, he went completely crazy and smashed up the sitting room. Christmas 1986 wasn't a happy time for anyone in Albert Square.
Out of the mists of time - and there were plenty who would have preferred her to stay there - came Pat Wicks, formerly Pat Beale, Pete's first wife and the mother of their son, Simon, who had also turned up on the Square in 1985 to start his career as a crooning heartbreaker.
If ever a Walford woman had a past, it was Pat. It was implied that she'd had some sort of affair with Den, and she was currently married to a man called Brian who knocked her about a bit, prompting her to return to her home patch and cause trouble there. Lou reminded her that Pete wasn't Simon's father after all; just to make matters even more complicated, it turned out that Lou thought Simon was the product of an affair with Pete's brother Kenny, so she sent him off to New Zealand.
Before you could say, trollop, Pat had installed herself behind the bar at the Queen Vic and was embarrassing her son by wearing unsuitably low-cut tops for a woman of her age. She started casting her net far and wide, almost landing James Willmott-Brown and even making a play for the disgusting Charlie Cotton. She ended the year teetering on the brink of prostitution - a profession to which she seemed to be no stranger. Easily persuaded by Mehmet, who revealed himself as a sleazy pimp, she also dragged Mary into the gutter with her.
Debs and Andy
Debbie Wilkins was one of those Walford characters that it was impossible to care much about. She bossed around her boyfriend, nice nurse Andy, and when he got fed up with her she started dating local copper Roy Quick. When she realised that Andy was much in demand with other women in the Square (particularly Mary and Angie), Debs dumped Quick and got her man back. All seemed to be going well, and they had even started planning the wedding when Andy was knocked down and killed by a lorry whilst saving a child. This wasn't his only heroic deed of the day as after his death the hospital staff discovered his donor card, whipped out his kidneys and donated them for transplant.
This prompted a brief wave of sympathy for Debs, but she didn't grieve for too long, and within a couple of months was making plays for Willmott-Brown and for Colin - although she was successful with neither, for different reasons. Having failed to elicit sympathy as a merry widow, Deb's days on the Square were numbered.
- Mark turns up in Southend, living with a woman and her two children.
- The Square is threatened by protection racketeers and gangsters - the notorious Firm.
- Sue has a phantom pregnancy and becomes desperate to adopt.
- Mary ditches her punk look in an attempt to win Andy, then has a brief affair with Mehmet.
- Lofty starts doing kissograms dressed as Carmen Miranda.
- Little Willy goes missing but mercifully turns up in the company of a shady Latvian gentleman.
- Kathy holds a frilly knickers party.
- Pauline wins a Glamorous Granny competition.
- Sharon gets religion (but not for long).
- A mugger stalks Walford.
- Roly gets sick from eating rat poison.
- Colin gets cold feet about having barrow-boy Barry moving in with him.
Everyone talked about...
|"Oh, you could keep this performance up for a lifetime. Like on the Orient Express. Like in the bar, chatting up the barman. 'Oh, I've told my husband this terrible lie. Not a little white one, but a big black one'. Remember Ange? Because I do, because I was sitting four feet away from you lapping up every word. Six little months to live. Six tragic little months, and poor old Angie's gonna pop off. That has got to be the sickest joke you've ever played, and Den Watts fell for it. Well now the joke's on you. This, my sweet, is a letter from my solicitor telling you that your husband has filed a petition for divorce. It also tells you to get yourself a solicitor pretty damn quick. Happy Christmas, Ange."|
- one of the most iconic lines in television history.
You can't say that Angie Watts didn't work at her marriage. After a year in which she'd conned her husband into believing that she had an incurable illness, she had every right to believe that she'd be rewarded with a bit of togetherness in the festive season. How wrong she was. Despite much wheedling in the back passage of the Vic, Den served her with divorce papers on Christmas Day - and 30 million viewers tuned in to watch Angie's humiliation.
Doof Doof Count
- Please note: We have calculated the Doof Doofs based on which character/s appeared at the end of an episode in frame.
|W.P.C Alison Howard||0||1||1||No|
|—||—||Just Another Day
14 November 1986
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