The central focus of EastEnders is the fictional Victorian square Albert Square in the fictional London Borough of Walford. In the show's narrative, Albert Square is a 19th-century street, named after Prince Albert (1819–61), the husband of Queen Victoria (1819–1901, reigned 1837–1901). Thus, central to Albert Square is The Queen Victoria Public House.
Fans have tried to establish the location Walford would have within London if it were real. Walford East is a fictional tube station for Walford, and a tube map that was first seen on air in 1996 showed Walford East between Bow Road and West Ham, in the actual location of Bromley-by-Bow on the District and Hammersmith & City lines.
Walford has the postal district of E20. The postcode district was selected as if it were part of the actual E postcode area which covers much of east London although the next unused postcode district in the area was, and still is (as of 2016), E19. The E stands for Eastern. In 1917 the current postal districts in London were assigned alphabetically according to the name of the main sorting office for each district. If Walford had been assigned in this scheme it would have been given E17, which is the current postcode district for Walthamstow. In March 2011, Royal Mail allocated the E20 postal district to the 2012 Olympic Park. The postal district in EastEnders was entirely fictional up to that point, as London East postal districts stopped at E18 at that time. The show's creators opted for E20 instead of E19 as it was thought to sound better. In September 2011 the postal code for Albert Square was revealed in an episode as E20 6PQ.
An Albert Square exists in the East End of London in Ratcliff, and a further such square exists just beyond the East End in Stratford, but the show's producers based the square's design on Fassett Square in Dalston. There is also a market close to Fassett Square at Ridley Road. The postcode for the area, E8, was one of the working titles for the series. The name Walford is both a street in Dalston where Tony Holland lived and a blend of Walthamstow and Stratford—the areas of Greater London where the creators were born. Other parts of the Square and set interiors are based on other locations. The bridge is based upon one near the BBC Television Centre, the Queen Vic on the old pub at the end of Scrubs Lane/Harrow Road NW10, and the interior to the Fowlers' is based on a house in Manor Road, Colchester, close to where the supervising art director lived. The fictional local newspaper, the Walford Gazette, in which local news events such as the arrests or murders of characters appear, mirrors the real Hackney Gazette.
EastEnders is built around the idea of relationships and strong families, with each character having a place in the community. This theme encompasses the whole Square, making the entire community a family of sorts, prey to upsets and conflict, but pulling together in times of trouble. Co-creator Tony Holland was from a large East End family, and such families have typified EastEnders. The first central family was the combination of the Fowler family, consisting of Pauline Fowler, her husband Arthur Fowler, and teenage children Mark Fowler and Michelle Fowler and the Beale family, consisting of Pete Beale (Pauline's twin brother), his wife Kathy Beale and their teenage son Ian Beale. Pauline and Pete's mother was the domineering Lou Beale, who lived with Pauline and her family. Holland drew on the names of his own family for the characters.
The Watts and Mitchell families have been central to many notable EastEnders storylines, the show having been dominated by the Watts in the 1980s, with the 1990s focusing on the Mitchells. The early 2000s saw a shift in attention towards the newly introduced female Slater clan, before a renewal of emphasis upon the restored Watts family beginning in 2003. Since 2006, EastEnders has largely been dominated by the Mitchell and Branning families, though the early 2010s also saw a renewed focus on the Moon family, and from 2013 onwards, on the Carters. The Beales are the show's longest running family, having been in EastEnders since it began in 1985. Key people involved in the production of EastEnders have stressed how important the idea of strong families is to the programme. Peggy Mitchell, in particular, is notorious for her ceaseless repetition of such statements as "You're a Mitchell!" and "It's all about family!". Pauline Fowler is also known for her insistence on family and mentioning her brother and husband to instil loyalty from family members. Her mother Lou Beale is renowned for her family meetings and traditional approach to family. More recently, Derek Branning regularly expresses the importance of a strong family unit. As the eldest sibling, he is constantly asserting his position as head of his family and reminding everyone to pull together in times of trouble. Additionally, Derek commonly refers to himself, Max Branning and Jack Branning as "the Branning brothers."
Some families feature a stereotypical East End matriarch. Indeed, the matriarchal role is one that has been seen in various reincarnations since the programme's inception, often depicted as the centre of the family unit. The original matriarch was Lou Beale, though later examples include Pauline Fowler, Mo Harris, Pat Butcher, Peggy Mitchell, Zainab Masood, Cora Cross, and to some extent Dot Cotton. These characters are seen as being loud and interfering but most importantly, responsible for the well-being of the family and usually stressing the importance of family, reflecting on the past.
As is traditional in British soaps, female characters in general are central to the programme. These characters include strong, brassy, long-suffering women who exhibit diva-like behaviour and stoically battle through an array of tragedy and misfortune. Such characters include Angie Watts, Kathy Beale, Sharon Watts, Pat Butcher, Denise Fox and Tanya Branning. Conversely there are female characters who handle tragedy less well, depicted as eternal victims and endless sufferers, who include Sue Osman, Little Mo Mitchell, Laura Beale, Lisa Fowler, Ronnie Mitchell and Linda Carter. The 'tart with a heart' is another recurring character, often popular with viewers. Often their promiscuity masks a hidden vulnerability and a desire to be loved. Such characters have included Pat Butcher (though in her latter years, this changed), Tiffany Mitchell, Kat Slater, Stacey Slater, Dawn Swann and Roxy Mitchell.
A gender balance in the show is maintained via the inclusion of various "macho" male personalities such as Mick Carter, Phil Mitchell, Grant Mitchell, Jack Branning and Max Branning, "bad boys" such as Den Watts, Michael Moon and Vincent Hubbard, and "heartthrobs" such as Simon Wicks, Jamie Mitchell, Dennis Rickman, Joey Branning and Mark Fowler Jnr. Another recurring male character type is the smartly dressed businessman, often involved in gang culture and crime and seen as a local authority figure. Examples include Steve Owen, Jack Dalton, Andy Hunter, Johnny Allen and Derek Branning. Following criticism aimed at the show's over-emphasis on 'gangsters' in 2005, such characters have been significantly reduced. Another recurring male character seen in EastEnders is the 'loser' or 'soft touch', males often comically under the thumb of their female counterparts, which have included Arthur Fowler, Ricky Butcher, Lofty Holloway and Billy Mitchell. Other recurring character types that have appeared throughout the serial are "cheeky-chappies" Pete Beale, Alfie Moon, Garry Hobbs and Kush Kazemi, "lost girls" such as Mary Smith, Donna Ludlow and Mandy Salter, delinquents such as Stacey Slater, Jay Brown and Lola Pearce, "villains" such as Nick Cotton, Trevor Morgan, May Wright, Yusef Khan, Archie Mitchell and Dean Wicks, "bitches" such as Cindy Beale, Janine Butcher, Lucy Beale, Abi Branning and Babe Smith and cockney "wide boys" or "wheeler dealers" such as Frank Butcher, Alfie Moon, Kevin Wicks, Darren Miller and Fatboy.
Over the years EastEnders has typically featured a number of elderly residents, who are used to show vulnerability, nostalgia, stalwart-like attributes and are sometimes used for comedic purposes. The original elderly residents included Lou Beale, Ethel Skinner and Dot Cotton. Over the years they have been joined by the likes of Mo Butcher, Jules Tavernier, Marge Green, Nellie Ellis, Jim Branning, Charlie Slater, Mo Harris, Patrick Trueman, Cora Cross, Les Coker, Rose Cotton, Pam Coker, Stan Carter, Babe Smith and Claudette Hubbard. Focus on elderly characters has decreased since the show's inception. The programme has more recently included a higher number of teenagers and successful young adults in a bid to capture the younger television audience. This has spurred criticism, most notably from the actress Anna Wing, who played Lou Beale in the show. She commented "I don't want to be disloyal, but I think you need a few mature people in a soap because they give it backbone and body... if all the main people are young it gets a bit thin and inexperienced. It gets too lightweight."
EastEnders has been known to feature a 'comedy double-act', originally demonstrated with the characters of Dot and Ethel, whose friendship was one of the serial's most enduring. Other examples include Paul Priestly and Trevor Short, Huw Edwards and Lenny Wallace, Shirley Carter and Heather Trott, Garry Hobbs and Minty Peterson, Denise Fox and Zainab Masood, Poppy Meadow and Jodie Gold and Peggy Mitchell and Pat Evans. The majority of EastEnders' characters are working-class. Middle-class characters do occasionally become regulars, but have been less successful and rarely become long-term characters. In the main, middle-class characters exist as villains, such as James Wilmott-Brown, May Wright, Stella Crawford and Yusef Khan, or are used to promote positive liberal influences, such as Colin Russell or Rachel Kominski.
EastEnders has always featured a culturally diverse cast which has included black, Asian, Turkish, Polish and Latvian characters. "The expansion of minority representation signals a move away from the traditional soap opera format, providing more opportunities for audience identification with the characters and hence a wider appeal". Despite this, the programme has been criticised by the Commission for Racial Equality, who argued in 2002 that EastEnders was not giving a realistic representation of the East End's "ethnic make-up". They suggested that the average proportion of visible minority faces on EastEnders was substantially lower than the actual ethnic minority population in East London boroughs, and it therefore reflected the East End in the 1960s, not the East End of the 2000s. Furthermore, it was suggested that an element of "tokenism" and stereotyping surrounded many of these minority characters. The programme has since attempted to address these issues. A sari shop was opened and various characters of differing ethnicities were introduced throughout 2006 and 2007, including the Fox family, the Masoods, and various background artists. This was part of producer Diederick Santer's plan to "diversify", to make EastEnders "feel more 21st century". On 24 February 2009 for the first time in the soaps history, an entire episode was screened consisting entirely of Black actors. EastEnders has had varying success with ethnic minority characters. Possibly the least successful were the Indian Ferreira family, who were not well received by critics or viewers and were dismissed as unrealistic by the Asian community in the UK.
EastEnders has been praised for its portrayal of characters with disabilities, including Adam Best (spina bifida), Noah Chambers (deaf), Jean Slater and her daughter Stacey (bipolar disorder), Janet Mitchell (Down's syndrome), Jim Branning (stroke).
EastEnders has a high cast turnover and characters are regularly changed to facilitate storylines or refresh the format. The show has also become known for the return of characters after they have left the show. Sharon Rickman returned in August 2012 for her third stint on the show. Den Watts returned 14 years after he was believed to have died, a feat repeated by Kathy Beale in 2015. Speaking extras, including Tracey the barmaid (who has been in the show since the first episode in 1985), have made appearances throughout the show's duration, without being the focus of any major storylines. The character of Nick Cotton gained a reputation for making constant exits and returns since the programme's first year, until the character's death in 2015.
As of December 2016, Adam Woodyatt, Gillian Taylforth and Letitia Dean are the only members of the original cast remaining in the show, in their roles of Ian Beale, Kathy Beale and Sharon Watts respectively. Original character Michelle Fowler also appears in the show although recast. Ian Beale is the only character to have appeared continuously from the first episode without officially leaving, and is the longest serving character in EastEnders. Dot Cotton is the longest serving female character in the show having served since 1985, whilst Pat Butcher is the longest-serving former character, appearing from 1986 until 2012.
The majority of EastEnders episodes are filmed at the BBC Elstree Centre in Borehamwood, Hertfordshire. When the number of episodes was increased to four per week, more studio space was needed, so Top of the Pops was moved from its studio at Elstree to BBC Television Centre in April 2001. Episodes are produced in "quartets" of four episodes, each of which starts filming on a Tuesday and takes nine days to record. Each day, between 25 and 30 scenes are recorded. During the filming week, actors can film for as many as eight to twelve episodes. Exterior scenes are filmed on a specially constructed film lot, and interior scenes take place in four studios. The episodes are usually filmed about six to eight weeks in advance of broadcast. During the winter period, filming can take place up to twelve weeks in advance, due to less daylight for outdoor filming sessions. This time difference has been known to cause problems when filming outdoor scenes. On 8 February 2007, heavy snow fell on the set and filming had to be cancelled as the scenes due to be filmed on the day were to be transmitted in April. EastEnders is normally recorded using four cameras. When a quartet is completed, it is edited by the director, videotape editor and script supervisor. The producer then reviews the edits and decides if anything needs to be re-edited, which the director will do. A week later, sound is added to the episodes and they are technically reviewed, and are ready for transmission if they are deemed of acceptable quality.
Although episodes are predominantly recorded weeks before they are broadcast, occasionally, EastEnders includes current events in their episodes. In 1987, EastEnders covered the general election. Using a plan devised by co-creators Smith and Holland, five minutes of material was cut from four of the pre-recorded episodes preceding the election. These were replaced by specially recorded election material, including representatives from each major party, and a scene recorded on the day after the election reflecting the result, which was broadcast the following Tuesday. The result of the 2010 general election was referenced in the 7 May 2010 episode. During the 2006 FIFA World Cup, actors filmed short scenes following the tournament's events that were edited into the programme in the following episode. Last-minute scenes have also been recorded to reference the fiftieth anniversary of the end of the Second World War in 1995, the two-minute silence on Remembrance Day 2005 (2005 also being the year for the sixtieth anniversary of the end of the Second World War and the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar), Barack Obama's election victory in 2008, the death of Michael Jackson in 2009, the 2010 Comprehensive Spending Review, Andy Murray winning the Men's Singles at the 2013 Wimbledon Championships, the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, the birth of Prince George of Cambridge., Scotland voting no against independence in 2014, and the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the Great War.
EastEnders is often filmed on location, away from the studios in Borehamwood. Sometimes an entire quartet is filmed on location, which has a practical function and are the result of EastEnders making a "double bank", when an extra week's worth of episodes are recorded at the same time as the regular schedule, enabling the production of the programme to stop for a two-week break at Christmas. These episodes often air in late June or early July and again in late October or early November. The first time this happened was in December 1985 when Pauline (Wendy Richard) and Arthur Fowler (Bill Treacher) travelled to the Southend-on-Sea to find their son Mark, who had run away from home. In 1986, EastEnders filmed overseas for the first time, in Venice, and this was also the first time it was not filmed on videotape, as a union rule at the time prevented producers taking a video crew abroad and a film crew had to be used instead.
If scenes during a normal week are to be filmed on location, this is done during the normal recording week. Off-set locations that have been used for filming include Clacton (1989), Devon (September 1990), Hertfordshire (used for scenes set in Gretna Green in July 1991), Portsmouth (November 1991), Milan (1997), Ireland (1997), Amsterdam (December 1999), Brighton (2001) and Portugal (2003). In 2003, filming took place at Loch Fyne Hotel and Leisure Club in Inveraray, The Arkinglass Estate in Cairndow and Grims Dyke Hotel, Harrow Weald, north London, for a week of episodes set in Scotland. 9 April 2007 episode featured scenes filmed at St Giles Church and The Blacksmiths Arms public house in Wormshill, the Ringlestone Inn, two miles away and Court Lodge Farm in Stansted, Kent. Other locations have included the court house, a disused office block, Evershed House, and St Peter's Church, all in St Albans, an abandoned mental facility in Worthing, Carnaby Street in London, and a wedding dress shop in Muswell Hill, north London. A week of episodes in 2011 saw filming take place on a beach in Thorpe Bay and a pier in Southend-on-Sea—during which a stuntman was injured when a gust of wind threw him off balance and he fell onto rocks— with other scenes filmed on the Essex coast. In 2012, filming took place in Keynsham, Somerset. In January 2013, on-location filming at Grahame Park in Colindale, north London, was interrupted by at least seven youths who threw a firework at the set and threatened to cut members of the crew. In October 2013, scenes were filmed on a road near London Southend Airport in Essex.
The two-handers (when only two actors appear in an episode) were originally done for speed; while a two-hander is being filmed, the rest of the cast can be making another episode.
EastEnders has featured seven live broadcasts. For its 25th anniversary in February 2010, a live episode was broadcast in which Stacey Slater (Lacey Turner) was revealed as Archie Mitchell's (Larry Lamb) killer. Turner was told only 30 minutes before the live episode and to maintain suspense, she whispers this revelation to former lover and current father-in-law, Max Branning, in the very final moments of the live show. Many other cast members only found out at the same time as the public, when the episode was broadcast. On 23 July 2012, a segment of that evening's episode was screened live as Billy Mitchell (Perry Fenwick) carried the Olympic Flame around Walford in preparation for the 2012 Summer Olympics. In February 2015, for the soap's 30th anniversary, five episodes in a week featured live inserts throughout them. Episodes airing on Tuesday 17, Wednesday 18 and Thursday 19 (which featured an hour long episode and a second episode) all featured at least one live insert. The show revealed that the killer of Lucy Beale (Hetti Bywater) was her younger brother, Bobby (Eliot Carrington), during the second episode on Thursday, after a ten month mystery regarding who killed her. In a flashback episode which revisited the night of the murder, Bobby was revealed to have killed his sister. The aftermath episode, which aired on Friday 20, was completely live and explained in detail Lucy's death. Carrington was told he was Lucy's killer on Monday 16, while Laurie Brett (who plays Bobby's adoptive mother, Jane) was informed in November, due to the character playing a huge role in the cover-up of Lucy's murder. Bywater only discovered Bobby was responsible for Lucy's death on the morning of Thursday 19, several hours before they filmed the scenes revealing Bobby as Lucy's killer.
Each episode should run for 27 minutes and 15 seconds, however, if any episode runs over or under then it is the job of post-production to cut or add scenes where appropriate. As noted in the 1994 behind-the-scenes book, EastEnders: The First 10 Years, After filming, tapes were sent to the videotape editor, who then edited the scenes together into an episode. The videotape editor used the director's notes so they knew which scenes the director wanted to appear in a particular episode. The producer might have asked for further changes to be made. The episode was then copied onto D3 video. The final process was to add the audio which included background noise such as a train or a jukebox music and to check it met the BBC's technical standard for broadcasting.
Since 2010, EastEnders no longer uses tapes in the recording or editing process. After footage is recorded, the material is sent digitally to the post production team. The editors then assemble all the scenes recorded for the director to view and note any changes that are needed. The sound team also have the capability to access the edited episode, enabling them to dub the sound and create the final version.
According to the book How to Study Television, in 1995 EastEnders cost the BBC £40,000 per episode on average. A 2012 agreement between the BBC, the Writers' Guild of Great Britain and the Personal Managers' Association set out the pay rate for EastEnders scripts as £137.70 per minute of transmission time (£4,131 for 30 minutes), which is 85% of the rate for scripts for other BBC television series. The writers would be paid 75% of that fee for any repeats of the episode. In 2011, it was reported that actors receive a per-episode fee of between £400 and £1,200, and are guaranteed a certain number of episodes per year, perhaps as few as 30 or as many as 100, therefore annual salaries could range from £12,000 to £200,000 depending on the popularity of a character. Some actors' salaries were leaked in 2006, revealing that Natalie Cassidy (Sonia Fowler) was paid £150,000, Cliff Parisi (Minty Peterson) received £220,000, Barbara Windsor (Peggy Mitchell) and Steve McFadden (Phil Mitchell) were both on £360,000 and Wendy Richard (Pauline Fowler) had a salary of £370,000.
A 2011 report from the National Audit Office showed that EastEnders had an annual budget of £29.9 million. Of that, £2.9 million was spent on scripts and £6.9 million went towards paying actors, extras and chaperones for child actors. According to National Audit Office, BBC executives approved £500,000 of additional funding for the 25th anniversary live episode (19 February 2010). With a total cost of £696,000, the difference was covered from the 2009-10 series budget for EastEnders.
In 2014, then executive producer Dominic Treadwell-Collins said that he wanted Albert Square to look like a real-life east London neighbourhood so that the soap would "better reflect the more fashionable areas of east London beloved of young professionals" giving a flavour of the "creeping gentrification" of east London. He added, "It should feel more like London. It's been frozen in aspic for too long." The BBC announced that they would rebuild the EastEnders set, to secure the long-term future of the show, with completion expected to be in 2018. The set will provide a modern, upgraded exterior filming resource for EastEnders, and will copy the appearance of the existing buildings. However, it will be 20% bigger than the current set, in order to enable greater editorial ambition and improve working conditions for staff. A temporary set will be created on site to enable filming to continue while the permanent structure is rebuilt. As of May 2016, the rebuild has been delayed until 2020 and will cost in excess of £15 million, although the main part of the set is scheduled to be able to start filming in May 2019.
EastEnders programme makers took the decision that the show was to be about "everyday life" in the inner city "today" and regarded it as a "slice of life". Creator/producer Julia Smith declared that "We don't make life, we reflect it". She also said, "We decided to go for a realistic, fairly outspoken type of drama which could encompass stories about homosexuality, rape, unemployment, racial prejudice, etc., in a believable context. Above all, we wanted realism". In the 1980s, EastEnders featured "gritty" storylines involving drugs and crime, representing the issues faced by working-class Thatcherite Britain. Storylines included the cot death of 14-month-old Hassan Osman, Nick Cotton's homophobia, racism and murder of Reg Cox, Arthur Fowler's unemployment reflecting the recession of the 1980s, the rape of Kathy Beale in 1988 by James Willmott-Brown and Michelle Fowler's teenage pregnancy. The show also dealt with prostitution, mixed-race relationships, shoplifting, sexism, divorce, domestic violence and mugging.
As the show progressed into the 1990s, EastEnders still featured hard-hitting issues such as Mark Fowler discovering he was HIV positive in 1991, the death of his wife Gill from an AIDS-related illness in 1992, murder, adoption, abortion, Peggy Mitchell's battle with breast cancer, and Phil Mitchell's alcoholism and violence towards wife Kathy. Mental health issues were confronted in 1996 when 16-year-old Joe Wicks developed schizophrenia following the off-screen death of his sister in a car crash.
In the early 2000s, EastEnders covered the issue of euthanasia (Ethel Skinner's death in a pact with her friend Dot Cotton), the unveiling of Kat Slater's abuse by her uncle Harry as a child (which led to the birth of her daughter Zoe, who had been brought up to believe that Kat was her sister), the domestic abuse of Little Mo Morgan by husband Trevor (which involved rape and culminated in Trevor's death after he tried to kill Little Mo in a fire), Sonia Jackson giving birth at the age of 15 and then putting her baby up for adoption, and Janine Butcher's prostitution, agoraphobia and drug addiction. The soap also tackled the issue of mental illness and carers of people who have mental conditions, illustrated with mother and daughter Jean and Stacey Slater; Jean suffers from bipolar disorder, and teenage daughter Stacey was her carer (this storyline won a Mental Health Media Award in September 2006). Stacey went on to struggle with the disorder herself. The issue of illiteracy was highlighted by the characters of middle-aged Keith and his young son Darren. EastEnders has also covered the issue of Down's syndrome, as Billy and Honey Mitchell's baby, Janet, was born with the condition in 2006. EastEnders covered child abuse with its storyline involving Phil Mitchell's 11-year-old son Ben and lawyer girlfriend Stella Crawford, and child grooming involving the characters Tony King and Whitney Dean. David Proud, who plays the character of Adam Best, is the first wheelchair-using actor in the soap's history.
Aside from this, soap opera staples of youthful romance, jealousy, domestic rivalry, gossip and extramarital affairs are regularly featured, with high-profile storylines occurring several times a year. Whodunits also feature regularly, including the "Who Shot Phil?" storyline in 2001 that attracted over 19 million viewers and was one of the biggest successes in British soap television. Another whodunit is the murder of Archie Mitchell (Larry Lamb) who was killed on Christmas Day 2009 after making several enemies. The killer was revealed to be Stacey Branning in a special live episode of the show to mark its 25th anniversary; an episode which drew a peak of 17 million viewers.
The idea for a new soap opera on BBC1 was conceived in 1983, by BBC executives, principally David Reid, the then Head of Series & serials, who was keen for the BBC to produce a new evening soap opera. They gave the job of creating this new soap to script writer Tony Holland and producer Julia Smith, famous for their work together on Z-Cars. They created twenty-four original characters for the show, based upon Holland's own family, and people they remembered from their own experiences in the East End. Granada Television gave Smith unrestricted access to the Coronation Street production for a month so that she could get a sense how a continuing drama was produced.
They cast actors for their characters, and began to film the show at BBC Elstree Centre in Borehamwood, Hertfordshire. Alan Jeapes and Simon May created the title sequence and theme tune, and the show with a working title of East 8 was renamed EastEnders, when Smith and Holland realised they had been phoning casting agencies for months asking whether they had "any real East Enders" on their books. Julia Smith thought "Eastenders" "looked ugly written down", and capitalised the second 'e', and thus the name EastEnders was born. Filming commenced in late-1984 and the show was first broadcast on 19 February 1985, and became wildly popular, often displacing Coronation Street from the top of the ratings for the rest of the 1980s.
Since 1985, EastEnders has remained at the centre of BBC One's primetime schedule. It is currently broadcast at 7.30pm on Tuesday and Thursday, and 8pm on Monday and Friday. EastEnders was originally broadcast twice weekly at 7 pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 19 February 1985, with an omnibus at 3:30 pm on Sundays; however, in September 1985 the two episodes were moved to 7:30 pm as Michael Grade did not want the soap running in direct competition with Emmerdale Farm, and this remained the same until 7 April 1994. The BBC had originally planned to take advantage of the 'summer break' that Emmerdale Farm usually took to capitalise on ratings, but ITV added extra episodes and repeats so that Emmerdale Farm was not taken off the air over the summer. Realising the futility of the situation, Grade decided to move the show to the later 7:30 pm slot, but to avoid tabloid speculation that it was a 'panic move' on the BBC's behalf, they had to "dress up the presentation of that move in such a way as to protect the show" giving "all kinds of reasons" for the move.
EastEnders output then increased to three times a week on Mondays, Tuesday and Thursdays from 11 April 1994 until 2 August 2001. From 10 August 2001, EastEnders then added its fourth episode (shown on Fridays). This caused some controversy as it clashed with Coronation Street, which at the time was moved to 8pm to make way for an hour-long episode of rural soap Emmerdale at 7pm. The move immediately provoked an angry response from ITV insiders, who argued that the BBC's last-minute move—only revealed at 3.30pm on the day—broke an unwritten scheduling rule that the two flagship soaps would not be put directly against each other. In this first head-to-head battle, EastEnders claimed victory over its rival.
In early 2003, viewers could watch episodes of EastEnders on digital channel BBC Three before they were broadcast on BBC One. This was to coincide with the relaunch of the channel and helped BBC Three break the one million viewers mark for the first time with 1.03 million who watched to see Mark Fowler's departure. EastEnders was repeated each evening at 22.30 on BBC Three – having previously been shown on that channel at 22.00. When BBC Three moved online in February 2016, the W channel took over the repeat broadcastings. As of 2006 according to the EastEnders website there are on average around 208 episodes outputted each year.
As of June 2015, episodes of EastEnders are repeated on BBC Three and are available on-demand through BBC iPlayer for thirty days after their original screening. EastEnders was regularly repeated at 10pm on BBC Choice since the channel's launch in 1998, a practice continued by BBC Three for many years until mid-2012 with the repeat moving to 10.30pm. From 25 December 2010 to 29 April 2011 the show was repeated on BBC HD in a Simulcast with BBC Three. In 2015, the BBC Three repeat moved back to 10pm. On 24 April 2015 the last omnibus episode was broadcast and it was not until February 2016, the repeat moved to W, the rebranded Watch, after BBC Three became an online-only channel.
The omnibus edition, a compilation of the week's episodes in a continuous sequence, originally aired on BBC One on Sunday afternoons, until 1 April 2012 when it was changed to a late Friday night or early Saturday morning slot, commencing 6 April 2012, though the exact time differed. It reverted to a weekend daytime slot as from January 2013 on BBC Two. In 2014, the omnibus moved back to around midnight on Friday nights, and in April 2015, the omnibus was axed, following detailed audience research and the introduction of 30-day catch up on BBC iPlayer and the planning of BBC One +1. When W takes over the same-day repeat of EastEnders, the will also show a weekend omnibus.
From 20 February to 26 May 1995, as part of the programme's 10th Anniversary celebrations, episodes from 1985 were repeated each morning at 10am, starting from episode one. Four specially selected episodes from 1985 and 1986 were also repeated on BBC1 on Friday evenings at 8.00pm under the banner "The Unforgettable EastEnders". These included The wedding of Michelle Fowler and Lofty Holloway, The revelation of the father of Michelle's baby, a two-hander between Dot Cotton and Ethel Skinner and the 1986 Christmas episode featuring Den Watts presenting Angie Watts with divorce papers.
EastEnders reruns began on UKTV Gold when the channel launched in 1992. The series ran from the first episode and followed its original broadcast order until August 1996 when the channel looped back to the first episode. In October 2008 UKTV Gold ceased showing EastEnders. The last episode shown was from January 2006. Watch launched in October 2008, and they briefly revived the EastEnders reruns from 5 January 2009 to 24 April 2009, finishing with episodes originally broadcast in June 2006.
On 1 December 2012, the BBC uploaded the first 54 episodes of EastEnders to YouTube, and on 23 July 2013 they uploaded a further 14 episodes bringing the total to 68.
EastEnders is broadcast around the world in many English-speaking countries. New Zealand became the first to broadcast EastEnders overseas, the first episode went 27 September 1985. Followed by Holland 8 December 1986, Australia 5 January 1987, Norway 27 April, Barcelona 30 June with Catalan dub. On 9 July 1987 it was announced that the show would be aired in the United States and would be broadcast on PBS. BBC Worldwide licensed 200 hours of EastEnders to for broadcast in Serbia on RTS (dubbed into Serbian), it began airing the first episode December 1997.
It is shown on BBC Entertainment (formerly BBC Prime) in Europe and in Africa, where it is approximately six episodes behind the UK. It was also shown on BBC Prime in Asia, but when the channel was replaced by BBC Entertainment, it ceased showing the series. In Canada, EastEnders was shown on BBC Canada until 2010, at which point it was picked up by VisionTV.
In Ireland, EastEnders was shown on TV3 from September 1998 until March 2001, when it moved over to RTÉ One, after RTÉ lost the rights to air rival soap Coronation Street to TV3. The series is simulcast with BBC One, which is widely available in the Republic, but carries advertising since its 1998 debut on Irish TV.
HM Forces and their families stationed overseas can watch EastEnders on BBC One, carried by the British Forces Broadcasting Service, which is also available to civilians in the Falkland Islands and Tristan da Cunha. It was previously shown on BFBS1.
EastEnders is currently shown on BBC Entertainment in Central Europe on weekdays at 17:30 CET, having previously been shown on BBC Prime, BBC World Service Television and BBC TV Europe since the 1980s. In Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Norway, the show is now cancelled but was for decades shown on BBC Nordic channels with local subtitles.
The series was broadcast in the United States until BBC America ceased broadcasts of the serial in 2003, amidst fan protests. In June 2004, the Dish Network satellite television provider picked up EastEnders, broadcasting episodes starting at the point where BBC America had ceased broadcasting them, offering the serial as a pay-per-view item. Episodes air two months behind the UK schedule. Episodes from prior years are still shown on various PBS stations in the US.
The series was screened in Australia by ABC TV from 1987 until 1991. Currently the series is aired in Australia on Foxtel Pay TV channel BBC UKTV, from Mondays to Thursdays at 6.15 pm EST. It is around 2 weeks behind the UK airings. In New Zealand, it was shown by TVNZ on TVNZ 1 for several years, and then on Prime each weekday afternoon. It is currently shown by BBC UKTV Mondays to Thursdays at 8.00pm. Episodes are about 2 weeks behind the UK.
EastEnders in the United States is available on-demand, 24 hours after it has aired in the United Kingdom via BritBox (a joint venture between BBC and ITV) which launch on 7 March 2017.
The 1993 2-part story, entitled Dimensions in Time, was made in collaboration with the cast of the BBC Doctor Who and was filmed partly on the EastEnders set.
In 1998, EastEnders Revealed was launched on BBC Choice (now BBC Three). The show takes a look behind the scenes of the EastEnders and investigates particular places, characters or families within EastEnders. An episode of EastEnders Revealed that was commissioned for BBC Three attracted 611,000 viewers.
As part of the BBC's digital push, EastEnders Xtra was introduced in 2005. The show was presented by Angellica Bell and was available to digital viewers at 8.30pm on Monday nights. It was also shown after the Sunday omnibus. The series went behind the scenes of the show and spoke to some of the cast members. A new breed of behind-the-scenes programmes have been broadcast on BBC Three since 1 December 2006. These are all documentaries related to current storylines in EastEnders, in a similar format to EastEnders Revealed, though not using the EastEnders Revealed name.
In October 2009, a 12-part Internet spin-off series entitled EastEnders: E20 was announced. The series was conceived by executive producer Diederick Santer "as a way of nurturing new, young talent, both on- and off-screen, and exploring the stories of the soaps' anonymous bystanders." E20 features a group of sixth-form characters and targets the "Hollyoaks demographic". It was written by a team of young writers and was shown three times a week on the EastEnders website from 8 January 2010. A second ten-part series started in September 2010, with twice-weekly episodes available online and an omnibus on BBC Three. A third series of 15 episodes started in September 2011.
EastEnders and rival soap opera Coronation Street took part in a crossover episode for Children in Need on 19 November 2010 called "East Street".
On 4 April 2015, EastEnders confirmed plans for a BBC One series featuring Kat and Alfie Moon. The six-part drama, Redwater, was created by executive producer Dominic Treadwell-Collins and his team. In the spin-off, the Moons will leave Walford and visit Ireland where they "search for answers to some very big questions."
As of 16 December 2016, BBC Store has released 553 EastEnders episodes from various years, including the spin-off episode "CivvyStreet", available to buy as digital downloads.
An example of EastEnders' popularity is that after episodes, electricity use in the United Kingdom rises significantly as viewers who have waited for the show to end begin boiling water for tea, a phenomenon known as TV pickup. Over five minutes, power demand rises by three GW, the equivalent of 1.5 to 1.75 million teakettles. National Grid personnel watch the show to know when closing credits begin so they can prepare for the surge, asking for additional power from France if necessary.
EastEnders proved highly popular and Appreciation Indexes reflected this, rising from 55–60 at the launch to 85–95 later on, a figure which was nearly ten points higher than the average for a British soap opera. Research suggested that people found the characters true to life, the plots believable and, importantly in the face of criticism of the content, people watched as a family and regarded it as viewing for all the family. Based on market research by BBC commissioning in 2003, EastEnders is most watched by 60- to 74-year-olds, closely followed by 45- to 59-year-olds. An average EastEnders episode attracts a total audience share between 35 and 40%. Aside from that, the 10pm repeat showing on BBC Three attracts an average of 500,000 viewers, whilst the Sunday omnibus generally attracts 3 million. EastEnders is one of the more popular programmes on British television and regularly attracts between 8 and 12 million viewers in official ratings. and while the show's ratings have fallen since its initial surge in popularity and the advent of multichannel digital television, the programme continues to be successful for the BBC. EastEnders two main rivals are ITV soaps Coronation Street and Emmerdale. In 2001, EastEnders clashed with Coronation Street for the first time. EastEnders won the battle with 8.4 million viewers (41% share) whilst Coronation Street lagged behind with 7.3 million viewers (34% share). The live 25th anniversary show on 19 February 2010, which revealed Stacey Branning as Archie Mitchell's killer, received 16.41 million viewers, the show's highest rating since 14 November 2003.
The launch show in 1985 attracted 17.35 million viewers. 25 July 1985 was the first time the show's viewership rose to first position in the weekly top ten shows for BBC One. The Christmas Day 1986 episode attracted a combined 30.15 million viewers who tuned into either the original or omnibus repeat transmission to see Den Watts hand over divorce papers to wife Angie. This remains the highest rated episode of a soap in British television history.
On 21 September 2004, Louise Berridge, the then executive producer, quit following criticism of the show. The following day the show received its lowest ever ratings at that time (6.2 million) when ITV scheduled an hour-long episode of Emmerdale against it. Emmerdale was watched by 8.1 million people. The poor ratings motivated the press into reporting viewers were bored with implausible and ill thought out storylines. Kathleen Hutchison, who had been the executive producer of hospital drama Holby City, was announced as the new executive producer. Within a few weeks, she announced a major shake-up of the cast with the highly criticised Ferreira family, first seen in June 2003, written out at the beginning of 2005. Hutchison went on to axe other characters including Andy Hunter, Kate Mitchell, Juley Smith and Derek Harkinson.
In January 2005, after just four months, Kathleen Hutchison left EastEnders. John Yorke, who led EastEnders through what Mal Young (the then head of BBC drama) said was one of its most successful periods in 2001, returned to the BBC as the head of drama, meaning his responsibilities included the running of EastEnders. He also brought back long serving script writer Tony Jordan. It is reported that the cast and crew did not get on well with Hutchison as she had them working up to midnight and beyond. She is also said to have rejected several planned storylines and demanded re-writes. This was one of the reasons storylines such as the Real Walford football team were suddenly ignored. But through her short reign she led EastEnders to some of its most healthy viewing figures in months. Yorke immediately stepped into her position until a few weeks later when Kate Harwood was announced as the new executive producer.
2005 saw EastEnders ratings again decline. On 1 March 2005 EastEnders received its second lowest ratings at that time, when both EastEnders and Emmerdale broadcast one-hour episodes starting at 7pm. The episode of Emmerdale attracted 9.06 million viewers, leaving EastEnders with just 6.2 million viewers. Two weeks later, on 17 March 2005, EastEnders received its lowest ever ratings at that time, when ITV screened another hour-long special of Emmerdale to mark the show's 4000th episode. Emmerdale was watched by 8.8 million viewers, whilst EastEnders was watched by 6.2 million viewers. Ratings reached a new all-time low in July 2006 with 5.2 million viewers, followed two days later by only 3.9 million, when it was scheduled against an hour-long episode of Emmerdale which attained 9.03 million viewers.
EastEnders received its second lowest ratings on 17 May 2007, when 4.0 million viewers tuned in to see Ian Beale and Phil Mitchell's car crash, part of the show's most expensive stunt. This was also the lowest ever audience share, with just 19.6%. This was attributed to a conflicting one hour special episode of Emmerdale on ITV1 which revealed the perpetrator in the long-running Tom King murder mystery storyline. Emmerdale's audience peaked at 9.1 million. Ratings for the 10pm EastEnders repeat on BBC Three reached an all-time high of 1.4 million. However, on Christmas Day 2007, EastEnders gained one of its highest ratings for years and the highest ratings for any TV programme in 2007, when 13.9 million viewers saw Bradley Branning find out his wife Stacey had been cheating with his father, Max. The earlier first half had achieved 11.8 million viewers. The second half of the double bill was the most watched programme on Christmas Day 2007 in the UK, while the first half was third most watched, surpassed only by the Doctor Who Christmas special. When official figures came out a few weeks later, it was confirmed 14.38 million viewers had watched the Christmas Day episode of EastEnders, and that it had the highest UK TV audience for a TV show during 2007.
The live-episode of EastEnders on 19 February 2010 averaged 15.6 million viewers, peaking at 16.6 million in the final five minutes of broadcast. In April 2010 following a head to head with an hour-long edition of Emmerdale, EastEnders recorded its lowest viewing figures of 2010 with just 5.88 million viewers tuning in, bringing an end to a 10-week reign at the top of the Thursday night viewing figures. In July 2013 the programme became the third highest rated soap behind rivals Emmerdale and Coronation Street. On 12 November 2013 the programme had its highest figure since April with 7.8 million viewers (according to overnight figures) as viewers saw the kidnap of Ian Beale beating Emmerdale by 1 million viewers. On Christmas Day 2013, EastEnders was watched by 9.36 million viewers as Janine Butcher (Charlie Brooks) was arrested for murder. The following Christmas, EastEnders received 7.5 million viewers, in overnight figures, beating competing soaps Coronation Street and Emmerdale which had 6.6 million viewers and 5.7 million respectively. The following week on New Year's Day, EastEnders was watched by an average of 8.53 million viewers according to overnight figures peaking with 10.4 million viewers as Ronnie Mitchell married Charlie Cotton. It was almost the most watched programme of that day and the highest rated episode since 21 January 2013.
During the 30th anniversary week in which there were live elements and the climax of the Who Killed Lucy Beale? storyline, 10.84 million viewers tuned in for the 30th anniversary episode itself in an hour long special on 19 February 2015 (peaking with 11.9 million) which featured Jane Beale seemingly being revealed as Lucy Beale's killer and the shock return of Kathy Beale. Later on in the same evening, at 9:25pm the BBC screened a special flashback episode showing the events during the night Lucy died and in a further twist her killer was revealed to be in fact Bobby Beale. The episode averaged 10.3 million viewers, and peaked with 11.2 million. The following day, the anniversary week was rounded off with another fully live episode (the second after 2010) with 9.97 million viewers watching the aftermath of the reveal, the Beale family finding out the truth of Lucy's killer and deciding to keep it a secret.
An episode airing on 2 January 2017, which saw the fall out of Ronnie and Roxy's tragic deaths by drowning in a swimming pool together, peaked at 8.1 million viewers.
Between 2001 and 2002, EastEnders was the 10th most searched-for TV show on the Internet. It was the 2nd most popular UK search term in 2003, and the 7th in 2004.
In November 2015, Yahoo released a top ten search term list and EastEnders came third.
EastEnders is the most complained about programme on the BBC. It has received both praise and criticism for most of its storylines, which have dealt with difficult themes, such as violence, rape, murder and child abuse.
Mary Whitehouse, social critic, argued at the time that EastEnders represented a violation of "family viewing time" and that it undermined the watershed policy. She regarded EastEnders as a fundamental assault on the family and morality itself. She made reference to representation of family life and emphasis on psychological and emotional violence within the show. She was also critical of language such as "bleeding", "bloody hell", "bastard" and "for Christ's sake". However, Whitehouse also praised the programme, describing Michelle Fowler's decision not to have an abortion as a "very positive storyline". She also felt that EastEnders had been cleaned up as a result of her protests, though she later commented that EastEnders had returned to its old ways. Her criticisms were widely reported in the tabloid press as ammunition in its existing hostility towards the BBC. The stars of Coronation Street in particular aligned themselves with Mary Whitehouse, gaining headlines such as "STREETS AHEAD! RIVALS LASH SEEDY EASTENDERS" and "CLEAN UP SOAP! Street Star Bill Lashes 'Steamy' EastEnders".
In 1997 several episodes were shot and set in Ireland, resulting in criticisms for portraying the Irish in a negatively stereotypical way. Ted Barrington, the Irish Ambassador to the UK at the time, described the portrayal of Ireland as an "unrepresentative caricature", stating he was worried by the negative stereotypes and the images of drunkenness, backwardness and isolation. Jana Bennett, the BBC's then director of production, later apologised for the episodes, stating on BBC1's news bulletin: "It is clear that a significant number of viewers have been upset by the recent episodes of EastEnders, and we are very sorry, because the production team and programme makers did not mean to cause any offence." A year later BBC chairman Christopher Bland admitted that as result of the Irish-set EastEnders episodes, the station failed in its pledge to represent all groups accurately and avoid reinforcing prejudice.
The long-running storyline of Mark Fowler's HIV was so successful in raising awareness that in 1999, a survey by the National Aids Trust found teenagers got most of their information about HIV from the soap, though one campaigner noted that in some ways the storyline was not reflective of what was happening at the time as the condition was more common among the gay community. Still, heterosexual Mark struggled with various issues connected to his HIV status, including public fears of contamination, a marriage breakdown connected to his inability to have children and the side effects of combination therapies. In 2002, when the makers of the series decided to write Mark out of the series as his disease became untreatable, he left Walford in 2003 to travel the world, and his death was announced a year later.
The child abuse storyline with Kat Slater and her uncle Harry saw calls to the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) go up by 60%. The chief executive of the NSPCC praised the storyline for covering the subject in a direct and sensitive way, coming to the conclusion that people were more likely to report any issues relating to child protection because of it. In 2002, EastEnders also won an award from the Mental Health Media Awards held at BAFTA for this storyline.
EastEnders is often criticised for being too violent, most notably during a domestic violence storyline between Little Mo Morgan and her husband Trevor. As EastEnders is shown pre-watershed, there were worries that some scenes in this storyline were too graphic for its audience. Complaints against a scene in which Little Mo's face was pushed in gravy on Christmas Day were upheld by the Broadcasting Standards Council. However, a helpline after this episode attracted over 2000 calls. Erin Pizzey, who became internationally famous for having started one of the first Women's Refuges, said that EastEnders had done more to raise the issue of violence against women in one story than she had done in 25 years. The character of Phil Mitchell (played by Steve McFadden since early 1990) has been criticised on several occasions for glorifying violence and proving a bad role model to children. On one occasion following a scene in an episode broadcast in October 2002, where Phil brutally beat his godson, Jamie Mitchell (Jack Ryder), 31 complaints came from viewers who watched the scenes.
Originally there was a storyline written that the whole Ferreira family killed their pushy father Dan, but after actor Dalip Tahil could not get a visa for working in the UK the storyline was scrapped and instead Ronny Ferreira got stabbed and survived. This storyline was criticised by many as it seemed rushed and no reason was given for Dan's disappearance.
The BBC was accused of anti-religious bias by a House of Lords committee, who cited EastEnders as an example. Dr. Indarjit Singh, editor of the Sikh Messenger and patron of the World Congress of Faiths, said: "EastEnders' Dot Cotton is an example. She quotes endlessly from the Bible and it ridicules religion to some extent."
Several cast members have criticised the show. In 2003, Shaun Williamson, who was in the final months of his role of Barry Evans, said that the programme had become much grittier over the past ten to fifteen years, and found it "frightening" that parents let their young children watch. In July 2006, former cast member Tracy-Ann Oberman suggested that the scriptwriters had been "on crack" when they penned the storyline about Den's murder and described her 18 months on the show as being "four years of acting experience". Wendy Richard, who played Pauline Fowler for 21 years, has also claimed that she quit the show because of the producers' decision to remarry her character to Joe Macer (played by Ray Brooks), as she felt this was out of character for Pauline.
The birth of Billy and Honey Mitchell's baby, Janet, diagnosed with Down's syndrome, was criticised by the Royal College of Midwives for being inaccurate and unrealistic. They claim that Honey should not have been refused an epidural and should not have been told about her daughter's condition without her husband being present. They also claim that the baby appeared rigid when in fact she should have been floppy, and that nobody opened the baby's blanket to check. The BBC say a great deal of research was undertaken such as talking to families with children who have Down's syndrome, and liaising with a senior midwife as well as the Down's Syndrome Association. The BBC say Honey was not refused an epidural but had actually locked herself away in the bathroom. They were also unable to cast a baby with Down's syndrome for the first few episodes, which is why the baby appeared rigid. The Down's Syndrome Association say that the way in which Billy and Honey found out about their baby's condition and their subsequent support is not a best practice model, but is still a realistic situation. Conversely, learning disability charity Mencap praised the soap, saying the storyline will help to raise awareness.
In May 2007, it was decided that the ending of a current storyline featuring characters of Dawn Swann, Dr. May Wright and Rob Minter would be substantially rewritten due to the disappearance of toddler Madeleine McCann. The storyline would have seen May ran off with Dawn and Rob's baby shortly after it had been born. The move has attracted some criticism as to how it relates directly to the disappearance of the toddler, but the BBC has defended its actions by stating that "In the current circumstances it was felt any storyline that included a child abduction would be inappropriate and could cause distress to our viewers."
In 2008, the show was criticised for stereotyping their Asian and Black characters, by having a black single mum, Denise Wicks, and an Asian shopkeeper, Zainab Masood.
In 2010, EastEnders came under criticism from the police for the way that they were portrayed during the "Who Killed Archie?" storyline. During the storyline, DCI Jill Marsden and DC Wayne Hughes talk to locals about the case and Hughes accepts a bribe. The police claimed that such scenes were "damaging" to their reputation and added that the character DC Deanne Cunningham was "irritatingly inaccurate". In response to the criticism, EastEnders apologised for offending real-life detectives and confirmed that they use a police consultant for such storylines. In July 2010, complaints were received following the storyline of Christian minister Lucas Johnson committing a number of murders that he believed was his duty to God, claiming that the storyline was offensive to Christians.
Some storylines have provoked high levels of viewer complaints. In August 2006, a scene involving Carly Wicks (Kellie Shirley) and Jake Moon (Joel Beckett) having sex on the floor of Scarlet nightclub, and another scene involving Owen Turner violently attacking Denise Fox, prompted 129 and 128 complaints, respectively. Carly and Jake's sex scenes were later removed from the Sunday omnibus edition. The showdown of Rob, Dawn and May's storyline where May stated to Dawn she could give her an elective caesarean (Dawn being handcuffed to the bed) prompted 200 complaints. The 2007 domestic abuse storyline involving Ben Mitchell and Stella Crawford attracted sixty complaints from viewers, who found scenes where Ben was attacked by bullies as Stella looked on "upsetting". In March 2008, scenes showing Tanya Branning (Jo Joyner) and boyfriend, Sean Slater (Rob Kazinsky), burying Tanya's husband Max (Jake Wood) alive, attracted many complaints. The UK communications regulator Ofcom later found that the episodes depicting the storyline were in breach of the 2005 Broadcasting Code. They contravened the rules regarding protection of children by appropriate scheduling, appropriate depiction of violence before the 9 p.m. watershed and appropriate depiction of potentially offensive content. In September 2008, EastEnders began a grooming and paedophilia storyline involving characters Tony King (Chris Coghill), Whitney Dean (Shona McGarty), Bianca Jackson (Patsy Palmer), Lauren Branning (Madeline Duggan) and Peter Beale (Thomas Law). The storyline attracted over 200 complaints . In April 2009, many viewers complained about the death of Danielle Jones (Lauren Crace), moments after revealing herself to be Ronnie Mitchell's (Samantha Womack) long lost daughter.
In December 2010, Ronnie swapped her newborn baby, who died in cot, with Kat Moon's living baby. Around 3,400 complaints were received, with viewers branding the storyline "insensitive", "irresponsible" and "desperate". Roz Laws from the Sunday Mercury called the plot "shocking and ridiculous" and asked "are we really supposed to believe that Kat won't recognise that the baby looks different?" The Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths (FSID) praised the storyline, and its director Joyce Epstein explained, "We are very grateful to EastEnders for their accurate depiction of the devastating effect that the sudden death of an infant can have on a family. We hope that this story will help raise the public's awareness of cot death, which claims 300 babies' lives each year." By 7 January, that storyline had generated the most complaints in show history: the BBC received about 8,500 complaints, and media regulator Ofcom received 374. Despite the controversy however, EastEnders pulled in rating highs of 9–10 million throughout the duration of the storyline. A two-minute fight scene in the pub shown in August 2012 received just one complaint to Ofcom from a viewer who felt it was too violent; Ofcom said they would investigate.
In October 2012, a storyline involving Lola Pearce, forced to hand over her baby Lexi, was criticised by the charity The Who Cares? Trust, who called the storyline an "unhelpful portrayal" and said it had already received calls from members of the public who were "distressed about the EastEnders scene where a social worker snatches a baby from its mother's arms". The scenes were also condemned by the British Association of Social Workers (BASW), calling the BBC "too lazy and arrogant" to correctly portray the child protection process, and saying that the baby was taken "without sufficient grounds to do so". Bridget Robb, acting chief of the BASW, said the storyline provoked "real anger among a profession well used to a less than accurate public and media perception of their jobs .. EastEnders' shabby portrayal of an entire profession has made a tough job even tougher."
In October 2014, the BBC defended a storyline, after receiving 278 complaints about the 6 October 2014 episode where pub landlady Linda Carter was raped. On 17 November 2014 it was announced that Ofcom will investigate over the storyline. On 5 January 2015, the investigation was cleared by Ofcom. A spokesman of Ofcom said: "After carefully investigating complaints about this scene, Ofcom found the BBC took appropriate steps to limit offence to viewers. This included a warning before the episode and implying the assault, rather than depicting it. Ofcom also took into account the programme's role in presenting sometimes challenging or distressing social issues."
There has been criticism that the programme does not authentically portray the ethnic diversity of the population of East London, with the programme being 'twice as white' as the real East End.
Since its premiere in 1985, EastEnders has had a large impact on British popular culture. It has frequently been referred to in many different media, including songs and television programmes.