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Mr Ugly Mug, mini-skirts to the waist, mad redheads and bigamy....

Nicola Mostyn, the best TV writer around, makes the Soaps interesting even if you never watch them

Published on May 27th 2009.


Mr Ugly Mug, mini-skirts to the waist, mad redheads and bigamy....

Every time I watch EastEnders’ Billy Mitchell I think that he reminds me of someone. That wide, hollowed out face. The furrowed brow. The haunted expression. Then I realised, he looks just like one of those pottery Ugly Mugs with the pressed in faces that were popular back in the 1990s. And, even by Billy’s unfortunate standards, someone has had their thumbs in pretty hard this last year or so.

Now his ward, Jay, has found out that, far from being a hero, Billy was inspecting the grouting in the bathroom at the times his father was being brutally murdered. Now Billy has to testify against the killer in court, but the accused has threatened to get Jay if he does. Poor Billy - yet again, he’s caught between a rock and a hard place or, in Ugly Mug terms, between a Morning Coffee and a Ginger Nut.

Still on a biscuit theme, Phil’s son Ben was upset last episode when he found a bottle of vodka behind the box of Family Circle. Poor Ben, he doesn’t have it easy. His mum died, his step mum in waiting was an abusive psycho who jumped to her death off a roof and his dad looks like a giant potato. But damn it, I’m sick of seeing Ben weeping on the stairs in his specs. It’s about time he went bad and became the East End’s first 13 year old tap dancing crime lord cum pearly king. Scares me just thinking about it.

Elsewhere on the Square, Heather and Shirley are rebuilding their friendship as Shirley makes an effort to quit the booze and takes some responsibility. Shirley is difficult to watch – eyeliner stuck in the 1980s, hair borrowed from Prisoner Cell Block H, skirt somewhere around her eyebrows – she’s like a wince personified - but she’s a great character, so it should be fun to watch her taking on Jane’s offer to look after the chippy while Jane and Ian go on a jolly to Scotland. She’ll turn the vinegar sweet.

Without wishing to racially stereotype, Scotland may well be Ian’s ideal holiday destination. The square’s greatest tightarse has become – you would have thought it impossible – yet more creepy. That stretched, slimy grin, the way he’s now offering the weak and vulnerable outrageous loans. He’ll be trafficking organs next. The only thing is, Ian hasn’t really got the required intimidation to back up a loan shark business. If his customers default on payment, he’s just not the kneecapping sort. He’d have to settle for cutting the size of their mushy pea portions. Brrr scary.

Returning to ginger nuts, over in Coronation Street, Fizz is distraught that she has been dumped by creepy John for the gazillionth time. This girl is a glutton for punishment (as well as, possibly, other things). “Will you read the signs? The bloke’s in prison and he still doesn’t wanna see yer” says Maria delivering the Weatherfield version of “He’s Just Not That Into You.” Fizz, though, is all moony loony tunes and has sent him a note. Might it be poisoned? Let’s hope so.

Over at the bookies, Peter is still pining after Michelle, who is currently having some “fun” with the lovely Luke Strong. Michelle is off to France soon, and Peter isn’t happy about it. “Stay in Weatherfield, have some fun with me,” he says. Amazingly, Michelle doesn’t just rip her passport up there and then. Peter’s a single dad ex alcoholic gambler bigamist who just almost burnt his son to death. I know its slim pickings on Coronation Street but I’d give Norris (the pink wafer of the street) a go before I’d snuggle up chez Barlow.

Elsewhere, it’s business as usual at the main Barlow abode, with Ken firmly back in the fold after his dalliance with the “theatre,” and Blanche on typically hilarious form. Deidre was last seen ogling a picture of a young Mick Jagger so it looks like it’s her turn for the Barlow affair – which Ken and Deidre seem to run on an amicable, time share sort of system.

Over on Emmerdale, there’s more bigamy in the air as posh home farm owner Mark has a visit from his past. I find it hard to take Mark seriously – if you listen to him he sounds exactly like Douglas Reynholm from the I.T Crowd. Anyway, it’s a bit like The Bold and The Beautiful over there at the moment, all overstated melodrama and stilted delivery with the return of Mark’s beautiful wife, who he abandoned twenty seven years ago when he popped to the train station and accidentally moved to France.

The wife, Fay, is yet another bonkers red head who can’t let go of her man, no matter how crumbily he’s acted: “I want to know if there might be an us,” she says, attempting to seduce the husband she declared legally dead some decades ago. She’s really scraping the bottle of the biscuit barrel here. Mark – previously Daniel Lamb - can’t be moved, though. After abandoning his old life, wife, name and debts, he’s now rich, happily married with two kids and wants to be left to rest in peace to renew his flagrantly illegal wedding vows to his oblivious non-wife. Judging by the mad gleam in Fay’s eyes, it’s unlikely to go quite as smoothly as all that for the jammy dodger…

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