-Tuesday June, 13th-
Things are going from bad to worse for Johnny Geezer. Not only is his front door painted bright pink, he can’t seem to balance business and home life. I’ll tell you summink for nuffink, this single parent lark ain’t as easy as what they say it is. Take the upcoming example as hard evidence.
His kids wanted lasagna and chocolate cake for dinner. So, with a little help from somebody called Honey (seriously), Johnny made both from scratch and surprised the kids with it when they got home from school. Far from being pleased, the little shits voiced two key objections: the first being that they’d wanted to help make it and the second being that the lasagna wasn’t up to their deceased mother’s high lasagna standards. They then stormed upstairs, leaving Johnny Geezer and Honey to look at each other sadly. The lasagna and chocolate cake, who, let’s be honest, were the real victims in all this, watched on in quiet disbelief. (Honestly, what would Frank Butcher have said to behaviour like that? He’d have given the kids a wallop, probably whilst saying the word ‘wallop’.)
On the plus side, I smell a relationship between JG (Johnny Geezer) and H (Honey. Not the chap from Steps). But then I said that yesterday about him and the attractive young school teacher, didn’t I? Corr, I don’t know. This Johnny Geezer, eh? What a cad. As far as he’s concerned, life’s all one big pink front door.
Eastenders always used to be that extra bit bland during the summer. They saved all the good stuff (weddings, deaths, deaths at weddings) for cold winter nights when audiences would swell. Nothing’s changed. As if to prove my point, tonight’s episode mostly focused on a teen sex-pic scandal (complete with pregnancy test) and general disgruntlement about what Walford council are planning to do with the Community Centre. The latter being one of those classic cases of a previously never-mentioned vital facet of the characters’ lives being created to generate a short spike of storyline:
‘They can’t close our Community Centre, dahn!’
‘Why not? Literally none of us have ever mentioned it before.’
(They don’t just do this in soaps. Most long-running shows have to fall back on it eventually. Modern Family loves it: ‘Every year Phil and I…’ Parks & Recreation too: ‘Every year in Pawnee…’ Oh, yeah, every year, is it? Never mentioned it before though, have you?)
The Albert Square market inspector (who looks remarkably like Bonnie Langford, although no one has picked her up on this) attempted to cool passions by declaring that there was nothing untoward going on at Walford council. There were no plans, she said, to knock down the beloved Community Centre. But Ian Beale and co smelt something fishy – and it wasn’t the remnants of his 90s chip shop. And indeed they were right. Later on in the episode we saw baldy villain Max Branning have a shifty backseat meeting with a land developer. Max had promised him an easy ride to buy up Walford’s treasured landmarks and flatten them to make way for, well, flats, probably. There’ll be all hell let loose when word gets out! People would die for that Community Centre!
Eastenders has had some seriously thin attempts at creating lust objects, but Max Branning has got to be the winner. He reminds me of a character from Guess Who. He dresses like he’s going to a funeral in day-hire suit from Moss Bros. His garments hang from him in an unseemly manner. If he’s sexy, there’s hope for us all.
And not since Leslie Grantham has the show offered its audience a less convincing hardnut than Max. He looks like one of Grant Mitchell’s arms. He’s the sort of guy that would ask you for help to open a jar of Branston Pickle and then say, ‘Yeah, well, I must’ve loosened it up for yer’ after you’d done so. His latest job is working for some sort of bizarre blue-sky-thinking enterprise. The windows even have transfers of a blue sky on them. For people to look at. Whilst thinking. It’s a cross between Lassiters (one for the Neighbours fans) and the Job Centre. The office is based, naturally, in Walford (just next door to the laundrette), giving Max the perfect platform to operate his shady backseat meetings with the property-guzzling underworld. That Community Centre won’t know what’s hit it. Mwah ha ha.
Talking of shit lust objects, tonight was my first chance to see Danny Dyer doing something other than holding a jittery pint in a Moldovan crack den surrounded by hooligans in those Dave documentaries with the word ‘Deadliest’ in the title. He looks much more at home in the Queen Vic. To add more grit to his new role, I’ve heard that he inserted a clause in his contract which insists that all of his dialogue is written in the style of a 1940’s docker. Here are some of Tuesday’s cockney highlights:
‘She’s can’t work today, she’s called in Moby… Tuck yerself up proper… I was plannin’ on slappin’ a dill in a pint…’
And so on.
The storyline is that the Queen Vic needs customers. Why, I don’t know. It’s constantly rammed. You can’t get a seat. How they’re failing to make profit is beyond me. Perhaps they only charge 40p a pint. Dyer appeared to have hired a blonde ‘sort’ to give some business advice. She recommended a Father’s Day ‘meal deal’ of pre-prepared, more exotic plates.
‘Dads eat free,’ she said.
‘Good idea,’ replied Dyer. ‘A free meal for the old pot n’ pan.’
Honestly, you couldn’t write this stuff. Except that you could. Very easily. Another member of staff at the pub, a scary lady who looks like a Quentin Blake drawing of Rod Stewart, thought the young blonde ‘sort’ was taking Danny Dyer for a fool. Instead of this pre-made foreign muck, she’d rather knock-up some proper English grub instead. And suddenly Danny Dyer had flashbacks to those xenophobes in the Moldovan crack den.
The café got more screen-time tonight. Like the Queen Vic, it was doing a fine trade, packed to the rafters with an unlikely blend of teenagers, builders and office clerks. I love the idea that the people of Walford have a regular pub and a regular greasy spoon. I felt weirdly tearful seeing the old gaff. Gone, though, were the steamed-up windows and dirty tables of old. In its stead were lilac walls, sanitised cutlery and laminated posters for yoga classes taking place, most likely, at Walford Community Centre (pending its existence). There were also some nauseating posters of some of the fare on offer:
Whipped Yellow Stuff w/ Chunks of Red: £7.95
Jacket Potato w/ Grey Mounds: £4.50
The camera panned around and I was sure I saw the ghost of Big Ron, denim clad, bumbag around his waist, talking silently to no one, in the yoga poster’s glistening reflection.
I really started struggling to keep up with who’s who, cast-wise, tonight. For once in my life I was thankful to catch glimpses of Ian Beale and Sharon Mitchell. Any port in a storm. Almost every character referred to every other character as either ‘Mum’ or ‘Dad’. Yet, old stalwarts aside, they were all roughly the same age. It was unnerving. I’d watch a scene and carefully deduce that the two people in it were husband and wife, or brother and sister, only for one of them to suddenly refer to the other as ‘Dad’. Walford is a strange old place.
Talking of which, what, I hear you cry, of the tube stalker and the woman with the sassy new haircut? Well, they were only given one scene tonight. On the tube. They talked. He revealed that although he wore a wedding ring, he was a widow. But there was no mention of how his wife met her fate…