There was a time when you could rely on all the soaps to provide a smidgen of comedy per episode, but the effort to attract more viewers results in increasingly high drama. The result is Tragedy Overload and leaves us longing for (a) the commercial breaks on RTÉ, TV3, UTV and Chanel 4 and (b) the Duh Duh Duh beats of the theme tune that herald the end of EastEnders.
Take Emmerdale. In recent months, we’ve had drug addiction, fatal car crashes, elder abuse, mental illness, unplanned pregnancies, Fanconi Anaemia (no, not a pasta but a potentially fatal illness), adultery – many of them all in one episode.
There have been more unplanned pregnancies in EastEnders, along with murder, addiction, theft, death, mental breakdown – and so on. I know that this is soapland and that unrealistic plots are central to the drama, but the light and shade that was once characteristic of the genre are often forgotten in the scramble to increase ratings.
Coronation Street remains the exception, placing tragedy and comedy back to back in seamless scenes that have you crying one minute and laughing hysterically the next, thanks to nuggets of phrases that are nothing short of genius. Streets ahead.