Comp image for soaps are boring: Coronation Street Daisy, Emmerdale Caleb and EastEnders Lola with opinion bubble

OPINION: Soaps have become too boring – here’s how to fix it

Endless twists and secrets make for boring viewing

EastEnders, Emmerdale, Coronation Street: I love them all and I’ve been a soap journalist for over 18 years. But here’s the truth: I’m bored.

Yep, that’s right, soaps have become boring. I’m bored of shock twists. I’m bored of everyone having a secret. And I’m really bored of no relationship lasting longer than a heatwave during the Great British summer.

Here’s the problem: none of the soaps ever seem satisfied with one storyline. It has to evolve and evolve into something so ludicrous we’ve forgotten how we’ve got there in the first place. Soaps no longer seem character driven, they’re all about the plot – the more complicated, the better, it would seem.

I think it’s totally the wrong approach.

What has happened to Charity? (Credit: ITV)

Soaps have become boring

Take Charity in Emmerdale at the moment. If you were to look back through her history, there is no way she would be this simpering, pathetic, lovelorn puppy dog she is now. But the show has turned her into this to suit the plot of Mackenzie being Chloe’s baby daddy. It doesn’t make sense. It wouldn’t happen. It’s boring because it feels so out of character.

Let’s look at another Emmerdale example: Caleb.

“Oh my God, he’s Frank Tate’s SON?!” I screamed when the big reveal dropped. “This is genius,” I thought, genuinely excited at where it could go.

And where has it gone? Weeks and weeks and weeks of sneaky conversations telling us the square root of nothing and boring talk of land purchases and financial hardships (spoiler alert: even during the cost of living crisis money troubles are rarely an interesting storyline). Next week he’s set to scam Moira out of her land (boring) and scheme to keep Kim onside (boring).

But where exactly is it going? Emmerdale has left it too long to reveal what the plan is. And too long for no one at all to have found out. It’s got, yep, you guessed it: boring.

The acid attack episode was brilliant (Credit: ITV)

Pockets of joy

There are pockets of such brilliance in the soaps. The acid attack episode in Coronation Street was genuinely one of the most perfect episodes of soap I have ever seen. It was absolutely brilliant. Even Daisy and Ryan growing closer in the aftermath is believable and makes sense.

So why oh why oh why have they thrown in this catfishing nonsense? It’s enough, without that. The storyline on its own was enough. Daisy secretly sending texts pretending to be Crystal is diluting it and making it, drumroll please… boring.

Similarly, Paul’s MND diagnosis. Devastating, emotional and played with such heart by Peter Ash. But why has he turned to crime? Let’s see him finding help, coping and understanding the condition. Why do we need the extra, frankly irrelevant, bit?

EastEnders: The Six - Stacey, Suki, Linda, Sharon, Denise and Kathy promo shot
The Six have me interested (Credit: BBC)

Stop taking storylines too far

Over in EastEnders, the heartbreaking, beautiful and moving Lola death story has been completely sidelined for some nonsense involving Ravi that honestly I can’t even keep up with. They also seem to have made it more about Ben than her, which, while understandable as Max Bowden is a superb actor, could have held until Danielle Harold (also brilliant) had her moment to shine.

Meanwhile, Lily’s teen pregnancy was such a shock reveal – and so wonderfully handled by Lacey Turner and Lilia Turner – but now it has turned into some very weird glorifying of underage pregnancy.

Gender reveal parties and starting an Instagram account to ‘get free stuff’ have baffled me. Surely EastEnders should be showing the hard truth about having a baby (underage or not) – or have we all forgotten she’s only 12? It’s making me feel very uncomfortable – and uninterested.

There is light in Walford with the flashforward. It puts six strong female characters right at the forefront of the action again, which is a brilliant move. And so far, the soap seems to be doing a good job of keeping me engaged. Dropping in little hints and clues all over time, but not hitting us over the head with it, nor ramming it down our throats. Because if they were, by Christmas, I might very well be bored again.

So how would I fix it?

Well, I know many people roll their eyes at this argument, but for me the soaps are on too much. Three half hour episodes a week, with one-off hour-long specials would be quite enough.

The reason the soaps are so boring is that they have so much screen time to fill they have to take the storylines too far. They have to create twist after twist after twist to fill episode after episode after episode.

I would also strip it back to characters. Instead of thinking: ‘Here’s an issue we want to cover, who shall we give it to?’ they need to look at characters and their rich and varied history.

Stunts, epic episodes and big showdowns all have their place in soaps. But we need to look at characters. Remember the families and their rich and intertwining history.

Meena awaits her verdict in Emmerdale
Meena was pretty brilliant (Credit: ITV)

Great moments of the past

One of the greatest ever scenes of Coronation Street was the Barlow family’s appearance at Peter’s alcoholics anonymous meeting. In five minutes it showed some of the greatest comedy, drama and character development seen on television. And that’s because it was based on character and played to each one of their strengths.

Sticking with Coronation Street, the Richard Hillman storyline. The Pat Phelan storyline. The Geoff Metcalfe storyline. All of these were based in character. Yes, there were plot twists and stunts, but they all fit with the people. They gave us heart because of the characters we cared about (their victims rather than the killers themselves!)

In Emmerdale, fanciful and crazy as it was, Meena was brilliantly executed. She was arguably the greatest soap villain of all time. She terrorised the village, yet no one knew it, but it worked because it was all based on her character.

We knew when she arrived she wasn’t quite right. Then as time ticked on, we unpicked her past and understood she was totally unhinged. The deaths and stunts fit here because we understood her character.

The soaps need to remember their roots and sort it out and fast. I’m a soap lover and honestly, I’m not loving it at the moment.

Read more: Complete Emmerdale cast list 2023 – meet them all here!

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Carena Crawford
Associate Editor (Soaps)