BBC bosses have been forced to apologise this week as hundreds of viewers ended their lives after an uplifting episode of flagship soap Eastenders was broadcast, shattering the audience's belief that some people had it worse than them. The controversial programme which featured disturbing scenes of family unity and contentment was labelled by one critic as “unnecessarily gratuitous and offensive” and another as “completely unlike real life and the very last thing their depressed viewers needed to see.”
For many years Eastenders has been considered one of the finest studies into human suffering and has been duly garlanded year after year at the TV Quick Awards. But after producers felt they had approached topics such as domestic abuse, adultery and paedophilia from almost every angle they organised a brainstorming session where the show’s writers were urged to abandon their normal “grey-sky thinking” in order to “think outside the square”.
The offending episode went from the opening theme tune to the closing credits with no mention of the show’s staples such as incest, murder, rape, AIDS or cot death. It even featured a number of characters smiling and laughing in scenes which clearly showed them to be enjoying each other’s company; emotions a number of the actors appeared to find difficult to conjure.
Ian Hart, now a widower, spoke out against the programme which led to his wife killing herself while he was cooking dinner. “My missus bloody loved that programme, and had always found it a huge comfort. Eileen went through some very dark times, but no matter how low she felt she’d always perk up and decide life was worth living after watching the untold misery that affected every single character living on Albert Square. I can’t believe the BBC would tinker with a cultural icon that keeps so many Britons alive.”
Mark Thompson, Director-General of the BBC, admitted the organisation was wholly responsible for the significant casualties seen last week, saying, “With hindsight we should have stuck to what we know; tried and tested crowd-pleasers like car crashes and miscarriages.”