Emmerdale’s Top 20 Moments of 2016 – Part Two (#10-1)

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Winner of Britain’s Best Soap, Emmerdale is firing on all cylinders with some incredible storylines this year. I’ve already given a run down of the lowlights and my Top moments #20 to #11, but here’s my Top 10 moments in Emmerdale in 2016. Here’s to an ever better 2017!

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10. Andy’s exit

Everyone was shocked to hear that Kelvin Fletcher was leaving Emmerdale after twenty years of playing Andy Sugden and it still doesn’t feel quite right without him. With Chrissie on the warpath, Andy faced a bleak future of serving time for a crime he didn’t commit, made even worse when managed to break from his holding cell in court. Yikes. Sure, the whole escape fiasco was soapy and ridiculous but Andy’s emotional goodbyes with Bernice and brother Robert let Andy go out on a dramatic high. His final few episodes saw the Sugden brothers at their best – immature swipes at each other and a rocky history but ultimately full of love. Here’s hoping Andy doesn’t have to stay on the run forever!

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9. Remembering Edna Birch

Emmerdale legend Shirley Stelfox sadly passed away this year and Emmerdale honoured the iconic Edna Birch with a moving and fitting tribute. Ashley and Laurel returned with the upsetting news that Edna had passed, leading to a touching exploration of faith and friendship as Sandy in particular suffered with the news. The villagers gathered for her funeral and tried to find closure in their sad goodbye. There were some especially lovely scenes with Sandy and Ashley as they came to terms with her passing and left her infamous hat to float downstream on the river. Shirley and Edna will be sorely missed.

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8. Lawrence’s tragic past

We’d known since Lawrence’s arrival at the end of 2014 that he’d been imprisoned for homosexuality but it wasn’t until this year that the tragedy of his past had properly been explored. After marrying Bernice he seemed fairly content, even if he was unable and uninterested in being intimate with her, but that all changed when Chrissie’s paternity came into question and Ronnie Hale came on the scene. The scenes in which we learnt of Lawrence and Ronnie’s romantic past and Lawrence’s agonising prison torture were brilliant, giving us the insight into Lawrence background that had only been teased before. Hearing Lawrence talk about his love for Harold and the electric shock therapy he had suffered was a particularly poignant moment in this interesting story and one which reminded the audience of others who endured a similar background and was new ground for soap.

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7. Bernice’s doomed love life

This year saw Bernice cement herself as one of my favourite characters in the village with her glorious displays of laugh-out-loud comedy and tear jerking heartbreak. Having resigned herself to a sexless marriage last year, she battled with the reality of this when Lawrence wouldn’t admit to his past when former lover Ronnie returned to his life. The breakdown of her marriage and the pain of loneliness saw Bernice drunk drive a bulldozer into the Mill and later collapse in tears. Bernice had a horrible time of it and found comfort again in the arms of the man she pined for, Andy Sugden. It was an unlikely pairing but one with chemistry that had been bubbling for some time and besides, who doesn’t want to see Bernice happy? But with Andy on the run it couldn’t happen and Bernice was forced to let him go and team up with Robert to help bring down the Whites, giving us some hysterically memorable scenes of Bernice armed with clippers: “I WILL MAKE YOU BALD!!”

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6. Emma Barton

Love her or loathe her, Emma Barton has had one hell of a year on Emmerdale and we’ve finally seen her fulfil the potential that’s been brewing since day one. Earlier in the year, when Emma lied about having a life-threatening illness (but then quickly confessed) I had high hopes for what the year would bring, as long as they didn’t make her too cartoony. I’ve been thrilled with how things progressed and while there were real moments of OTT crazy in Super Soap Week (chicken blood on the wedding dress for one) all of Emma’s extreme behaviour comes from a very real place. Gillian Kearney stole the show in Super Soap Week as she made Emma’s psyche (all she wanted was for James to love her, jeez!) gripping viewing. Sure, viewers are frustrated and want the truth to come out, but seeing the cracks appear and the horrifying lengths she’ll go to in covering up the truth are just cementing Emma as a real favourite of mine.

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5. Aaron and Robert becoming a proper couple

For beloved couple Aaron and Robert, 2015 was all about sex, violence, murder attempts, more sex and misery, but by the end of the year the love between them was thin on the ground. This year, however, saw a huge turnaround for the characters and their relationship as Robert offered Aaron unwavering and unconditional support throughout his childhood abuse revelations and the trial. Aaron drew great strength and comfort from Robert’s presence and reassurance, and needed him in ways he couldn’t lean on his family. In Robert too, we saw a refreshing new side as Emmerdale toned down the panto and restrictive villainy (we don’t talk about the teeth incident) and let him become more human – showing a wealth of love and loyalty in Aaron’s plight. It’s a testament to Danny Miller and Ryan Hawley’s chemistry that they were able to rebuild Aaron and Robert’s rocky relationship into a love story rooted for by so many. As the year progressed and Robron reunited, it was a joy to see their mix of passion and affection grow into a family unit, becoming one of the show’s best couples and their romantic journey in Super Soap Week (leading to a proposal) was a massive highlight of the year. Bring on the wedding!

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4. Holly’s Death

I’ll admit I was filled with dread when I heard of Holly’s return and those first few months – as she got involved with lightweight gangsters, made a move on Cain and got involved with petty revenge on Charity – did little to endear her to me. However, as Holly fractured the Coira powerhouse and turned back to drugs, the performances from Sophie Powles and Natalie J Robb shone as some of the best in the show. It was gritty, brutal and showed how destructive drugs can be to a family. Sod’s law had it that just as I had begun to warm to Holly and was fond of her surprising relationship with Jai (JAI – I liked Jai!!!), Emmerdale pulled out the rug from under us and Moira found Holly dead in her bed. We’d all been expecting an exit, but none of us saw that coming so soon! There was something eerie and different about the episode’s opening that left everyone curious, but kudos to Emmerdale for pulling off a true shock. Once again viewers were treated to stunning performances and the weight of Holly’s death made a huge impact, not just in the fictional world, but also to viewers who saw the reality of drug addiction at its worst, even when a person appears to be happy and coping. This was another moment which saw Emmerdale soaring in 2016.

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3. Aaron’s childhood sexual abuse

Another incredibly powerful and emotive storyline of 2016 was the reveal that Aaron had been repeatedly raped as a child by his father, Gordon. Gordon’s arrival in December 2015 sent Aaron spiralling into self-harm, resulting in him collapsing from septicaemia and eventually confessing about his abuse to Robert. By then we’d already seen consistently impressive performances from Danny Miller, but this storyline surpassed all of those, as time and time again he delivered each heart-crushing moment with a rawness that sent shivers down spines. The storyline was grim, uncomfortable and sickening at times but the script and the actors never shied away from the horror of the story and offered outstanding performances from all the main actors involved. With justice being served in a satisfying way, and Aaron having hope for a happier future, it felt like an unnecessary twist to have Gordon commit suicide, but ultimately this storyline was tackled in a moving and truthful way and seemed a fitting backstory in light of Aaron’s adolescent struggles.

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2. Ashley’s dementia

Ashley’s dementia was an obvious highlight towards the end of 2015, but this year has really seen its progression and the deterioration, particularly in recent months, has been an affecting and ground breaking storyline. At the heart of this storyline, John Middleton has played every moment of heartbreak with nuance and a real understanding of the tragedy involved in dementia. Getting a long-term illness right in soap is a difficult business, when the realistic speed of illness can jar with a pacey need for dramatic twists but Emmerdale has struck the balance just right. At every turn, we’ve seen the wider impact on Ashley’s family (on his children and their behaviour, on Laurel’s alcoholism and struggle to hold everything together – with all of these featuring stellar acting), his identity and faith – as well as sitting alongside the soapier elements such as Emma’s big secret. Ashley’s special episode was a superb decision by the producers, giving the audience a ground-breaking insight into life from the perspective of someone with dementia and highlighted all the strengths of this hugely important storyline.

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1. Super Soap Week

Expectations were sky high for Emmerdale’s special week in October and as information and spoilers were drip-fed to us, excitement built. Surely it couldn’t be as good as we were hearing? Wrong! In breath-taking scenes, Emmerdale secured itself at the top of the soap game with a week that would be remembered as some of the best material in the soap genre. With each episode showing the same day from the perspective of different characters we had insight into characters in a way we’d never had before, allowing long scenes and meaty material showcasing the incredible talents of all the cast involved. For Emma Barton and Robert Sugden, these episodes offered real defining moments as the former reached her incredible and unnerving potential and the latter had his long awaited and important heart-to-heart about his bisexuality. The week had it all, like six blockbusters strung together – romance, comedy, horror, drama and action – and for the first time ever we got to see the Hotten Bypass! The episodes were shot with glossy film style cameras which gave the week a real movie feel and the epic stunts were jaw-dropping and awesome in the real sense of the word. The best thing about Super Soap Week is the way the stories interlinked and made everyone’s brains go into overdrive as we tried to piece the story together, meaning you had the urge to rewatch the episodes multiple times to pick up on all the details. It was truly unmissable and aside from the stunt (which was a huge spectacle in itself) the plot was driven by real character moments and a sense of jeopardy.

Emmerdale’s Worst Moments of 2016

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Emmerdale had an INCREDIBLE 2016 winning awards left right and centre, but it can’t be flawless all the time. Later I’ll be continuing my countdown of the Top 20 Best Moments of the year, but here’s a brief look at the worst bits of Emmerdale in 2016.

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6. David’s never ending proposals

David and Tracy’s relationship had a really tender beginning and I was fully on board, but when David rushed into proposing and Tracy eventually said no, he wasn’t going to let that be her answer. What followed was months of David trying to wear her down and bulldoze over her feelings by proposing in increasingly outlandish ways. Perhaps the intention was to be seen as funny and sweet but instead David just seemed like a bit of a creep, without respecting that Tracy thought it was too soon. By the time they finally got married, I was sort of beyond the point of caring and David hadn’t just worn me down, he’d made me reach the point of irritation.

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5. Jermaine and Belle’s affair

Ugh. That’s Jermaine and Belle’s affair summarised in one word. It wasn’t just due to the icky age gap and his professional status as a doctor, but the way this plot went on and on. Their sudden uncontrollable passion for each other never felt very believable and when the affair came out, Dr Bailey was quick to let Belle take the fall and say it was all in her head. Bastard! Unfortunately that wasn’t the end, as Belle tried to hang onto him by claiming to be pregnant and what followed was a harrowing breakdown plot for Belle as she was diagnosed with schizophrenia. While Eden Taylor Draper’s performances were great, Belle’s visions of “Ellie” were just way too similar to last year’s story when Belle heard Gemma’s voice. Again we faced the oblivious Dingles and repetitive moments of Belle reacting to the voices and hiding this from everyone, which overshadowed the sensitive issues of the plot. Jermaine did stand by her and became more fun working behind the bar, but thankfully they’ve broken up now and we might get something different from Belle in the future.

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4. Kerry’s spiralling out of control

There’s been a noticeable shift in Kerry Wyatt this year and her goofy and loud comedy has been overtaken by a selfish nastiness, which has got worse in recent months since her relationship with Dan ended. Ever since Kerry sided with Joanie against the lovely Lisa, we’ve seen a colder and less loveable character meaning that when she is funnier, it doesn’t always have the right tone. Kerry can be sympathetic and she has had a rough time of it but her attitudes and behaviour in the workplace and towards others haven’t been a pleasure to watch. Instead of wanting to rescue Kerry from her bad decisions, there’s a greater feeling of wanting her to snap out of it and just stop this immature behaviour!

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3. The Whites vs everyone and each other

I have a very difficult relationship with the White family. I enjoyed Chrissie in camp bitch mode, I enjoyed Lawrence’s tragic backstory and I think Thomas Atkinson is a good performer, but as a family unit they’re still such a muddle with their motivations being unreadable or all over the place. Their position as antagonists in the village works to an extent but seems to go round in circles when it’s clear they will never be defeated. Watching the Whites vs the Sugdens is still as tedious as it was from the beginning when it looks obvious Andy won’t return and Lachlan won’t go down for Lawrence’s shooting. Lachlan as a character doesn’t work, since the lack of remorse and no real resolution to the sexual assault storyline makes his existence in the show uncomfortable and irredeemable; the Whites’ lack of any real connections in the village two years on from their arrival mean their interactions are limited and repetitive and often we’re left in an endless cycle of the same disputes, including the ones with each other.

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2. Rakesh’s money woes

Sorry Rakesh fans, but he has got to be the biggest soap bore of 2016. Okay, he might have had an eventful summer committing arson and insurance fraud in a bid to dig himself out of debt but that hasn’t made him any more interesting. Money plots rarely work on screen and watching Rakesh sweat as he lost it all just wasn’t dramatic or even emotional. Emmerdale even tried to go down the tragic backstory route but there’s just no intrigue or empathy to be found in Rakesh. He lacks any sort of charisma, he’s a dead weight around Priya’s neck and he’s dominated the show far too much this year. Now with Kirin gone there feels like even less of a purpose to him and I wouldn’t miss him if he had to leave the village forever.

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1. Cheating plots

If I could change two things from Emmerdale 2016, one would be less misogynistic writing (be it the way some female characters are written, how some female characters interact with each other or how men treat them without consequence) and two would be to cut down on the cheap cheating plots. Sure, cheating has been a soap trope since forever but this year has seen an unnecessary amount of “shock” kiss scenes used as a fast device for conflict and drama. Don’t believe me? Here’s a quick (and probably incomplete) list: Moira/Pete, Nicola/Dan, Chrissie/Rakesh, Moira/James, Kerry/Ross, Rebecca/Robert, Bernice/Jimmy, Lisa/Zak, Laurel attempting to kiss Marlon, Holly attempting to kiss Cain, Ross attempting to kiss Victoria… Not only is it repetitive and lazy it’s a miserable viewing experience when you can’t rely on any stability between your favourite soap couples. We expect drama and conflict in relationships but with so many of the Emmerdale couples in tatters, don’t keep ruining every other couple with these endless cheating plot devices!

Emmerdale’s Top 20 Moments of 2016 – Part One (#20-11)

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Another year of Emmerdale is over and what better way to celebrate than to look back at some of Emmerdale’s best moments from 2016. This post covers moments I’ve ranked from 20 – 11. Tomorrow I’ll post the moments I’ve ranked 10 – 1 and a quick run down of the worst bits of Emmerdale in 2016. I’d love to know what you think so feel free to comment below!

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20. David’s testicular cancer

Overall David’s testicular cancer plot was a mixed bag, marred by prolonged and irritating “comedy”, but it makes my Top 20 for Matthew Wolfenden’s committed and emotional performances. After a results mix-up, David was devastated to learn of his diagnosis, but moments of very “David” levity (such as his drunken and naked conversation with his balls) were balanced by his emotive conversations with Zak and the touching father-son relationship with Jacob. David’s treatment, supported in lovely scenes with his family, saw him meet upbeat Dylan, who later tragically died (predictable but still sad) and David eventually faced his illness with bravery and a middle finger up to cancer.

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19. Teenage Dream

This year saw the arrival of Liv and the recast of Gabby, giving us a very talented trio including Jacob. Their plots have been a little hit and miss on the likeability front but all of them have had tough emotional and sensitive storylines to shoulder and delivered at every turn. The casting for both Liv and Gabby has been fantastic and their friendship (when they’re supportive rather than destructive) has great potential. My hope for next year is that Emmerdale give all three (and especially the girls) room to grow from their experiences, rather than reverting to bad and immature behaviour when the plot needs some instant friction. As we’ve seen from interactions with the adults that surround them, they’re capable of being astute and considerate – they can be teens without being brats.

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18. Community Spirit

One of new producer Iain MacLeod’s goals when he took over the reins of the show was to give Emmerdale a greater community feel and I think it’s definitely improving. Apart from attendance at funerals and weddings we’ve seen more of an overlap between characters and stories existing outside of their bubbles. This subtle shift has included things like the charity fundraiser hosted by Megan, the fireworks night and the pub quiz – all with little character groups mixing and hovering in the background. This has also benefited the balance of characters with this year feeling as if everyone’s getting a chance to shine, rather than a heavy focus on a select few. The Christmas episodes too had a great feel for family and community but I’d definitely like to see more of this.

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17. Tracy Shankley’s vulnerability 

One of the real surprises of 2016 was Tracy Shankley and some show stealing performances from Amy Walsh. While Tracy can be a bit brash and Marmite, we got to see more of her vulnerabilities this year and some heart-tugging emotional moments that made me soften towards her. The jury’s still out on dad Frank, whose secret fell flat, but it’s been nice to see Tracy settle in to the village a bit more and her relationship with David has had some sweet moments too, but this is possibly overshadowed by the unlikely friendship she’s forged with Eric.

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16. Lisa Dingle’s big heart

Lisa Dingle had a rough old year. 2016 started with her having to watch Zak and Joanie cosy up and then marry, but things got even worse as Belle’s mental health problems saw her go missing. It’s been a busy and miserable year for Lisa but I remain forever impressed by the size of her heart and the wealth of kindness and compassion she bestows on others, and Jane Cox gives Lisa the warmth that we all love. This year we saw Lisa find a new friend in Ronnie Hale which was exactly what she needed. I can only hope 2017 is better for Lisa and that if she lets Zak back into her life, then it’s on her own terms.

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15. Chrissie White goes Gone Girl

One of my controversial choices for the Top 20 is Chrissie White’s foray into superbitch territory, which for a few weeks was fun viewing. On discovering that Andy had slept with Bernice again and wasn’t the perfect man she’d assumed of him, Chrissie decided to make him pay and began a twisted revenge. The scenes in which Chrissie double-crossed him and saved her villainy for us, the knowing audience, was a treat. Slightly camp, slightly outrageous but enjoyable to see Chrissie with her claws out rather than the simpering victim she had been before. Sadly this moment of twisted villainy didn’t last long and the magic was lost as the plot descended into a family war.

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 14. Adam and Victoria’s solid relationship

They might not be the most dramatic couple in The Dales but they’re easily the sweetest and one of the most settled. At the start of the year Adam had to face the heartbreak that baby Johnny wasn’t actually his son after all and it’s a real shame that this heavy emotional drama, which gave Adam and Vic some great material, was brushed under the carpet very quickly. After this they both settled into the background, but they remained a constant reminder of what a cute and well suited couple they are as they dealt with their families’ bigger dramas. Adam and Vic are a nice reminder of a solid and relatable couple and Emmerdale should use them a lot more!

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13. Rhona discovers Paddy’s affair

Okay so the Paddy/Tess affair was a real lowlight of 2015/2016, coming close to ruining Paddy’s character forever but the thrilling shock of Tess’s death and Rhona’s discovery of the affair almost made the hot mess of the storyline worth it. Rhona finding out about the affair came after the accident meaning she could never confront Tess and never really get any closure (which might be why she latched onto Pierce so readily). Paddy received the brunt of Rhona’s devastation, including a shock slap, but Rhona didn’t hold back on Tess either, calling her a bitch. After a quiet 2015, it was fantastic to see Rhona take such a prominent role in the show, particularly with Zoe Henry showcasing her skill at taking Rhona from the guts and fire of her anger to her anguished heartbreak.

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12. Laurel’s on-going struggle

Charlotte Bellamy continues to be one of Emmerdale’s biggest assets as 2016 was another big year for Laurel. Contending with Ashley’s illness and deterioration as well as her pregnancy is enough for anyone to cope with, but Laurel had the added battle with her alcohol addiction as the pressure on her mounted. Charlotte gives impressive performance after impressive performance, whether she’s being vicious under the strain of responsibility, or quiet and fragile at her breaking point. I can only imagine how crushing her reaction will be when Ashley dies and I’m sure Charlotte will be picking up lots of awards in the new year.

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11. Paddy’s return

This time last year the Paddy we knew and loved felt like a distant memory and many of us were united in the utter hatred of his affair plot with Tess (RIP). Fast forward to August, Paddy had been working in Germany and he came back to us, fresh and funny and like the man we’d thought we’d lost. Back were the one-liners, the stuttered buffoonery, the brilliant bromance with Marlon and everyone breathed a sigh of relief. The character and the audience really benefitted from the breather off-screen. Now the Tess plot is all but a distant memory and even Paddy admitted was the biggest mistake he’d made (shading storyline decisions maybe?), but I’m just glad he’s back to his best.

Come back tomorrow to read my Top 10 of 2016!

Emmerdale’s Christmas episode: The Best Bits

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! That is, unless your name happens to be Joanie or Zak Dingle. This year’s Christmas episode was a fairly low-key and happy affair with even the Thomas family finding happiness despite Ashley’s illness, but there was a lot to enjoy about the episode so I thought I’d share my best bits!

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The music montages! The REAL snow!

The episode opened like the perfect Christmas movie, with Mariah in the background and Aaron’s happy little family of Robert and Liv enjoying the flurry (and throwing a few snowballs in Carly’s direction). We cut to Zak seeing signs to do with Lisa at every turn, and Lisa herself snuggling with Alfie and Moira woke alone. It was the most festive opening to an episode you could ever hope for. And it continued throughout the episode, with a Last Christmas montage of dinners and happiness and loneliness, to a final music moment at the end with Zak slinking away cold and alone.

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The little touches

What made this Christmas episode so good was the little moments we could all relate to. Things like: Sandy wanting a selection box breakfast, Dan being more interested in Kyle’s present than he was, Adam’s saucy present for Vic that he didn’t want her to open in front of his mum, Jimmy struggling with the little screws and a lack of batteries, Chas’s insistence that everyone wear a paper hat, drunken charades! These all made our beloved characters come to like in instantly relatable and believable scenes. They were great character moments that made these feel like real family Christmases.

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The humour

With Christmas comes alcohol and giggles and there was no shortage in this episode either. From Pete’s awkward mince pie judging competition, which Ross made fantastically uncomfortable (plus Emma is just as good at comedy as she is unnerving villainy!), to Jimmy’s kettle angst, to Harriet’s realisation Pearl is trying to turn her into a Mini Me, to Chas being drunkenly touchy feely with Aaron and Robert in their loathed Xmas jumpers. Thankfully all the humour came from a fun place and didn’t involve Kerry madness, but let’s face it the turkey/peacock plot thread was a weird one!

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The heart

There were a number of moments where my heart was sufficiently warmed like a big mug of mulled wine in the Christmas special. Ashley’s brief reprieve where he joined in with the carol and Gabby found the heartfelt gifts he’d prepared when his condition wasn’t so bad were particularly emotive moments that brought home the tragedy of their family situation. Little Elliot King also warmed hearts as he cuddled up to Nicola, wishing that she was his mother. Total Christmas fluff and exactly what this episode needed.

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The end of Zak and Joanie (and Lisa fighting back)

One of the big plot points for the episode was the dissolution of Zak and Joanie, exactly a year since the wishbone debacle and the reveal of their affair (to which this year’s episode had a lot of callbacks!). Denise Black gave an impressive performance in the subtle way she showed Joanie’s heartbreak and isolation amongst the Dingle clan as Zak obliviously slipped into old habits and shut her out. Their end of episode confrontation was charged and finally gave Joanie the backbone she deserved in the face of Zak’s uselessness. Lisa too came out of the episode looking strong and powerful as she rejected Zak and fumed as she told him it was too late for his regrets. Well executed and a nice symmetry to last year’s scenes.

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Hope for Cain and Moira

Another storyline in the episode which offered a feeling of warmth was the thawing atmosphere between Cain and Moira. Despite her claiming their night together was a mistake, Moira still listened to the mixtape he left her and there was definite chemistry between them when Cain bought Kyle to see the reindeers. She might not be ready to let on that she listened to the mixtape, or give him another chance, but the feelings between them are lingering and there was all the slow burn magic between them that makes for a winning soap couple.

Fave or Fail? (19-23 Dec 2016)

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Every week I run through the best and worst bits of the week on Emmerdale. Tell me your faves and fails in the comments! In the run up to Christmas, Ashley’s special episode proves that Emmerdale’s showing us the very best in soap.

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The Dementia Special

vlcsnap-2016-12-27-17h08m13s047Emmerdale have had an outstanding year and if their award cabinets aren’t waking up the country to the fact that it’s on top form, then hopefully episodes like Ashley’s special will do the job. Emmerdale employed a range of excellent techniques to try and showcase life with dementia for the audience, really helping to portray the struggle and confusion life can take when you can’t see the world as others do. As Ashley tried to get home to his mother, a hipster record shop baffled him, but luckily the shop worker was a good man and gave Ashley some spare clothes and tried to help him. Along the way Ashley met with people he saw (and the audience saw) as strangers, but through clever reflections and subtle signs, they were revealed to be familiar characters, recast. These recast actors had a real challenge on their hands but they fitted seamlessly into the story, managing to inhabit these well-loved characters in their own way. The episode also had nods to Ashley and Laurel’s past, such as her bumblebee pin (the costume she wore when she first arrived in Emmerdale) and Ashley’s desire to stop Laurel leaving for Finland – a storyline that happened in 2004! The episode also featured scenes shot in Esholt, the first time since 1998, and the old Woolpack pub. Not only did Emmerdale go to an incredible effort to tell Ashley’s story in a fresh and creative way, but it was told with real emotional punch and if there is any justice then they will surely pick up awards for this storyline in the new year.

Fighting Fire with Fire

emmerdale-moira-and-cain-kiss-after-an-epic-fight-youtubeMany Emmerdale fans have been missing the winning partnership of Cain and Moira (Coira to the initiated) ever since they split earlier this year, but this week saw them temporarily reunite and the scenes were electric! With Moira on full meltdown mode, even going as far as to sleep with her own nephew(!), she refused many of Cain’s attempts to help, despite him telling her he just can’t stop caring about her. After Moira drove drunk and fessed up to her liaison with Pete in an effort to push Cain away, the pair’s tension exploded, giving us an impressive display of the fiery on-screen chemistry between Jeff Hordley and Natalie J Robb and reminding everyone why they’re so popular. With the destructive and vicious extent of their passion on show, there were harsh words exchanged, slaps thrown, tears and Cain’s violence resurfacing. After their history together and a tumultuous year behind them, it’s no wonder their scenes were so tempestuous but their confrontation really did unleash all the frustration that’s been building. Moira brought out a better side to Cain, but it seems like neither of them are in a good place right now and their happy marriage seems out of reach, but as we saw at Christmas there does appear to be some hope left…

Caught in the Middle

emmerdale-wednesday-21-dec-7pm-the-itv-hub-2You’ve got to feel for Leyla this week. Even though she didn’t help herself when it came to meddling in Tracy and David’s life, it’s clear she’s worried about her makeshift little family. Leyla’s pinned all her hopes on a happier future with handsome and straightforward (or so she thought) Pete, but I bet she didn’t think she’d be contending with Pete’s own Auntie for his affections. YIKES. There was an enjoyable level of awkward irony as we watched oblivious Leyla suggest Pete and Moira “kiss and make up”, but as the week progressed it was easy to feel sorry for her. As the audience reeled from the Pete and Moira sleeping together shocker (which – OMG! – was such a surprising reveal), Leyla remained in the dark, focused on her lovely relationship with Jacob. The two shared some really touching this scenes as he tried to encourage her to share Christmas with their family and she supported them in the hospital. I can’t help but think Leyla needs someone much lovelier than flaky Pete and his cursed family.

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Broken Marriage, Broken Record

emmerdale-wednesday-21-dec-7pm-the-itv-hub-1It’s no secret that Jimmy and Nicola’s marriage is one of my favourite pairings in the Dales. They’re funny, compatible and kinky at times! But lately their on and off fights and make ups seem never ending and we must have had a variation of the same fight about six times in the last six months. With Nicola’s paralysis and the jumble of kids they’ve seemingly collected, you’d think there would be a much better selection of heartfelt drama they could tackle, but instead we get a lot of the same fights with Nicola and Jimmy stuck in cartoon roles of nagging wife and buffoon husband. Sure, I like this dynamic and I like Jimmy hopelessly arriving at her door with an enthusiastic “Nico!” and buying her completely unromantic presents, but I’m tired of their repetitive make ups and break ups. I’d be hopeful for the future after the Christmas Day episode, but with Nicola finding out she’s wearing Pearl’s lost necklace, Jimmy’s been kicked to the curb again.

Come back tomorrow evening for my review of Emmerdale’s Christmas special!

 

Scene of the Week (19-23 Dec 2016)

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A jaw-dropping and fantastic final scene to the special Ashley episode of Emmerdale saw Ashley’s deterioration reach a crushing level when he was unable to identify Laurel, even asking who she was. Having spent most of the episode through Ashley’s eyes, the audience were left experiencing the same sense of confusion and disorientation as Ashley as different locations and different actors were used, but all this melted away in the final scene, as voices blurred and the familiar faces reappeared. In what was a truly groundbreaking and memorable episode, our familiar favourite actors and new faces gave incredible performances (notably Cal Freestone and Bryan Parry) but this was all held together by John Middleton’s consistently brilliant work as Ashley’s dementia takes a greater hold.

The Emmerdale Christmas Gift Guide

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It’s that time of year again and you know what that means in soapland. Tears, shocks at the dinner table and all the Christmassy tropes you can think of. But what we rarely see in soapland is what the rest of us experience every year, that cold sweat and panic, the chaos and mayhem, the bank-breaking last minute splurge – Christmas gift buying!

So here’s a fun, tongue-in-cheek little gift guide for a few Emmerdale villagers and a few of the best fan suggestions about what they’d buy the characters for Xmas!

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Chrissie and Rebecca

It’s hard work being the resident ice queen in the village and Chrissie’s gonna need something glamorous to swan around in this winter, so this feather cape ticks all the right boxes. She could also do with a new vase to replace the one that got smashed in the whole framing-Andy-saga and I reckon this teardrop copper vaseteardrop copper vase would look perfect in Home Farm. As for the book? The Parenting For Dummies guide might be a little bit too late, but thanks to the reader who suggested that gift!

Boho traveller Rebecca might be sticking around in the village for now, but in case she gets the wanderlust again, this Lonely Planet Travelist guide would be the perfect gift. Life as a daddy’s girl doesn’t come easy when you’ve got all that cash to keep safe, so how about this cute embroidered purse? And she might have just got the message about a certain ex but just in case, soppy rom-com He’s Just Not That Into You might serve as a reminder that there’s more to life than pining over a guy.

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Liv, Aaron and Robert

Living with her food-loving family, Liv will be very familiar with the hangover classic, a Full English Breakfast and these cool pencils would be a fun gift, even better because she can use them to sketch everything and anything in the book 642 Things to Draw. To cope with the Yorkshire cold, the d*cks at school and the patriarchy, this cutting slogan bobble hat is a great gift.

There’s one thing on Aaron Dingle’s mind at the moment and that’s moving to the Mill with his fiance and little sis and that’s only going to mean trouble, so the essential gift for Aaron right now is this pocket survival guide. Being that he’s pretty settled and happy living in the pub, he might just miss it a bit but these alcohol scented toiletries will take him right back there. Nice! As for the straight-to-the-point bathmat, I think it’s pretty clear who’d be buying him that.

The biggest Christmas wish for Robert from readers of this blog (apart from a real divide over whether his shirts are awful or awesome) was for friends, so how about the classic self-help book How to Win Friends and Influence People? It sounds perfect for him. Divisive issues aside, it just wouldn’t be right not to give Robert an (ugly) patterned shirt for the festive season and finally, an apt little notebook for all his terrible plans.

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Gabby Thomas and Emma Barton

I’m still recovering from the shock revelation that Gabby isn’t actually a vegan after all but on the off chance she fancies trying it for real, this tasty looking recipe book honestly makes going vegan look good. I think we can all remember eyebrow!gate earlier in the year, but now that Gabby’s put down the marker pen she could have a go with a proper kit to give her an enhanced natural look. On a sadder note, this memory box would be a great gift for the Thomas family who will need to treasure all their happiest family memories as Ashley’s illness worsens.

Emma’s recent attempts to gain forgiveness and form a friendship with enemy-turned-BFF Moira gives meaning to this Sisters Before Misters mug – I love it! This sweet pair of angel wings wouldn’t look amiss on Emma, with her innocent smile hiding the truth of James’ death, and would certainly fit with her attempts to embrace a more Christian outlook! But, the perfect gift for terrible cook Emma Barton is a recipe book, but not just any cookbook, a book full of chicken recipes called A Bird in the Hand. Essential.

The Best of the Rest: Gift Suggestions from Readers of this Blog

  • Lachlan: Rat poison
  • Zak: glasses “to see what’s right in front of him”
  • Rodney: a gift voucher for Hotten’s finest hairdresser “on condition that ponytail doesn’t make it out of there alive”
  • Aaron: a new car, considering his last one ended up at the bottom of the lake!
  • Paddy & Marlon: matching Star Trek mugs (aww)
  • Chas: a better business partner (ouch!)
  • Bob & Brenda: tickets to the Woolpack, just to see them out of the cafe
  • Moira: a low-cut blouse!
  • Pearl: a Cucumber/Banana DVD boxset (well, we know she loves “the gays”)

Fave or Fail? (12-16 Dec 2016)

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Every week I run through the best and worst bits of the week on Emmerdale. Tell me your faves and fails in the comments! Paddy Kirk is at his comedy best and little Arthur knows how to tug on the heart strings – ouch!

Faves

Loopy Lydia

vlcsnap-2016-12-17-20h01m47s936I can’t remember a plot in Emmerdale which gave me as many big laughs as the Paddy and Lydia storyline this week. We met “bereavement Lydia” (as Eric likes to call her) back when Jimmy got caught up in his lies about Nicola and she was hilarious then, but even better this week. With Lydia arriving at the vet’s with her “depressed” parrot Steve and her terrible chat up lines, she seemed like a great match for the equally awkward flirt, Paddy. But as the date progressed and Lydia’s mothering of Steve, talk of urination and wild-eyed obsessive future planning (scheduled dates until Feb), Paddy started to panic. Not even a private tour of a lawnmower museum could save it and he tried to back out – with hysterical consequences. This is Paddy at his ultimate best and a fantastic use of a guest actress, whose exit and mic drop will be remembered for a good while yet!

Arthur’s Agony

vlcsnap-2016-12-17-19h58m57s555You’d have to have a heart of steel not to be moved by darling little Arthur Thomas this week. Caught in the middle of his hugely family struggle, Arthur is doing his best to just be a happy go lucky little boy. We saw in Super Soap Week how much he adores his dad and how he’s trying his best to look after him, but as Ashley’s condition has worsened it’s beginning to really upset and worry him. This week Doug blew the secret of Ashley hitting Laurel and fearful Arthur panicked that it might happen again. By the end of the week he’d perked up a little, with a helping hand from Marlon and the pirate ship crew, but when Ashley was hospitalised again, we saw more upset piled on his little shoulders. Arthur knows and dreads what’s coming in the aftermath of Ashley’s TIA and it’s obvious the future is going to be seriously heartbreaking. Huge kudos to actor Alfie Clarke for his emotional performances in this tough story.

Moira’s Meltdown

vlcsnap-2016-12-17-20h10m16s342Moira’s grief escalated this week as the loneliness of Christmas caused her to hit the bottle. Despite Emma’s best efforts to support her enemy-turned-best-friend, Moira found her interference too much and pushed her and Pete away. While Gillian Kearney continues her brilliant portrayal of unstable Emma – lurching between a need for Moira’s friendship to ease her guilt to punishing her for rejecting her – it was Natalie J Robb really shining again this week. I loved the simplicity of Moira grieving on the floor, rebuilding the shattered pieces of Holly’s decoration and sobbing as the saccharine Christmas song played behind her. It was fun too to see the harsher and feisty side of her, especially with the drink talking, as she faced off against Cain and the Bartons, but Natalie’s portrayal means you’re always going to empathise with Moira.

Playing Parent

vlcsnap-2016-12-17-20h06m22s224Aaron had a tough week trying to put his foot down with Liv (her fragility beautifully played by Isobel Steele) and despite a rocky start, they managed a break-through, but it was Chas and Aaron’s relationship that was a real highlight for me. After a very difficult year and a long battle of their own parent-child relationship, the connection they have now is strong and touching. With Lucy Pargeter soon to be on maternity leave, losing Aaron and Chas’s relationship is going to feel tough – particularly when we’re given such heartwarming scenes between the two lately, such as her pride of him and her sage advice not to sabotage his own happiness. Lovely scenes!

Fails

Meddling Mess

vlcsnap-2016-12-17-18h11m29s789Leyla was the meddler and the target this week as she began vowing to get rid of Frank and ended up being messed with herself. While I loved the friendship scheming and backtracking between Leyla and Vanessa, Tracy and Carly’s mean tricking meant Pete and Leyla’s new relationship was derailed by embarrassing miscommunication. While it was great to see Leyla so involved in the week’s drama, the farce with Pete fell a bit flat, despite some funny dialogue. There was something silly and out of character to see Pete acting so OTT and dopey and it really jarred when you compared it to his dramatic material at the start of the week (grieving son he was not!). Tracy’s frustrations at the living arrangements are understandable but it all felt quite mean spirited in the end.

On the Rob

vlcsnap-2016-12-17-20h02m29s172I enjoy the sight of Aaron Dingle committing crimes just as much as his fiancé seems to, but this week’s events were tarnished by clunky plot devices. With Liv needing stability, Aaron and Robert had already decided to find the three of them a permanent home – one problem, their best option (burnt out and rotting Mill) was out of their price range. Well, apparently. Conveniently. Last we knew Robert was sitting on a tidy sum courtesy of his divorce settlement and father in law.  Yet this money has disappeared with no explanation, forcing Aaron to battle with his beliefs and decide whether to use his abusive father’s money. Another plot convenience meant loaded Rebecca White talking VERY LOUDLY about her money in front of Aaron and having a cosy drink with him and Robert – so Aaron was able to hear this and want revenge for her bad taste joke – when it’s very hard to believe after her schemes to split them up, they’d ever be pally. In what was, effectively, a plot to get Aaron to come to terms with using Gordon’s money and establish a better relationship between Aaron and Rebecca (while still showing Aaron’s insecurities), I can’t help but wish there had been a more believable way to show this. Would Aaron really be as clumsy in crime when he has so much to lose these days?