Oh, Hollyoaks. Once the deliciously effervescent, slightly quirky younger cousin of soap elders like Corrie and Emmerdale, recent weeks have seen dangerous attempts to be "gritty" barely enlivened by daft "comedy" plots, which put you more in mind of EastEnders, which for the last ten years has existed largely on a diet of hapless thickoids making risible attempts to live a normal life, gobby Stacey wearing tiny skirts and YELLING AT THE TOP OF HER VOICE, ALL THE TIME, gangsters chivvin' each other, innit, and until recently, Phil's spiralling descent into dead-eyed, tomato-faced alcoholism.
Is Holyoaks turning into EastEnders? Let us examine the evidence. Recent Hollyoaks plots have included yet more misery for puppy-faced Hannah Ashworth, who frankly, already carries more than her weight of misery, much like a strong man towing a lorry with his teeth. Hollyoaks writers hate Hannah. Her mum is about two years older than her, she's been married to Darren Osborne, and she couldn't even indulge in a bit of teenage dieting without becoming anorexic and having her mate Melissa die on her. This time, she's run off with curly-mopped Jamie, who looks alarmingly like Hannah's brother, Josh. (Thank Christ the writers stopped short of actual incest for Hannah; really, she's been through enough without that.) Jamie has an engaging smile and often gets his arms out. Even the lardy Welsh drug dealer he's on the run from says he's pretty. But not pretty enough, it would seem. Tonight the sobbing Hannah tried to claw out her own tear ducts while Jamie was thrown round a trashed hotel room by said Welsh fat lad. Was it out of fear for her own and her ragdollish boyfriend's safety? More likely that, once again, Hannah saw her slender chances of happiness disappearing over Chester town walls.
Exhibit 2, m'lud: a "comedy" plot where the sub-Michaela McQueen, Theresa, gets dressed up like a rouged Bratz Babyz doll, red bra half poking out of vile stonewashed denim pinafore dress, to seduce recently-demoted-from-psychotic-to-hapless Ste Hay, in order to force him to take her to the ball at eyebrow pencil-point. Theresa does everything but hump Ste's leg while reading out of a book called How to Seduce a Stud. After ten minutes of this, Ste escaped at a sprint from her, and frankly, I knew how he felt. I've seen Garry Hobbs do the same thing dozens of times, albeit with less blusher. Hollyoaks, this is not a worthy plot for a McQueen. What are you thinking of?
And Exhibit 3: a child talent competition where pushy, rubbernecking tart Cindy Hutchinson tries to force daughter Holly to do a snazzy urban dancing routine for her own addled reasons. A few months ago, EastEnders' Tiffany Dean was entered in a child talent competition at the Vic by pushy aunt Janine for her own addled reasons, where she performed Firestarter.
Hollyoaks, you stand condemned. Bring back Jambo and Carol. It's your only chance. Otherwise, book yourselves on a train to Walford. And don't bother packing your party bags. It isn't that kind of place.