EastEnders boss Dominic Treadwell-Collins has defended the soap’s reputation for “gruesome” Christmas episodes.
The BBC One show gained its highest ever audience on Christmas Day 1987 when Den Watts (Leslie Grantham) served divorce papers on wife Angie (Anita Dobson).
Speaking at a press event showcasing festive highlights, he insisted upbeat Christmases did not work.
“We have a tradition, back from when Den and Angie did those divorce papers,” Dominic said.
“We tried to have a happy Christmas one year. Pam St Clement (who played Pat Butcher) told us that they did a happy Christmas one year where everyone hugged – it had the lowest ratings ever!”
Sitting alongside stars Danny Dyer (Mick Carter), Laurie Brett (Jane Beale) and Richard Blackwood (Vincent Hubbard), Dominic underlined his stance.
“People expect EastEnders to be a bit gruesome because you’re arguing with your family, you’re having often a dreadful day and you go, ‘Oh, God. At least I’m not a Beale!’”
Danny added: “The beauty of EastEnders is that it is dark, we do dark so well so that when you have these light-hearted moments that are quite rare, you really relish them.”
Dominic promised fans an “epic” Christmas to rival the live week of episodes that marked the soap’s 30th anniversary back in February.
“We decided to treat this a bit like we treated live week so it’s epic; there are secrets, there are twists, there are a hell of a lot of stories going on and lots of surprises.”
Not least the fact that two former characters are set to return in 2016.
Christmas in Albert Square will be fraught for most of the residents.
The Mitchells and the Hubbards will clash. The Beales will have worries of their own. The Slaters will gain a new family member as they are devastated by loss.
The Carters will provide most of the fun, but there will be intense drama as rapist Dean (played by Matt Di Angelo) shows his true colours.
In the new year, postpartum psychosis grips Stacey (Lacey Turner), Kat (Jessie Wallace) will find out about her secret son and Denise Fox (Diane Parish) will receive unwelcome news.
Returns include Sister Ruth (veteran actress June Whitfield), Phil’s daughter Louise (now played by newcomer Tilly Keeper) and Glenda Mitchell (Glynis Barber).
Plotlines which have carried on for months will see some sort of resolution over Christmas.
Laurie approved of the steady approach.
“You can’t have everything instantly,” she said.
“We’re not Instagram, we’re not on Twitter, we are a television programme which you are seeing a family go through this amazing stuff. And that takes time.”
Richard hailed the soap for a tremendous year.
“National Television Awards? EastEnders should just take a Hoover and Hoover up every award,” he stated. “However long I’m supposed to be in the show, I’m privileged for that.”
Danny added: “This word ‘soap’, I don’t think it’s a disrespectful thing. It’s high-class television now.
“I don’t care what anyone says.
“There’s a stigma towards it, but it’s powerful stuff that you’re watching and you’re believing and that’s the thing to it.”
Danny’s final word was one of encouragement and support for screen wife Kellie Bright (Linda Carter), who is competing in the Strictly Come Dancing final this Saturday night.
“I’m so proud of her. We’re all so proud of her,” the Londoner said.
“I don’t know how the girl’s done it, to be honest with you. She’s been a bit ratty on a few days, you know what I mean?
“I don’t blame her cos I’d be ratty,” he joked. “But she’s in the final. She’s a beautiful human being, Kellie Bright.
“I’m part of a double act. For me, without her, Mick don’t work. I’m rooting for her.”