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£86.7m to rebuild Albert Square?
Stuff that, just axe EastEnders

PUBLISHED: 17:30 14 December 2018 | UPDATED: 13:36 15 December 2018

EastEnders characters Hayley Slater, Cherry Slater, Kat Moon, Alfie Moon   PHOTO: BBC - Photographer: Kieron McCarron

EastEnders characters Hayley Slater, Cherry Slater, Kat Moon, Alfie Moon PHOTO: BBC - Photographer: Kieron McCarron

WARNING: Use of this copyright image is subject to the terms of use of BBC Pictures' Digital Picture Service (BBC Pictures) as set out at www.bbcpictures.co.uk. In particular, this image may only be published by a registered User of BBC Pictures for editor

The BBC is under immense pressure.

It's time to knock down Albert Square and axe EastEnders, says Steven Downes     PHOTO: PA WireIt's time to knock down Albert Square and axe EastEnders, says Steven Downes PHOTO: PA Wire

The organisation - which I, mostly, love - faces criticism for the large pay packets handed to its biggest names.

It is also in the firing line for disparities between the pay received by leading men and leading women.

The ghastly Gary Lineker gets £1.75m a year, which is about £1.75m more than I’d pay him. Other big earners include Chris Evans and Steve Wright, which leads me to wonder whether the BBC works out its pay counter-intuitively or on the basis of likeability being inversely proportional to pay.

On top of that, there is a real possibility that Auntie Beeb will eventually have to survive without the licence fee that we all pay for its content.

Den gives Angie a divorce for Christmas on EastEnders (C) BBCDen gives Angie a divorce for Christmas on EastEnders (C) BBC

So the timing could not be worse for the latest miserable EastEnders plot twist that has been revealed.

No, it’s nothing to do with Mick being in jail accused of shooting his former friend Stuart (who apparently shot himself to fit up Mick, as is a common theme of normal life).

This twist is part of an off-screen drama centring on the long-planned rebuilding of the Albert Square set.

It needs to be flattened and reborn because it isn’t HD-compatible, and will eventually be actual buildings, not wobbly stage sets that go back to the birth of this very ugly baby in 1985.

The work was supposed to cost £59.7m and be completed this
year. Eye-watering enough, I reckon.

But now we are told that it’ll cost £86.7m and be done and dusted by 2023.

Can you hear the sound of incandescent fury from the offices of the Daily Mail? Well, for one time only, I’m alongside the Hate Mail (though not as far as wanting the BBC to be abolished and all the lefties taken to a bunker to disappear).

The bill for Albert Square II is downright offensive.

It amounts to approximately £3 per licence fee payer, including me. And I want that sum paid back to me, please.

Better than that, I want it all rendered irrelevant by the BBC seeing this cost spiral as an opportunity to scrap the project and dump EastEnders entirely.

Every penny spent on this dreadful, depressing and downright damaging soap opera is a waste: every second of filming is a second too much.

Here’s a summary of the plots, on rotation since 1985: divorce, affair, love triangle, sighing, shouting, fighting, drugs, booze, disappearances, delinquency, anger, fury, more sighing, murder, gravelly whispering.

The trailers are enough to make me need counselling, so what must the impact be on those who watch it four times a week – or any poor soul who has stuck with it for the almost 6,000 episodes in total?

It’s a case of life imitating art. People who spend enough time watching EastEnders eventually adopt the permanent sneer of its characters and probably begin to believe that life in Albert Square is a microcosm of life across the UK. In short, EastEnders makes people miserable.

OK, my columns show that I am more than a little miserable myself. I can’t blame EastEnders for that – I’m just wired that way. In fact, I know that reading my weekly rant makes some people completely fed up.

But I’m convinced that the relentless diet of despair served up from Albert Square alters personalities – sucking happiness and hopefulness from people’s souls.

The BBC was formed to inform, educate and entertain. I can’t see that EastEnders does any of the three, so why doesn’t the corporation put it out of its misery and fund some more of the treasures that it is capable of producing?

After all the deaths, let’s have just one more – that of the whole damned show.

Flatten Albert Square and give the money to Sir David Attenborough.

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