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EastEnders: Producer who introduced the Slaters brought back in to rescue ailing soap

John Yorke was at the helm as the show was riding high

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Shock soap news broke yesterday that current EastEnders producer Sean O’Connor has suddenly left the show.

Sean O’Connor declared he’d left to work more on feature films (Credit: PA)

The TV boss’s official line was that he’d departed to work on his first passion – feature films.

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This comes just a fortnight after EastEnders came away basically empty handed from the annual British Soap Awards. Hmmm…

The Sun is reporting that O’Connor was actually given the heave-ho by BBC bigwigs, concerned that ratings on the soap has dipped by two million under his tenure – and allegations that cast members had been reduced to tears by the bad atmosphere on set.

Now, it looks as though the soap is bringing out the big guns to try and steer the soap ship back into safer waters.

O’Connor is to be replaced – albeit temporarily – by legendary EastEnders producer John Yorke.

Veteran EastEnders producer John Yorke is set to replace O’Connor (Credit: YouTube)

He held the reins on the show between 1999-2002, a period of time when EastEnders was on a high.

John Yorke was responsible for classic storylines like “You ain’t my muvva” (Credit: BBC)

Yorke introduced the Slaters, the family who became the soap’s focal point after the Watts and the Fowlers had dispersed.

If they hadn’t existed, there would have been no Kat Slater, no “You ain’t my muvva” plot twist, no Little Mo… all those characters who were given some truly iconic storylines.

Viewers were left opened-mouthed in 2001 when, during a massive cliffhanging episode, Kat told Zoe that she was her mother (she had been raped by her uncle Harry as a teenager).

Yorke was also responsible for the much talked about Little Mo abuse storyline.

John Yorke also dreamt up the abuse of Little Mo storyline (Credit: BBC)

She was the quiet Slater sister who was being secretly abused by her bully of a husband Trevor.

The plot was stretched out over several years and culminated in Little Mo hitting Trevor with Pauline Fowler’s iron and being found guilty of attempted murder (although the ruling was later overturned).

Yorke also dreamt up the Who Shot Phil? storyline, which had viewers on the edge of their seats, desperately trying to work out which clever Albert Square resident had tried to get rid of the Mitchell misery.

The “Who Shot Phil Mitchell” storyline was also a hit with viewers (Credit: BBC)

Yorke was also responsible for saying goodbye to one of the show’s most iconic characters.

In a special two-hander episode, Dot was seen battling between her religious beliefs and love for her best friend when she decided to help put Ethel out of her misery and assisted her death.

The nation was heartbroken when Dot helped Ethel die in EastEnders (Credit: BBC)

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The episode was so emotional that there was hardly a viewer in the country who didn’t shed a tear.

So with all those great memories to recall,  it would appear that EastEnders is indeed in good hands.

Mirror TV critic Ian Hyland says: “Bringing back John Yorke isn’t quite the final roll of the dice for EastEnders, but it does show how desperate things have become on the BBC’s floundering soap.

“It needs a steady hand as it bids to make up ground on an all-conquering Emmerdale and a resurgent Coronation Street.

“So turning to one of its finest ever executive producers is a pretty smart move in the short term.

“Yorke oversaw some legendary EastEnders moments including Zoe and Kat Slater’s classic “You ain’t my muvva!” scene, which for me is up at the top of the all-time list alongside Den giving Angie divorce papers for Christmas.

“If Yorke can bring EastEnders back to anywhere near that form he’d be doing everyone a massive favour. Not least the viewers.”