EastEnders Hayley Slater

Former EastEnders boss slates the show for going “the wrong way”

Balance is all wrong, says one-time exec producer

It’s fair to say that EastEnders hasn’t had the best of times lately.

Not only did the soap recently record its worst-ever overnight viewing figure, it also suffered a disastrous night at this year’s British Soap Awards, and then executive producer Sean O’Connor stood down in June after just a year on the job.

And now, just to rub salt into the wounds, another of its former bosses has given the show a stinging appraisal.

Diederick Santer – who was executive producer on the soap between 2006 and 2010 – tore into the soap at the Edinburgh International Television Festival, claiming it’s not been “massively watchable”.

The show recently recorded its worst-ever overnight viewing figures (Credit: BBC)

“I think that it’s not been brilliant in the last few months,” he stated.

“I think Sean O’Connor is a brilliant producer who did brilliant work at The Archers. I don’t really know what’s gone on but I’ve not found it massively watchable in recent months. But it’s cyclical.”

O’Connor – who said he was leaving EastEnders to concentrate on feature films – divided viewers with some of his decisions.

As well as presiding over the departure of key characters such as Ronnie and Roxy Mitchell, his tenure saw the show concentrating more on younger characters.

The decision to kill off Ronnie and Roxy wasn’t a popular one (Credit BBC)

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In June, EastEnders suffered a dismal performance at the British Soap Awards, not picking up a single voted-for gong.

And last month, the soap recorded its lowest-ever overnight rating – 3.41 million viewers.

Although that was for an episode that had been moved to BBC2 to accommodate the Wimbledon tennis championships, it was still a far cry from the figures enjoyed by the show during its heyday.

And Santer appeared to blame that downfall on a poorly executed formula.

“It’s about balance,” he said. “It always has to walk a line, and this is where I think it has gone the wrong way lately.

EastEnders has been focusing more on younger characters (Credit: BBC)

“It has to walk the line between social realism and stuff that’s exciting, stuff that grips you and makes you gasp – and you have to tune in tomorrow to see it.

“You don’t want to see it on iPlayer, you want to see it live. Maybe that’s what it’s lacked just lately, finding a sort of universality and scale in those everyday stories.”

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Santer also added his opinion to the recent debate about the salaries paid to well-known figures in the television industry.

Back in July, the BBC revealed – for the first time – what its highest-paid stars were earning, leading some people to complain about the size of the salaries, and also the fact that, in some cases, male talent earned more than their female counterparts.

But Santer defended his former employer by suggesting that the concerns are industry-wide and not just attributable to the Beeb.

“As ever, the bother is heaped upon the BBC,” he said. “I think it’s probably an industry story and I think it’s probably a national and international story. But because it’s the BBC, it gets writ large.”

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