Today is the silver anniversary of the BBC's premier soap, Eastenders, marked at 8pm tonight with it's first ever live episode which will tell us who was Archie Mitchell's Christmas Day killer as well as probably kill off a more beloved character, in a not entirely unrelated development.
At last I've managed to gather together these shots created for the occasion. Above is a photoshopped tableau of various icons from across those 25 years. Notably, nine are still currently on the show (and though one is departing, another is returning).
The 'family' portraits below are very good, though not without the shadow of Photoshop here and there for unavoidable actor absences. Even in last night's bumper hour long episode which saw the simultaneous second weddings of both Ricky and Bianca and Bradley and Stacey, they were missing four of the cast. But it was so packed you really have to study these to see who didn't appear in the episode (young children exempted it was Mo, Jay, Tanya and Adam) so that was a great effort - they even had three of the four E20 stars, while only one is included below.
Today apparently also marks the official handover of the show from producer Diedrick Santer to Bryan Kirkwood after 3 and a bit years. I have to say his stint in charge has been a golden era of the show and he'll be going out on a high. The recent revelation that mid-noughties alpha couple Alfie and Kat are returning in the autumn is young Kirkwood's first major act, and one that I'm not hugely enthusiastic about. Have to say I had one of my biggest EE divorces for around six years between the mass import of the Slaters in September 2000 and (ironically) the introduction of Sean Slater in August 2006. Odd that the latter is a bookie's favourite for Archie's murder as I type, even though he left the show in January 2009.
Anyway, under Santer we have had the introduction of Roxy & Ronnie Mitchell (as well the now deceased Archie and Danielle), the Masoods, Christian Clarke, Heather and Shirley not forgetting the hugely successful re-introduction of Ricky and Bianca, and assorted brood. Plus storylines like Max and Stacey's slow burning affair, the Tony/Whitney paedophile affair, Christian and Syed's gay affair, Stephen shooting Jane and Denise's murderous husbands (no3 has recently murdered no1 but not been found out yet) just for starters. Two of their braver decisions of 2009 were ones which went down badly with much of the audience, namely Danielle's death, just after telling Ronnie she was her daughter and the reveal that teenage Darren was the father of Heather's baby George Michael. Anyway I realise I may be in the minority in loving those twists, but people seem to feel cheated because they didn't follow the predictable soap rules. I can't deny there have been mistakes though - the umpteenth return of Nick Cotton at Christmas 2008 which was largely cancelled out by a rather too convenient explosion last June is my pick, closely followed by the umpteenth return of Sam Mitchell, for no really good reason last autumn. But Santer kicked the 2-D gangster tendency into touch, for which we must be eternally grateful.
As an aide-memoire you can place the Santer era as the first post-Pauline period, as his first produced show went out in January 2007, just after her demise. And we have tonight's demise to bookend that, though I'd wager he really stopped producing just before Christmas when last night's episode concluded filming.
The Jackson/Butcher/Malloy collective
The Beales (and 'Uncle' Christian)
The Mitchells (and lil' orphan Jay)
The Johnsons (and Patrick Trueman)
Anyhow, I mentioned that there were some missing faces from the family albums. There are two omissions I must make amends for, as both are making up the Albert Square totty quotient at present.
The first is Liam Bergin playing Danny, another long-lost Mitchell who first appeared at his father's funeral and will return to a snowy Albert Square in 3 weeks. Rumours are already rife he will eventually hook up with Stacey, following tonight's events.
And then we have Sam Attwater as E20 hunk, Leon Small who is soon to attach himself through fatherhood to another of the big Walford families, the Beales. Some might remember he turned up as the teenage stripper at Bianca's hen party last week (actually a hugely unlikely and possibly illegal bit of plot when you put any thought to it).
Oh and lastly, here's a little bit on the making of the special Eastenders25 BBC One ident (included) , where Albert Square is magically and literally turned round.