Emmerdale did it! The ITV soap took home Best Serial Drama at the National Television Awards for the first time ever! So, how come the Dales-set drama triumphed over its rivals? Well, here are a whole bunch of reasons why the show is currently on top form:
1. Aaron’s abuse
Not only one of the best storylines of 2016 – but also one of the best Emmerdale plotlines of all time. From Aaron’s anguish to Chas’s guilt by way of Gordon’s chilling denial, it was a brilliant piece of TV drama. Especially when Aaron revealed – both to Chas and via police video – the history of sexual torment he’d suffered as a child. As if we didn’t know it already, that Danny Miller sure knows how to take control of a scene.
2. Holly’s death
Soap demises are often trailed weeks – if not months – in advance, mainly because broadcasters know that a high profile exit can lead to a ratings spike. So it was brave of Emmerdale to give its viewers a big, unexpected shock with Holly’s overdose. We (and mum Moira) thought she’d kicked the habit, only for her body to be found in bed, an empty wrap by her side. Fans expect to be in the know about plot twists – but sometimes it works best when we don’t.
3. The multi-car pile-up
How did they get that motorbike to zoom over Ashley’s head? How did actor Jonathan Wrather not get injured when that vehicle ploughed straight into Pierce’s? We don’t know. We don’t want to know because it would only ruin the magic. Suffice it to say that the whole thing was a triumph: Emma’s macabre machinations, James’s fall, plus Paddy and Rhona’s screams being just three notable high points.
4. Ashley’s dementia episode
On paper, this must have seemed like a massive gamble. A day in the life of someone with dementia. Deliberately disorientating camerawork. Regular characters played by different actors. It could have all gone so badly wrong. But the actual result earned both critical and popular acclaim – John Middleton’s magnificent central performance surely securing him all the statuettes that future awards shows can offer his way.
5. David’s cancer
Proof that you can give a moving storyline to a comedic actor and not lose out on either pathos or humour. Matthew Wolfenden had to walk a tightrope when it came to getting the tone right, but he pitched it perfectly. Throw in the David/Jakey bonding scenes plus that chaotic wedding day with Tracy and you had a little tragicomic masterpiece.
6. Tess’s hit and run
This was the shock February episode in which Emmerdale set out its stall as the soap to watch in 2016. As with Holly, it was a demise that came out of the blue. But it was also a fine example of the way the soap – under the stewardship of both Kate Oates and now Iain MacLeod – has constructed storylines with the potential to play out over months and sometimes years in a way that doesn’t feel forced. Paddy’s infidelity and Tess’s death having now led (a year later) to Pierce’s sinister manipulation of Rhona.
7. Andy’s exit
Poor Suggers – framed for a crime he didn’t commit by superbitch-in-the-making Chrissie and her Fringe of Revenge. Despite being forced to go on the run, Andy thankfully found time to reconcile with Robert and say a poignant goodbye to Bernice. And, in a wise move, the writers have left the door wide open for Andy to make a possible return. Now, if only he’d watch a TV news report to see what’s happened in court with that Lachlan…
8. Putting Marlon with Carly
The potential was there to pair Carly with any number of village hunks: David, Ross and Pete being just a few of the names being bandied about. But a curveball was thrown when Marlon turned from Carly’s confidante to love interest. Adorable April was happy, while we got a fresh twist on a soap romance – Marlon’s feelings of not being in Carly’s league were nicely played by the ever reliable Mark Charnock.
9. Home Farm – soapland’s deadliest address
And let’s not forget that – in the midst of hard-hitting abuse and heroin addiction plots – we also had some of that bonkers excess in which Emmerdale loves to revel. Why anyone ever steps foot in Home Farm remains a mystery. In the past, we’ve had explosions, fires and death. But 2016 was definitely Home Farm’s Year of the Shotgun. Lawrence took a bullet thanks to Lachlan and even Diane was getting a share of the firearm action when she took aim at Chrissie. It was borderline lunacy, but thanks to some killer cliffhangers, we still bought into it.
10. Paddy plays ‘It’s Raining Men’
Of course, Emmerdale has always managed to juggle melodrama with more light-hearted segues. And clown-in-chief Paddy has been on top form since his return from Germany. His manhood-trapping last week was a blast, but the true highlight was him accidentally playing ‘It’s Raining Men’ in order to win Rhona back. It was a proper laugh-out-loud interlude and classic Paddy.
You can watch a 60-second rundown of next week’s episodes of Emmerdale below.
And visit our dedicated Emmerdale page for all the latest news, interviews and spoilers.