Classic soap repeats are essential if we’re to reignite our pre-lockdown passion for the genre

Something needs to fill the gaps and it should be episodes we love, says Joe Julians.

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We’ve got to that point in the year no one really expected – soaps will run out of fresh episodes before they can return to filming and play catch-up.

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Normally a well-oiled machine, the Covid-19 pandemic brought all productions to a halt and we’ve been slowly ticking down the counter on how many fresh episodes of Coronation Street, EastEnders, Hollyoaks, Emmerdale, Neighbours and Home & Away we have left.

Even though the Australian soaps are filming again (and arguably did not need to take a break on Channel 5 at all), we were down to only two episodes a week and many fans were calling for old episodes to be shown. Instead, those who were accustomed to trips down under were greeted with a show about the Yorkshire steam railway. Now, nothing against trains from yesteryear, but it’s hardly the show that will capture the attention of the audience the time slot normally gets.

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Hollyoaks Favourites

And considering social media was full of fans calling for old episodes to air in place of new ones, it seems odd that they would choose something so different instead. But what about the UK soaps who still look likely to run out? Well, Hollyoaks is the only one to use nostalgic episodes to plug gaps, with the Hollyoaks Favourites series revisiting key instalments from years gone by- and fans seem to be loving the trips down memory lane.

But the other soaps have not taken the same path and look set to run out entirely of new episodes imminently. The only exception to that is Emmerdale, with the show recently announcing a series of lockdown specials that should keep it on air until new ones are ready, but there are still gaps in the schedule where new Emmerdale normally would be.

This seems like the perfect time to touch on stories from the shows’ pasts and I find it odd this hasn’t been done, particularly when chosen episodes could be ones that tie into what is being shown on screen. Coronation Street, for example, is about to air Shona’s return – wouldn’t it be great to revisit her and David’s wedding the day before or after she is back?

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Coronation Street went live in 2010 in a dramatic episode that would be great to see again

There are also milestone episodes that fans would love to see again from all soaps. The infamous Emmerdale plan crash of 1993, the Coronation Street tram disaster of 2010, Grant Mitchell’s dramatic 1999 car crash departure in EastEnders – I could, of course, go on, but the point is, no show has more from the archive to fall back on in times of need than a soap opera, so it still strikes me as an odd call not to go down that route.

It is also important to keep the love for these shows going. The reduction on-screen has had an impact on plot progression, with stories that were meant to only run a couple of weeks now lasting longer. Airing repeats wouldn’t solve that of course, but if we have a quiet week of say, EastEnders, with its two-episode a week schedule, some memorable events from the past would certainly be a way to keep people in the Walford mindset – a lot more than a repeat of Garden Rescue would at any rate.

It is worth noting that a selection of old soap episodes are available to stream on BritBox- but it does not quite have the same effect as airing a classic episode in its proper time slot for the family to sit and watch together as appointment viewing.

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