Why is EastEnders not on BBC1 tonight?

Live sports coverage shoves the Walford soap out of the schedules on Monday 18 February

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EastEnders has been dropped from BBC1’s schedules on Monday 18 February to make way for FA Cup Match of the Day Live’s coverage of Chelsea V Manchester United at Stamford Bridge from 7pm, with kick-off at 7.30pm.

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The Walford soap sneaked in an extra episode last week with a double bill airing on Thursday 14 February in addition to the usual four-episode pattern that saw Hunter Owen (Charlie Winter) finally arrested for the murder of stepdad Ray Kelly as Jack Branning (Scott Maslen) betrayed Mel Owen (Tamzin Outhwaite) by tipping off the cops they were about to do a runner, in anticipation of being on only three times this week.

Friday 15 February was the last episode to feature beloved GP Dr Legg (Leonard Fenton), who passed away with old friend Dot Branning (June Brown) at his side, and when normal service resumes on Tuesday 19 February the community pays their respects to the Albert Square legend – including some old faces not seen on screen for decades…

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When is EastEnders back on BBC1?

On what will be 34 years to the day since EastEnders’ first episode aired in 1985, two of the original cast return for Dr Legg’s funeral on Tuesday 19 February at 7.30pm, much to the delight of veteran residents Dot and Sharon Mitchell (Letitia Dean).

George ‘Lofty’ Holloway (Tom Watt), former Queen Vic barman who rented a flat above Dr Legg’s surgery in the old days, and Mary Smith (Linda Davidson), unforgettable as punky single mum to baby Annie, now all grown up and accompanying her mum to the service, both left within weeks of each other in the spring of 1988, Lofty heartbroken by wife Michelle Fowler aborting his baby in secret, Mary fleeing with Annie to stop her interfering parents taking custody of their grandchild.

Fans can expect some nostalgic blasts from the pasts as the iconic characters reveal what they’ve been up to in the intervening decades, and what dear old Dr Legg meant to them.

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With one foot in the past, Tuesday’s anniversary episode also looks to the future with two new arrivals in the form of sassy sisters Iqra Ahmed (Priya Davdra) and Habiba Ahmed (Rukku Nahar), surprising their uncle Masood Ahmed (Nitin Ganatra), while Karen Taylor (Lorraine Stanley) worries about the safety of son Keanu Taylor (Danny Walters) who no one’s heard from since Phil Mitchell (Steve McFadden) sent him to Spain on a dodgy job…

EastEnders continues Thursday 21 at 7.30pm, but fans take note of a further schedule change on Friday 22 February when it moves to 8.30pm.

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