E20

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(From L - R) Naz, Sol, Asher and Stevie

Dum Dum Dum Dum Dum Dum Dum Dum!

Ok, it’s quite hard to mimmick a drumbeat in words but you all know what I’m talking about, right? You know, the drums at the beginning of the Eastenders theme tune.

I’ve never really been a fan of Eastenders. When I was younger I watched it a few times because all my friends did, but I never really enjoyed it that much. I guess it’s just not my programme. To be honest though, I occasionally watch the Christmas and New Year specials. I find them more accessible and because they’re specials, they’re obviously more interesting.

Today, I decided to watch the Eastenders spin-off, E20. I won’t say it disappointed me because I wasn’t really expecting much from it; spin-offs are rarely as good as the originals and I don’t really like the original Eastenders anyway. Probably the main reason why I had such low expectations for it is that it seemed like it was going to be another patronising teen drama that was just a desperate attempt to tap into the ever-so-lucrative teen market.

Last year, the BBC (probably due to the popularity of *Skins) launched a teen drama called The Cut. Like a lot of teen fiction it had its share of problems (probably because it’s written by people who are not teens) but I liked it. It wasn’t too patronising or stereotypical, though it had it’s moments, and it was quite entertaining.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of E20. All right, it wasn’t that bad but it wasn’t anything near what it could, no should have been. It’s nice idea to have a teen drama that’s set in East London because all the ones we have now are set in predominantly white, suburban areas. Correct me if I’m wrong, but The Cut and Skins have only a single black character each and since I’ve been watching Hollyoaks, there’s always only been one fully black person in the village at a time. In Hollyoaks’ defense, it’s not set in a very black area and they have a few people of mixed race.

In E20, two of the four main characters are black and one of them is a Muslim so three quarters of the main cast is a minority. So that’s their minority quota sorted, what about the storylines?

Well of course, there were some clichés e.g. the two black characters are good at street dance but we can’t pretend that the stereotype wasn’t based on a foundation of truth and it’s not a negative stereotype. I was happy that the neither of the black characters were criminals (though one used to be) and Asher (one of the black characters) even denounced knife-crime by throwing one in a bin.

Speaking of stereotypes, they made fun of a few. For example, all the posh white characters were trying to be “gangsta” by calling the black ones ‘bruv’, ‘blud’, and ‘bredrin’. Another example is when the ditzy white girl, Stevie, thought that a Muslim man on a train was a suicide bomber, boldly claiming that Al-Qaeda hypnotise people from Bradford to become terrorists. Also, they made fun of the fact that Stevie couldn’t understand some of the other characters’ slangs. In addition, the white people at a party kept coming up to Sol (a black character) to ask for drugs, assuming he was a dealer.

We were only properly introduced to four characters but I think that there will be more because they focused on another four more than they would if they were only supporting characters.

More characters?

Some of the story was a bit silly but some of it was funny(ish). It was kind of unrealistic how they all became friends in literally five minutes but I guess it could happen. Also, it didn’t exactly make sense how asher managed to seduce a woman into sleeping with him, a woman who wouldn’t sleep with her boyfriend whom she’d been dating for years, by gate-crashing her party, changing the song playing, and pretty much groping her. When he first changed the song, I thought it was going to be one of those cheesy scenes where they start dancing and they suddenly know the steps to an extravagant routine but it was even worse: he just danced with her normally and caressed her provocatively. And no offence to the actor who plays Asher, but ladies men are generally more handsome. I really, really don’t mean that in a bad way. He plays the part well enough and he’s a decent actor.

All in all, I think that E20 could have been a lot better but there’s something that makes me want to watch it again. I don’t know if it’s them or me but I’m going to watch the next episode.

Safe, my bredrin.

*Skins – a popular post-watershed teen drama on channel 4.


Note: It seems I was wrong about E20. The people I thought were new characters are apparently the characters from series 1. I, so it seems, was watching season 2 and the story follows a different set of youths in each series. The characters in the second picture in the post are (in clock wise order) Fatboy, Leon, Mercy and Zsa Zsa. They are now regulars on original Eastenders.

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