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Death In Emmerdale

June 8, 2011

from our sister site (yeah right) Cathode Rage (like Swine but all about the telly n’ shit)….

Whilst the death of some soap characters such as Jack Duckworth only makes me laugh, last night’s episode of Emmerdale had me in tears and I’m not ashamed to admit that the death of tetraplegic, Jackson was one of the most moving scenes I’ve ever seen in any soap over the past 30 years. Far from being just another sensationalist ‘taboo topic’ that most soaps churn out in a bid for ratings, the euthanasia issue has been handled by Emmerdale producers with great sensitivity and restraint. Much of the credit for this must go to the actors ofcourse, Marc Silcock as Jackson, Danny Miller as his boyfriend, Aaron and Pauline Quirk as mother, Hazel. Yes, that’s right; Pauline Quirk! No longer the ‘former Birds Of A Feather’ funny girl, Pauline Quirk’ but perhaps ‘Bafta Winning Actress Pauline Quirk’ because her recent performances have been a revelation.

For those of you unfamiliar with life on the farm, the old days of sheep dip spillages and Amos Brierley are long gone. No, Emmerdale is set firmly in the 21st century with only a few characters actually decked out in Barbours and wellies. I’ve only been a regular viewer for a few years myself but have been impressed by the way in which they have tackled two storylines in particular; Aaron’s homosexuality and Jackson’s ‘assisted suicide.’ They also have their fair share of ludicrous love triangles, serial killers, oversexed teens and gossiping fogeys and to a large extent the tone and content of Emmerdale is as unrealistic and contrived as any other soap. However, like Eastenders and unlike Corry, it has a handful of supremely gifted actors who, when given the right material, can transform the programme from Harold Steptoe to Harold Pinter.

The brooding Danny Miller is one of these and it was his struggle with his sexuality that proved a refreshing alternative to the usual soap storylines. Aaron is after all, a Dingle, the village’s ASBO family and so unable to cope with the consequences of coming out, Aaaron lashed out at those who loved him. Miller’s performance was a finely tuned picture of macho denial mixed with suicidal despair and the producers and writers gave the much needed element of time to develop the plot over a long period rather than go for the easy resolutions or tragedies of the soap format. It was Aaron’s tense relationship with Jackson and his own unresolved anger that resulted in Jackson’s terrible injuries and once again, the Emmerdale producers have allowed Jackson’s despair to develop over many months allowing Quirk and Miller to struggle believably with the desire of a loved one to end their life.

Silcock’s performance has also been magnificent throughout, a masterclass in unshowy emotion. Unable to move any part of his body apart from his head, most of the acting has been done with his eyes and his final scene was virtually unwatchable, such was the sheer emotion of these make-believe lives. Yes, we know it’s a fiction, we understand that Silcock isn’t really a tetraplegic and Pauline Quirk isn’t really his mum, but the question ‘what would I do under the same circumstances?’ distanced it by a million miles from the recent John Stape murder story on Corry or the baby swap plot in EastEnders.

Emmerdale’s reinvention has its downsides. The opening sequence now features a top of the range Range Rover driving along country lanes as a montage of various tableaux moves across the screen; a female foot rubbing a male leg under a Woolpack pub table for example. They have a modern new typeface and some very sexy young actresses who wouldn’t be out of place in Hollyoaks but when all’s said and done, they’re still sponsored by Tombola on-line bingo. The advertisers know who the demogrpahic is and it sure aint Harrogate toffs but the very kind of Doncaster doggers who appear in the Tombola ‘seaside trip’ trailers; cheesysocksniffer and chums!

Still, for all its daft storylines, there’s always something to redeem it and the downs syndrome baby soryline is sure to develop into another well paced and moving study in parenthood and prejudice. Even Paddy The Vet is being allowed to act, really act, for once and more than any other ‘popular drama’ on tv these days, Emmerdale can be trusted not to sensationlise or trivialise a plot as potentially contentious as this.


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