Relax EastEnders fans, the man who brought your favourite soap to its knees is history. Executive Producer Sean O’Connor checked out of Elstree Studios with his tail between his legs, spinning yarns about movies and one year plans that made about as much sense as the plots he oversaw. Rumours of bullying are rife, a delicious irony when you consider the never-ending Mads and Alexandra storyline he inflicted upon the fans. More on that later.
What will O’Connor’s legacy be? Well to put it bluntly – Ronnie and Roxy’s death! When fans refer to his year in charge, the demise of the Mitchell sisters will be on the tips of their tongues. Your average fan doesn’t give a toss about poor story structure and bad characterisation; why should they? Not when the ineffectual O’Connor has given them such an easy target to focus on. Yet the reality is he has inflicted damage on nearly every character he has presided over. Consider these three examples:
Once the benchmark for honest men everywhere, Mick was changed under SOC. He became a borderline alcoholic who allowed his own Mother to go to prison because he couldn’t handle it. Not to mention his once faithful alpha male attitude was swapped for a sleazy storyline, where Mick kicked out his mentally ill son, in order to play Mummies and Daddies with his daughter in law Whitney.
Does this even need addressing? Chelle was a popular character during the glorious 90’s period who had went onto pastures new. Yet within a few months of his appointment, the bold SOC was announcing her return and purring about how great this recast Michelle was. He neglected to mention that Jenna Russell, who replaced Sue Tully, was completely miscast and out her depth. That poor decision, combined with bad writing, forever tarnished Michelle as a shady paedophile who targeted a school kid she taught.
Perhaps the worst crime on Mr O’Connor’s charge sheet is his treatment of Dirty Den’s adopted daughter. Under Sean’s stewardship, Shaz went from proper EastEnd to proper s****! Somehow the character who thrice owned the Vic was deemed not worthy to pick the skelfs out the wooden Woody Woodward’s backside. Sharon found herself the biggest defender of a woman who slapped her son during an argument about sleeping with teenage pupils. This was followed by the concealment of her step-daughter’s alleged rape.
The above cases are raw examples but there remains a suspicion that the cast knew exactly what O’Connor was up to. This charlatan posing as a competent EP was telling fans he wanted to copy Julia Smith and Tony Holland’s vision, while moulding the show into his own warped image. The fact anyone bought it was a surpise to most of us, who long since saw the soap becoming a vehicle for every social issue it was possible to squeeze in. Bullying, Innefective Councils, Racism. It was all great in theory. Pity it was handled with all the delicateness of Phil Mitchell trying to be diplomatic.
EastEnders handling of the Denise/foodbank/GCSE storyline also confirmed what most of us had long suspected; that Sean O’Connor was out of touch with the very society he intended to showcase. Choosing the wrong character to visit a foodbank was bad enough, but for some reason, the GCSE became Albert Square’s McGuffin . Viewers were half expecting Indiana Jones to swing by and recover it before Denise could lay her hands on it. Thankfully she managed to pass her exam and avoid starvation in the process.
Just as Sean O’Connor harked back to his bullying storyline, let’s address rumours that he was making certain cast members lives a misery. Without proper evidence, one cannot say for sure. However we can speculate… (take note Mr Lindsay of Metro)
If Sean was indeed throwing his weight around then it certainly explains a lot – Steve McFadden’s absence, Danny Dyer’s meltdown and the cast looking visibly bored onscreen suddenly become clearer. There is no smoke without fire and his departure has been welcomed by fans, writers and those closest to the show.
Now it’s left to the legendary John Yorke to repair the damage. Let’s hope the BBC are equipping him with the necessary tools needed to get on with the job. EastEnders can ill afford another stint in the wilderness.
What are your thoughts on Sean O’Connor? Let me know in the comments below.
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