Outside Edge: Jim White meets the fans who are determined not to let Eldorado die

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The Independent Culture
'IT'S LUDICROUS,' yells Gwen Lamb, hoarse with shouting her point of view at anyone who will listen and many who won't. 'Scandalous. A massive mistake. I've told him he has two choices: relent or resign. I want his head on a plate. And I'm telling you, I'll get it.'

Gwen Lamb is unhappy with Alan Yentob, the controller of BBC 1, who has made the decision to scrap Eldorado. So incensed by this is Ms Lamb she has started a campaign to save the show. It may seem about as likely as a popular movement to return Norman Lamont to Number 11, but Ms Lamb reckons she has numbers on her side. 'I've just come from the dentist,' she bellows from her home in Middlesbrough. 'There were three women talking about it in the waiting room, saying how sorry they were. They didn't know what to do, so I told them to write to Alan Yentob. The receptionist said she'd write too, so I waited for her to put pen to paper there and then.'

And Ms Lamb is not the only one to have started a movement. From south London, Barry Thomson already has a 450-strong campaign, and several thousand signatures on a petition. 'Yentob picked what he thought was an easy target,' Mr Thomson says. 'One man shouldn't have so much power to make so many people so miserable.'

Miserable? Surely no one will miss Eldorado anymore than they mourned the departure of Nationwide or Wogan? 'Give over,' said Gwen Lamb. 'It is absolutely bloody electric. It transports you for half an hour into a dream world of romance and skulduggery.' Barry Thomson agrees. 'It is an innocent escape from rigours of daily life,' he says.

Gwen Lamb has taken to phoning Mr Yentob's office four times a day. 'My voice is my weapon,' she explains. 'I've got a deafening voice. I can give off 200 words a minute that defy interruption.' So far, perhaps wisely, Mr Yentob's switch-board operators have failed to connect her. Indeed, Mr Yentob is not keen to talk about the programme to anyone, but a BBC spokesperson said: 'We have now finished filming Eldorado so this campaign has rather missed the boat. We have not, as far as I know, had many complaints aside from this rather pointless orchestrated campaign. The March to May average viewing figures for the programme were about five million. That may sound a lot, but bear in mind it is peak time so we'd be looking at 10 million in order to sustain the financial commitment for a second year. Compare five million to 16.5 million for EastEnders.'

One possible face-saving escape for all concerned is to give Eldorado the breathing space afforded Neighbours in Australia. The Ramsey Street epic, hideously mauled when it first appeared on the screens there, was taken off for three months, sorted out and re-launched to plenty of 'it's-not-as-bad-as-we- thought' publicity. That, however, looks about as likely to happen as Gwen Lamb's idea that Channel 4 might buy Eldorado.

'Michael Grade wasn't interested,' she reveals. 'He said he didn't want to be touched by others' failure. And in the meantime they're killing the show as best they can. It wasn't even on last Friday lunchtime because they had this stupid cricket on. That's kicking us in the teeth, that is.'

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