Surging forward to grab the ratings

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The Independent Culture
You may not know much about the National Grid, but it knows a surprising amount about you and your viewing habits. Take the soap wars. Official audience figures for the latest phase in the battle - reruns of EastEnders (10.05 every morning, Fridays at 7.30pm) versus the original Brookside (6.30pm, UK Living) - may be "not yet available", but the National Grid knows.

"Neither the normal episodes of Brookside nor the repeated shows lead to TV pick-ups," explains Dianne Owen, the Grid's press officer. Pick- ups are the surges in electricity that occur "at the end of a popular show, when people who have been watching get up and make tea. EastEnders and Coronation Street cause pick-ups of 6-800MW on average. And a megawatt is the equivalent of 400 jug kettles". So now you know. "They've got a TV in the National Control Room which enables them to marry exactly the TV pick-ups to when the credits start rolling."

Unforgettable EastEnders does cause a surge - about 200MW - but Brookside only registered for the "body under the patio" episode (900MW).

Historic pick-ups of our time: in 1994 when EastEnders and Corrie broadcast episodes which finished at the same time, the third highest surge ever was recorded. The highest? The 1990 World Cup semi-final - England v W Germany - 2,800MW. The second highest? The last episode of The Thornbirds in 1984 (2,600MW) held the record for six years. And you thought no one would find out.

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