TELEVISION / Soap stars search for the after-life

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Is there life after soap? The answer is: yes, if you can establish a niche for yourself in the crowded TV drama market. The most successful have been variations of that old standby, the professional lovable rogue. Since vacating the proprietorship of theQueen Vic as "Dirty Den" Watts on EastEnders, Leslie Grantham has been able to play his trademark rough diamond - first in BBC1's thriller, The Paradise Club, and now in 99-1, Carlton's pacey detective drama that returns tonight for a second seri es.

Nick Berry, another escapee from the Walford pub, represents the brand leader; his laddish policeman on Heartbeat is reported to have made him the highest paid actor on television.

The parade of ex-soap lads knows no end. Chris Ellison, Burnside on The Bill, has broken out of Sun Hill nick to star as a sparky sports promoter in Ellington. Kristian Schmid, Todd from Neighbours, features in the re-make of The Tomorrow People, which started yesterday. And Mark Little, Ramsey Street's Joe Mangel, is enjoying an afterlife as a presenter of The Big Breakfast and, more improbably, as a stand-up comedian.

Others have been less fortunate. Anita Dobson, who played Den's wife Angie on EastEnders, has for obvious reasons been unable to find lovable rogue parts and has stumbled through a string of forgettable dramas. Does anyone remember her hairdressing sitcom, Split Ends? I thought not.