on the box

the 24seven guide

Ex-soap stars are bubbling up all over the schedules at the moment. Nick Berry, who played Wicksy in EastEnders, returns on Sunday in the lead of Heartbeat (ITV, right), the role that recently reaffirmed him as television's highest-paid actor. His former colleague, Letitia Dean, is also making the big leap from behind the bar of the Queen Vic with The Hello Girls, an eight-part BBC1 drama about 1950s telephonists, starting next Thursday. Yet another renegade from Albert Square, Mike Reid, is this week presenting The Terrace (BBC1), a new twice-weekly daytime show about DIY. Meanwhile, Anna Friel, who grabbed the headlines as child-abuse- victim-lesbian-murderer Beth Jordache on Brookside, moves from medieval Shrewsbury (the setting of the episode of Cadfael she starred in last week) to modern-day Moscow for The Stringer. In Paul Pawlikowski's new BBC film, about to start shooting in Russia, she plays a British journalist who becomes the object of the affections of a local Muscovite teenager (Sergei Bodrov Jr). It just goes to show that there is life after soap.

Soap stars are also seeping slowly but surely into game shows. The new series of Dale Winton's camp classic, Supermarket Sweep, begins on Monday on ITV with a celebrity edition featuring actors from Emmerdale and EastEnders (again) going wild in the aisles. Soapsters seem to be spending so much time making "special guest star"-type appearances, the landlords of the Woolpack and the Queen Vic must be worried about falling takings.

Our slavering for the supernatural shows no show of abating. Surfing the wave of X Files-inspired fashion, Out of This World, the Carol Vorderman- hosted investigation of the paranormal, ghosted into BBC1's Top Five for the week ending 4 August. Ratcheting up more than eight million viewers, it was ahead of anything the Olympics had to offer during those seven days. As Dame Edna, and many others of us, would put it: spooky.

JAMES RAMPTON

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