Great soap shocks

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Dallas

When Patrick Duffy quit to pursue alternative roles, the scriptwriters killed off his character, Bobby Ewing (above), in a hit-and-run accident that formed the climax of the show's 1986 season. But ratings fell, and at the end of the next series Duffy returned, Bobby's death (and the ensuing 26 episodes) being explained away as the rather lengthy dream of his wife, Pam.

The Archers

Grace Archer, in the mother all of violent soap deaths, was burnt to a crisp in a stable fire, traumatising the nation for days. The night on which it was broadcast - 22 September 1955 - was the night ITV went on air, and the BBC was accused of trying to spoil its launch with the storyline.

In 1994, the death of Mark Hebden in a car crash was also greeted with much dismay, and a BBC spokesman revealed that many listeners had phoned in to suggest other characters they would rather have had killed off.

EastEnders

Last month a gay kiss between Tony (Mark Homer) and Simon (Andrew Lynford) was shown more than an hour before the 9pm watershed, but had been cut from an original two seconds to a mere half-second. While a BBC spokesman insisted that regular viewers would not be surprised by the scene - which came after months of soul-searching on Tony's part - an insider said: "There are viewers who won't be expecting to see this kind of material at that time and the BBC doesn't want to startle them."

Nine years ago, EastEnders showed British soap's first gay kiss, between Colin (Michael Cashman) and his boyfriend, Barry, and last year sent bedsit- sharers Binnie and Della off to explore their emergent lesbian feelings in Ibiza.

Brookside

Last month the show screened the first scenes of incest in British soap history, the culmination of a three-month storyline in which brother and sister Nat (John Sandford) and Georgia (Helen Grace) tried to contain their mutual desire.

In 1994, it broadcast British soap's first lesbian kiss, between best friends Beth (Anna Friel) and Margaret (Nicola Stephenson). And, last year, the trial of Beth and her mother Mandy for the "body under the patio" murder was sensationally stretched over five consecutive nights, and "guilty" and "not guilty" verdicts were filmed to maintain plot secrecy. When the pair were found guilty, a group of women's rights campaigners picketed the Liverpool offices of producer Phil Redmond.

Emmerdale

Zoe Tate (Leah Bracknell) was revealed as a lesbian as part of the soap's inclination towards racier and more controversial (rating-boosting) storylines. The same year, scriptwriters decimated the show's cast by blowing up a plane over the village, prompting accusations of insensitivity towards those bereaved in the Lockerbie disaster exactly five years earlier.

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