14 million tune in for 'EastEnders' death

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The Independent Online

More than 14 million viewers watchedEastEnders on Friday night to witness "Dirty" Den Watts being killed off - again.

The audience, which saw Den's wife Chrissie hit him with a doorstop, topped the 12.8 million viewers who watched the Christmas Day episode - traditionally one of the biggest of the year.

Friday's hour-long episode marked the 20th anniversary of the BBC soap. EastEnders bosses hope the story line will revive ratings after a dismal 2004 when viewing figures slumped to a record low. The show's executive producer, Louise Berridge, was sacked and her replacement, Kathleen Hutchison, lasted four months. The rival Coronation Street, on ITV, meanwhile, enjoyed higher ratings and won most of the soap awards.

The BBC is pinning its hopes for a revival on the return of Phil Mitchell and his mother Peggy, played by Steve McFadden and Barbara Windsor, later this year.

An EastEnders spokesman said: "We are very pleased with the figures. It shows viewers have really enjoyed the story of Den's demise."

More than 24 million people watched Dirty Den die the first time at the show's peak in February 1989. The character, played by Leslie Grantham, was brought back in 2003 to boost ratings. But the 57-year-old was last year exposed by a tabloid newspaper, taking part in webcam sex sessions from his dressing-room.

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