US denied Dirty Den as BBC America pulls 'EastEnders'

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The Independent Online

A transatlantic row has developed after the BBC, with little or no warning, axed EastEnders from its viewing schedule in the US.

Thousands of American viewers were left furious after BBC America pulled the plug on the series last Saturday after more than five years of programmes following the fortunes of the fictitious east London square. Because US scheduling was always about three weeks behind that of Britain, the final episode viewers saw was of Phil Mitchell's somewhat tumultuous wedding celebrations.

"What about loyalty? I am very disappointed and very shocked that they have done this," said Russell George, a Washington-based federal employee who contacted The Independent to complain. "I have been watching EastEnders for more than a decade, first on PBS (Public Broadcasting Service) which was four years behind, then on BBC America."

Informed that he would be missing the return to Albert Square of the supposedly deceased pub owner Dirty Den - who was reunited with British viewers on Monday with the words "Ello, Princess", Mr George, 39, said he intended to complain to the British Ambassador, Sir David Manning, and the cultural office.

"It's unbelievable," he said. "The reason they did not tell us in advance was that they knew we would lobby them to keep it on. You cannot imagine how strongly people feel about this."

BBC America, a digital cable channel funded by advertising which aims to provide US viewers with "razor-sharp comedies, ground-breaking movies, provocative dramas, and news with a uniquely global perspective", said its decision was the result of the show's poor viewing figures. It will be replaced by At Home With the Braithwaites, Monarch of the Glen and Cash in the Attic.

A message on the BBC America website, said: "We regret to inform you BBC America is ceasing to air EastEnders. We would like to thank those loyal fans who have supported this great show from the beginning."