FOR SOME weeks, it had been rumoured that the BBC1 soap opera EastEnders, which has suffered serious ratings losses, was preparing to reveal a secret weapon. Yesterday, it was announced that the series, in its struggle for recovery, has gone for bust. The famously buxom and punning former Carry On actress, Barbara Windsor, will join the cast in the autumn.
She will play Peggy Mitchell, the mother of the psychopathic Mitchell brothers, Grant and Phil. The parentage of the brothers - who have been involved in wife-beating, adultery, arson, robbery and an armed siege - has so far been a mystery.
The Windsor initiative seems to be a direct response to suggestions that EastEnders has become too gloomy: a view heavily advanced by Roy Hattersley, former deputy leader of the Labour Party, and fan of the BBC series' rival on ITV, Coronation Street.
Certainly, Miss Windsor has been associated throughout her career with the lighter touch. Apart from her celebrated cleavage, she was most associated in the Carry On series with humorous double- entendres. Whenever possible, her late co-star, Sid James, would make the comment 'nice pair', referring to a duo of antique clocks, or something similar, and Miss Windsor would respond: 'Cheeky devil]'
Whether this comic style will be required of her by EastEnders is unclear. Realistically, her discovery of Grant and Phil's terrible lives would rapidly wipe the smile off her face. But the show's producers may also be banking on her authentic background. She was born in 1937 in Shoreditch, in the East End of London.
Rumours that Roy Hattersley himself will be the next celebrity addition to EastEnders - as a jolly Yorkshire immigrant cheering up the gloomy residents of Albert Square - were yesterday played down by the BBC.
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