Saturday, 16 May 2009

Is Emmerdale Today The Same As Emmerdale Farm In The 1980s?

'80s incomer Alan Turner (Richard Thorp), who first appeared in March 1982.

Moggy has written to ask if I think the modern day Emmerdale serial is the same, in terms of style and story-line content, as Emmerdale Farm in the 1980s?

No, is the simple answer. Life changes and soaps evolve. The Emmerdale Farm of the 1980s was not the Emmerdale Farm of 1972-1979, and the Emmerdale of the 1990s was not the Emmerdale Farm of the 1980s, and the Emmerdale of the early 2000s is not the Emmerdale of the 1990s.

Tastes change, soaps have to change with them.

For instance, in the '72-79 era, Emmerdale Farm had a few outlandish storylines: the vicar's son was arrested for gun running in Athens, tramp-like wanderer Dry Hogben turned out to be stinking rich and on the run from his responsibilities, and Sam Pearson worried that one of his forebears was a witch. There were a few other such "oddball" storylines. But these was very much in keeping with the style of soaps back then. Viewers wanted a bit of escapism, a touch of the incredible in their soaps.

The '72-'79 show was also largely centred around older people: teenagers - like Rosemary Kendall - tended to be passing through.

In the 1980s, the show became grittier, more down to earth, faster moving, and more political - the anti-nuclear storyline of 1987 was hailed as a major step forward in the politicisation of soap operas by some, but as anti-government propaganda by others. There were permanent youth characters, an expanding cast, and more graphic and racy scenes - which had a mixed reception. In 1989, the decision was taken to edge farming out of the storyline to some degree and so "Farm" was dropped from the show's title.

The 1990s were a positive riot - with the glorious camp bitchery of Kim Tate and indeed the whole saga of the Tate family, a family very much at war. Once again, the show was keeping up with the times - much influenced by '80s era American soaps, like Dallas and Dynasty. Spectacular disasters - like the 1993 plane crash - altered the village landscape and viewers' perceptions of the show forever.

And so on to the current day.

If the Emmerdale of today was the same in style and content as the Emmerdale Farm of the 1980s, then I doubt it would be attracting viewers. Even EastEnders, which actually began in the 1980s, is not the same show it was back then. Viewers of the early 21st Century want different things from their soaps than the viewers of the 1980s did.

So, Moggy, I must say no, modern day Emmerdale is not the same show as 1980s Emmerdale Farm. I think anybody sitting down to watch, say, an episode of Emmerdale Farm from 1986, and then an episode of Emmerdale from 2009, would see the truth of what I'm saying.

Life moves on, soap moves on. This also applies to Coronation Street, EastEnders, etc.


  1. Anonymous16.5.09

    Well just to avoid confusion, I'd say it is the same show, but different if you know what I mean. In short, it's still Emmerdale, like Coronation Street is still Coronation Street, etc.

  2. Anonymous16.5.09

    You're right - Emmerdale Farm in the 1980s had its own distinctive flavour, just as it had in other decades. I loved 1989-1997 best of all. Although 1989 was very different to 1997!

  3. It's not the same show at all. In the 80's, Emmerdale Farm was aimed at mature adults. Today's Emmerdale is aimed at evil, blood thirsty sensation seekers

  4. Anonymous16.5.09

    Emmerdale is good at moving with the times yet still retains that old rural feel. The village of Emmerdale is very attractive and pretty, and very old fashioned. Much of the decor of the Woolpack and house interiors is Victorian or Edwardian looking, and reminds me of the old days of Emmerdale Farm.

    Nowadays, people in Yorkshire villages dont get that quiet rural life as they used to. A lot of the time you hear of fires, car crashes, storms, rivalry and fights, and some are in nice villages. I think Emmerdale is more down to earth than Coronation Street and EastEnders.

    Emmerdale is the best for continity of old characters. Edna, Turner and Pollard are the only ones who knew Amos and Mr Wilks so the reason why they are not mentioned too often is because they have been gone from the show for ages and hardly anyone in Beckindale knew them. Val mentioned Amos and Mr Wilks at Jack’s funeral wake in the Woolpack and she never knew them.

    Seth is quite often mentioned by Betty, Annie by Diane, Dave Glover got a mention, and Mark Hughes did earlier this year. Edna mentioned Amos and Annie. Jack is constantly talked about. Turner even mentioned Jacob Sugdens funeral recently. It wont be long before Silent Walter is bought up in a conversation by someone.

    The plane crash was mentioned in 2003, 2007, 2008 and again last year and robably countless other times inbetween 1994 and 2003.

  5. Al Dixon... I've been loving the 1980-1985 Walter episodes! The plane crash... I did not like that story-line at all. Phil Redmond was wonderful for bringing about Brookside in 1982, but not a natural Emmerdale person IMHO.

  6. Anonymous16.5.09

    Al Dixon was an actor by trade anyway wasn't he - Although he was regarded as an extra I assumed he got paid the same as all the other actors in the show at the time.

  7. Emmerdale isn't Emmerdale Farm and that's that. People who insist it is need to get a life.

  8. Let's keep things civil, please!

  9. Anonymous16.5.09

    One of the main problems people had with the plane crash storyline was that it was dragged out over too many episodes, about 7 or 8 I think. I thought the storm 10 years later was handled much better over 2 episodes.

  10. Anonymous16.5.09

    So anything up to 9 November 1989 is regarded as separate to anything 14 November 1989 onwards?

  11. Al Dixon was a performer of many years standing... from the days of Fred Musson's Select Entertainers to his arrival as Walter in Emmerdale Farm in September 1980, he saw many changes in the entertainment world. He became a cult as Walter. In 1983, a viewers' campaign began to allow Walter to speak - but Mr Dixon didn't think it was a good idea as the character wouldn't be a novelty any more!

  12. I thought the plane crash was in the worst possible taste. A huge mistake.

  13. "So anything up to 9 November 1989 is regarded as separate to anything 14 November 1989 onwards?"

    I've certainly never said that, Bryan. Nor do I think it's true.

  14. I think so. Emmerdale was the start of a whole new ethos.

  15. Pac-Man16.5.09

    The vicar's son was arrested for gun running in Athens in the 1970s? What a pathetic plot! LOL!!! Emmerdale did become more realistic in the 1980s from what I remember. And now it's pie in the sky again.

  16. Re: modern Emmerdale and the 1980s:

    It's not the same today - but it's linked very much to the 1980s: two of today's central characters, Turner and Pollard, were introduced in the 1980s.

  17. Anonymous18.5.09

    And The Woolpack is still a key feature of the show.

  18. Anonymous18.5.09

    Sometimes it's hard to tell where some of the properties used in the 80s are supposed to be in the new village, or the site where the old Emmerdale Farm used to be - I guess viewers just have to use their imagination.

  19. Pac-Man18.5.09

    I still can't get over the vicar's son being arrested in Athens for gun running in the 1970s. What a load of turd!

  20. Anonymous18.5.09

    Didn't Coronation Street do similar daft things, like Ken Barlow arrested for protesting against Vietnam. Seems soaps relied heavily on escapism back then.

  21. Crossroads certainly did similar daft things! :)

  22. Ken protesting against Vietnam was political and realistic, as was the anti-nuke Emmerdale story of 1987. If ONLY soaps would be political again!

  23. Anonymous9.10.12

    Ken was arrested in the 1960s.