Back came the question, "Who's having a row?" and suddenly I realized: I didn't know who, but there's always someone having a row, or having a go at someone else, or cheating on their partner, or plotting something.
Wherever you go in soapland, there's always sour looks and mean deeds.
Now there's an acronym in the world of computer programming: GIGO, which means 'garbage in, garbage out'.
If you input erroneous data your results won't suddenly become Nobel Prizewinning stuff. If your programme is corrupted, don't expect it to run.
And it is often assumed that the same applies in the world of home entertainment. If someone constantly watches violent horror films, it is hardly likely to have an edifying effect. If they are addicted to violent pornography, not only is there something suspect about their inner workings, but they are likely to be exacerbating, rather than helping, the problem.
So why do we assume TV soaps are any different?
Of course there is the excuse, they're not real life. They just exaggerate the kind of things that go on in real life for entertainment.
True, but there are other things that go on in real life, that don't get exaggerated for entertainment in the soaps. There's heroism, there's self-sacrifice, there's kindness and helpfulness.
According to a report in the Daily Mail, Pam St Clement, who used to pay Pat Butcher in East Enders, voiced something of the same concern: I'm not too sure that one little area of London has quite so much violence and adultery as ours does," she is quoted as saying, adding, "Maybe in the search to be over [sic] more interesting we are always pinning stories on things that are ever more 'out there', rather than remembering that good stories are about what happens in people's hearts and in their relationships."
But as we know, in their efforts to be 'out there', soap writers have aimed to be opinion shapers on the subjects of death, sexuality and so on, as well as entertainers. Yet if they believe they can shape opinions, would they deny they can shape a 'mood'?
When I was a schoolboy, our deputy head always seemed to end the last assembly of every academic year with a reading from St Paul's letter to the Philippians, ending with these words: "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things."
It was meant as a moral exhortation, and by constant repetition it must have got through even my schoolboy skull. And there's a double lesson in itself.
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