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Wednesday, 25 July, 2001, 16:40 GMT 17:40 UK
EastEnders gets fourth episode
Sharon (left) with new-look long hair
Sharon was recently reinstalled at the Queen Vic
EastEnders is to go out four nights a week with a new Friday night episode, raising the stakes in the current soap ratings war.

The BBC One soap will now air on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Fridays, with its usual omnibus on Sunday.

Its first showing in the new slot will see it go head-to-head with ITV's Coronation Street.

The additional visit to Albert Square will begin on 10 August in a regular time slot of 2000 GMT, a day when Coronation Street has been put back to make way for an extended Emmerdale.

But ITV bosses have criticised the BBC's scheduling, claiming it is unfair on viewers.

ITV's director of programmes David Liddiment said: "Many people enjoy both EastEnders and Coronation Street - why would the BBC want to reduce viewer choice in this way?

"It's very unfortunate and totally unnecessary. No one wins and the viewers lose most of all."
The Who Shot Phil Mitchell? storyline gripped the nation

There had been intense speculation about a new episode to compete with Coronation Street, which also airs four times a week.

There had been suggestions a fourth EastEnders episode could go up against ITV's new Premiership football programme on Saturday evenings.

Court drama

The continuing storyline sparked by the shooting of Phil Mitchell will be used to boost the fourth episode as Dan Sullivan appears in court charged with attempting to kill his rival.

Viewers already know that it was Phil's ex-girlfriend Lisa who pulled the trigger, but Phil is trying to frame Dan.

The cliffhanger will be whether a jury convicts him of the crime.

Pauline Fowler
Pauline Fowler has been in the soap since the beginning

BBC One controller Lorraine Heggessey said on Wednesday: "The BBC is incredibly proud of EastEnders.

"Quality popular drama is one of the lynchpins of BBC One and a fourth episode of EastEnders will annually introduce an additional 26 hours of sharp, relevant, well acted and brilliantly written drama into the schedule.

"It's every controller's dream. The addition of this episode to the schedule will provide a strong launchpad for many of the other innovative and exciting projects currently in production as a result of the increased funding that BBC One has recently received."

The first episode will be preceded by an hour-long celebration of the show called EastEnders: It's Your Party, reuniting old and new cast members - focusing on the characters of Peggy Mitchell, Sharon Watts, Ian Beale, Pauline Fowler and Pat Evans.

The soap will be followed by Alistair McGowan's Big 'Enders, a 30-minute special from the impressionist.

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