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Friday, 10 August, 2001, 22:44 GMT 23:44 UK
Soaps battle in TV showdown
Rival soaps EastEnders and Coronation Street have faced their first Friday night showdown as EastEnders begins screening four times a week.

BBC One broadcast EastEnders at 8pm, clashing with ITV's Coronation Street, which moved from its usual 7.30pm slot to make way for an hour-long episode of Emmerdale.

Viewing figures for the soap clash will not be released until next week, although the National Grid said on Friday the eagerly awaited head-to-head failed to produce a huge power surge.

But bosses of both dramas made sure that fans had a difficult choice of which one to watch with edge of the seat storylines in both soaps.

In EastEnders the drama of Mel's kidnap continued as Dan made a ransom demand of 100,000 from both Steve and Phil.

But Corrie hit back with the unfolding story of runaways Roy and Hayley who are avoiding the authorities after bolting to protect their foster son Wayne.

One-off clash

Although bookmakers are taking bets on which will come out on top, the excitement will be short-lived.

The clash is likely to be a one-off as Coronation Street has been broadcast at 7.30pm on a Friday since 1996, and EastEnders will go out at 8pm.

The Street's Tracy Shaw
The Street's Tracy Shaw is rival female talent to Tamzin Outhwaite

The BBC announced that EastEnders was increasing from three to four nights a week in July.

If followed intense speculation about a new episode to compete with Coronation Street.

But ITV bosses criticised the BBC's initial 10 August scheduling for the first fourth episode as being 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?"

The BBC insisted it had always had its eye on the 8pm slot and that the moving of Coronation Street to a later time on that date was coincidence.

The decision to go four times a week has been welcomed by EastEnders cast members.


Wendy Richard, who has played Pauline Fowler since the first episode, told BBC One's Breakfast that she thought the extra episode was inevitable.

"I remember when we were going to go three nights a week, people said: 'Oh, I don't know'.

"But it was just a matter a course that we would go four times a week - and we are coping with it."

Todd Carty: "It's what the fans want."

Todd Carty, who has played Pauline's son Mark Fowler for 11 years, said he was expecting to do a lot more work because of the extra show.

"It will involve a lot more hours but we are just going to have to bite every bullet that comes towards us," he told the BBC.

But Carty added that he knew the fourth episode would please the show's viewers.

"We knew it was coming. It has been very heavily researched and it is what the EastEnders fans want," he said.

Bets on

Stars from Coronation Street were unavailable for comment.

Bookmakers have EastEnders as favourite to win the ratings battle on Friday.

The action in Albert Square carries odds of 2/5 compared with 7/4 for the events in Weatherfield.

While the Street was preceded by award-winning soap Emmerdale, Friday's EastEnders followed an hour-long celebration of the show called EastEnders: It's Your Party.

The show reunited old and new cast members - focusing on the characters of Peggy Mitchell, Sharon Watts, Ian Beale, Pauline Fowler and Pat Evans.

The BBC's Julie Etchingham
"The producers are stretching it one day a week further"
Actress Wendy Richards who plays Pauline Fowler
"We are just coping with it"
Is there too much soap?
Psychiatrist Sandra Scott and BBC soap boss Mal Young talk about their appeal
See also:

27 Feb 01 | Entertainment
ITV attracts 'wealthy audience'
02 Mar 01 | Entertainment
EastEnders brings record ratings
22 Mar 01 | TV and Radio
The ups and downs of TV ratings
16 Feb 00 | Entertainment
Happy Birthday EastEnders
19 Feb 01 | Entertainment
First month laurels to ITV
28 May 00 | Entertainment
EastEnders cleans up soap awards
16 Jul 01 | TV and Radio
Home and Away returns
25 Jul 01 | TV and Radio
EastEnders gets fourth episode
26 May 01 | TV and Radio
Street stars face pay cut
22 May 01 | TV and Radio
Queen honours Street stalwart
08 Dec 00 | Entertainment
40 years on the Street
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