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Last Updated: Monday, 29 October 2007, 15:16 GMT
The great British soap comeback

By Michael Osborn
Entertainment reporter, BBC News

Bianca and Ricky Butcher
Bianca's on-screen husband Ricky was played by Sid Owen

The news that Patsy Palmer and Sid Owen are returning to EastEnders to play Bianca Jackson and Ricky Butcher is the latest in a series of great British soap comebacks.

Some much-loved characters have made their dramatic farewells only to make their presence felt again years later.

Stephen Murphy, editor of Inside Soap magazine, says returning characters offer advantages to both the serial and soap actor.

"The comeback gives you a lot of publicity, and the episode itself gets lots of viewers, and brings back lapsed ones," he explains.

"These are characters the public loves and you can tell great stories with them - you're immediately onto a winner.

"Returning actors are likely to get a fair whack of cash, it's a job they're familiar with and they get renewed exposure - it's a safe bet."

In recent years, some comebacks have provided a dramatic boost to soaps, while others have proved less successful.

DEN WATTS - EASTENDERS

Den Watts in 2003
Den Watts' return was a shock to daughter Sharon

Original EastEnders character and Queen Vic landlord "Dirty" Den Watts made a dramatic return to Albert Square in 2003 after his apparent death in 1989.

Watts (Leslie Grantham) was reunited with son Dennis and daughters Sharon and Vicki, while his wife Chrissie made an her entrance in Walford.

True to character, Den became embroiled with the younger Zoe Slater, and made enemies around the square.

His demise came at the hands of Chrissie and the murder weapon was Pauline Fowler's doorstop - this time it was for good and he was buried in the pub store room.

Some critics called Den's return from the grave unrealistic, while his initial return - in which his opening line was "'ello princess" to daughter Sharon - drew 16 million viewers.

BET GILROY - CORONATION STREET

Bet Gilroy
Bet's return proved to be short-lived

Legendary Coronation Street barmaid and landlady Bet Gilroy returned to the cobbles of Weatherfield in 2002 after a break of seven years.

Actress Julie Goodyear swept back into the Rovers Return clad in trademark animal-print coat and gaudy earrings.

Just weeks after rejoining, Goodyear quit the show due to exhaustion - but producers refused to kill off the popular character.

She returned for 10 episodes in 2003 set in Blackpool in a storyline which also saw the return of Liz and Jim McDonald.

KIM TATE - EMMERDALE

Claire King, who played Kim Tate
Kim Tate returned from the dead

Emmerdale "superbitch" Kim Tate created a stunning comeback after faking her own death in 1997.

It came as a shock to husband Frank, who had served time in prison for her murder.

While her temporary disappearance gave actress Claire King a chance for a well-earned break, it boosted the ratings of the Yorkshire-based soap.

Tate departed Emmerdale in 1999 after committing her second murder - and has remained on the run ever since.

TRACY BARLOW - CORONATION STREET

Tracy Barlow
Tracy Barlow's return culminated in a long stretch in jail

Coronation Street's Tracy Barlow returned to the show in 2002, played by Kate Ford, the fourth actress to take on the role.

Deirdre's daughter came back to wreak havoc on her family and friends, in a run that included passing off her unborn child as meek cafe owner Roy Cropper's.

She also became embroiled in a bitter feud with love rival Karen McDonald.

Her comeback culminated in her killing boyfriend Charlie Stubbs and being found guilty of his murder.

MITCHELL BROTHERS - EASTENDERS

Phil and Grant Mitchell
The Mitchells first appeared in EastEnders in 1990

The return of EastEnders hardnut Grant Mitchell (Ross Kemp) in 2005 restored a formidable double act to the soap.

His elder, equally bald brother Phil (Steve McFadden) had already returned to the fray after an absence, joining their mother Peggy back in the Queen Vic.

The pair also joined forces to free their sister Sam, wrongfully imprisoned for the murder of Den Watts.

After dumping his Brazilian wife Carla and having a fling with Ian Beale's partner Jane, Grant left for Portugal.

While Grant has not been on screen since 2006, Phil has remained in the series and taken part in some major storylines.



SEE ALSO
Owen to join Palmer in EastEnders
30 Oct 07 |  Entertainment
Palmer making EastEnders comeback
29 Oct 07 |  Entertainment

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