Bryan Kirkwood - latest on Kat and Ronnie storyline

Friday 7 January 2011, 15:23

Lou Lou

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In response to some of the comments regarding the current Ronnie and Kat storyline, Executive Producer Bryan Kirkwood has written the following blog post about the decision to conclude the storyline in the Spring:

EastEnders has a long tradition of dealing with social issues in a powerful and dramatic way. In its 25 years it has tackled many taboo subjects from HIV to paedophilia, matching drama with public service in a way that has continually kept it as one of the most talked about shows on television.

When we embarked on the story of Ronnie and Kat it was very much with this in mind. We researched extensively to make sure we would be both factually correct and emotionally truthful.

We received enormous help from charities, health professionals and bereaved parents themselves, who went out of their way to advise the story-liners, writers and actors. Our aim was - and still is - to tell a strong story that would, in the telling - raise the profile of Cot Death in the UK.

It's clear that we've managed to do this, and that traffic to the FSID's website has increased by over 500%; but we are also mindful of the fact that in doing so, sections of our audience have found the storyline challenging.

EastEnders never sets out to upset its audience; not only would it be counter-productive, it would be a breach of a long-established trust that we can deliver truthful stories that inspire debate in a way that's acceptable to a family audience.

Although we have had complaints we have also had positive responses from people who have been through the experiences we are currently dramatising who feel we've done this and have contacted us to offer their backing.

A large portion of audience are watching and being supportive of the storyline so we owe those viewers the opportunity to continue to engage with it and see the storyline through to it's rightful conclusion.

Whenever we embark on a story at EastEnders we always leave it open-ended to monitor and listen to audience reaction. With this in mind we are going to bring the story to a close on screen in the Spring.

As the story progresses and Kat is reunited with her child, we hope to explore the impact of the tragic events that have befallen the characters in a way that is powerful, but true to the best public service tradition of the show.

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    Comment number 1.

    i expect it would have bee the next christmas storyline

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    Comment number 2.

    I personally think the whole thing's been blown out of proportion.

    The cot death, and the emotions of the characters involved was spot on... But we're talking about a soap here and the drama over the baby swap is exciting, interesting and - yes - hard to watch, but it's a television, fictional drama. Any other character, it would have been far fetched, but Ronnie has motives and I applaud Eastenders for coming up with something interesting.

    I'm sure I'll get flamed, but I personally think well done. You covered a sensitive issue pretty well, and came up with a story that fits the characters... I imagine most of the people complaining probably didn't even watch the show....

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    Comment number 3.

    I think that part of the nature of the internet age is that people are easily able to mount complaint campaigns, and receive outsized attention that is not necessarily a reflection of how the majority of the audience feels.

    From what I have seen, this storyline is very sensitively handled, and beautifully acted. I haven't seen anything sensational about it. Yes, it is upsetting to see characters we like (or even love) not get what they want - we want them all to have happy endings. But I understand that happy endings would get boring pretty quickly. How many happy endings did Shakespeare write?

    And truly, when we look a why we feel the way we do, it is because the show (the writers and actors) have created these characters that we care about. If one watches the show and cares about the characters, one should trust the show to continue telling their stories.

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    Comment number 4.

    Thanks for this blog, Bryan. I don’t think EastEnders have gone “too far” with this storyline. The show has always been known for its dark and gritty storylines, it has been since it started nearly 26 years ago. EastEnders isn’t supposed to be a representation of real life or life in the East End of London. Look at the stories there’s been over the years, Murders, rapes, HIV, just to name a few. As I said, it's not meant to be representational of real life. I think both people who’ve complained and people who aren’t enjoying the story need to realise what's being portrayed is not what an average woman would do if they lost a child to cot death. They are trying to show Ronnie, who has completely lost the plot and swapped babies in a moment of desperation. Ronnie has had the toughest life in soapland, without a shadow of a doubt. 3 dead children, raped and abused by her father when she was younger, her mother walked out on her and her husband has slept with and has kids with her sister and cousin! It seems the story will conclude in April, which is interesting as Sam Womack finishes filming in May, meaning she's on-screen until July, meaning Ronnie may be around for a couple of months after Kat finds out the truth. Also, following Ronnie's departure from the square, the aftermath and consuequences of Ronnie's action will effect Kat and Alfie for some time to come.

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    Comment number 5.

    That is great news. The sooner this storyline ends the better. This might be fiction but it has affected people and I read today that poor Sam was being verbally abused on the street.
    My heart goes to her.

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    Comment number 6.

    The media has helped spin the controversy out of control, enough is enough. It is a tv drama and if people are offended they don't have to watch !

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    Comment number 7.

    Aside from the PSA's at the end of the episodes, when have they addressed crib deaths? The story from Kat's point of view has been told well, and with sensitivity, but the same can't be said about the character who's child actually died. There hasn't been any focus on why Ronnie isn't returning the baby or how she is dealing with the death of her baby. The story has ignored the issue of crib death in order to focus on the more sensational story of Ronnie kidnapping someone else's baby.

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    Comment number 8.

    I'm so glad kat is going to get her baby boy back the sooner the better she deserves to be happy, love kat and Alfie! Never miss the show! although I can completely understand why the storyline was aired! Will be sad to see Ronnie leave! Gonna miss her X

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    Comment number 9.

    From my point of view and most ppl I know who were not happy with the storyline - it was not the portrayal of cot death, it was the baby switch itself which caused upset and took the storyline too far.

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    Comment number 10.

    Bryan, you're a professional communicator, holding a senior role in one of the world's most highly-regarding broadcasting corporations, so for heaven's sake drop the mealy-mouthed euphemisms. The 6,000 plus people who complained about Eastenders did not find the story "challenging", they found it "offensive". You and the writing team got it very wrong by deciding that cot death just wasn't dramatic enough, and needed a kidnapping to make it more harrowing.
    I am pleased that the story is being truncated, though you'd have gained more respect if you admitted your mistake and apologised. A man in your position should be able to identify these crass errors of editorial judgement without the help of thousands of licence payers.

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    Comment number 11.

    i am very glad that the story line is ending, i did not like it however, i had someone say to me the 'it makes us look like baby snatchers' i do not think thats what eastenders was trying to do, i think it was trying to show just how far people will go to get what they want in this case Ronnie's desire to be a mother.

    Did anyone complain when Janine was killing barry to get his money, she killed to get what she wanted.

    i am so glad that doing this storyline has made people research cot death much more and at the end it will have done alot of good but i think they went a bit too far.

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    Comment number 12.

    Thank you Mr Kirkwood for that statement but could you please respond to the criticism about the baby swap aspect of the plot? After all this is what most people are upset about, not the cot death.

    Could you please also clarify the involvement of FSID as they have made a statement saying that they no way agree with Ronnie's actions of swapping the babies and were only consulted about Kat and Alfie's reactions to the cot death? I do therfore find your statement here and earlier statements you've made rather misleading.

    With regards the increased traffic on cot death websites, for the FSID I can assure you that a lot of it is from members aghast at the thought that they agreed with this storyline.

    I'm afraid I believe that your objective to raise the issue of cot death has been rather overshadowed by the unrealistic baby swap. Also doesn't the fact that Ronnie knows what it's like to lose a child make her more likely to give Tommy back, rather than less?

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    Comment number 13.

    Thanks for finally taking the time to issue a statement however in light of all the damage this storyline has done to EastEnders as a flagship show and brand name. Don't you think you should stand down from your post given the very heavy public backlash?

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    Comment number 14.

    I do think Eastenders have gone too far with this one. Not just that it's insensitive (which it is - and I'm not even a parent)but the writers seem to think that their viewers are so stupid we will believe any old crap. Yes it is a drama but there has to be at least some reality there too. This programme has been getting on my nerves for too long with their ridiculous storylines (stupid and unbelievable romances, Darren getting Heather pregnant, murders every 2 minutes, Phil being a suddden crack addict and then suddenly not - the list goes on and on). Just ridiculous - we might be not be expecting highbrow television from a soap opera but I resent being treated like an imbecile. I won't be watching anymore of this utter mince.

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    Comment number 15.

    sick thats what it is

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    Comment number 16.

    @MartinDFerry: He didn't say the story was being truncated. He said Kat was going to be reunited with her baby. I'm sure that was always in the plan for the storyline. They would never have created a storyline where something like that (the baby switch) was a permanent situation.

    EastEnders exists in a place where characters who do bad deeds, for whatever reason, always get their commupence eventually. You just have to wait for the story to play out. It doesn't happen right away.

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    Comment number 17.

    @MartinDFerry and Budge9, I couldn't agree more.

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    Comment number 18.

    I love Ronnie, she is my favorite character and after losing Danielle so soon after knowing she was her daughter I think it is terrible we still can't see her happy with a baby she has longed for so long. I think it is terrible that Ronnie has to go through all of this but she plays her role so well!!! I just wish happiness would come her way and I wish we could have seen James grow up and see Ronnie happy finally!!

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    Comment number 19.

    watching the cot death very upsetting.to also add the baby swap and snatch is damn well heartless. the sooner they put an end to this horrible stoyline the better.this is total totally out of order.give kat her baby back.this should never of happend.

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    Comment number 20.

    Mr. Kirkwood, when you say that sections of the audience found the storyline 'challenging', I think the word you were looking for was 'offensive'. There is nothing 'challenging' about this storyline: it is base exploitation, nothing more.
    Of course part of the problem is that Eastenders isn't, as you contest, 'one of the most talked about programmes on television'. Prior to this storyline, i've not heard people talk about it in years. So, having rinsed dry every taboo going for ratings, you are left scouring around with ever desperation for an issue that will gain your execrable little show some exposure. Well, you've achieved that. Well done.

 

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