Welcome everybody to a special and very sombre edition of TTWTWB. As you can see above, rather than our usual frivolities and rantings we’ll be dedicating this week to Emmerdale Series Producer Gavin Blyth who passed away on the 26th November only shortly after being diagnosed with cancer.
It’s difficult to know what to say when something like this happens, and I’m the first to admit I’m qualified neither in proximity or talent to write a detailed obituary telling people about his life. Suffice though to say that Gavin stood out in all his endeavours, as a journalist, photographer, script writer and producer throughout his life. The world of media and showbusiness can be a backstabbing place, and few people will be remembered as fondly or positively which is very indicative of his professional talent and personal warmth. Actress Lucy Pargeter who plays Chas Dingle in Emmerdale very kindly via Twitter gave her thoughts which summarise the impact he had.
“It’s just so hard to sum up in words what Gavin meant to us as our boss, what he did for the show and what and who he was as a man, dad, friend and talent. He was and always will be missed and impossible to be replaced! It’s such a sad loss for his family , us as a cast and the industry.”
Regular readers of this column will know that in the last two years when it comes to my Soap coverage that a trend has developed. While Coronation Street has remained inconsistent and Eastenders has in the last year become an absolute joke, Emmerdale has gone from strength to strength. Fans of Soaps will know what I mean when I speak of the ‘conventions’ of those shows, where regardless of how good a storyline or a payoff to a storyline is, things always will come back to the same conclusions. Marriages will break up, affairs will happen regardless of the happiness of the married people, unlucky characters will always remain downtrodden and characters make the same dumb mistakes which leads to repetitiveness and banality, as well as having to go for cheap stunts for ratings boosts. Under Gavin Blyth’s production though, Emmerdale has consistently and regularly bucked those trends. I wrote in a recent column discussing his comments on the Queen Vic fire in Eastenders where he emphasised the need for big events to have consequences in a Soap Opera, and talked about the long lasting effects events in Emmerdale would have on the characters. This approach has played a big part in the outstanding quality of Emmerdale over an unprecedented period of time.
So often in Soaps, the big stunts associated with the foremost storylines are the focus of the show. They’re pulled off in a wave of self-congratulatory back-slapping but very little changes in their wake. On the other hand Gavin Blyth’s emphasis on the consequences of those big events and the long lasting effect they have on the characters lead to grounded, human and realistic storyline arcs. The histrionic melodrama was replaced by convincingly real performances and characters that viewers will instantly relate to. Those conventions mentioned previously are foregone as the rounded and complete personalities react and adapt in a way that feels organic and unscripted and not shoehorned into an overarching agenda for controversy or magazine front pages.
To use Chas Dingle’s current storyline as an example, what initially seemed to be a straight up revenge storyline has become something much more interesting. Like real people, the characters around have reacted and adapted. Carl, realising how he could have everything he wanted in a family, became a devoted fiance. Both families have rallied around and Chas is now reconsidering her actions. What was a standard Soap storyline has become something much more layered, interesting and engaging, which is a succinct way to explain Blyth’s effect on Emmerdale. His approach made shows more layered, interesting and engaging. Revealingly, I read in Alaisdair Steven’s obituary for Blyth here that in his stint as Assistant Producer and Story Editor on Coronation Street, he was responsible for the development of the character of David Platt which has been one of the most enduring and interesting long term aspects of Soaps in the UK for a long time now.
It’s difficult to summarise the full extent of his impact of course, and credit too must be given to the actors and actresses who have performed brilliantly, turning out great performances and making the absolute most of the storylines provided. We likely won’t know quite how much Gavin Blyth has changed perceptions of Soaps and perceptions of what can be done in a Soap until long into the future as other Producers put their own imprint on the foundations he has laid. Hopefully his influence will be held as the example, especially in stark contrast to the crash tv style currently favoured in Eastenders by Bryan Kirkwood, which would be a good and fitting way to pay tribute to his achievements in television.
The death of Gavin Blyth is a very sad loss and everybody here at MultiMediaMouth sends our condolences to his family, friends and colleagues. I hope some comfort is provided in the knowledge that he was greatly admired in the industry (in recent times he has become a huge influence on my personal writing) and as a person. He will be greatly missed.
Usually at this point I’d do my highlights and lowlights for the week ahead, but that seems inappropriate in this article, so I’ll just list a couple of things to keep an eye out for.
The X Factor Final Saturday 11th and Sunday 12th
Dig 1940 Wednesday 15th
Next week we’ll have our preview of the television over the holiday season as well as a new feature from our Film Editor Sam Inglis. Send any feedback to chris@multimediamouth or in the comments below, follow me on Twitter @ChrisNelsonMMM and the site @MultiMediaMouth and in the meantime remember to stay safe.