‘Back with a bang’: EastEnders sets return date after lockdown layoff


EastEnders bosses have confirmed the long-running soap will return on 7 September after nearly three months away from our screens.

Filming resumed in Albert Square at the end of June after being put on hold since mid-March due to the national lockdown that forced all UK soaps to cease production.

The number of weekly episodes was halved in a bid to keep the show on air for as long as possible using footage that had already been filmed, but there were none left to air come 16 June.

Ahead of the coronavirus pandemic, the soap had run uninterrupted for 35 years.

Sandy Ratcliff played Sue Osman in the soap between 1985 - 1989
The Old Vic will re-open its doors next month, but viewers can expect shorter episodes

Dubbed “series two” by BBC bosses who confirmed the return, the new episodes will be filmed with cast and crew following government guidelines and with COVID-19 social distancing measures in place.

They will air four nights a week and will be 10 minutes shorter than usual.

Keen-eyed viewers will no doubt be looking to spot any differences in the appearance of their favourite characters, as under new filming rules cast members had to do their own hair and make-up.

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Confirming the comeback, EastEnders executive producer Jon Sen said: “From the moment we turned the lights out in The Queen Vic our ambition was to come back with a bang and this autumn certainly does that.

“As soon as Albert Square reawakens, the drama returns at a pace.

“Although working within social distancing guidelines has certainly given us some new challenges, I am incredibly proud of what everyone has achieved.

“The show is looking fantastic and we can’t wait for ‘series two’ to begin.”

Pic: BBC
Actors will be filming while adhering to social distancing guidelines. Pic: BBC

During its 12 weeks off-air, classic episodes and a spin-off featuring Stacey Dooley have plugged the gap.

Producers hinted at the revelation of a huge secret, a family tragedy and a new romance to come – all of which are regular occurrences for characters in Albert Square.

Meanwhile, ITV’s Emmerdale and Coronation Street also restarted filming in June and will return to their normal scheduling pattern of six episodes a week from mid-September.

Coronation Street has been running for nearly 60 years
Coronation Street will be back in action soon too

Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks has recently been teasing its return to our screens next month, when it will air four times a week. It will revert to its five-nights schedule in 2021.

BBC’s Doctors – which always takes a summer break – resumed filming earlier this week. The lunchtime favourite is also likely to be back on our screens in September.

The soap Neighbours is filming using social distancing measures on set. Pic: FremantleMedia LTD
Neighbours led the way returning to filming in May. Pic: FremantleMedia LTD

And Holby City returned to filming in July, and while its official return date is yet to be confirmed, it’s likely not to be back until October. It’s also likely to follow in EastEnders’ footsteps and reduce its running time by about 10 minutes.

In Australia, Neighbours led the way in a return to work, with filming resuming back in May, with strict social distancing measures in place.

EastEnders returns on BBC One at 8pm on Monday 7 September 2020

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