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With the terrible reviews and screaming front-page headlines it got at the
time Eldorado didn't stand a chance. The series was launched in too much
a hurry with too great a fanfare, leading to very high hopes for its
poor first episodes. After a little while, with a few of the huge cast
removed and a more definite sense of direction, Eldorado became the best
soap on British TV. But the damage was done, and it never really gained
place in public affections that it needed. The Beeb pulled the plug after
Eldorado, by the time it finished, was absolutely unique. It had found its place in the world, and knew its direction. It was expending a lot of energy exploring the nature of people who leave their motherland and o to live in the sun. So much was revealed about the true nature of ex-pats, and some characters who seemed a bit faceless at the beginning were revealed as far more complex once they were given a bit of screen time to themselves. In Freddie Martin, Eldorado gave us one of TV's greatest gay characters: his reunion with his longlost daughter, Natalie, and his silent grief at the death of his secret boyfriend, Javier, were immaculately written and performed.
Eldorado was able to give great depth and involvement to the idea of culture clash, and to highlight what life in the "new" Europe was really like (boo-hiss baddie Marcus Tandy calls German Dieter "Adolf" at one point). There were characters and relationships never seen on TV, before or since (the Leducs' open marriage, modern Spanish women breaking away from traditional Catholic families, gay parents), and plenty of imagination given to thoroughly original storylines.
After the dodgy beginning, Eldorado became the most unique TV show that the BBC had ever tried. Ten years on, I still think it's a shame they didn't have the confidence to carry it through. Mind you, the last episode was a corker.
Not a bad soap. However, the BBC, in its wisdom, decided to pull the plug when it seemed to be getting off the ground. This decision has always seemed a puzzle when programmes of questionable quality are screened by the same organization. It was sad to lose this programme, and how much public money was thrown away?
The axing of this show was purely a political decision. The show was doomed from the offset. The BBC pumped loads of money into the show and expected to make immediate profits which was not going to happen no matter how good the show was. As for the show itself. I loved it. It was a little slow to start with but it was a soap opera and for anyone to be able to get to know the characters right away was asking a bit too much. It was to take time and the BBC were not prepared to give it this required time. The most memorable character was of course Marcus (Jesse Birdsall) who fitted the "bad boy" image perfectly. The man with a hard exterior but a soft centre. Most of the actors played their parts magnificently but there were a few exceptions at the start but those actors were soon axed. I'd love to see the whole series again as I can now find myself in a similar position as most of the characters in the show - I'm an expat myself now and socialise with an expat community. It's a pity it was axed just as the show was becoming popular and the plots were becoming more interesting. Thank you BBC :(
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Was 'Eldorado' ever intended to be taken seriously, or was it just an
elaborate stunt by the B.B.C. to get rid of Terry Wogan's thrice-weekly
ego trip cum chat show? At one point the hype was so great it
threatened to overshadow that of 'Star Wars'! Trailers interfaced every
B.B.C. programme for what felt like months before its debut. The cast
hogged Breakfast Time to brag about how great it was going to be. Even
children's presenter Andi Peters plugged the new soap from the safety
of his 'broom cupboard'. As a result viewers tired of the thing before
they actually saw it. Created and produced by the 'Eastenders' ( itself
not very good ) team of Julia Smith and Tony Holland, the Spanish soap
cost licence-payers' a king's ransom with the building on location of a
replica Spanish town.
The characters were stereotypes with absurd names like 'Bunny' and 'Fizz' ( speaking of which, whatever happened to Kathy Pitkin? She was heavily hyped as the new Catherine Zeta Jones but nothing became of her. Possibly stacking shelves in Asda somewhere ). The plots were the usual soap drivel about lust and adultery. The dialogue was risible. Roland Curram played a moustached gay character ( surprise, surprise! ), while Jesse Birdsall was a sub-'Dirty Den' figure. Comedy actress Patricia Brake was wasted. Polly Perkins was 'Trish' the Barbara Windsor-like barmaid.
After a respectable rating of seven million for the first episode, interest tapered off alarmingly ( 'Panorama' actually overtook it one Monday night! ), critics were hostile, and the tabloid press tore it to shreds the way it recently did with poor Gordon Brown's Government. 'El-Bore-Ado' and 'Helldorado' were nick-names the show could have done without. Yet B.B.C.-1 Controller Jonathan Powell refused to scrap it, arguing that the longer it was on air, the more chance it had of attracting an audience. 'Spitting Image' mocked his decision in a sketch in which a photograph of a turd was put on air, and Powell told the Board of B.B.C. Governors it would remain there until it eventually became a hit.
When it became apparent 'Eldorado' was attracting no-one, Powell resigned and incoming B.B.C.-1 controller Alan Yentob read it the last rites - rightly so. Amazingly a few misguided souls protested as the plug was pulled ( is the Eldorado Appreciation Society Espana - T.E.A.S.E. - still in existence? ). On the night the last episode went out, a bus-load of angry fans stormed the B.B.C. Television Centre, shouting abuse at Yentob, while over in Spain, a cast member with a poor command of English blubbed on camera: "Mr.Yentob...you are a bad man and you have done a very terrible thing!". Actually, his decision to kill off 'Eldorado' was eminently sensible. Refusing to admit they'd failed, the B.B.C. issued episodes on a video-tape called 'Adios Eldorado' which became a surprise best seller! The sad thing about the debacle was it was one of the last series from the great Verity Lambert, and cast a pall over her otherwise glittering career.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Are you ready for Eldorado?" This was the immortal line used by the BBC to herald their new thrice-weekly Spanish sunshine soap 'Eldorado' back in 1992. And much-heralded it was! 'Eldorado' was everywhere back in early 1992, in the papers, on TV trailers and in magazines. It was to be set in the purpose-built fictional Spanish resort of Los Barcos and would feature the "hedonism, heartbreak and deep-dark secrets" of a group of ex-pats and their fellow Europeans and would be the BBC's crowning glory, a sun, sea and sangria "supersoap". Were we ready for Eldorado? After enormous trumpeting, it looked like although 7 million of us were indeed ready for 'Eldorado', the show itself clearly wasn't ready for us. The flaws were unmistakable. Firstly, producer Julia Smith (who gave the BBC the hugely successful 'Eastenders' in 1985) had agreed to bring the start date forward from September to July. This created numerous problems. For a start the beautiful multi-million pound set would not be fully finished and it seemed foolish to have spent so many millions on such a great set design by Keith Harris, only to hurry ahead without allowing for it to be finished to the standard that such investment warranted. Not only this but summer viewing figures are always lower than those in winter so it seemed strange to launch a sunshine soap at a time when it would have the least appeal-in the summer! Julia Smith hired many unknown actors in a bid to make them stars but most were wooden and had to be axed after only a few months, notably the notorious Kathy Pitkin as Fizz. Writers were not allowed to see each others scripts which made continuity extremely difficult, another rule of Smith's, and because the set wasn't complete, sound in areas such as the Centro Commercial was awful. To top it all many scenes were conducted in foreign languages, which alienated viewers, story lines were poor and with the BBC ordering 3 episodes per week instead of the initial 2, the show simply couldn't cope. With no time for rehearsals, read-through's or help with acting, 'Eldorado' was not the "supersoap" promised by the BBC. Only 3 weeks in and it was in crisis, viewing figures were tumbling to 3 million, the papers slated it daily and it was fast becoming a £10 million failure. Something had to give. After only a few months, Julia Smith was axed from her post as producer and replaced by Corinne Hollingworth. Almost immediately the show began to turn around. Characters such as Dieter, Allan, Gavin and Snowy were axed in a cast cull while Marchell Betak was replaced as Trine Svendsen by Clare Wilkie. Exciting story lines such as the secret life and subsequent death of Javier, the attack on bar owner Joy and the difficulties of alcoholic Drew, were introduced. Scripts improved enormously, the sound was perfected and there was more focus on the experienced actors. New characters such as Natalie and 'Razor' proved a hit and by late 1992, 'Eldorado' was quickly becoming the hit that the BBC had promised. It had begun to find a direction, an identity, it wasn't too serious or too light-hearted but a mixture of both. It was becoming a quality production dealing with the highs and lows and emotions of people who no longer belonged in the UK and who had to build a new sense of who they were in an alien European community. It was relevant, very different and a soap that was giving us a new perspective. It was an experiment with the genre of soap opera that was starting to pay off. 'Eldorado' was being networked in several European countries, public opinion was changing and viewing figures were growing rapidly, ultimately matching those of 'EastEnders'. 'Eldorado' was finding its feet. However, just as things were on the up, Jonathan Powell was replaced by Alan Yentob as director of BBC1 and within a week of his appointment, he made the shock announcement that 'Eldorado' was to be axed. Yentob disliked the show and was largely unaware of its recent improvements. It seems he felt that it hadn't achieved the success expected of it after 8 months. Indeed it hadn't, but that was because the BBC had expected far too much; an instant hit. Soaps need time to grow and develop and no soap is an immediate success. Like 'Eldorado', 'EastEnders' was no major success story after its first 8 months and had numerous teething troubles. Unlike 'Eldorado', 'EastEnders' was given a chance and just look how it turned out. By March 1993, 'Eldorado' was destined to emulate the success of its sister soap 'EastEnders' but it would never have the chance.'Eldorado'was going to get there, watching some of the late episodes alone proves that, as do the high viewing figures it was achieving towards the end. But it was not to be. On July 9th 1993, we said goodbye to some great soap characters such as Freddie, Gwen, Joy, Trish and Marcus not forgetting the likes of Drew, Isabelle, Pilar and Nessa (the first disabled soap character who was played by a real-life disabled person). Far from justifying the criticisms leveled at it by the tabloids, 'Eldorado' went out in style with an excellent final episode that demonstrated just how far it had come. A massive 11 million people watched as Marcus and Pilar sailed off into the night and those blue credits rolled for the last time to Simon May's fantastic arrangement of the theme tune. In the end, we were ready for more 'Eldorado' just when the show had become ready for us. Isn't it ironic then that we had to say "Adios Eldorado".
When in 1992 the BBC decided it needed a second soap to relieve the
burden on 'Eastenders' to be the networks solo rival to ITV'S
'Coronation Street' and 'Emmerdale' the novel idea of setting it in the
sunnier climes of Spain amongst British ex-pats seemed to give the show
a unique selling point. Many shows come and go but the fatal blow to
this soap opera may have been the original fanfare with which it was
launched. The BBC spent £10,000,000 on preliminary sets and production
but upon first glance the hugely anticipated drama seemed to have
little in the way of story lines or characterisation. There were
production problems with the sound that made the show at times
impossible to watch.
The hype that the show had been given and the fact that it was funded by the licence payer meant that the British press leapt upon it and it became a favourite object of derision. Initially encouraging viewing figures tumbled to only 3 million per episode and ten months after its fanfare debut the BBC pulled the plug and cancelled the show.
It is well known that the quality of the show and the viewing figures were climbing towards and the end and that perhaps the show was finally starting to catch on. However, the damage had long been done. The media had slated it and tainted it as a joke and from this there was no return for the BBC. The massively expensive sets were mothballed and are now a museum for intrepid tourists and curious TV fans. The shown came to an end satisfactorily and somewhat gracefully (for otherwise see Crossroads #3) but one can only imagine how devastating it was for the actors (other victims of the shows bad initial production) and we can only estimate how much money was poured down the drain on the massively hyped and massively expensive white elephant.
Watching recent repeats of Eldorado on cable tv brings back great memories. How many of us looked forward to our twice weekly transportation to the sunshine of Los Barcos? I did. Yes, it had some teething problems. (Tho' looking back, it doesn't seem half as bad as at the time!). And it got better. The storylines and the characters were good, if not always entirely believable. But hey, this is soapland! The Beeb made a big mistake by listening too closely to those telling them that they had a made a big mistake comissioning the programme in the first place, (work that one out!). What say they get back to Los Barcos, pick up where they left off and give us our winter sunshine back?
This series should have done better, it could have done better, but was never given the chance. It was a soap based around British ex-pats that had found a haven and mixed with the locals. The storylines were ok, but some of the early acting was poor, but as time went on the production changed beyond recognition. However, after all the effort the cast and crew put into the series, the BBC bosses pulled the plug and watched £10million pounds waste away instead of trying to help it out. Viewing figures were up and the series was selling well around Europe, but all there is left now is an empty studio village and repeats. Nothing more...
In 1992 when Eldorado first aired on the BBC I watched it avidly. Yes,
some of the characters seemed a little "outrageous" and maybe some of
the acting could have been better. However, I was hooked, especially as
we were off to Spain on holiday in the August. Sadly the BBC axed the
show, which was a pity.
Three and half years ago, we retired to Spain and now live in a very mixed community of Europeans, ex-pats included. Oh brother! Believe me I have met virtually every character featured in Eldorado, as outrageous as some of them appeared. Whoever researched the program originally did a pretty good job, how sad that it wasn't appreciated at the time. So real is it that our community has now been re-titled Eldorado by our visiting family. Wish the episodes were available on DVD!
OK, so I admit, I never saw it when it was originally aired (being 8 at the time!), and I bought the Adios Eldorado video because I'd heard so much about Jesse Birdsall's character, Marcus! I thought it would be a 1992 version of Sunset Beach- terrible acting, bad sets, poor story lines that never went anywhere. But, I was wrong, for the characters were well thought out and yet the soap didn't got too bogged down with overly serious plots that modern soaps rely on. The quirky, colourful characters worked well because they were larger than life, not trying to be as close to a normal world as possible. I've only ever seen the couple of hours worth on the video, so I'm still waiting to see reruns on UK Gold, but I think its a fantastic show, Even my 12 yr old sister loves it.
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