In it's heyday 10 million viewers regularly tuned in. This was in 1993, with one of the most controversial storylines to be on TV at the time. From that point on things began to go downhill. Though remaining popular, the 10 million viewers gradually decreased to around 1.5 million. Thus, in 2002, Brookside was moved to a Saturday afternoon slot, then to a late night Tuesday slot. It was eventually axed, and the last episode runs tonight.
So what went wrong? I was a fan up until around 2000. Up until this point the stories had been as exciting and controversial as ever, but maybe it was so exciting that it was unbelievable?
Most soaps have long, drawn out stories that gradually develop, and these are few and far between. While this is dull for some, it can at least relate with the everyday life of people. These long stories allow for character development, so people will become familiar with people on screen and feel as if they 'know' them. Brookside had none of this. Within the space of a few years we had a virus that killed off half the cast, the incestuous relationship of a brother and sister, a man killing his mother-in-law to get rid of her cancer pain, a drug-rape (which did drag for over a year, but became boring), a man purchasing a shotgun and killing a burglar, a couple of bombs/explosions, racist thugs that came from nowhere, a schoolboy killing and, to top it all off, a seige that trapped the close for three weeks.
Whilst these all sound good on paper, most of these characters and stories came and went in the space of a year, hauling tonnes of emotional baggage (that we hadn't seen develop) with them. Viewers didn't feel as though they knew the characters.
There was also no continuity. With other soaps, they all have at least one character that has been there all along, and most have lasted the majority of the show's life. Brookside has just one remaining character that has made it past the fifteen year mark. The rest have came and gone in very little time. Other soaps have familiar pubs and shops (ie the Cabin, Queen Vic, Woolpac, Rovers Return) Brookside has no familiar 'mascot' as such.
So it ends tonight. The thing is, since it was moved to a late night slot, it has became brilliant viewing. I have since heard that this was the way it was supposed to be as of last year, but the movement to an afternoon slot made it impossible to show what they wanted to.
I'll be watching tonight, as will the 1.5 million left. Maybe more since the final episode has had some surprisingly good news coverage.