Updated: 27th October
I thought I’d give a little bit of insight into choosing episodes to feature on “Emmerdale Past”.
The main criteria is to have a range of stories from across the decades – which is one of the principal reasons I am choosing more than one episode for each date, to be used on rotation. With the Emmerdale Farm episodes having played out at a more gentle pace, not to mention the sparse plot details available in many cases, it would be very difficult in 366 choices to justify more than a handful of episodes from that era. A selection of the weddings, births and deaths, and the odd ‘stunt’ episode, would be all there’d be room for. Not least because as time has gone on the volume of weekly episodes has tripled which almost by definition means the past ten years should appear with the most frequency.
Of course, having decided to have more than one year of selections, it is then important to consider sharing out the episodes in a reasonably considered way. Naturally some days haven’t had very many interesting things happen, whereas others days (25 December being an obvious example) have been considerably more eventful. So, it wouldn’t be right to have all the best episodes in one year. Also, I wouldn’t want to feature all the murders in a single year, for example.
I’ve also imposed a rule whereby I do not feature consecutive episodes – even across different years (this has happened a few times but as I noted at the time the other half of the pair will not be being featured again). It would be very easy to cover every episode of the plane crash, or the storm, or the dramatic events leading up to Natasha killing Mark, etc. All these stories ran in January, and you could easily find that many other things to have happened in January wouldn’t get a look in. The rule avoids any story being over dominant and leaves room for some of those Farm era episodes to have their place.
The above rule also helps reduce the initial shortlist for selection which can on occasion run into double figures. It is these days that prove the most troublesome. If you have a wedding, a fight, some scheming, an accident, and a classic comedy moment all on the same day what do you do? Some of these things, or the fallout from them, may run over several episodes which helps to narrow the field of choices but in some respects it only increases the problem as you then have a run of days all featuring the same years in the shortlist and you then need to think about which parts of the story win through, which ones definitely don’t, and which go on the ‘maybe next year’ pile.
Some episode choices are very easy to make – as soon as the horsemeat scandal became big news for example, I was almost certain that I would be including the 2006 episode where Sadie is served with her beloved horse for dinner among this years’ selections. It’s an episode that I think many people remember, and for newer viewers it has that shock value that makes it a worthy inclusion. The news story only really served to ensure it was included THIS year.
I’m sure people will have noticed that sometimes I try to run a theme if similar (vaguely or otherwise) stories ran at the same time in different years. In April for example I had stories that involved stolen credit cards on consecutive days. Similarly, Sadie eating Cossack was bookended by other horse stories from, funnily enough, the year before and the year after. Also, it was no coincidence that the story with Hari’s racehorse also mirrored in some ways a current story. Little things like this help the episode selection considerably.
For much of last year I’m afraid distribution of a shortlist wasn’t given the attention it perhaps should have had. For 2 April last year, for example – the date the Sadie eating Cossack story took place – I featured a 2009 episode mainly because of similarities that could be drawn with a then current storyline. However, this date has also included a christening, a suicide attempt and numerous other episodes of interest that I now realise mean that that 2009 episode simply didn’t deserve to be chosen. It won’t be featured again.
Sometimes moments of topicality arise when you least expect them. On 13 April 2007, when Viv refused to serve Sam, Sam commented: “You’re like that Mrs Thatcher the milk snatcher – and look what happened to her”. Margaret Thatcher died just five days before the anniversary of that episode, but in the end the episode wasn't featured. Apart from the fact that the next episode was a better contender for selection, there was also a large-ish selection to choose from already for that date. It should also be noted that when I pick episodes based on topicality, I do so as if the featured episodes were posted on the correct date rather than, as has become the case now, months later, and I try not to be influenced by things that have happened since that date that I would have been unaware of at the time.
A notable example of a topical storyline inclusion will be an episode featured next week. It was, if I'm honest one of the daftest - and arguably worst - storylines I think Emmerdale has ever shown, and under other circumstances I'm pretty certain wouldn't have been chosen, but given on screen events on the actual anniversary of the episode I now think its inclusion is virtually essential. I'm just disappointed that I only beware aware of this anniversary occurrence yesterday. My biggest regret meanwhile with being so far behind is to have left so much ground still to cover over the storyline of next weeks returning character.
Days with very short shortlists are an important contributory factor to choosing episodes to feature. Given my rule of not featuring consecutive episodes, then if there were only two stand-out episodes for a particular date, it wouldn’t be good if I’d already used the episode that came before it! This came into play with the 2011 producer handover selection. I was close to picking Gavin Blyth’s last episode from April 8th as it was a day with very few standout choices (and coincided with the date of Stuart Blackburn’s final credit), but then I realised there was an equally short shortlist for the 11th and considered therefore that Stuart Blackburn’s debut was a more appropriate choice. Incidentally, Finland, one of the major international broadcasters of Emmerdale, was in April viewing February 2011 hence - as with all episodes from 2011 and 2012 - there wasn’t much I could write about the plot in the feature, but I’ve realised I quite enjoy the challenge of summarising the episodes that haven’t been seen overseas yet! So much so that despite Finland now having reached August 2011 - further, I regret to say than I am into the year - I am also continuing to write 2011 episode introductions as if Finland hadn't yet seen the episodes in question.
Given all these factors, in particular the last one of short shortlists, I’ve increasingly realised that it is necessary to read ahead - in order to plan for the coming days, and to make sure there are good choices available beyond 2013. Alas, this is one of the reasons I have got behind and struggled to catch up (there are other reasons too: “life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans” and all that). Since I suffered my setbacks (notably including a bout of sickness that kept me off the wiki for getting on for a month and impeded me for some while after through tiredness) it’s sometimes been difficult to catch up and go far ahead enough with reading to be able to catch up with posting times. If there’s a particularly long shortlist, and nothing stands out in terms of topicality or theme, or if I exclude an episode from this years’ choices (due to over dominance of a year, a theme, or other considerations), then I often need to read further ahead in order to narrow the field down and be able to pick something I feel appropriate. Ideally I ought to have a vague idea what episode I might chose a week ahead – especially if an episode from 1996 or earlier has made it onto the shortlist (when Emmerdale was only on twice a week). As the 2011 producer change scenario demonstrated, it isn’t always enough just to consider what happened in the following episode in order to decide if the first episode should remain on the shortlist, as I may need to be aware of the strength of the other episodes transmitted on the day the second episode was shown.
Being a week ahead (at least) may be an ideal, but in practice other constraints on my time mean often I am not that far ahead, and this accounts for some of the delays in posting, whereby I have had to do extra reading in order to make the episode choice. As far as possible, it is my intention to always have that week-ahead buffer so as to keep delays to a minimum, but alas this isn't always possible.
I’m sorry if this has been a bit of a ramble! For one thing it was written over two nights (11th and 14th April) and I’ve moved bits about a few times in order to try and make the written expression of my thought-processes as coherent as possible!! Not to mention that I've now reworded elements six months later! Thank you for your time, and also for your patience while I continue being so far behind! I'd like to think I'll start catching up before the year is out, but if the worst comes to the worst, certainly by whatever time I reach January again catching up will be considerably easier.
Although I'll be writing about this month of October - at best - come Christmas, it is my intention to include some bonus current featured episodes over the main festive period.