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Family Affairs

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Family Affairs is a British soap opera. The flagship soap on five, it first aired on March 30, 1997, the channel's first night.

Contents

Characters

It initially focused on the Hart family consisting of parents Chris and Annie, adult children Duncan, trainee solicitor Holly, and Melanie (played by Cordelia Bugeja), a police constable. The youngest child was Jamie, a school boy. There were also Annie's parents, Jack and Elsa Gates, and Chris's father Agnus. Associated characters were Duncan's friend Roy Farmer, Chris's business associate Nick Trip, Annie's friend Maria Simons, Melanie's friend Claire Twomey. Later Maria's ex-husband, the villainous Pete Callan arrived.

Within a brief period of time in late 1998 the Gates were killed-off, and in January 1999 all the Harts (except for Duncan who had already left the series) were killed in a boat explosion. Roy was also aboard the boat and was the only survivor of the blast. Thereafter a more varied bunch of new characters emerged such as Cat and Dave Matthews, Yasmin McHugh, Gemma Craig, Fern Sinclair, Declan Byrne, Gabby Johnson, Sadie Hargreaves, Siobhan Jones, Clive Starr, and later Nikki Warrington and her various family members. Duncan would briefly return to the series, but played by new actor Jonathan Wrather.

During 1999 and the early part of 2000 the departures of Claire, Nick and Maria left Roy as the show's only original character. Claire later returned for a lengthy period spanning 2000 to 2003. Roy's departure later in 2003 left resident villain Pete Callan as the show's longest-serving character.

The boat explosion was an infamous cast purge designed by new producer Brian Park - famous for revamping Coronation Street with a cast reshuffle that included the departures of key characters Derek and Mavis. Again Park had been brought in specifially to totally revamp Family Affairs. After the departure of the Hart family the series quickly settled into its new style which has largely been maintained ever since. Subsequent developments have followed a similar pattern of new families moving in on a fairly regular basis, and the occasional catastrophe to clean out characters who have exhausted their storyline potential. Indeed in 2003 as the Costello and Boulter families moved in one established family emigrated and an out-of-control car killed two longer serving residents.

Setting

Originally taking place in the fictional town of Charnham in Kent, the series has since been redefined as being located on Stanley Street, near the equally fictional Charnham tube stop in West London.

Previously the action took place in a series of suburban homes whose geographic relation to one another was not clearly defined by the series, and the primary meeting place for characters was Pete's slick and modern riverside bar/cafe The Lock. During 2000 Pete sold the Lock and bought an older-style traditional pub The Swan. Incredibly, despite the fact practically all of them despised the villainous Pete, the show's characters all followed Pete to become regulars at his new pub. The Swan became the primary meeting-place for the show's characters and The Lock would not be seen again. In addition to this it soon became apparent that the homes of several of the characters, along with Yasmin's mini-market and her upstairs flat, and Cat's hairdressing salon, were coincidentally located on the same short street where The Swan was located. Previously the mini-market and salon were frequently seen, but we rarely saw the exterior of the buildings. In addition, despite earlier location shooting that indicated her home was located in a spacious suburban housing estate of similar dwellings, Sadie's home was revealed to now be in a cosy corner of Stanley Street surrounded by narrow terrace houses, shops and cafes. From this point the series began to more closely resemble established shows like Coronation Street and EastEnders in that the geographic location became the focus; from this point on any established characters in the show not already living on the street would soon move there, and new families would be introduced into the storyline by moving into the street.

The street has progressively gained new retail establishments as new and existing characters open business such as a sandwich bar, an internet cafe and a second hand store. These businesses invariably go on to employ other regular characters from the show.

Storylines

The show generally concentrates on family-based storylines and marital upsets. More extreme storylines involving murder, rape, prostitution, blackmail, drug use, and brother-sister incestual relationships have also occurred. It has featured several gay and lesbian characters, and also many troubled youngsters having their first brush with the law.

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