Blackhill Terrace (Original Soap Opera)

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CHANNEL 4 ANNOUNCE SHOCK LATE NIGHT SOAP OPERA

The UK broadcaster Channel 4 has been known throughout its history to take bold and brave risks with it’s content choices. Often intending to remain on the cutting edge of televised drama, although with varying degrees of success. However as ratings for soap operas decline across all channels and traditional television wanes in popularity for the easily bingeable streaming alternatives, the channels decision to launch a new soap opera hasn’t just raised eyebrows across the television industry, it’s seen them superglued to people’s ears.

Launching a soap opera alone is quite brave in this era, that’s before you consider the show will be broadcast at 10.35pm. A slot directly after the evening news on the main channels when the traditional soap opera audience are surely more inclined to pour themselves a cocoa and nip off to the comfort of their bed, and then there’s the fact it will be on five nights a week! Although a 9pm omnibus on E4 on a Saturday night has already been greenlit for the less late night hardy - and of course like all modern shows it will be available on demand.

The show is set in a post-Covid return to normality era - which might be it’s saving grace among the soap viewing public, weary of the face masks and overt social distancing so evident in the likes of EastEnders, Emmerdale and Coronation Street over the last year or so. The show boasts an open public house, cafe, shop and restaurant - as well as an office and factory in it’s nearby vicinity among many signs of the return to normality - so much so it could almost be classed as fantasy telly.

The show began filming it’s first batch of 20 episodes in December, with the cast - who as we’ll discuss later in this article is rather impressive - being moved into a stately home where as well as the show’s indoor and outdoor sets a custom built living quarters has been built for the actors allowing them to be considered as one household for filming purposes.

With many screaming 'not another soap opera' and many open minded we spoke to the show’s Executive Producer R Cobbles sat down with us to discuss the show - and what he expected from the show’s initial run. We’re excited to announce that TV Toilet Paper has exclusive interview rights with R Cobbles for the first six months of the show’s run, so you’ll get his opinion here.


You’ve very little experience in television, it has to be said. There’s a few veteran soap producers looking on in bemusement at your appointment, how confident are you that you'll make a success of this?

The whole idea behind this show is to offer something more fresh and innovative, I think Channel 4 deliberately wanted someone without preconceived notions of the restrictions of soaps to be heading this project up. There's a very stuffy approach to these sorts of shows in some quarters, an approach Channel 4 wanted to completely avoid with this.

It’s fair to say an excessive amount of money has been ploughed into this show- an estimated £50m - given it’s essentially an experiment. Does that make you feel more pressure?

Whenever a large amount of money is spent on a new TV show, there’s certain pressures to bear. An example is with the cast for example, our initial plan was to get up and coming nobodies so the characters we’re fresh in everybody as the character, however when you're given a casting budget in the region of what we got, there’s a certain amount of pressure to get household names. Thankfully a lot of them have spent the last year or so twiddling their thumbs and we’re only too happy to oblige.

Whilst you obviously can’t go into specifics presumably some of the higher profiler actors are going to be written out once the working landscape changes for them. Thinking in particular with regards to the likes of Maggie Smith and Ian McKellen here?

Provided their characters are still surviving a purpose in the show and they want to stick around, I can’t imagine the production team is going to choose to write actors of that calibre out of the show. I mean I certainly wouldn’t want to be the one to do it. Their wages certainly take into account what else they could be doing, and we’d hope they’d respect that.

Could you put an end to the rumour that you specifically refused a pre-watershed slot because you wanted to take the show in a much darker direction than you perhaps could have managed in such a slot?

I mean you just have to look at other soap operas such as Corrie to see quite clearly that incredibly dark subject matters can be tackled in pre-watershed slots from domestic violence to drug themes and child abuse - all covered in detail. The show is intended to have a substantially darker baseline than the other soaps, and we’ve already been compared to Brookside in that we’re operating on a slightly parallel reality - however the main driver for the chosen broadcast slot is to avoid direct competition with existing soaps, it’s almost impossible to schedule a pre-watershed offering without clashing with them. Obviously we’d then be bonkers not to take advantage of that broadcast time to have some fun.

The comparison to Brookside doesn’t quite end there though does it in that you’ve built a custom housing estate at the undisclosed filming location. Can you talk us through the physical sets?

We’ve gone for a mixture of traditional soap sets and building an outside estate. I’d probably say we’re closer to Corrie than Brookside though. We’ve built the outdoor lot to represent the estate that the show’s being filmed on, but built the internal sets inside a large warehouse - we’re actually using the factory building that can be seen on the outdoor set to house the indoor sets for the houses and things, it just gives slightly more flexibility in terms of camera work. But there’s a lot of outdoor filming going on, I’m not sure filming in all weathers went down well with a few of the cast - but a bit like the long days it soon becomes second nature.

That leads me into a nice segway question here, filming for five episodes a week surely requires a bit of flexibility, is it right the show shoots on a 20-hour day?

Whilst it’s correct the show shoots on a 20-hour day, six days a week, it’s important to work out what that means in reality. No single crew or cast works more than the 48 hours unless it’s a big story - which gives us leeway to 60 hours, no-ones working a 120 hour week - can’t imagine the cast we’ve got would have agreed to that. Or the crew. It’s all block filming a bit like any other soap opera or TV show, we’ll throw the cast together to film as much as they can in two to three days a week. Monday is the ‘all hands on deck’ day where we film big ensemble pieces like the pub being open, or a few of the storylines I don’t want to go in too much detail here, and then the more familial stuff and one on one done the rest of the week. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it, it works for the other shows.

You alluded to a storyline there that’s been doing the rounds, partly because of a viral video, regarding the terrorist siege of the entire community. It’s a bit sensationalist for a soap opera no?

Even in the earliest stages of discussing the show we were quite clear that we had two choices. We could either play this as a straight down the line soap opera and lull viewers into a false sense of security then gradually plop in the loony bin stuff we’ve had planned or we could be upfront that this show is a basket case. We figured that the audience we want are the one that’s happy to go down the loony bin road from the start, you see it all the time with serial dramas that start soft and go sensationalist that original viewers get vitriolic and jaded. If we start in the bizarre we cut that natural progression out and we’re honest about our intentions from the off.
Will you be watching the first episode when it goes out on Monday 8th then? Or hiding in a broom cupboard?

I’ll be sitting at home watching it, I mean there’s not much else to be doing at the minute, right? We’re looking at possibly throwing a zoom watch along with the cast and crew and all that media jazz but not sure who’s available yet. I haven’t actually seen the final cut yet, so there’ll still be some surprises even for me.

Thanks a lot for talking to us, I look forward to seeing the reaction to first episode on Monday.

In tomorrow’s edition of this paper we’ll be breaking down the full cast soon to move in to Blackhill Terrace and our TV screens,
given a brief overview of the characters, so don’t miss that!!
 

cobbles

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I know this is in the realm of high fantasy for a late night soap opera cast but meh, if you can't have a bit of fun with fantasy casting in these things when can you? Of course this is just the initial casting and there is plenty more characters to come and go in the series. I've filled 9 houses - but my map of the street has 16 houses not including workplaces and amenities like the pub and the shops etc.

(I seemed to have screwed up the pic save file but can't fix it, if you open it in a new tab and zoom it might be easier to read).
 

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cobbles

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Okay, so the fun and games parts have all been of great enjoyment for me to do with the fantasy casting and the mapping out of the show's location, however the mark of any good written soap/fanfic is of course the actual writing so it’s time to get on with that. :)

Episode 1 - 8th February 2020 - 10.35pm

It’s early evening, the dusk descending upon Blackhill Terrace as the humdrum of daily life goes about, the cars returning from work. The children playing in the street. Just like any other evening in an urban terraced estate like this. The kids kick a ball across the road with abandon, the older ones playing a high stakes game of frogger on their mountain bikes between the returning cars.

A particularly grubby old Vauxhall Astra only just about manages to screech to a halt in time to avoid plowing into a sixteen year old kid, the driver - David Rhode’s heart stops for a minute as he notices it’s Billy Rhodes. His son.

‘Get in the house now you little bastard’ screams David at the youngster ‘And don’t go kidding your old mum you’re just back for dinner or I’ll have you up off the ceiling by your ears.’

David hops back into the car and makes a half-hearted attempt to park it, leaving much of it straggling the pavement and just enough room for a car to wince past. He marches off into the house at No 6.

***

Niall Black is sitting in his home, stretched out across the television in a pair of joggers and loose fitting T-Shirt. A pile of paperwork stands at the bottom of the sofa as he hugs his body against the sofa, laptop balanced precariously on his lap. He fires off one last email for the day before celebratorily closing the laptop in jubilant fashion. The end of another day of rubbish marketing emails and brainstorming, but thankfully no meetings. Fiyaz comes bounding down the stairs in a hurry, smartly dressed in a shirt and black pants.

Niall looks across and gives him a knowing smile.

‘Off to work then, gorgeous’ he smiles.
‘Yeah, I’ll catch you when I get back, okay’ comes the resigned response.
‘I might not be up, I’ll leave you some grub in the kitchen.’
‘I wish it didn’t have to be this way I really do, but it’s life.’
‘I just wish I could help out with stuff in some way. It seems so rubbish you are working so much. I mean when was the last time we went out...’
‘Don’t do this! Please! I’ve got to go.

Fiyaz bounds over and gives Niall a big fat kiss before walking out through the door to work.

Niall grabs himself up off the sofa, plowing towards the fridge and grabs a ready meal and a few cans of fosters out of it, opening the fosters and hoiking the ready meal into the microwave to incinerate it. Then slumps back into the chair.

***

David swings the door open with rigorous force looking over to Katie who’s fiddling about with an abundance of pots and pans.

‘Where’ve you been? I’ve had dinner on that hob for an hour, David?’
‘Earning some money, someone’s gotta round here. Anywhere where is he, the little shit?’
‘Where’s who?’
‘The dalai lama?’ David pauses ‘Our Billy, I’m going to string him up, I am!’
‘Ah look man don’t you go causing no bother, it ain’t worth it. He went upstairs to he’s room - didn’t even say hello come to think of it.’

David storms up the stairs towards Billy and Tom’s room - the houses are two up two down round here so the poor kids are still sharing despite their age. He brays the door down.

***

On the other side of it Billy’s pushing back his older brother Jamie.

‘Look whatever the beef is between you and dad, I ain’t being dragged into it just let him in.’

A call of ‘listen to him’ comes howling from the other side of the door. Billy moves out the way of the window, allowing Jamie to open it - as he does Billy pushes past Jamie and clambers through the window, his slim build allowing him to do so.

David manages to get through the door just as he does so, but he’s too late.

‘For crying out loud man, you could’ve stopped him.’ David blasts in at Jamie’s face ‘You’re bloody children the pair of you. At your age I was working 60 hours a week, what are you two doing. He’s acting like a ten year old and you just sit at that bloody PC screen pretending you're some wannabe Einstein all bleeding day.’

There’s a loud thud of footsteps up the stairs, it’s Katie. A stern look on her face.

‘Leave our Jamie alone, he’s done nout wrong all his life. Maybe if she showed some respect for him, Billy would try and be like him.’

‘Ah, so it’s my fault our son’s a criminal lackey now, cos I didn’t hug him enough?’ David's blood boils and he pushes past Katie down the stairs, running onto the street. “I bet you think Jack the Ripper would have been an astronaut if he got more cuddles as a kid…’

He looks around trying to scout for Billy, he catches the corner of his eye, but the boy darts off at speed down the road. David can’t keep up, he wraps his knuckles against his thighs in rage, and scuttles back to the house…

***

Back at Niall’s house there’s an absolute thud of braying at the door. Niall ignores it, hoping whoever it is will go away. But the thud continues unabated for a further few minutes, and increasingly irate visitors punctuating it with bellows of ‘Open Up’.

Niall goes to the door leaving it on the latch lock, just in case. He can see through the latch the man on the other side of the door is a huge hefty man, all muscle though no fat. About 6’6 and 200 pounds.

‘You must be the infamous Niall then, you’re boyfriend in?’
‘Who are you?’ Niall questions.
‘Seriously man, we can do this the easy way or the hard way are you gonna open up that door lad?’
‘Not unless you tell me what you’re here about.’
‘Just here to clear up some of Fiyaz’s financial issues, that’s all?’
‘He said it’s sorted’ Niall screams.

As Niall screams the heavy busts the door open snapping the latch. He grabs Niall by the throat, and lifts him up off the ground.

‘I guess we’re going the hard way.’

He pins Niall against the wall, and grabs out a small pistol from one of his many pockets pointing it at Niall’s head.

‘You move, I shoot’ he screams. ‘Just need to write a little message for Fiyaz and then we’ll be off?’

‘We, you said we’ Niall interjects unable to help himself. He stops, upon reading the note the heavy is writing.

DUE PAYMENT OF DEBTS - £25,000 BY FRIDAY 12TH FEBRUARY - FAILURE TO PAY WILL RESULT IN TERMINATION OF THE BOUNTY.

The heavy reaches into Niall’s pocket and grabs his wallet, he pulls out his driving license and staples it to the ransom note. He grabs Niall by the scruff of the neck and drags him to the door before letting go.

‘Act normal or I shoot, don’t want the neighbours kicking up a fuss you get me.’

Niall and the heavy drive off into the distance in a white transit van.

TO BE CONTINUED
 

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Episode 2 - Tuesday 9th February 2020

It’s a dark overcast day on Blackhill Terrace, it’s early in the morning around 4am. Fiyaz walks out of the restaurant having finally finished his hard nights' work behind the bar and helping clean the place up. He’d stayed behind for a couple of drinks, as was customary for the pub. He half staggers along the road, with the last of his cans in his hand.

As he arrives towards his house he goes to put his key in the door but notices it’s unlocked, this spooks him a bit, it’s normally locked. He opens the door.

‘You in? Niall’ he screams up from the front door, given a short pause with no response he shouts again ‘Niall?’

He trods up the stairs to the bedroom, quickly noticing Niall isn’t there, he rings his phone. No answer. He walks towards the kitchen, grabbing himself a glass of water he spots the note left by the kidnapper out of the corner of his eyes.

He dials 999 into his phone but hesitates, and puts the phone down before calling.

***

Back at the Rhode Family house at No 6 a few hours later, Katie and David are sitting having breakfast at the dinner table, with Jamie coming downstairs getting ready to go to his college lectures. He grabs himself some toast and greets his parents good morning. He gets a steely look from his parents.

‘You heard from Jimmy last night after he went out?’ David asks him.
‘No nothing,has he not come back again then?’ Jamie asks.
‘Nope.’ Katie replies.
‘I wouldn’t get that worried, it’s not the first time, is it?’ Jamie retorts. ‘Might just be staying at a mates.’
‘Yeah - that’s what I’m worried about you daft apeth.’ David chimes in ‘Mates like his, he’d be better off sleeping rough…’

There’s a knock at the door.

‘Police. Open Up.’

David walks up to the door and answers it. There’s a male and female police officer standing next to each other, looking sombre. Katie and Jamie are hovering behind them.

‘I’m PC Hargreaves, this is PC Lansdown’ the male introduces them ‘Do you mind if we come in?’
‘Not unless you tell us what this is about, have you got a warrant?’ David shouts back raising his voice.
‘You’re not in any trouble, sir. We’re with the family liaison unit. Please, I really think it would be best if you let us in.’

‘Is it our Billy? Is it our Billy?’ Katie screams from behind David.

David steps aside to let the police officers through. The female officer shakes her head, palpable relief etching on Katie’s face.

‘Mr Rhode’s I really suggest you take a seat.’

David follows the coppers lead. And the family sit down in the living room.

‘We regret to inform you that your mother Katherine Rhodes of Ellenton Drive passed away at 5.00am this morning.’

‘Oh is just that old bitch?’ David stands up almost unphased by the news ‘I thought it might have been my dad, don’t do that to me. Here’s a fella’s number - Tommy - my half-brother. Going bray that little shits the door down instead.’

The police officer is momentarily taken aback by the reaction.

‘I apologise sir, your mother listed you as next of kin. I’m really sorry if that’s a mistake.’ says PC Lansdown.

‘Oh she would. One last little laugh as she croaks. I can just see her sitting up in the pearly gates having a right laugh at my expense.’ David says ‘Do you want me to ring Tommy and let him no, save you a visit? He lives all the way down on the south coast these days.’

‘We’ll arrange for a local officer to visit him, best to try and do these things in person. I only hope the reaction is more amenable. Again we’re really sorry to have inconvenienced you. We’ll be off.’says PC Hargreaves

‘Just before you go, pal. My son went out last night and ain’t come back - Billy Rhodes - I won’t suppose you’d take a missing person report on him.’

The police officer opens his radio.

‘PC Hargreaves to control, can I check any missing persons logs for Billy Rhodes of No 6 Blackhill Terrace.’

‘Control to PC Hargreaves. No missing person reports but someone of those details has just been nicked for breaking and entering a twocking. We’re trying to contact family now!’

‘PC Hargreaves to Control! No need - I’m with the family now on a death message, they’ve been asking about him. I’ll let ‘em know prompto.’

‘Do you want me to give you a lift to the station?’

‘Yeah please.’

The two police officers and David Rhodes walk out of the house into the police car, David hopping into the backseat. The car’s unmarked but the police are uniformed. Curtains up and down the street twitch. Not least that at Ethel’s Stonehouse.

***
Ethel Stonehouse walks down the street on the ruse of going to the corner shop to get her paper, but makes sure she catches a view of the car driving off. She turns into the shop, where she’s being served by the delightful young Samuel Cole.

‘Can I have a packet of twenty Richmond and a copy of the Daily Mail please Sam?’
‘No bother Ethel, anything else?’ Sam asks back.

Ethel scans the room looking for something else, or at least pretending to - Albert Quarry walks through the door, seemingly giving her the license she looks for to gob up.

‘Morning Albie, have you seen those two coppers before?’ she asks.
‘Nope, just got up, not all of us are glued to windows like their TV sets, Ethel!’
‘They took David Quarry off - always been something wrong with that fella if you ask me. Reckon it’s drugs or fraud or something like that.’
‘You don’t even know if he’s been arrested you old bat!’ Albert snaps as he grabs his stuff from the shelf and throws it on the counter ‘If she’s just here to natter, I’ll take that and twenty lambert and butlers please, oh and pass a bottle of vodka!’

‘Keep drinking buddy at this time in the morning and it’ll be you off in a police car soon, or a hearse.’ Ethel snaps.

‘Me mother died six months ago Ethel, and I ain’t auditioning for surrogates any time soon love, if I die at my age I’ll accept it. As for David there could be all sorts of explanations.’

‘If you two have bought what you need, could I polite ask you to take the domestic outside…’ Sam interjects.

‘Laddy, the only domestic I’d want her having with me is hired help variety’ Albert barks as he storms out the shop, slipping a V sign towards Ethel.

‘He’s right you know, there’s all sorts of reason’s he could have been dealing with the police Ethel, did you see them arrest him’ Sam asks?

‘Well no, not exactly’ Ethel responds ‘Oh do one yourself as well, I’m off to the bingo.’

Ethel walks out leaving Sam standing by the counter playing with his phone in the empty shop. He gets a phone call from ‘Mellisa’ - he doesn’t answer it.
 
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