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The Butch[er][s] is[/are] back

FRANK! EastEnders, BBC One, Mon & Fri 8.00pm, Tue & Thu 7.30pm

Exciting and solemn (mainly exciting) times in EastEnders this week, as the soap pays a very special tribute to the late Mike Reid with four episodes centred around the funeral of Frank Butcher. Pat and Peggy's health spa / civil partnership witnessing break is interrupted by the arrival of Ricky and Diane (DIANE!) with some grave news about their mutual ex-husband, and over the course of the week the Square's residents (the few who've been in it for longer than two years, anyway) pay their respects in true East End style. There may be piano playing. There could be arguments. It's going to be quite a week.

Of course, it's not Frank's first funeral, and the biggest tragedy of all is that with the magnificent Mike Reid officially dead in real actual life, there's no chance of Frank popping out of the coffin mid-service in one of those moments of supreme good taste with which he was always so closely associated (see Fig. 1). So now the REAL thrill is the return of three of Frank's offspring (advance reports make no mention of Clare 'occasional table' Butcher, the Belinda Slater of the family, but we live in hope), with Sophie Lawrence briefly reappearing as Diane (DIANE!) after her last brief reappearance 11 years ago, Charlie Brooks temporarily dragging Janine out of cold storage for the first time since 2004, and serial returnee Sid Owen returning PERMANENTLY (or at least until the lure of To Buy Or Not To Buy and I'm A Celebrity becomes too great) as Ricky, conveniently at exactly the same time as Patsy Palmer makes a similarly permanent return as Bianca 'the former Mrs Ricky Butcher' Jackson, now with added kids, added not a very good singing voice and apparently no money.

So what's everyone been up to in their absence? Well, Bianca's been collecting kids and failing to have any money (see above), while Ricky's bafflingly been doing rather well for himself money-wise, and has landed a gold-digging girlfriend in the shape of Siobhan 'not former-EastEnder Daniela Denby-Ashe' Hayes from My Family. Janine's been hard at work competing with Leanne Battersby in the perpetual ex-cocaine addict, ex-prostitute, money-grabbing bitch parallel life stakes, and appears to be back mainly for the reading of the will (presumably hoping for some cash to cover the cost of the petrol she's presumably planning to buy for the small Italian restaurant she's presumably been running for about a year - looks like Leanne's about to pip you to the post on that one, Janine!), while Diane (DIANE!) has taken responsibility for her son (the frequently offloaded Jacques), is training to be a doctor and has already trained to be a lesbian, evidently hoping to minimise the risk of accidentally falling into bed with Ian Beale or Phil Mitchell during her slight return to Albert Square.

Naturally, the return of Sophie Lawrence is the most exciting part of all this for us, with the early-90s episode where Frank found Diane (DIANE!) living in Paris being our earliest memory of that peculiarly EastEnders thing of having someone only appear right at the very end of an episode and then putting them at the top of the cast list in the end credits, adding SIGNIFICANCE and INTRIGUE and EXCITEMENT to their appearance. And clearly no post about Sophie Lawrence and Butchery would be complete without this:



Or even THIS:



Superb.

Elsewhere, Pat and Peggy obviously use the funeral as an excuse for another punch-up, selfish Chelsea goes in search of her apparently-selfish father to erroneously claim some bone marrow or bum some cash for a dress or something, and Honey probably does the whole death-related malapropism thing quite a lot (to death, in fact). Ricky, Diane (DIANE!), Janine: please accept our sincerest condonances.

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According to Marxist theory, cultural forms such as opera, classical music and the literary works of Shakespeare all fall under the heading of high culture. Low culture refers to a wide variety of cultural themes that are characterised by their consumption by the masses. We might not be Marxists, but we do know we loved Footballers Wives. If you do too, you'll know what this is all about.

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