Hello and welcome to today’s edition of A Slice Of Soap.
Hey guys, don’t you just love it when soaps tackle sensitive issues? And I ain’t talking about poor old Ben Mitchell’s struggle to become EastEnders’ answer to Justin Timberlake…I refer to ‘Hollywoodoaks’ (as I call it because it’s the soap with the beautiful people) and its plans for a mental health storyline. Here’s the story: There’s further heartache in store for Hollyoaks’ Osborne family in August when resident teen, Newt (played by Nico Mirallegro), is diagnosed with schizophrenia.
Over the past few weeks Newt’s friendship with Eli (Marc Silcock) has intensified and viewers have recently discovered that ‘Eli’ isn’t real. And whilst Newt’s fixation with his imaginary friend continues, his mental health has deteriorated. But it’s when Newt’s foster dad, Jack Osborne (Jimmy McKenna), ‘dies’ that Newt goes into meltdown.
Hollyoaks actor Nico Mirallegro said: "It’s been amazing to have been involved in such a great storyline and I’ve enjoyed the challenge of playing a character with schizophrenia. I hope the viewers enjoy it too." When soaps tackle serious subjects, it’s always about ratings first. Big ones – the untouchable ones – get the press and PR, capture the imagination of the fans and, hopefully, get people watching. However, there are times when it brings the issue in question into sharp focus. Hollyoaks is watched by a comparatively younger audience than other soaps and it’s a good way for young viewers to get to learn about mental illness.
Do you remember when Grange Hill, another of Phil Redmond’s creations (perhaps arguably the forerunner of Hollywoodoaks) became issue-led? I remember when it was trying to educate youngsters about the perils of drug abuse via Zammo Maguire and the adoption of the Just Say No campaign. It proved so successful that it resulted in half the cast being flown to the United States for a visit to The White House and First Lady Mrs Reagan. Somehow I don’t think Newt’s mental health issues will have quite the same effect, but at least it will raise some awareness about an illness that affects young as well as old.
Question is, will Hollyoaks tackle it as well as EastEnders did? Remember when Joe Wicks developed schizophrenia? Actor Paul Nicholls was so compelling and convincing that it took him years to move on from that role. Newt’s ‘meltdown’ episode will transmit on 7 August on Channel 4 at 6.30pm.
That’s it for now. Join me on Friday for more soap news and gossip. Got a comment about your favourite soap, this blog or anything else? Share it with me.
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