5 Reasons You Should Give British Soap ‘Hollyoaks’ a Chance

"Hollyoaks" title card courtesy Lime Pictures/Channel 4

1. Bold and Unapologetic: Hollyoaks isn’t Afraid to “Go There” With Storylines

Texas (Bianca Hendrickse-Spendlove) is on the day of her wedding to Will (James Aetherton). Photo courtesy Lime Pictures/Channel 4
Texas (Bianca Hendrickse-Spendlove) is on the day of her wedding to Will (James Aetherton). Photo courtesy Lime Pictures/Channel 4

Canadian teen series Degrassi: The Next Generation used the tag line “go there” as a big marketing ploy, but I haven’t seen any other soap “go there” as much as Hollyoaks. This show continually break barriers placed in front of it by the status quo. What kinds of storylines are off-limits?

The heartbreaking “Niall’s Revenge” plot saw Myra McQueen’s long-lost son Niall (Revenge’s Barry Sloane) terrorizing his family in his quest for revenge against the mother who gave him up. Over the course of a year, he plotted the downfall of his brother John Paul and sisters Jacqui, Mercedes, Tina, Carmel, Michaela. Ranging from drug overdoses, reporting fraud, engineering breakups, exposing John Paul’s affair with a priest before killing his brother’s lover, attacking his own grandmother and a pregnant Tina down the stairs. In his last act of revenge, Niall kidnapped his siblings and forced their mother to choose which ones would live and die in a twisted game. Myra chose Carmel and Jacqui to die, though it was Tina who ultimately met her end due to an explosion in the church. The relationship between Myra and the children she was willing to sacrifice was forever changed.

Craig (Guy Burnet) and John Paul (James Sutton) fall for each other. Photo courtesy Lime Pictures/Channel 4
Craig (Guy Burnet) and John Paul (James Sutton) fall for each other. Photo courtesy Lime Pictures/Channel 4

The phenomenal John Paul/Craig/Sarah triangle (and shocking reveal) saw the straight Craig, who was in love with Sarah, fall in love with his best friend John Paul, who was struggling to come to terms with his own sexuality. Craig fought his feelings for John Paul all the while denying he was gay or bisexual. Was it possible for a guy who had been heterosexual for most of his life to fall in love with a gay man? Hollyoaks said yes. The popular pair was written off together and given a happy ending in 2008 but it wouldn’t stay that way. When John Paul returned at the end of 2012/early 2013, viewers learned that they split and Craig was now seeing a woman!

The show has regularly written out characters (including veterans) if the story called for it, not afraid to let fan backlash stop affect their vision for the show. Sometimes a change in executive producers can lead to the exit of 10+ characters in a short span. Social issue storylines are topical and educate viewers on subjects such as rape, domestic violence (heterosexual and same-sex), cyber-bullying, body image issues and SIDS among others without coming across as preachy.

Some of the current storylines include:

  • John Paul, now a teacher, has been the target of homophobic bullying from students Finn (Keith Rice) and Robbie (Charlie Wernham). Believing John Paul might be able to implicate them in a crime, Robbie bullies Finn into making sure John Paul won’t go to the police. Finn confronts John Paul, who realizes Finn was behind the attack on his grandmother and verbally berates him. Finn snaps, beating John Paul and raping him. As John Paul struggles with the events of his attack, Finn taunts him over what he’s done and becomes more ruthless in his actions. Robbie discovers what Finn and wants to tell the police but Finn threatens to attack him too, but not before implicating him as an accomplice in the crime. John Paul has been pushing away those who care about him, including Ste (Kieron Richardson), who he might have had feelings for.
  • Maxine’s (Nikki Sanderson) relationship with fiancee Patrick (Jeremy Sheffield) grows darker as he escalates his physical attacks on her. Patrick viciously beat Maxine after she told his estranged son Dodger (Danny Mac) about a secret box of Patrick’s she found with photos of a young girl after a robbery. The girl is the daughter of Patrick’s daughter Sienna (Anna Passey), who believes her daughter died after she was born.Sanderson and Sheffield have filmed PSA’s that have aired during the episodes and featured online as part of a ‘This is Abuse’ campaign to educate people about domestic violence. Sheffield described the relation to the storyline in a recent interview. “[This is] the power of soaps. Of course they’re entertaining and they’re on every day, but the fact that we are on every day and we’re in people’s homes five days a week, every week, means we do have some power to change people’s lives and that’s so nice to be part of.”
  • Sinead (Stephanie Davis) will soon face a mother’s worst nightmare — the death of a child. With her parenting skills already under scrutiny due to false hospitalizations, the death of her daughter Katy puts the spotlight on Sinead, who is accused of poisoning her.
  • Sienna is released from the mental institution, where she was serving time for terrorizing Nancy (Jessica Fox) and Darren (Ashley Taylor Dawson) among other reasons. How will her release affect the lives of those she’s hurt? Determined to find her daughter, Sienna suspects she might know her identity. Are her suspicions true? Also, will her feelings for twin brother Dodger continue to grow?
  • Carmel (Gemma Merna) struggles in the aftermath of the death her fiance Jim. The town’s criminal syndicate, lead by Frank(Jesse Birdall), Grace (Tamara Wall) and Trevor (Greg Wood), framing Jim for their crimes hasn’t helped matters. Also complicating her life is Sonny (Aaron Fontaine), the brother of her late husband Calvin, who returned to get to know his niece (the product of an affair between Calvin and Carmel’s cousin Theresa, who is now in jail for murdering him in 2010).

Hollyoaks tells the stories American soaps (and networks) shy away from in order to keep their viewers on the edge of their seats and continually come back for more.

New episodes of Hollyoaks air daily on Hulu and Hulu Plus.

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About the Author

Johnathon K. is a staff writer for TV Source Magazine. With a love of soaps, the Super Sentai Series and gaming, John's passion comes through in his writing and as a featured host of the TV Source Podcast, where he also serves as producer. In 2019, John launched his own podcast series "Our Take Media" which gives his take on various things in TV from soaps to reality television.

1 comment

  1. It sounds so good, but I’ve already got too much to watch with Days, GH, and Coronation Street!

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