Albert Square goes PSHE

23rd September 2011 at 01:00
More of EastEnders' yoof spin-off adi bloom

Early in the new series of E20, the EastEnders online yoof spin-off, there is a heartsinking moment.

Runaways Ava and Donnie are standing together on Albert Square; night is falling. "Donnie, where are we going?" Ava says. Donnie - tall, brooding, taciturn - looks her in the eyes: "Just trust me." Then he takes her by the hand, and they run.

"Cliche!" I write in my notes (exclamation mark and everything). "Why not just tell her?"

Moments like this punctuate the first two episodes of E20: wooden, awkward, a bit cliched. Which is a shame because, on the whole, series three looks like it will be really rather good.

The series, broadcast on BBC3, is intended to complement the PSHE curriculum. Accompanying teachers' resources and additional footage will be uploaded onto the BBC Learning website, dealing with themes such as sex and relationships, bullying, stereotypes and aspirations.

Some of these themes are evident already in the first two episodes. Care-home escapee Ava, for example, is bright and academically successful, and has already been depicted studying a university prospectus.

Meanwhile, there has been enough communal brooding between her and fellow runaway Donnie for the sex to be only an episode or two away. It is with loudmouth teenager Faith's dialogue, however, that the E20 writing team really comes into its own. "He waltzes in, all Gaddafi," she says of Richard, her youth worker.

E20's strengths - snappy writing, strong characters - are EastEnders' strengths; its weaknesses - a tendency towards cliche, two-dimensional authority figures - are EastEnders' weaknesses. Ultimately, this makes E20 a powerful classroom tool.

Review

E20 (series 3) Online. Weekly omnibus: Fridays, 8.30pm, BBC3.

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