EastEnders replaced plans for a caravan park soap

It's hard to imagine a world without the legendary Mitchells, Beales and Fowlers. A world where 'The Queen Vic' was just another monarch, and leopard print is only seen in the wild.

But it turns out EastEnders was actually a last-minute addition to our screens, when plans for a drama series set on a caravan park were axed.

eastenders, pat butcher, peggy mitchell, frank butcher

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According to Lord Michael Grade, former Controller of BBC One, the series was going to be set in the North East of England, revolving around its elderly residents, but was quickly scrapped.

The idea was replaced by a drama featuring the lives of East Londoners, in a bid to compete with the success of ITV's Coronation Street.

Speaking to Boom Radio, Lord Grade said: "I asked to see the head of drama series, Jonathan Powell. I said, tell me about this alleged soap opera. And he said: 'I've only just taken over... the show I've inherited is set in a geriatric caravan park in the North East.'

"My face fell. I said, 'Really? Where is that now?' He said, 'I've binned that. We've got a show called EastEnders, based on a square in the East End of London.'"

george knight, cindy beale, eastenders

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Though he agreed the idea sounded "a bit better than a geriatric caravan park", Lord Grade admitted he was anxious about how EastEnders would be received, until he watched the first episode.

"I remember with some considerable trepidation, putting the cassette in the machine and thinking 'Oh my God, you know, this is a year's commitment. This could be horrible.' And as the music and the opening titles played, I knew it was okay."

Lord Grade also revealed that EastEnders was deliberately envisaged to contrast Corrie's northern culture.

"People don't realise this now, but Coronation Street was very gentle and fluffy, and nothing horrible ever happened. It does now, but that's a response to what we did on EastEnders. It became much more socially conscious, dealing with social issues and real hard pain in families. And Coronation Street eventually followed suit," he added.

EastEnders airs on Mondays - Thursdays at 7.30pm on BBC One. The show also streams on BBC iPlayer, where most episodes drop early at 6am ahead of their TV broadcast.

Read more EastEnders spoilers on our dedicated homepage

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