Family Affairs (Channel 5, 1997-2005)
When Channel 5 launched in March 1997 they promised some homemade original programming, including their own weekday soap which they hoped would be a big success and rival the likes of Brookside and EastEnders. Family Affairs was produced by Thames and began on the first night of Channel 5 before moving into its regular slot of every weekday at 6:30, with an omnibus on Sunday afternoons. I didn’t watch too regularly but I wanted to share some of my memories of the show.
Family Affairs was set in the fictional London borough of Charnham and the earliest episodes were centred around the Hart family and their neighbours. Among the launch cast were a few actors who would go on to bigger things including Cordelia Bugeja (Melanie Hart) who went on to appear in lots of adverts and Idris Elba (Tim Webster). He’s going to be the next James Bond, you know.
However after about a year the Harts seemingly hadn’t made that much of an impact with viewers so at the start of 1999 they were all randomly killed off in a boat explosion and the show tried a “year zero” approach with a relaunch including a new production team and cast members, and Charnham seemingly magically moving to a different part of London in the process. The opening title sequence and theme was also changed which oddly sounded familiar to “Speed Of Sound” by Coldplay.
One thing that caught my eye about the show around 2002 was when after one of my favourite soaps ITV’s Night And Day ended a few ex-cast members turned up in Family Affairs seemingly trying to continue their soap careers, including Julia Lee Smith (Lucy Day) and Seb Castang (Jake Walker) who for some reason I remember had a storyline where he crashed a car which killed a couple of people and ended up going to prison.
In 2003 I noted that a character called Justin MacKenzie had joined as part of yet another wave of new characters who was played by Ryan Davenport, who unless I am going barmy is the same one who used to be in my class at school in 1990, and his dad Doug was played by none other than Gareth Hale of Hale and Pace fame so how about that. And around 2004 a character called Bradley Foster joined who was played by Harry Capehorn of Channel 5’s Harry and Cosh fame, who was at the centre of possibly the most shocking storyline in the whole run of the show.
But despite all this, with many wholesale cast changes, production changes, and a few notable attempts at hard-hitting storylines which won some awards, Channel 5 seemed to lose interest in Family Affairs as the years passed, and as the ratings remained rather disappointing at around a million, the decision was taken to end the show in December 2005 after almost nine years and over 2,000 episodes. Since then Channel 5 haven’t attempted to make any more soaps, and the evening slot is now filled with the Australian imports Home and Away and Neighbours.