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SOAP'S FINEST HOURS; Bet Lynch's verdict on the scenes that reduced you to suds of tears.

Byline: JULIE GOODYEAR

THEY have incredible plot twists and their ridiculous scenarios can be laughable, yet they still have me - and millions of others - transfixed.

Soap operas deal with real issues, such as life, death and rape - often in the same episode - and we identify with them.

I was privileged to play Bet Lynch in Coronation Street for 25 years. I loved everything about her - she was my best mate. After all, she helped pay my mortgage.

Bet defined why people love soaps by combining humour and drama - with a leopardskin finish.

Programmes like Coronation Street are a window on the world, but they also have great acting, which makes us tune in expectantly.

The much-hyped rape of Toyah Battersby has gripped Street fans and won actress Georgia Taylor acclaim for her strong performance.

Her portrayal will join the great soap storylines, of which there are many. But only a few make it into my hall of fame. Here are my favourite scenes...

BIANCA'S PREGNANCY

(EastEnders)

Bianca (Patsy Palmer) learned her baby to Ricky (Sid Owen) had spina bifida and, realising she couldn't cope, had an abortion.

Patsy played these scenes to huge critical acclaim. It must have been very difficult for her - it would have been very upsetting.

DOT HELPS ETHEL TO DIE

(EastEnders)

After struggling with her conscience, Dot (June Brown) relented and gave Ethel (Gretchen Franklin) some painkillers then sat with her as she overdosed.

I am a huge fans of June's and have always thought Dot's character was very believable. She has been fortunate enough to have some terrific plots because of her strong acting.

STEVE MURDERS SASKIA

(EastEnders)

In self-defence, Steve (Martin Kemp) picks up an ashtray and hits Saskia (Deborah Sheridan-Taylor) all witnessed by Matthew (Joe Absolom).

No-one stole that scene, they were all great. I was on the edge of my seat.

ANGIE TELLS DIRTY DEN SHE'S DYING

(EastEnders)

This was 15 years ago, but I still remember it well. Angie (Anita Dobson) tells Den (Lesley Grantham) she's dying to stop him leaving her.

It was the first time a whole episode had been sustained with just two characters, which is very hard to do. But it worked really well in this case. Anita and Lesley had great chemistry.

CAROL JACKSON FINDS OUT HER BOYFRIEND'S DATING HER DAUGHTER

(EastEnders)

Carol (Lindsay Coulson) is furious after discovering Dan (Craig Fairbath) has been seeing her daughter Bianca (Patsy Palmer). Lindsay is a fantastic actress. I would love to have played that part and there was tremendous mileage in that storyline. I'd love to meet the writer who thought that one up.

TOYAH'S RAPE

(Coronation Street)

From coming to terms with the fact she's been raped to dealing with the after effects and discovering the culprit, this storyline is gripping.

Toyah (Georgia Taylor) has portrayed the trauma of a rape perfectly. Its a controversial part to play, but actors relish the chance to have a role like this.

TRANSEXUAL HAYLEY TELLS ROY SHE'S A MAN

(Coronation Street)

It was breathtaking when Hayley (Julie Hesmondhalgh) told Roy (David Neilson) the truth. Julie played her part brilliantly, with humour and sensitivity.

I know these two characters well and they sum up what is so good about the Street - that lovely pathos. Humour is an integral part and it doesn't make it less gritty.

PSYCHOPATH ALAN BRADLEY STALKS RITA

(Coronation Street)

Alan (Mark Eden) tracks down Rita (Barbara Knox) in Blackpool and tries to throw her in front of a tram. Barbara played this really well. They're both tremendous actors.

BETH AND MANDY JORDACHE KILL TREVOR

(Brookside)

After traumatic abuse from their father and husband Trevor (Bryan Murray), the mother and daughter try to bump him off with weed killer in his tea. When that doesn't work and he attacks Beth (Anna Friel) and Mandy (Sandra Maitland) stabs him in the back with a kitchen knife.

This was one of the most gripping storylines in recent years and I was transfixed. Anna and Sandra played their parts with the courage and conviction befitting such a serious topic.

MALE RAPE OF LUKE MORGAN

(Hollyoaks)

This was the first time male rape had ever been tackled on a soap and actor Gary Lucy was great at portraying Luke's harrowing ordeal.

It was a great performance which won him a well-deserved award.

BET'S VERDICT:

It must have been traumatic for EastEnder Patsy Palmer when her character Bianca told partner Ricky that she had an abortion

The mix of tension and drama was just right when Steve killed Saskia in EastEnders. No one actor stole the scene - they were all marvellous

Toyah Battersby's rape in Corrie saw young actress Georgia Taylor involved in one of the most harrowing soap plotlines of recent years, but she handled it superbly. From coming to terms with being raped to the after effects, she has been truly believable

It was 15 years ago, but every soap fan remembers when EastEnder Angie lied to hubby Den and told him she was dying. This was a truly classic moment in soap

The murder of Trevor Jordache in Brookside was one of the best soap plotlines of recent years. Stars Anna Friel and Sandra Maitland played it just right

The much-hyped and harrowing male rape in Hollyoaks was portrayed with the right amount of sensitivity. Young actor Gary Lucy deserved to win an award for it

It was a touching moment when Dot decided to help her dying pal Ethel to end her life with dignity. I'm a great fan of actress June Brown, who plays Dot, and she was tremendous in this scene

Some thought it shocking to have a transexual in Corrie, but Hayley has brought a great mix of humour and drama to the soap - especially when she confessed to Roy that she was really a man

Carol Jackson's world fell apart when she found out that her boyfriend was dating her daughter Bianca in EastEnders. There was great mileage in this storyline - I'd love to meet the writer

Passions ran high in Corrie when madman Alan Bradley stalked Rita and tracked her down in Blackpool. This was a strong episode of the soap with some great performances from the actors.
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Copyright 2001 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:May 2, 2001
Words:1034
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