WEEKEND TV: How soap's rural raunchiness has kept us all hooked.
IT must be all that country air that makes the Emmerdale folk enjoy a roll in the hay so much. They've been canoodling their way across the TV screen since the 70s and celebrate their 30th anniversary next week. TV writer MARION McMULLEN looks back on some of their raunchy rural romps.
A DEN of vice" is how Nuneaton-born clean-up campaigner Mary Whitehouse once condemned Emmerdale.
She was not amused at the sexy antics on the ITV soap and spoke out in the 1980s following the infamous Hotten Hotel fling between Jack and Karen Moore.
The series that was launched in 1972 as "the living story of the Sugden family - the excitement of country life around" originally put farming matters at the top of the agenda as the Sugden clan chewed the cud over copious cups of tea in Ma's kitchen.
But sheep shearing has been replaced by bed-hopping over the years as the major preoccupation of the village folk of Emmerdale.
There have been plane disasters, kidnappings, robberies, crashes, crimes of passion and affairs of the heart over the past 30 years.
Former Woolpack landlord Amos Brearly and the long-serving Seth Armstrong have also had their moments of romance.
Coventry actor Brendan Price also added to the hotbed of sexual intrigue when he joined the soap in the 1990s as Doctor McAllister. The doc and his family made themselves at home in the community and son Luke was soon indulging in the local past-time of kiss and tell.
Of course, the Dingles provide comic value and the soap has tackled serious issues over the years including armed robbery, rape and domestic violence.
It hasn't completely ignored the rural issues on which it was based either. The dairy herd got salmonella and had to be destroyed in 1981 while crop spraying in 1982 caused a fatal cattle stampede.
The past 10 years on Emmerdale have seen storylines become more and more gripping, and sometimes controversial in the case of the plane crash at the beginning of 1994 which devastated much of the village and killed four characters.
It was Emmerdale's highest watched episode, with more than 16 million viewers tuning in to see the aeroplane explode over Beckindale, to be renamed Emmerdale as villagers tried to put the disaster behind them.
Recent and current storylines range from Zak Dingle's testicular cancer and Zoe Tate's schizophrenia to Latisha Daggert and Cain Dingle's involvement in credit card deception and Ray Mullen's trafficking of illegal immigrants.
So 15 births, 51 deaths, nine vicars and roughly 250,000 pints in the Woolpack later, Emmerdale is about to enter its fourth decade. Now I wonder what happened to those sheep?
EMMERDALE was originally designed to fill a lunchtime slot for just 13 weeks.
THE soap had nine regular characters when it was first known as Emmerdale Farm. The present-day Emmerdale boasts a cast in excess of 40.
IT IS the country's second longest running drama serial regularly pulling in audiences of 10 million.
EMMERDALE FARM was first transmitted on October 16, 1972. It was created by former actor and playwright Kevin Laffan.
THE first Emmerdale wedding took place a year later between Frank Blakey and Jane Harker.
THE soap celebrated its 1,000th episode in 1985.
THE programme began transmitting three times a week in 1997 and became the UK's first soap to transmit five nights a week in October 2000.
IT WAS moved to its prime-time slot of 7pm in 1990 and the new-look Emmerdale turned to topical storylines including euthanasia, drink-driving, abortion, single parenthood and child abuse.
THERE could be tears before bedtime as Emmerdale's dippy barmaid Tricia Fisher gets ready to say "I do" to bungling boyfriend Marlon Dingle in the 30th anniversary edition of the TV soap next week.
But as with any soap wedding the course of true love rarely runs smoothly, especially when the bride's mother has more than a passing fancy for the bridegroom. Will they or won't they?
Luckily real life is a lot less stressful for actress Sheree Murphy, who plays the Woolpack barmaid. She married Leeds United midfielder Harry Kewell in July and they have a one-year-old son, Taylor.
It is obvious that she's happily married and a doting mum even though she admits her heavy workload has sometimes left her worrying that she's not getting to see as much of her young son as she might like.
"Taylor is lovely. He is 16 months old now - I can't believe it, the time just seems to fly by.
"My life has changed so much since becoming a mum. Of course, I can't go out so much with the Emmerdale cast as I did before," says the 26-year- old actress
"We always used to go out for a drink after work. But now I've got this little man at home who needs his mummy. I've been so busy recently, it has been a bit of a nightmare. I have been getting up at 6am and not back home until 8pm.
"Luckily I just get to see Taylor before he goes to bed. But I feel really guilty sometimes. He is at a fantastic age when everything is new to him.
"Taylor goes to a nursery which is close to where we live in Harrogate. Harry takes him in the morning and picks him up at night. I do feel so guilty - Harry is more like the mum sometimes," she giggles self-consciously.
STEAMY SCENES: Angharad, Amanda Wenban, (above) finds herself in the hands of the Nobbies (The Centurions) in 1994 and (right) Kathy Bates and Jackie Merrick spend the night in each others' arms in 1987