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Alan's just what the Dr ordered Alan Fletcher, 56, has been a regular on the Australian soap Neighbours since 1994. Here, the actor chats about playing Dr Karl Kennedy, his favourite storyline and why he's now the latest soap star hoping for chart stardom.

We know you as Dr Karl Kennedy but didn't you play a different character in Neighbours before that? I did. It was the late 80s and I played a character called Greg Cooper, who was a mechanic. I played him for three weeks. They asked me to come back and do a year on Neighbours but I was busy in the theatre. Mercifully they didn't forget about me and I went back seven years later. When you returned as Karl in 1994 did you think you'd be there 20 years later? Not at all. Two things had happened. I had watched a bit of Neighbours - I wasn't really aware on any serious level about its popularity in the UK. I had no concept of the show lasting that long. Also, as a working actor, you never really like to think about how long a cult's going to go. I signed a one-year contract and I thought, "A year on Neighbours. That'll be really cool." And then I blinked. Karl and wife Susan (played by Jackie Woodburne) are soap legends. What's your favourite storyline? The one that Jackie and I hang on to was when Karl and Susan returned to London and they got married on the Thames. It was historic because it was the first time we'd filmed outside Australia and we had so many legendary stars - Michael Parkinson, Neil Morrissey, Emma Bunton and Julian Clary. They all made appearances.

Your current storyline with Karl and Paul Robinson each trying to become local mayor is great. Are you pals with Stefan Dennis who plays him? He's a long-term buddy of mine. He sings with my band, Waiting Room. Stefan and I share a very common sense of humour, too. When we work with each other as our on-screen characters, that brings a lot of joy.

Susan's health becomes an issue, will Karl give up his race to become mayor? Well, he does offer to. He gets a big shock that, as a doctor, he missed all of the warning signs that Susan's illness (MS) could be returning. His love for her will always transcend any desire to defeat Paul in a mayoral race. There are some dirty tricks from Paul Robinson, though. What made you decide to release your Christmas single last month, If You Want a Happy Christmas? This is real bucket-list stuff for me. It was suggested by Laura Monaghan, from the band The Pacific Belles. She's a big Neighbours fan and a Brit. She asked if I'd record a Christmas cover with the girls from The Pacific Belles and we'd donate the money to charity. So I wrote this song, If You Want a Happy Christmas.

Neighbours returns to Channel 5 on Monday.

Beale it be wife No5? After a number of failed attempts, Ian Beale gets Denise to agree to being his fifth wife MUST SEE TV!

With four wives to his credit, Ian Beale is just one short of matching the record of Corrie's Peter Barlow as Soapland's most prolific serial groom. But Ian might equal that record - if he can successfully propose to Denise.

What exactly, though, are the qualities that make the best-looking women in Walford fall for him? First, there was the tantalising Cindy, even if she hired a hitman to try and bump him off. Next came the gorgeous Mel, who dumped him at their wedding reception. Then there was Laura, who met an unfortunate end tumbling down the stairs. And fourth wife Jane divorced him and left Albert Square after he lied and cheated on her.

While that kind of marital CV should put the stunning Denise on red alert, she somehow ends up agreeing to be the fifth Mrs Ian Beale on Tuesday when she finds the engagement ring and accepts his assumed proposal.

And given her somewhat blighted love life, she deserves a little bit of romantic happiness. Failing that though, Bealey will have to do But his new fiancee isn't without her admirers, both of whom are young enough to be her sons. First, Nancy Carter's fella Wayne makes a move on Denise in the B&B. But she rejects him.

When Ian criticises her revealing dress at their engagement party and she heads off to the loos, she's followed by her former toy boy lover, Fatboy.

As they kiss tenderly, you have to wonder whether Ian will ever get Denise down the aisle. Not if she has any sense ZINNIE HAS TO CONFRONT HER PAST River City BBC1 The aftermath of the assault on Zinnie dominates the drama in Shieldinch this week as Jamie's bail hearing looms large. With Alex watching his terrified brother being ushered to court and believing in his innocence, he decides to do what he can to bring the case against Jamie to an end. After visiting Pippa to find out why Zinnie started escorting, he jumps to the conclusion that she's trying to extort money from him by falsely accusing Jamie.

He confronts Zinnie and tells her that he believes the whole situation is getting back at him for the unpleasantness between them. Zinnie is left horrified by his suggestion, and wonders whether her past as an escort may reflect poorly on her in court.

She confesses her secret to a shocked Leyla and DCI Donald. When the police officer then cautions Alex for his attempted intimidation of Zinnie, Alex decides to hire himself a lawyer, and turns to Paul Malick.

THESE SISTERS ARE POLES APART Emmerdale STV How much more complicated can this story get? Marrying Alicia on Christmas Day for the second time, David could never predict that Leyla would unexpectedly arrive. And for anybody who isn't keeping up, she is the woman who dumped her then fiance David two years ago, is Alicia's sister and the birth mother of Jacob following a one-night stand with Alicia's first husband Justin. Blimey...

With Jake pining, Alicia decides to track Leyla down and discovers that she is now working in a strip club and looks ridiculous cavorting around in her red PVC. But trying to rescue her ends in all sorts of disasters, including being arrested on suspicion of soliciting. Taking Leyla back to the village certainly displeases David. Let's just hope he doesn't put on Leyla's old wedding dress and go out and get drunk again. Gulp.

Tina flees the street Coronation Street STV For such an astute businesswoman, the fifth Mrs Peter Barlow seems to be awfully dense when it comes to her new husband.

How could Carla fail to notice him and barmaid Tina exchanging knowing looks? Perhaps it's the danger of secretly cavorting with a married man that has attracted Tina to Peter.

And even though he is a recovering alcoholic and bigamist, she has made most of the running.

But then with a procession of pathetic little boy losers to her credit - that weasel David Platt, dim Jason Grimshaw, daft Graeme Proctor and wimpy Tommy Duckworth - is it any wonder she finds a man old enough to be her father appealing? While they haven't consummated their secret relationship yet, they have come close. And it was only Roy interrupting that stopped them going further last week.

With Tina deciding to leave Weatherfield, Peter now desperately tries to persuade her to stay. Instead of going to a business meeting, he heads up to Tina's flat with her. But frustrated and angry, she smashes a glass and accidentally cuts her hand.

Well, first cut is the deepest when it comes to love, they say. Tina gives him an ultimatum: he has to choose her or Carla.

Unfortunately, he picks the wife and Tina packs her suitcase and leaves the Street, causing Peter to clash with Liz when he tries to find out where she's gone.

"As far as possible away from you," Liz snaps. But for how long? SCHOOL BULLY Hollyoaks Channel 4 Gay teacher John Paul has suffered months of homophobic bullying at the hands of pupil Finn.

When the cruel teenager is put on canteen duty for bad behaviour, he plays a prank which leaves his teacher covered in food. Events turn darker still when John Paul confronts Finn over his attempted robbery at Atwell's. The twisted pupil then commits a terrible crime that will shatter the schoolteacher's life forever.

DRENCHED... John Paul LOVE TRIANGLE Neighbours Channel 5 It hasn't taken young Joshua long to get over his 'heartbreaking' split from Amber, because he's soon locking lips with another young lady.

After an interview at the West Waratah Star, Josh is surprised when journalist called Ruby makes a pass at him. Matters get complicated when Amber decides she wants him back... then Ruby texts saying that she wants to continue their fling!

PASSION... Ruby and Joshua SOAP ADDICT Doctors BBC1 Adding to his long CV of soap roles, Ian Reddington, aka EastEnders' Tricky Dicky and Corrie's hapless drummer Vernon, pops up here as a TV presenter.

Valerie is a huge fan of telly star Freddie Hands, so she's over the moon when he arrives at the university to do a talk and book signing. But his squeaky clean image is clearly all a front, when Valerie catches him trying to give drugs to a recovering addict.


HAPPY... Denise tells Lucy the news

WORRIED... Zinnie

TUMBLE... Leyla and Alicia

FAV... Ian Reddington as TV star Freddie
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Jan 4, 2014
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