Over the years, the soaps have delivered countless twists and turns that got everyone talking. EastEnders, Coronation Street, Emmerdale and Hollyoaks have also aired moments that were filled with controversy, or simply made viewers want to switch off. From incest and sordid affairs, to dodgy schemes and ill-advised seduction; there have been plenty of moments where storylines were pushed too far for the sake of drama.
Nat & Georgia’s incestuous relationship (Brookside)
Back in the 90s, Brookside aired one of the most shocking and contentious stories with full siblings Nat and Georgia’s consensual sexual relationship. After young Daniel walked in on his brother and sister in bed together, he ran out in front of Max Farnham’s car. Georgia’s guilt over the accident led her to confess the secret to their horrified parents, revealing that it had been going on for six years. She later admitted having an abortion after falling pregnant with Nat’s baby. Viewers found the storyline so disgusting that they made official complaints, and producer Phil Redmond apologised. Nat and Georgia moved away together after being the subject of a vendetta by Nat’s ex-wife Jules’ father.
Ronnie swaps her baby with Kat’s (EastEnders)
When Ronnie Mitchell found newborn son James dead in his cot while alone at home, she found she couldn’t reach any of her family for help. What unfolded next was widely criticised and viewers aired their grievances to Ofcom in their thousands. Making her way to the Queen Vic pub with her baby in her arms, Ronnie swapped him with Kat Moon’s baby boy. When husband Jack returned having been away working, he believed baby Tommy was their son while Kat and Alfie spent months mourning until Ronnie told them all the truth. EastEnders was accused of sensationalism in their portrayal of a mother losing a child through Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. The character had been through endless tragedies throughout her life and her fragile state of mind was a factor in her behaviour, but this took the misery too far. It has to be said that actress Samantha Womack played every traumatic moment of Ronnie’s story superbly, and this was no exception. But mixing a baby swap with a story about loss was deemed inappropriate, and the soap concluded the plot earlier than they initially intended.
Tony’s affair with Sinead (Hollyoaks)
Village veteran Tony Hutchinson has caused his fair share of trouble over the years, so infidelity wasn’t unlikely where he was concerned. But he wasn’t a character that Hollyoaks viewers usually disapproved of, until he embarked on a cringe-inducing affair with his other half Diane’s stepdaughter Sinead. Nobody wanted to see it, but it ran for months until Diane worked it out and publicly shamed them at her wedding to Tony. Surprisingly, she eventually forgave the pair of them and reconciled with her husband. The affair has had a few casual mentions lately since Sinead’s return, with even some of the characters expressing their shock or distaste. When her cousin Lily was at odds with Diane, Sinead informed her: ‘Darling, I had an affair with Tony, and she still forgave me.’ A great reference to a surreal scenario.
Kate plots to have a baby (Coronation Street)
Kate and Rana’s relationship quickly became popular with Corrie viewers, as was Bhavna Limbachia’s moving portrayal of Rana as she dealt with being disowned by family due to her sexuality. But soon after the couple got engaged, Kate rushed into deciding they should have a baby together. While Rana wasn’t sure, Kate became desperate and secretly propositioned Robert to father a child for them through insemination. When that plan fell through and her fiancée admitted she didn’t want to be a mother, Kate drunkenly tried to seduce Adam Barlow, thinking she could conceive naturally until he realised her motives. Many pointed out that the scenes were offensive, claiming it was irresponsible to suggest an openly gay woman would behave in that way. It was explained that Kate was still grieving over brother Aidan’s suicide and trying to fill a void in her life, but the drama was resolved rather quickly when she reunited with Rana without talking it through onscreen.
Robert tries seduction to snare Home Farm (Emmerdale)
After losing Aaron following a one night stand and pregnancy with Rebecca White, Robert Sugden focused all his energy on conning her father (and his ex-father-in-law) Lawrence out of all his lucrative assets. It was all about getting his feet under the table at Home Farm, which wasn’t much of a surprise to viewers. The twists came when Robert decided to charm Lawrence into falling in love with him – and despite his previous hatred of the younger man, he fell for it! Drugging the older man until he was barely conscious, Robert put him to bed before climbing in beside him and later letting him believe they had had sex. It was an uncomfortable scene despite no assault actually taking place, and it was bizarre to see him choosing to manipulate Lawrence when a pregnant Rebecca had already made it clear she was in love with Robert. The entertainment from this storyline came from the talents of Ryan Hawley. The actor mastered every comical facial expression as Robert carried out his ridiculous scam, all while delivering an understated portrayal of a heartbroken man.
Mick kisses Whitney (EastEnders)
While his wife Linda was away, Mick Carter came to rely on daughter-in-law Whitney. Having been rejected when she previously tried to kiss him, her practical and emotional support became invaluable now that he was running the household and pub alone. They shared a few kisses, and Mick even thought he was falling in love with her. The EastEnders audience were quick to express their distaste at the unexpected scenes, given that Mick and Linda had been childhood sweethearts who had never strayed, and Whitney was married to their son Lee! As he came clean to his wife, the powerful onscreen partnership between actors Danny Dyer and Kellie Bright proved as watchable as ever. Once the couple overcame the betrayal it was all but forgotten, as Whitney continues to work for and remain friends with the Carters. If only we could forget we’d seen it too.
Peter & Tina’s affair (Coronation Street)
Back in 2014, Tina McIntyre’s character seemed to change almost overnight when Coronation Street gave her a shock affair storyline with Peter Barlow. Although Peter had history as a serial cheat, his relationship with wife Carla had been popular and Tina was young enough to be his daughter. The pair had barely ever spoken until she started looking after his young son Simon. Brilliantly played by Michelle Keegan, Tina was fiery and outspoken but she had never crossed the line this far before. It seemed as though the plot was there to facilitate her death, as she was also seen in furious rows with Tracy and mother figure Rita before eventually being killed by Carla’s brother Rob. Peter was falsely accused and imprisoned at the time, and the affair has been referenced in recent months by Carla as he tried to win her back. She even invited a girl who looked like Tina to test him during an interview at the factory!
More: Coronation Street