It’s been a funny old year in Albert Square.
Over the past 12 months, there have been plenty of ups and downs in EastEnders – not just for the Carters, but for us viewers watching at home.
It would be fair to say that on the whole, the soap has been enjoying a relatively good run.
It’s undeniable that last year’s ‘Who Killed Lucy Beale?’ storyline had most of the nation gripped. A whole week of live episodes celebrating the soap’s 30th anniversary climaxed in solving one of the best murder mystery whodunits in soapland.
Even now, the repercussions of Bobby being unveiled as the killer are still being felt. And despite moments of madness during Max Branning’s trial for Lucy’s murder, there were plenty of heart-stopping scenes that were highly celebrated.
The introduction of Gavin got the nation talking about EastEnders for all the right reasons towards the end of 2015, and most recently, Lacey Turner has been winning heaps of praise for her portrayal of Stacey Slater’s turmoil as she suffers post-partum psychosis.
And yet despite all of this, it hasn’t been wholly good news for EastEnders.
There have been a few odd stunt castings (Denise Van Outen and Andrew Sachs spring to mind) while plenty of high-profile characters got the chop within the past year, including Dean Wicks (Matt Di Angelo), Carol Jackson (Lindsey Coulson), Fatboy Chubb (Ricky Norwood) and Charlie Slater (Derek Martin).
On top of that, Charlie’s exit scenes were criticised by viewers for being ‘unrealistic’, while others said that Derek’s portrayal of his death were ‘laughable’.
Just this weekend, actors Shane Ritchie and Jessie Wallace, who play Alfie and Kat Moon in the BBC soap, hit out at the writers and producers for a storyline that the pair deemed too daft. The plot in question was the revelation that when Kat gave birth to her daughter Zoe, she also had a son who was taken to Ireland.
"I don’t know what to say. She was so out of it, Kat, and obviously before she had a scan she did not know she had another son," said Jessie this week.
Addressing the question that surely Kat would have known she was having a second baby, Jessie replied: “All roads lead to Ireland. It seems a little bit ridiculous that she did not know she had a son. I am trying to justify this.”
Even legendary Pat Butcher actress Pam St Clement recently admitted that although she still watches the BBC show, she finds it “difficult” to keep up with the storylines these days.
All of the soaps are guilty of assuming that dwindling viewing figures can be put down to a lack of new blood on set, and that introducing a new family or a controversial character will get millions of us tuning into what’s happening in Weatherfield or Watford.
But what most of us really want to see is what we’re nostalgic for – the days when Coronation Street and EastEnders would draw in upwards of 10 million viewers.
Which is why EastEnders needs now – more than ever – a return for the Mitchell brothers.
We have had a smattering of nostalgia in Albert Square of late, and it’s been going down a storm. Most notably, Dean Gaffney reprised his role as Robbie Jackson and Gillian Taylforth came back as Kathy Beale.
But it was Ross Kemp and Steve McFadden, along with Barbara Windsor, were at the heart of most of EastEnders’ best storylines of the 1990s as the Mitchell family.
There was Sharon-gate, Grant’s marriage to Tiffany and her subsequent death as well as endless fall-outs that left the siblings both fighting for their lives.
And now, with Phil Mitchell at rock bottom and their mother Peggy revealing she is dying, it seems like the perfect storm for Grant to come back into. There will be fireworks, and we can’t wait.
Producer Dominic Treadwell-Collins has also admitted that Ross has “been at the top” of his wish list for characters that he has been wanting to see return, and put it perfectly when he said: “To have Ross Kemp, Barbara Windsor, Steve McFadden, Letitia Dean and Gillian Taylforth all on screen together at the same time as Peggy makes an exit like no other, this promises to be something very special.”
And that’s exactly what it is: special. The Mitchell brothers have a very unique place in all EastEnders’ fans hearts, and the fact that Ross Kemp had gone on to become a presenter after his time on the show left many thinking that a reunion would never happen.
And while having certain characters come back is always a little bit exciting, there’s already a real palpable buzz about Ross’s return. It is the one we’ve been waiting for.
It is just a shame that both Barbara Windsor and Ross Kemp’s comebacks are to be far too brief. Although plenty of us – who perhaps have fallen out of love with EastEnders in recent years – will be making a special effort to tune in, what’s going to ensure we keep watching long after the pair say farewell to Walford for good?
Will you watch Grant's EastEnders return? Or is the show running out of ideas? Have your say in Comments below.
This article is the opinion of Frances Taylor and not necessarily that of BT. Frances Taylor is a TV writer for BT.com.