Eastenders is a BBC production, filmed at the BBC Elstree Studios in Hertfordshire. It is set in the fictional London Borough of Walford. The central focus of the soap is on Albert Square and the Queen Victoria Pub.
First broadcast on 19 February 1985, Eastenders attracts large numbers of viewers in the UK. Its main rival for ratings is usually Coronation Street, aired on ITV1. In order to maximise ratings the BBC and ITV are usually careful to avoid scheduling clashes between their flagship soaps. In 2001 however, the soaps clashed for the first time. EastEnders won the battle with 8.4 million viewers (41% share) whilst Coronation Street lagged behind with 7.3 million viewers (36% share).
Eastenders often covers real-world issues and dilemmas. Storylines include Sue and Ali's baby's cot death, Nick Cotton's homophobia, the rape of Kathy Beale in 1988, Michelle Fowler's teenage pregnancy, drug dealing, prostitution, mixed-race relationships, shoplifting, sexism, racism, divorce and muggings.
As the show progressed into the nineties EastEnders still featured hard-hitting issues such as Mark Fowler discovering he was HIV positive in 1991 and the death of Gill along with murder, adoption, alcoholism, domestic violence and euthanasia.
Eastenders is also popular in many other English speaking countries including New Zealand, Canada and the USA (although now only by pay-per-view).
In the Christmas of 1986, it attracted a massive 30.15 million viewers who tuned in to see Den Watts hand over divorce papers to wife Angie. This remains the highest rated episode of a soap in British television history.