Last on MOTD: Bobby Ewing, Harold Bishop, Dirty Den, Paul Robinson

THE big no-no for soap opera scriptwriters is to bring a character back from the dead. That hasn’t stopped them doing it, though.

Who could forget Bobby Ewing, who was run over and killed by his sister in Dallas, only to turn up in the shower a year later and reveal it had all happened in his wife’s dream. (A dream lasting 12 months? Jesus, even hedgehogs don’t sleep that long.)

It would, of course, have destroyed any credibility Dallas had enjoyed, if only Dallas had enjoyed any credibility in the first place.

Then there was Harold Bishop’s miraculous John Darwin-style return to Neighbours in 1996, five years after apparently being washed away in the surf. But while canoe man Darwin ended up in jail, old Harold merely resumed his old life, renewing his marriage vows to Madge and bumbling about like everyone’s favourite uncle again.

Even better, though, was Dirty Den’s comeback in EastEnders, a mere 14 years after being shot and falling into a canal. The 2003 episode in which Den returned to Albert Square is now one of the most famous in soap history, thanks to the following piece of dialogue:

Den: Hello, princess.
Sharon: Where have you been? I thought you were dead.
Den: No, I was presenting Fort Boyard on channel Five.
Sharon: Oh. Same thing, I guess.

And now, we have possibly the most extraordinary soap comeback of all time. Paul Robinson.

Last night’s final match: Blackburn 0 Stoke 0
Commentator: Dan O’Hagan

Paul Robinson was originally a character in Neighbours, played by Stefan Dennis. However, the character left the show in 1993 to pursue a career as a Premier League goalkeeper. Weirdly, Robinson seemed to lose his Australian accent along the way, but given that Neighbours has been notorious for keeping a character and replacing the actor, that shouldn’t have come as too much of a surprise.

Robinson’s character was very successful in the early to mid 2000s in a revolutionary multi-media soap opera called England Goalkeepers, in which a succession of stoppers try and fail to hold on to their place in the international side, amid a series of high-profile blunders and career crises.

Critics have derided England Goalkeepers as wildly implausible, even by soap opera standards, with the Guardian’s Mark Lawson describing it as “an affront to the genre”, his Late Show colleague Germaine Greer calling it “a sexist reinforcement of patriarchy, utterly devoid of female characters” and even Paul Ross, who loves everything on TV, dismissing it as “utter rubbish – no stars”.

However, viewers have warmed to the dizzying array of memorable characters, including David ‘Jamo’ James, Robert ‘Greeno’ Green, Scott ‘Carso’ Carson, Ben ‘Fosto’ Foster, Chris ‘Kirko’ Kirkland, Manuel ‘Almunio’ Almunia (bit of a surprise casting choice, that one) – and their big boss, Fabio ‘Fabio’ Capello. Ratings have gone through the roof, and are expected to reach record levels when the current plot reaches a climax at the World Cup in South Africa next summer.

Robinson (‘Robbo’) was written out of England Goalkeepers in 2006 after allowing a Gary Neville back pass to trundle over his foot and into the net against Croatia. (“An utterly ridiculous plot twist. No real-life keeper would ever have conceded a goal like that.” Ally Ross, The Sun.)

Many viewers assumed the Robinson character had been killed off, especially since he had started appearing in Neighbours again, complete with Aussie accent once more.

And yet, just recently, there have been murmurings that Robinson might make a shock Dirty Den-style return to England Goalkeepers. Apparently, the plan is to have him resurface at a club called Blackburn Rovers, and have him play quite well.

With Jamo injured, Kirko prone to injury, Carso not even playing in the Premier League, Fosto relegated to 18th choice at his club and Greeno apparently out of favour with Fabio, the door has been left open for perhaps the most surprising comeback in soap history.

“Paul worked very hard in the summer and has been tremendous since the start of the season,” said Blackburn assistant manager Neil McDonald after yesterday’s 0-0 draw with Stoke, the final game on Match of the Day, which is a kind of supplementary programme to England Goalkeepers.

“He is on top form and his confidence is high. He can regain his England place because he has the ability to do so. But that is up to Fabio Capello.

“All we know is that, if he gets the call, he is playing well enough to make the most of it.”

So there you have it. I reckon it’s between Robinson and Bobby Ewing for that England goalkeeper’s jersey now…

Gubbometer

1. Portsmouth: 4 (GD: 1. 2L: 0.)
2=. Blackburn: 3 (GD: 1. 2L: 0.)
2=. Everton: 3 (GD: 1. 2L: 0.)
4. Stoke: 3 (GD: 0. 2L: 2.)
5. Wigan: 3 (GD: 0. 2L: 1.)
6. Gubba: 2 (GD: 2. 2L: 2.)
7. West Ham: 2 (GD: 1. 2L: 1.)
8. Hull: 2 (GD: 0. 2L: 4.)
9. Wolves: 2 (GD: 0. 2L: 2.)
10. Aston Villa: 2 (GD: 0. 2L: 0.)
11=. Birmingham: 1 (GD: 0. 2L: 3.)
11=. Bolton: 1 (GD: 0. 2L: 3.)
11=. Fulham: 1 (GD: 0. 2L: 3.)
14. Burnley: 1 (GD: 0. 2L: 2.)
15. Sunderland: 0 (GD: 0. 2L: 4.)
16=. Arsenal: 0 (GD: 0. 2L: 1.)
16=. Chelsea: 0 (GD: 0. 2L: 1.)
16=. Tottenham: 0 (GD: 0. 2L: 1.)
19=. Liverpool: 0 (GD: 0. 2L: 0.)
19=. Manchester City: 0 (GD: 0. 2L: 0.)
19=. Manchester United: 0 (GD: 0. 2L: 0.)

GD = Gubba difference
2L = On second last (Last night’s penultimate match was: Fulham 1 Bolton 1.)

(NB. Teams will receive one point for every time they appear last on MOTD. Appearances on MOTD2 are not included. Teams level on points will be separated by Gubba difference – the number of times a team is on last with Tony Gubba commentating. Teams still level will then be separated by the number of times they appear second last on MOTD.)

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