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Hollyoaks is a long-running television soap opera, first broadcast in the United Kingdom on Channel 4 on 23 October 1995. It was originally devised by Phil Redmond, who has also devised shows including Brookside and Grange Hill. The programme is set in and around the fictional Chestermarker suburb of Hollyoaks and is centred around a local higher education college called Hollyoaks Community College with the characters generally being in their late teens or early twenties. Since 1995, the cast has expanded from just seven major characters to approximately 50 cast members. The soap is currently produced by Lucy Allan, who replaced Bryan Kirkwood in 2009.

Production and broadcasting

Hollyoaks is produced by Lime Pictures and filmed mainly at studios in Childwall, Liverpool. The show currently broadcasts at 18:30 each weekday on Channel 4, with an omnibus edition on Sunday morning, usually at 9.50am but this time often varies. At 19:00 each weekday, one of Channel 4's digital sister stations E4 airs a 'First Look' feature, in which viewers are able to watch the next episode to be shown on Channel 4 the following day. In addition, E4 also shows the omnibus on Saturday and daily repeats each weekday at 16.30. The Welsh fourth channel, S4C, broadcasts the Sunday omnibus only. UK television channel, Channel 4 aired its first episode of Hollyoaks in high definition on 2 June 2008. The series would begin to officially broadcast on YouTube, after Google reached a three-year deal with Channel 4. In 2002 Phil Redmond considered with-drawing the programme from airing on Channel 4 after the network axed fellow soap opera Brookside.

The show initially aired weekly in 1995. In July 1996, Mersey TV opted to recommission the show and increase its output to twice a week, that autumn. A third episode was introduced in September 1999 and a fourth in 2001. In November 2003, the show increased its output with a fifth episode, which has remained to this date.

Hollyoaks is also broadcast in other countries, including Canada (BBC Kids channel), Norway (TV2 Zebra), Serbia (Studio B), Bosnia and Herzegovina (RTRS),Sweden (TV400), Finland (Sub), Iceland (Stöð 2 extra, Stöð 2) South Africa (MNET Series), the United States of America (BBC America, from June to November 2007 (episodes continued to be available on the BBC America website before being discontinued in June 2008), Turkey (e2) and parts of Eastern Europe. Episodes from September 2006 through August 2007 were also available on Joost. It had also aired on TV3 in Ireland and in New Zealand on TVNZ and (C4), where it regularly beat London-based soap opera EastEnders in the ratings. , but was discontinued due to lack of viewers.


Although Hollyoaks mainly focuses on teenagers, students and young-adults, there has always been families alike other soap-operas, e.g. the Cunningham, McQueen and Ashworth families.

Hollyoaks has mainly been considered as a 'teen soap', as it was originally aimed, and the "fourth Britishmarker soap-opera". In 2008, Gemma Merna, who plays Carmel, admitted she felt the show is underrated: "We are completely underrated as a show, which is so frustrating," Gemma told the Daily Star. "People just think we are gorgeous models who have nothing else to offer. But the truth is we have some seriously talented actors and we're fed up with being the little sister to Corrie, EastEnders and Emmerdale. We're fighters and we're so passionate about what we do. We have the balls and just go for it. And I think we should get credit for that!". Ricky Whittle, who plays Calvin Valentine, explained that the time and effort required to produce Hollyoaks, often goes unnoticed. He also said: "There's an idea that we're the party soap, the happy soap, the soap that has loads of fun, but people don't realise how hard we work". He went on, "Everyone thinks it's all glamour, premieres and parties but they need to realise that we do put it in. We are working hard for a living as well and it's not as easy as it sounds. At the minute, especially with the late night stuff, we're doing 12-hour days, sometimes six or seven days a week."

The show has had many types of characters, including its "troubled teens" such as Sol Patrick, Justin Burton, Ste Hay, Michaela McQueen, villains such as Rob Hawthorne, Toby Mills, Andy Holt and Niall Rafferty, 'bad boy' club owners Scott Anderson and Warren Fox, vixens such as Cindy Cunningham, Clare Devine and Louise Summers, businessmen such as Tony Hutchinson, Gordon Cunningham and Neville Ashworth and sweethearts such as Mandy Richardson, Carmel Valentine and Hannah Ashworth. Hollyoaks' is also known for its "sexy" characters including Calvin Valentine, Mercedes Fisher, Carmel Valentine and Sarah Barnes.

Hollyoaks has been known to feature a 'comedy double-act', Max Cunningham and Sam "OB" O'Brien proved very popular with fans, however as of 2008, both characters departed the show. David "Bombhead" Burke and Lee Hunter also formed a bond on-screen. Rhys Ashworth and Gilly Roach as well as Josh Ashworth and Jamie "Fletch" Fletcher were later examples of the double-act with the current characters filling the role being Ricky Campbell and Duncan Smith. The show also features "comedic characters" such as stereotypical "dumb blonde" Carmel Valentine, Darren Osborne and Rhys Ashworth.
Max Cunningham, one of the longest featured characters was killed on-screen in 2008.

Apart from the "young cast", Hollyoaks has featured some notable "older" characters. Gordon Cunningham and Jack Osborne were the first main older characters. In more recent years, the characters of Frankie Osborne and Myra McQueen have been featured more regularly like that of the younger cast. The show has shown few children and babies, Tom Cunningham being the most featured. The character was voted 'Soaps Greatest Ever Child' in a 2009 Inside Soap poll and has been nominated for several awards at The British Soap Awards and Inside Soap Awards.

As of 2009, Nick Pickard who portrays Tony Hutchinson, is the only cast member to have appeared consecutively from the show's inception. Carley Stenson who plays Steph Cunningham is the longest serving female cast member having joined the cast in 2000. Other long term character include James McKenna and Ashley Taylor Dawson who play Jack and Darren Osborne retrospectively and Stephanie Waring portraying Cindy Cunningham, whom first appeared in 1996, however the actress made several exits before returning to the role on a permanent basis in 2008.

Title and advert sequences

On 26 February 2007, the programme launched a revamped title sequence. This new sequence regularly undergoes minor changes - usually caused by characters leaving or joining the programme.

The original style of the sequence has changed on many occasions: March 2008 saw an updated "style" to the titles, with a purple background and new character segments; 26 December 2008 saw the background changed from purple to black (similar to that of the Hollyoaks Later titles); and the most recent change, on 1 June 2009, saw the pink and blue lettering changed to monochrome, and the characters shown in full colour before and after the advert segments.


Hollyoaks is the only British soap to make use of incidental music, usually a variation of the show's theme music. Each episode usually begins with a current or recent chart song, and other songs are used during the show (and sometimes at the end of the show instead of the theme tune). It is used either as a transition between scenes or as part of a dream-like sequence. These have included bands such as Ocean Colour Scene with the song "Hundred Mile High City", The Pigeon Detectives, Radiohead, Scissor Sisters, U2, Franz Ferdinand, Kaiser Chiefs, The Libertines, The Kooks, Arctic Monkeys, Morrissey, The Fratellis, The Darkness and the Maroon 5 song "She Will Be Loved" was repeatedly played in early 2005. Current chart songs are not used in the international version of the show; instead library music and a selection of purposely-composed songs are used. The main theme was written and performed by Steve Wright, who has also produced music and themes for Brookside, Grange Hill and other Mersey TV / Lime Pictures productions. The theme tune is based on a Bo Diddley riff.

A new remixed version of the theme, along with brand new titles, were used from 26 February 2007. The new titles show different characters in the drama posing in various positions with bright colourful backdrops.

A "Hollyoaks" soundtrack CD was released in 2001, containing music used in the programme.

A number of real acts have performed during transmitted episodes of the series. The Alphites were the first band to do so. In 2008, the band Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly also featured in Hollyoaks, performing as part of a Battle of the Bands contest. During November 2008, The Saturdays were featured in two episodes of spin-off Hollyoaks Later. In 2009, McFly featured in the show and played a song in the SU Bar. They also had speaking roles and convinced characters Justin Burton and Hannah Ashworth to go out. Later that year Girls Can't Catch performed "Keep Your Head Up" during the college graduation party.

On the 24 March 2008, a spin-off music show was broadcast, featuring four bands playing on the sets of Hollyoaks: George Craig from One Night Only played at The Dog, Rochelle in The Loft, The Guillemots in the SU bar and The Courteeners in the Hollyoaks cast and crew canteen.



Over the course of the show's history, Hollyoaks has dealt with a number of storylines based upon serious issues. Given the large and established proportion of young viewers, some feel that the soap is an ideal platform to show a variety of issues affecting young people. A telephone helpline number is often displayed after episodes that feature a particular emphasis on a story that may have affected viewers.

A 2007 episode which showed a number of the characters falling ill at a party due to carbon monoxide poisoning helped make a viewer realise that the symptoms of illness she had been feeling were caused by a potentially fatal carbon-monoxide leak in her home. By being made aware of the effects from the episode, she was able to receive medical treatment that would save her life.

Storylines that the soap has dealt with include: drug addiction, murder, arson, hit and run, abortion, suicide, homelessness, financial problems, interracial relationships, racism, religion, bisexuality, homosexuality, homophobia, sexual confusion, alcoholism, rape, cancer, child abuse, domestic violence, anorexia/bulimia, incest, sexual harassment, general bullying, carbon monoxide poisoning, living with epilepsy, HIV, pupil/teacher relationships, self harm, schizophrenia, OCD, gambling addiction, shoplifting, fostering, teenage pregnancy, SIDS, miscarriage, kidnapping, brain aneurysm and surrogacy.

In 2009, Hollyoaks made soap history by being the first British soap opera to have a "non-linear" week. This week, commencing 14 September 2009, saw storylines being played out in non-chronological order, something which has never been dealt with within the soap's history. Producer Lucy Allan stated in an interview with Digital Spy, "It was an idea pitched by Richard Burke, one of our writers, at my first long-term story conference back in February. What's great about it is that it's a really great storyline, but with the way he pitched - in making it non-linear – it was even better. It's just like if something happened to one of your mates and you try and put the pieces of the puzzle together as to what happened, you don't find all the people who tell you what happened in chronological order. You get bits here and there and piece it together. It's exactly the sort of thing Hollyoaks should be doing, challenging its audience."


Hollyoaks was the only soap to be nominated in every category at the 2007 British Soap Awards. It went on to win 3 awards at the ceremony: 'Villain of The Year' for Gemma Bissix's portrayal of Clare Devine, 'Best Comedy Performance' for Gemma Merna and her portrayal of Carmel McQueen and 'Sexiest Female' for Roxanne McKee. McKee also won the award for Sexiest Female at the Inside Soap Awards 2007.

Hollyoaks was named Broadcast of the Year at the 2007 Stonewall Awards, held at London's Victoria and Albert Museum. The award was based on John Paul McQueen (James Sutton) and Craig Dean's (Guy Burnet) gay affair storyline. Stonewall, an organisation that campaigns for equality for gay men and women, praised the show for its "sympathetic and convincing handling" of the "gritty and emotional" storyline.

Hollyoaks scooped five awards at the first Digital Spy awards in March 2008. James Sutton and Guy Burnet won best storyline for their gay affair storyline. Roxanne McKee scooped sexiest female, Gemma Bissix won best exit and Ellis Hollins won best child actor. James Sutton also won another award for most popular actor.

Hollyoaks swept the board at The British Soap Awards 2008, where it won 6 awards, more than any other soap. The awards included Spectacular Scene of the Year for Clare Devine driving herself and Katy Fox off a cliff, Best Exit for Clare Devine, Best On Screen Partnership for Max Cunningham and Sam "OB" O'Brien, Sexiest Female for Roxanne McKee, Best Actor for Chris Fountain and Best Actress for Emma Rigby.

Hollyoaks won its first ever National Television Award in 2008 when Matt Littler received the award for 'Most Outstanding Serial Drama Performance' for his portrayal of Max Cunningham.

In 2009 Hollyoaks was the most nominated soap in the The British Soap Awards. However it did not win an award.

Nico Mirallegro who plays Barry "Newt" Newton in the soap, is nominated for Best Serial Drama Performance at the National Television Awards 2010.


In 2001 students at Chester Collegemarker objected to a storyline which they say misrepresented students in the city. Students Union president Gordon Reay said: "Students at other universities think we are a bunch of radicals and militants because that's how the students are portrayed in Hollyoaks. They assume that the college in the programme is Chester College, because Hollyoaks is set in the city."
In March 2009, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers identified Hollyoaks as one of a number of programmes - including Big Brother and Skins - cited by its members in a survey to be a bad influence on students, manifesting itself in behaviour such as, "answering back, storming off, swearing, aggression and sexually inappropriate behaviour."

In 2007 the soap came was further critised along with other soap operas for the amount of alcohol consumption featured on-screen. The Food Commission montired that 18 percent of scenes feature consumption and warned that it was conditioning teenagers into thinking it is normal to consume so much alcohol. A similar incident occured in 1997 when the Independent Television Commission critised the series for using an existing brand of alcohol, Caffrey’s in the soap claiming that it breached broadcasting rules and promoted the product.

In October 2009, Channel 4 was criticised for broadcasting character Barry Newton's attempted suicide, which showed similarities to an incident which happened the same week in Glasgowmarker in which two teenagers committed suicide by jumping into the River Clyde. In its defence, a Channel 4 spokesperson stated: "Any similarities are entirely coincidental and we have carefully considered how best to proceed. We feel it is appropriate to continue with the transmission of these episodes as this is not a one-off programme but an established and long-running series. The audience will be familiar with the character of Newt and this plotline, which has been both trailed and promoted, has been developing over a number of weeks. Hollyoaks has a strong track record of dealing with sensitive issues, and the transmission will be followed by a programme support announcement directing viewers to a 24-hour helpline."


Hollyoaks occasionally broadcasts late-night spin-off editions of the main show, usually due to them containing adult themes and controversial plots. Several DVD specials have also been released. In 2001, a new 16 part spin-off series was produced entitled Hollyoaks: Movin' On, this was followed by two subsequent series, Hollyoaks: Let Loose and Hollyoaks: In the City, the latter appearing as its own show rather to a spin-off. In 2008, a late night spin-off was produced by Lucy Allan named Hollyoaks Later. This first series, although being broadcast late at night, was more of a spin-off than a special. A second series was commissioned the following year.



  • Hollyoaks: Coming Together (1996)
  • Hollyoaks: New Friends (1996)
  • Hollyoaks: Friends and Families (1996)
  • Hollyoaks: Can't Get the Girl (1997)
  • Hollyoaks: Luke's Secret Diary (2000)
  • Hollyoaks: Lives and Loves of Finn (2000)
  • Hollyoaks: Luke's Journal: A New Beginning (2001)
  • Hollyoaks: Stolen Emails (2002)
  • Hollyoaks: Party! Party! Party! (2002)
  • Hollyoaks: Seeing Red (2002)
  • Hollyoaks: Running Wild (2002)
  • Hollyoaks: The Official Companion (2002)
  • Hollyoaks: Playing with Fire (2006)
  • Hollyoaks: Truth or Dare (2006)
  • Hollyoaks: Guilt Trip (2006)


Since 2001, the current cast of Hollyoaks has produced two annual calendars. One is entitled 'Hollyoaks Babes', which features the female cast, and the other 'Hollyoaks Hunks', which features the male cast. For the calendar shoot, actors and actresses usually set off to exotic holidays, however in September 2009 it was revealed the 2008 Credit crisis caused the production team to have to make cuts, and therefore could no longer go abroad for the shoot.


It was announced on 15 September 2008 that the soap is to launch its own 'his' and 'her' fragrance. The fragrance has been available from The Perfume Shop and Superdrug from 30 September 2008 and also includes a shower gel.

See also


  1. Soap Opera Weekly, 3 November 2009
  2. Daily Mail - TVs in children's bedrooms 'are breaking up families and causing bad behaviour', 31 March 2009

External links

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