Ever since 'Dirty' Den Watts battered down a door in the opening seconds of the FIRST episode in 1985, EastEnders has been renowned as the grittiest of the British soaps. The BAFTA award-winning soap centres on the residents of Albert Square in the fictional east London borough of Walford. Whether they're throwing down pints in the Queen Vic or slagging each other off at the market stalls, EastEnders has always entertained audiences with memorable characters and dramatic storylines. Loveable rogues like Alfie Moon, the eternal loser Arthur Fowler, bad boys Grant and Phil Mitchell, psychopathic murderer Steve Owen, and gutsy matriarchs Peggy Mitchell, Pat Butcher and Mo Harris have become cultural icons. Such is the power of the show that actors like Ross Kemp, Letitia Dean, Martine McCutcheon have gone onto become household names. EastEnders is unflinching when it tackles tough issues, whether Sonya Jackson's adoption, rape (Kathy Beale), drug abuse (Nick Cotton) or mental illness (Arthur's breakdown). It was the first soap to feature gay characters in 1986 and the death of AIDS victim Mark Fowler broke new ground for soap storylines. These days you're more likely to see Roxy and Ronnie Mitchell bickering behind the bar or'tart with a heart'Stacey Slater causing trouble in the square, alongside old favourites Dot Branning (nee Cotton) and Ian Beale. Although the families may change, EastEnders continues to push the boundaries and deliver some of the most vivid, original and grimly realistic stories on TV.