Once upon a time Albert Square was the most dangerous place in Soapland as the Mitchell brothers carved out a Kray-like criminal kingdom.

These days Walford seems like Disneyland compared to Weatherfield, where the cobbled streets are awash with blood.

It's not long since Manchester's answer to Jack the Ripper, Tricky Dicky Hillman, met a watery end. You're not even safe from the police themselves, after Les Battersby was battered by his soon-to-be-ex wife's policeman lover.

Now thugs Andy and Nick Morgan charge on to the scene in Coronation Street (ITV1) for that old favourite, an armed siege. These are ten a penny in Soapland now. Hardly a week goes by without a family being held hostage by gun-toting villains.

This time it's the turn of the boring Nelsons, the witness protection family that's been using everything bar a loudhailer to announce their so-called "secret" presence in the Street.

Daughter Katy has been busy telling her old friends in Sheffield her new address, so it's hardly surprising when the Morgans burst through the door looking for her mother - the woman whose testimony can put them in prison. It all ends nastily with someone being shot. Perhaps now the Nelsons will be given yet another new identity and sent to live somewhere a long way away, preferably in a war zone.

Eileen's sons could be heading for trouble too. Sarah and Todd take advantage of Gail the hamster being away (at a health spa for small furry creatures) to play at being husband and wife. Eileen fears that other son Jason has fallen in with a bad crowd, which means he could be cavorting with almost anyone in the Street.

Over in Albert Square, Jim returns home to find Dot unconscious on the floor in EastEnders (BBC1). Perhaps watching the Antiques Roadshow was too much for her, or is she the victim of fresh outbreak of lawlessness in the borough? Sharon and the very irritating Vicki track down their long-lost brother at last - in prison. Considering he's Dirty Den's son, that should come as no surprise.

Big Pat is still homeless and broke after being turfed out of her home by son-in-law Barry, the most useless lump in Soapland. But hey, Laura, who was homeless and broke herself not so long ago, offers Pat a job in the cafZ.

Round at the Vic, Alfie and little brother Spencer make up (don't you just love the idea of Spencer in false eyelashes and lipstick?) after the latter's birthday surprise. But Kelly wonders if her secret is safe with the Moon brothers.

The biggest shock is finding Janine the bitch acting the good Samaritan for Barry, the most useless etc. You can bet that Janine has an ulterior motive. She never does anything out of the goodness of her heart. In other words, she has no charity - which provides a neat link to Emmerdale (ITV1) where Charity takes in Debbie, the daughter she gave away, much to the annoyance of poor Emily.

Elsewhere, Viv and Bob enjoy a romantic walk in the woods. This seems unlikely as they're forever at each other's throats. Perhaps they've changed. Devious Mack hasn't, as Edna discovers after he helps himself to the money for the church roof repairs.

Louise offers to manage the pub football team, which makes as much sense as getting Jordan to row in the Boat Race. And Marlon the chef accepts an interview for a new job without thinking how wife Tricia the barmaid will react.

Published: 10/04/2003