Boomering Soap Stars

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With the news Tamzin Outhwaite will return as Mel Owen in EastEnders next year after 16 years away, Amy Dawson take a look at the most brilliant comebacks in TV history…

EastEnders: Dirty Den (2003) Time away? 14 YEARS

You’ve got to love EastEnders’ logic. Characters routinely go decades without seeing close relatives because they live as far away as, ooh, Milton Keynes. But death itself? No limitation! The 1986 Christmas Day episode in which Dirty Den handed divorce papers to his wife was watched by over 30million viewers, more than half the UK population of the day. He was believed dead for 14 years after being shot by a gangster but returned with an iconic ‘Hello Princess’ in 2003 to the intense shock of his daughter Sharon – who had to run off to be sick. We can’t blame her!

Coronation Street: Bet Lynch (2002) Time Away? 7 YEARS

Having made her first appearance all the way back in 1966, leopard-print-loving and beehivesporting glamour puss Bet is one of the most distinguished characters in the history of British TV, let alone soaps. So it was a big, BIG deal when the barmaid strutted her way back over the Weatherfield cobbles in 2002, having left under a cloud of debt in 1995. Unfortunately, the return didn’t go down as smoothly as producers had hoped and Bet left the soap again after just a short while. Still, her character is supposed to be alive and living in Brighton – so who knows what might happen?

Neighbours: Harold Bishop (1996) Time away? 5 YEARS

The stuffy, tuba-playing Harold is one of the longest-serving characters on Ramsay Street record, having first appeared back in 1987. But he was presumed dead for five years after disappearing on holiday – his wife Madge, on-screen mum to Kylie Minogue’s Charlene, found his glasses on the edge of a cliff. Turns out our Hazza actually fell, got swept out to sea and picked up by a trawler – then started a new life as someone called Ted while suffering from total amnesia. Look, it happens, OK? Counselling helped Harold to get his memory back, and he and Madge renewed their vows in 1997.

EastEnders: Kathy Beale (2015) Time away? 15 YEARS

Kathy, like Dirty Den, was one of the core cast of original EastEnders characters, having appeared in the first episode on February 19, 1985. Mum to Ian and Ben, and one-time wife of Phil Mitchell, she eventually left Walford in 2000 and died offair in a South African car crash. OR DID SHE? Of course she didn’t! For typically complex reasons, Kathy faked her own death and, 15 years later, made a shock appearance during the EastEnders Live Week commemorating the 30th anniversary of the show. Since then she’s made a remarkably smooth transition back to life on The Square – she’s even back working in the caff.

Emmerdale: Kim Tate (1997) Time away? 3 MONTHS

Quite possibly the best love-to-hate-her bad girl ever to have graced the Yorkshire Dales, Emmerdale audience favourite Kim Tate first appeared back in 1989. She was thought to have died in a 1997 car crash but just a few months later she was back, admitting she had been in the Caribbean the whole time and that the body in the car was a prostitute lookalike. While it wasn’t the longest-awaited comeback in soap history, it has become one of the most infamous – the shock caused her husband Frank to have a heart attack, while Kim coolly watched and did her make-up