The popular BBC-TV series "EastEnders" returns tonight at 10 on Orange County Public Broadcasting System station KOCE Channel 50.
The series, which follows the lives of about two dozen characters who live and work in London's working-class East End, has been resuscitated via a grant from the Queen Mary-Spruce Goose Entertainment Center in Long Beach. In April, KOCE had announced that it could not afford to buy more episodes.
KOCE had exclusive Southern California rights to the series, and the cancellation sparked an outcry from the program's Southland fans. They deluged the Huntington Beach-based station with what officials said was the greatest public outpouring in KOCE's history--more than 500 phone calls and 200 letters.
KOCE had bought an initial batch of 130 episodes of "EastEnders" in 1988 from the show's U.S. distributor, the New York-based BBC Lionheart International. Station officials said they could not afford the $30,000 it would take to buy the next package of 195 shows.
But after the public response, officials at the Queen Mary-Spruce Goose complex decided to exploit the British tie-in and underwrite the series, which is now guaranteed survival through April, 1991.
"EastEnders" will be aired Friday nights, with two half-hour episodes shown back to back.
Station spokeswoman Nancy Lambing said this week that KOCE will air "EastEnders" promotions in the months ahead. "Down the road, we will have a special get-together for 'EastEnders' fans," Lambing said, adding that plans have not been finalized.