…was the 1986 Eastenders Christmas Special which gained over 30 million viewers*:
The episode centred around the aftermath of Den Watts’ discovery that his wife had lied about having a terminal illness. Whilst Albert Square was celebrating, Den made plans to leave his wife. The Fowlers’ Christmas was ruined when Arthur refused to take part in the fesivities. He had become depressed after being arrested and charged for the theft of Walford‘s Christmas Club money. Later in the day Arthur suffered a nervous breakdown, smashing up his living room in a fit of rage.
At the Vic the arrival of Pat Wicks caused rows with her ex-husband Pete Beale. Meanwhile Angie was enjoying Christmas for the first time in years, that was until her husband, Den, served her with divorce papers as a Christmas present.
It’s the most watched non-sport or news program in British history. Its audience was bested only by the 1966 World Cup Final and Princess Diana’s wedding. It comfortably outstripped the opening ceremony of last year’s Olympics.
Even more impressively the 2nd most watched non-sport or news program in British history was the new years day special that followed on from it.
Hat tip: Big Issue
*this number includes repeats so not all of those thirty million will have been watching on Christmas day and that may – I’m not sure – include some repeat viewings.