Chilling 'hello princess' brings 'Dirty' Den back from dead to spice up soap

BEING propositioned by your brother by adoption and having the floral tribute to your murdered father stolen by teenage kids would be enough to fill most people's day.

But Sharon Watts had to cope with one final surprise at the end of last night's episode of EastEnders as her long lost father came back from the dead.

'Dirty' Den Watts's widely anticipated return to Albert Square amounted to just one cooly delivered line: "Hello princess."

Soap fans must now wait until 7.30pm today to find out how Den, played by Leslie Grantham, avoided being shot as he walked along a canal in Walford 14 years ago and whose body was pulled out a year later.

In the build up to last night's dramatic programme, Grantham admitted he never watched the programme and did not know who his co-stars were.

He said: "I didn't watch it even when I was in it, and I never read the tabloids, so I don't actually know who is who."

But while EastEnders addicts in Britain welcomed the return of perhaps their favourite character their fellow soap fans in the US missed out.

Thousands of US viewers of the show were left distraught after BBC America decided to stop screening Eastenders on the eve of Den's return.

Fans in Britain can look forward to Den battling with landlord Alfie Moon for Albert Square's pub and his old stomping ground, the Queen Vic.

The storyline was let slip by actor Shane Richie as he collected four awards at the soap opera oscars in London on Sunday night.

Richie, who plays pub landlord Alfie Moon, landed Inside Soap prizes for sexiest male, best newcomer, best family and funniest character. "Den wants the pub back and you can imagine what Alfie's reaction is, he ain't going anywhere."

He added: "Working for EastEnders is just getting better and better and Leslie coming back has created a real buzz to the show – it feels like playing for England just before they win the World Cup.

"I've known Les for years. When he finished at EastEnders and I was still doing the shows we used to talk a lot, never believing we would be working together."

EastEnders picked up eight prizes, including an outstanding achievement award for one of its longest standing actresses June Brown, who plays Dot Branning.

The show also picked up the best soap title for the third year running while Richie's on-off screen partner Jessie Wallace, who plays Kat Slater, was named sexiest female.

Coronation Street landed five prizes including best story-line for its serial killer plot revolving around Richard Hillman.

Actress Suranne Jones, who plays Karen McDonald, was a double winner, picking up best dressed star and best couple alongside Simon Gregson, who plays Steve McDonald.

Best actor title went to Steve McFadden, alias EastEnders' hard man Phil Mitchell.

In a quiet year for Yorkshire-based soap Emmerdale, top actress award went to Leah Bracknell, who plays Zoe Tate.

Charley Webb, who plays Debbie Jones, walked away with the best young actor award.

james.reed@ypn.co.uk