Channel 4’s long-running, Chester-based soap – 20 years old today – has never let plausibility get in the way of fantastically entertaining stories. Gary Ryan remembers the best of them
Jambo’s plastic cow goes missing
Jambo was the kind of guy who drove a three-wheeled orange car with mouse ears and a tail, would climb through windows instead of opening doors and had a ‘pet’ plastic cow named Margaret, which tragically went missing.
What happened next: Hollyoaks creator Phil Redmond later admitted this plot development covered up the fact that the cow had been stolen from set. Will Mellor, who played Jambo, left the show in 1998 to become an actor.
Hollyoaks invents waterboarding
Villainous Rob Hawthorne kidnapped Lucy, whisked her away to a nautical test centre and tried to drown her in a water tank. As her friends Lewis, Tony and Ruth tried to rescue her, he tortured them by altering the depth and temperature of the water, like a crap underwater Saw spin-off.
What happened next: They found an escape hatch and drifted ashore. It wasn’t the first time some Hollyoaks actors found themselves washed up.
Bombhead dines with his dead mum
When Bombhead’s mother died, he suffered a mental breakdown and decided to live with her decomposing corpse, even cooking her the odd meal now and then. His only comfort was talking to the ghost of father figure, Gordon ‘Mr C’ Cunningham.
What happened next: The festering remains were discovered by Stacey, who accidentally sat on them during an illicit tryst with Lee. Not the sexiest ménage à trois.
Walking Will’s wedding-day killing
//Hollyoaks// rule: every wedding must end in tragedy. Witness cardigan-wearing nutjob Will, who conned Texas into being his carer and fiancée after pretending to be paralysed. On their wedding day, he revealed he could walk before pushing her out of a window to her death.
What happened next: A retribution of sorts takes place when Will is injected with potassium chloride through his IV drip by the mysterious Gloved Hand Killer.
Liverpool-based spin-off series Hollyoaks: In The City saw Lisa (played by lad’s mag regular Gemma Atkinson) working at a modelling agency that was a front for an escort business. She was soon abducted by clients who planned to film her in a porno.
What happened next: Lisa escaped but accidentally shot her boyfriend Ben dead in the process. Hollyoaks: In The City was axed due to low ratings.
Steph’s ceaseless pursuit of fame
In her increasingly desperate attempts to become a celebrity, Steph Cunningham hosted Bid Crazy TV, auditioned for girlband X-Pose and chanced her hand at a kiss-and-tell story by bedding a footballer – who turned out to be the team mascot.
What happened next: After being diagnosed with cancer, Steph used her illness as a sob story on a talent show. She perished in an inferno in 2010.
Sign up for the newsletter
Newt’s imaginary friend
Bad boy Eli was a bad influence on eyeliner-wearing emo kid Newt, trying to convince him to kill his foster father.
What happened next: In a much-praised storyline it was revealed that Eli was a figment of Newt’s imagination and a product of his schizophrenia.
Hollyoaks solves a problem like Maria
In a cynical piece of meta-marketing, a musical character called Summer Shaw was planted in Hollyoaks to drum up publicity for Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Sound Of Music. In the show, Summer stalked the gargoyle-like musical impresario, eventually winning the part of Maria in his latest production. The hope was that viewers would then shell out their hard-earned to go and watch Summer – AKA actor Summer Strallen – in the real-life The Sound Of Music.
What happened next: Strallen played Maria in the West End for the next year, while a cackling Lloyd Webber added another wing to his mansion.
Niall’s deadly church trivia showdown
When Niall discovered he was the eldest son of Myra McQueen, he set about systematically destroying the lives of her and her family, culminating in holding them hostage in the church where he was abandoned as a newborn. He asked Myra six questions and for each she answered correctly, one of her kids was allowed to live – a twist that would improve ITV game show The Chase no end.
What happened next: He detonated his bombs, causing more damage to the church than a Richard Dawkins sermon.
Carmel finds Jesus in a potato…
Amazingly, this storyline about Carmel McQueen discovering the face of Jesus in a spud dragged on for more than one episode.
What happened next: Fans complained it was unbelievable. As if any of the Hollyoaks cast eat carbs.
…then sings with Bonnie Tyler – in a dream
In the post-watershed spin-off Hollyoaks Later, Carmel was slung in prison after being mistaken for a prostitute. Cue a feverish, Inception-like dream sequence in which she duetted with growling Welsh singer Bonnie Tyler on ‘Holding Out For A Hero’.
What happened next: Carmel woke up.
Lydia’s parachute sabotage backfires
How best to resolve a lesbian love triangle? Have one of the characters cut her love rival’s parachute cord before a skydive, as Lydia did to Zoe in Hollyoaks Later.
What happened next: The cords got mixed up, and Lydia’s object-of-desire Sarah accidentally plunged to oblivion instead.
A passage from India
In a gross-out plot apparently borrowed from the American Pie series, posh student India ate a laxative-spiked pizza.
What happened next: During a Touch The Truck-style competition, India cleared the vehicle of her fellow competitors with a loud, heraldic shit. Stay classy.
An alien enrols at college
Student Kevin Smith convinced fellow freshers he was an alien from another planet and enlisted them to help him build an ET-style communication beacon.
What happened next: His best friend Elliot discovered a new planet and left to join NASA.
The world’s worst race-off
Teens Gaz and Lauren settle a grudge with a tension-free lawnmower race.
What happened next: Despite being atop deadly bladed mowers, the race passed entirely sans incident, like a Fast And The Furious film where they obey the Highway Code.
Brendan bumps off Darren Day
With his handlebar moustache and bisexuality, gangster Brendan Brady was the Kwik Save answer to The Krays. His key moment was bludgeoning ’90s game show host Darren Day (playing underworld kingpin Danny) to death with a hammer.
What happened next: Brendan ended up in prison. Darren Day still can’t get arrested.
The ‘flash forward’
In a novel stunt in no way stolen from American sci-fi drama FlashForward which aired the previous year, Hollyoaks screened a ‘flash forward’ episode set five months into the future, teasing the murder of good-guy Calvin Valentine on his wedding day. Of course if the cast glimpsed five months ahead in real life, they’d see themselves in Holby City.
What happened next: Over the next few months it was revealed that Calvin was so hated, even the Dalai Lama would have needed an alibi.
Serial Silas’ Catwoman calamity
Throughout 2011, serial killer Silas posed an even greater threat to the female cast of Hollyoaks than dodgy spray tans.
What happened next: His killing spree came to an end on Halloween, when he accidentally killed his own daughter due to a Catwoman costume mix-up.
Trainee nun seduces priest
Haunted by visions of her dead husband, Carmel trained to become a nun – but ended up falling for a good-looking priest.
What happened next: She helped him raise money for an African orphanage by organising a naked calendar. Her heart, like her skin, was gold.
Another Hollyoaks wedding where the guests ended up throwing confetti at a coffin. In this annual cast clear out, a minibus bulldozed into the double-ceremony of Tony, Cindy, Doug and Ste.
What happened next: The minibus exploded in a fireball, claiming the lives of four characters.
Sienna’s fake pregnancy
Obsessed with getting pregnant in order to ward off love rival Nancy, Sienna pretended to be up the duff.
What happened next: At her engagement party, Sienna’s lie was exposed when her ripped top revealed her prosthetic baby bump. So she went on the run, taking her nephew Charlie and Nancy’s baby son Oscar with her. Fact: you have more chance of being kidnapped in //Hollyoaks// than you do in Colombia.
The accidental incest incident
Sienna and Dodger had no idea they were actually twins when they conceived Nico, who in turn was brought up with no idea that her uncle is also her dad.
What happened next: The whole thing was revealed in a legendary on-screen sh*tstorm.
The ‘Gloved Hand Killer’
Hollyoaks’ latest preposterous scandal concerns a mysterious killer in a blue surgical glove who’s been seen administering lethal injections around Dee Valley Hospital. Well, it’s one way to reduce NHS waiting lists
What happened next: The identity of the assailant will be revealed during the soap’s 20th anniversary week.