TalkTV’s Kevin O’Sullivan on inventing ‘Dirty Den’ on EastEnders and being the ‘anti-Big Brother’ correspondent

Virgin Radio

7 Feb 2024, 14:49

Kevin O'Sullivan and Steve Denyer at Virgin Radio studios

Credit: Virgin Radio

TalkTV’s Kevin O’Sullivan stopped by Virgin Radio 80s Plus to chat through the soundtrack to his favourite memories of the decade - and shared some pretty juicy titbits too. 

The veteran journalist has done it all, from working for all the biggest papers on Fleet Street to interviewing the biggest movie stars as a showbiz correspondent in Los Angeles. 

Kevin was also a TV critic for The Mirror and showbiz news reporter for The Sun, and therefore has plenty of fond memories during the heyday of water-cooler telly moments, namely from the world of soaps and reality social experiments. 

Watch Kevin O’Sullivan’s My 80s Playlist below: 

In the early 80s, the one soap that ruled the roost was Coronation Street, but that was all about to change as a BBC series was about to have its debut. 

EastEnders began in 1985 and grew with the popularity of its tabloid coverage, and according to Kevin, he’s to thank for coming up with arguably one of the most recognisable names in all of TV. 

Describing the advent of EastEnders as one of the biggest stories he covered in his time covering the small screen, the talkRADIO told My 80s Playlist host Steve Denyer that the creators of the soap “owe me a drink.”

After editor Kelvin MacKenzie was interested in covering Albert Square instead of Corrie, Kevin made it his “mission” to gather as much information on the show as possible, and that included getting major scoops on upcoming storylines. 

Any EastEnders fan will remember ‘Dirty’ Den Watts, played by the late Leslie Grantham, who was the original landlord of The Queen Vic pub. 

“I invented Dirty Den,” Kevin revealed while discussing how he got ahead of the curve when it came to one of the biggest storylines in EastEnders history. 

“The big guessing game was that Michelle [Fowler] was pregnant. So Michelle was pregnant and the big thing was ‘who got her pregnant?’ I got the info on the day the big episode was going out, so I was able to do it for the first editions, while other reporters had to wait till the show went out. I banged it out earlier and for some reason, I can still remember what I wrote.

“It was, ‘the answer to telly’s most talked-about teaser was revealed last night - Dirty Den, the Queen Vic landlord done it’. Dirty Den became the national name for Den Watts.”

Also on his most memorable moments was becoming the “anti-Big Brother” correspondent after former Mirror editor and TalkTV co-star Piers Morgan wanted to “pour a bucket” over its major launch in 2000. 

Of course, Big Brother also became something of a telly behemoth, but Kevin spent his time “hurling every insult” at the show. 

“It was great fun,” the broadcaster shared. “Tina Weaver [editor of the Sunday Mirror] spotted that and said, ‘why don't you come and do that on a general basis for me?’ I did for the next 12 years.

“I’ve always said about being a TV critic, there aren't many jobs you can do in your underpants. Which is what I often did, sitting around in the summer with a pair of shorts and nothing else on, just watching all these TV. Don't get the impression I actually liked The X Factor or Britain's Got Talent, all these kinds of shows are not really for me, but professionally, those were the programmes I feasted on.”

You can listen to Virgin Radio 80 Plus HERE. You can also listen on DAB+ in London and Central Scotland and on smart speakers across the UK, as well as via the Virgin Radio UK app.