SHOPS shut and Walford united in grief as Lucy Beale was laid to rest, just one Huw Edwards commentary short of a state funeral.

And with it came three of the most bone-chilling words in the English language – “hour-long EastEnders”.

A right old slap-my-thigh chuckle fest, on Tuesday, that gave a ray of hope to us all – we’re only nine short months away from discovering the murderer.

You can make a human being in the time it’s going to take the dimwits to conclude soap’s dullest ever ‘whodunit’.

It’s all just smoke and mirrors to distract viewers from gaping plot holes, dialogue that’s bordering on Doctor Who (“It feels like the centre of everything has just been ripped out”) and the ‘as if’ factor...

High streets and commons springing up overnight (as if).

Sharon producing flyers for a comedy night before booking any comedians (as if).

Lucy’s killer leaving clues everywhere, like the “rot in hell” note and the small matter of a body out in the open (as if).

The Walford Gazette paying Lola £300 for an interview to slag off a murder victim (as if).

Six to eight people crammed into the flat above The Vic (as if).

And the unlikely couplings – Denise and Ian, Max and Lucy, Lady Di and Abi’s performing dog.

As if. As if. As if.

The avalanche of returning characters only adds to the melee.

Recently we’ve had Jane, Christian, Libby, Sonia, Peggy, Dean(o), Stacey, Shabnam and the imminent fifth head of Ben Mitchell.

So many ghosts of Christmas past have come back to Walford that I’m expecting Archie Mitchell (Scrooge) to show up at Bianca’s with the biggest goose in the shop window for Tiny Tiff.

Though a turkey would be more apt for EastEnders, with the exception of Timothy West whose Stan Carter is as magnetic mulling over marmalade at breakfast (‘A-pri-cot’) as he is being waterboarded by Danny Dyer with a shower head.

Yet another Ian Beale breakdown is a hideous sight and sound, like a badly oiled high-pressure hose trying to force something through his nostrils.

Turning down a trip to Spain last night he said: “If I leave now, I don’t think I’d come back.”

It’s a chance I’m prepared to take, Ian.

But my biggest bugbear is the communal amnesia.

It let Max forget he spent 68 days on remand in jail last autumn because of sudden bosom buddy Ian’s false testimony.

And it had Phil telling Max after Tuesday’s funeral drama: “I want to tell you where you ain’t welcome anymore. The Vic. The caff. The shop. The launderette. The chippy. The Arches.

“Alfie, have I left anything out?”

Oh, just the small matter of a salon you bought for Sharon and turned it into a wine bar that you own.

It’s called The Albert. Slipped your mind has it?

As Tamwar Masood put it: “Only in Walford.”

This week’s Couch Potato Spudulikes...

Sky Atlantic’s Mr Sloane and BBC2’s The Fast Show Special (both on tonight).

Bafta host Graham Norton on Olivia Colman’s Best Actress acceptance speech: “All that crying. It’s starting to look like showing off.”

Gold’s tribute to TV’s greatest sitcom, Porridge: Inside Out, with unheard tapes of Ronnie Barker’s Fletch welcoming real inmates to Pentonville jail, which cut the suicide rate to zero.

And Embarrassing Bodies patient Robert, 42, from Essex: “For the last two years I’ve suffered from a constant pain in the bum.” Then turn off C4, Rob, and Christian Jessen will disappear.

This week’s Couch Potato Spuduhates...

ITV swapping creativity for endless Harry Potter.

Bafta snubbing The Wrong Mans and the best ever Strictly while short-listing Count Arthur Strong and Dragons’ Den.

ITV2 imagining it can replicate The Big Reunion with a successful, non-bickering band, on Fearne & McBusted.

Good Morning Britain’s news ticker taking 33 minutes to realise the road safety charity is Brake, not “Break”. Plus Susanna Reid’s forced smile that says: “Oh God, is this IT?” while interviewing Aggie McKenzie about grubby kitchen floors, at 6.23am.

And the impending Big Brother, which requires rest to build my reserves. Column returns in a fortnight.