Trevor was the inseparable sidekick of Paul Priestly. He was a well-meaning individual but he wasn't blessed with much intelligence and he managed to mess up almost every job he was given. He had several crushes on the younger women of Walford, but despite his best efforts he never managed to find a girlfriend.
The departure of two of the soap's most popular characters, Den and Angie Watts (Anita Dobson), had left a massive void in the programme which needed to be filled. In addition, several other long running characters left the show that year, including two original cast members, Sue and Ali Osman (Sandy Ratcliff and Nejdet Salih) and their family; Donna Ludlow (Matilda Ziegler); Carmel Jackson (Judith Jacob) and her family and one of the show's more controversial characters, Colin Russell (Michael Cashman). So, it was decided that 1989 was to be a year of change in Walford. EastEnders script-writer, Colin Brake, has suggested that "it was almost as if Walford itself was making a fresh start".
At the time the programme had come under criticism in the British media for being too depressing, arguably a reputation that it has never been able to shake. The programme makers were determined to change this. In 1989, there was a deliberate attempt to increase the lighter, more comic aspects of life in Albert Square. This led to the introduction of some characters who were deliberately conceived as comic or light-hearted. Such characters included Trevor Short, the "nearest thing to a village idiot that Walford had seen in many years", and his friend, northern heartbreaker Paul Priestly (Mark Thrippleton); Julie Cooper (Louise Plowright), the man-mad hairdresser; Marge Green — a batty older lady played by veteran comedy actress, Pat Coombs; wheeler-dealer Vince Johnson (Hepburn Graham) and Laurie Bates (Gary Powell, who became Pete Beale's (Peter Dean) sparring partner.
Trevor Short was a dim-witted odd job man, who drifted into Albert Square in search of his friend and a new home. He was a well-intentioned but lonely misfit that rarely got anything right; a role that had been largely absent since the departure of Lofty Holloway in 1988 — although Trevor would prove to be a substantially less successful character in comparison. The writers' original intention had been for Trevor to be a tall Scot. The actor Phil McDermott auditioned for the role even though he was a short Londoner of Irish descent. Despite McDermott's obvious differences to the original character conception, he managed to get the job by crying for five minutes on cue during his audition.
Humour was an important element in the storylines during 1989, with a greater amount of slapstick and light comedy than ever before. Trevor's character in particular was regularly used for comic effect, with emphasis placed on his inferior intelligence and ability to turn any small task into a disaster. As well as playing sidekick to Paul, Trevor was also featured heavily with the hardened battleaxe Mo Butcher (Edna Doré); docile Trevor being the perfect foil for taking the brunt of Mo's bossy and dominant personality, which he did willingly.
1989's changes were a brave experiment and while some found this period of EastEnders entertaining, many other viewers felt that the comedy stretched the programme's credibility somewhat. Although the programme still covered many issues in 1989, such as domestic violence, drugs, rape and racism, the new emphasis on a more balanced mix between "light and heavy storylines" gave the illusion that the show had lost a "certain edge".
By the end of the year EastEnders had acquired a new executive producer, Michael Ferguson, who had previously been a successful producer on ITV's The Bill. Ultimately, Ferguson was responsible for bringing in a new sense of vitality and creating a programme that was more in touch with the real world than it had been over the last year. A new era began in 1990 with the introduction of the Mitchell brothers, two hugely successful characters who would go on to dominate the soap there after. As the new production machine cleared the way for new characters and a new direction, a number of characters were axed from the show at the start of the year. Among them was Trevor, as well as every other "comedic" character that had been introduced to the show in 1989. By March 1990 they had all gone. Several of the actors were upset to be leaving the programme so soon, but with the show's new direction there was no place for characters "whose prime function was to be comic relief".
A dim-witted individual "two biscuits short of a box" was how they described him in The Queen Vic. His life had been hard. Rejected by his parents, he spent his youth in and out of children's homes and never really felt that he belonged anywhere as a result.
Trevor managed to hit it off with the pensioner Mo Butcher after he kindly mended a broken washing machine at the launderette. Mo decided to take Trevor under her wing, and roped him into helping with the renovation of the community centre. However, foolish Trevor stole the supplies from the construction site he was working at, and when Mo forced him to return them, he was caught and lost his job. An array of odd jobs followed for Trevor, all equally unsuccessful. He had a brief spell as the potman at The Vic but he proved a liability. Landlord Frank Butcher gave him a job at his car lot, which only lasted a few days before his ineptitude became too much for Frank to bear. Ian Beale hired him to remove a partition in his café, but this went awry when Trevor resurrected the partition after he'd just demolished it. Despite all these blunders, Paul still persisted in helping his friend out and allowed him to assist with the renovation of Julie Cooper's salon and the decorating of Karim's new property. True to form, Trevor even managed to make a mess of these jobs when he struck a water main — flooding the market — and caused the Karim's ceiling to collapse.
In July 1989 Trevor began lodging with Mo Butcher, who he would often refer to as "Mrs. Mo". He found work tending a stall on the market, but had most of the contents stolen by thieves and was the victim of many practical jokes from hooligans such as Junior Roberts and his girlfriend Melody. He later worked on Pete Beale's fruit and veg stall.
Trevor developed a crush on Paul's casual girlfriend, Diane Butcher, which wasn't reciprocated. He sided with Diane when Paul jilted her in favour of Julie Cooper. He lent her his support and even invited her out one night, which Diane agreed to, but only to make Paul jealous. Trevor was overjoyed and thought that a relationship would be possible. His dreams, however were shattered when Paul dumped Julie and immediately reconciled with Diane.
More bad luck followed for Trevor when he became the prime suspect for a series of thefts at The Queen Vic. Trevor wasn't guilty and was just unlucky enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. After receiving a tirade of abuse from Frank and being barred from The Vic, Trevor did some investigating for himself and discovered that the real culprit was Frank's daughter, Janine. After confronting her, she ran away from home in fear. Trevor was beside himself with worry, hysterically blaming himself for the whole ordeal. Janine was eventually found inside a derelict van with the stolen items on her, and Trevor was exonerated.
During the latter part of 1989, Trevor managed to get himself into trouble with the DSS for benefit fraud. It turned out that Trevor had been signing on for unemployment benefit while being employed at Pete's stall. For a while it looked as if Trevor would face prosecution or a heavy fine, and he reacted with typical hysteria at the prospect of going to prison. In the end, he managed to avoid this by signing off of 'the dole' and promising to never fraudulently claim benefits again.
In December 1989, Trevor was heartbroken when Paul decided he'd had enough of living in London, and moved away from Walford. He moped around feeling sorry for himself for a while but managed to take his mind off things by developing a new crush, this time on Shireen Karim. Shireen was polite enough to let him think his attention was appreciated and even agreed to go on a date with him. Trevor spent a lot of time preparing for the date, seeking advice from almost everyone on the Square, and it ended up being a success. However, after the date, Shireen told Trevor that it could only be a one off occurrence, as she was already betrothed. Trevor was outraged and made several attempts to point out the unfairness of arranged marriages to Shireen's father, all of which had no effect whatsoever.
In February 1990, Paul returned to Walford briefly to give Frank Butcher information on his missing daughter, Diane, who had run away from home. Trevor was overjoyed to see him again, but his happiness was fleeting as Paul soon announced that he was leaving once again, and this time for good. Seeing how upset Trevor was over this, Paul decided to ask him to join him in his home town of Leeds. As Trevor had made such a great success of gardening the local allotments, Paul was sure that he could make a career of it up north. Trevor was overjoyed, and left with Paul in March 1990.