As well as Den, several other long running characters left the show in 1989, including three original cast members, Angie Watts (Anita Dobson), as well as 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). 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 EastEnders had come under criticism in the British media for being too depressing. 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 Julie Cooper (Louise Plowright), a man-mad hairdresser; Marge Green — a batty older lady played by veteran comedy actress, Pat Coombs; Trevor Short (Phil McDermott), the "village idiot", and his friend, northern heart-breaker Paul Priestly (Mark Thrippleton); Laurie Bates (Gary Powell) who was Pete Beale's (Peter Dean) sparring partner, and wheeler-dealer Vince Johnson.
Humour was an important element in the storylines during 1989, with a greater amount of slapstick and light comedy than ever before. 1989's changes have been called a "brave experiment", but while some found this period of EastEnders entertaining, many other viewers felt that the comedy stretched the programme's credibility somewhat. The programme still covered many issues in 1989, such as domestic violence, drugs, racism and rape; however, 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. According to writer Colin Brake, 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, Phil (Steve McFadden) and Grant (Ross Kemp), two 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 Vince, as well as every other "comedic" character that had been introduced to the show in 1989. By March 1990 they had all gone.
Vince regularly liased with Darren by telephone, and was involved in various illegal money making schemes. Vince and Darren conned car-salesman Frank Butcher by selling him a stolen BMW, which was subsequently confiscated by the police. Unaware of Vince's involvement, Frank tried to reclaim his lost money, so Vince and a gang of hooded thugs advanced on Walford with sledgehammers and began smashing up Frank's carlot to warn him off. When the police arrived, many of the vandals were arrested, but a masked Vince managed to escape thanks to Junior, who directed the chasing police elsewhere. Frank was forced to drop the matter after Vince sent him an anonymous letter threatening to harm his daughter Diane unless he did so. However, when Frank discovered that he had sold another stolen car to Julie Cooper, he realised Vince was repsonsible and attacked him. Despite his rage, Frank refused to involve the police, which earnt Vince's respect, and he compensated Frank for his monetary losses, ending their feud.
Growing weary of a life of crime, Vince attempted to go into legitimate business, hosting themed nights at Walford's community centre with the help of his old friend, Rod Norman. When Rod decided to leave Walford, he sold his African statues to Vince, which Vince attempted to sell on for a profit. When Frank discovered his money making scheme, he harassed Vince to pay off the rest of the money he owed from the stolen car debacle. In order to get out of his debt, Vince gave Frank the statues, believing their worth to be less than what he owed, but he was later infuriated to discover that he had underestimated their real value. By this time, Frank had sold them on cheaply to Grant Mitchell for £100. Both Frank and Vince tried to con Grant's brother Phil into selling back the statues for a cheap price; Phil eventually did so, but the deal was void when Grant revealed that he had already sold them for £300 (their real value was £850). Furious, Frank tried to force Vince to compenstate him for his lost profit, but Vince refused and amidst Frank's threats, Vince left Walford in March 1990, saying he was sick of Walford.