Tony Holland began his career as an actor, appearing in the 1966 Doctor Who serial The Savages and Message for Posterity, a serial for The Wednesday Play in 1967. That same year, a play he developed, The Isle is Full of Noises, was taken up by the BBC and produced by Thirty-Minute Theatre. It was from there, Holland turned to scriptwriting.
Through his agent, Holland was landed a job on Z-Cars as a writer and script editor in 1970. It was here that he met producer and director, Julia Smith and started a long and successful working relationship.
Holland and Smith became an established producer/script-editor team during their time on Z-Cars and went on to work for the BBC's hospital drama, Angels. It was during their time on Angels that the format of the programme was expanded from weekly hour-long episodes to a bi-weekly half-hour serial, with the further possibility of the show being aired all year round.
In 1983 the BBC approached Holland and Smith to produce a new experience for their channel, a bi-weekly soap-opera that would rival the long established ITV favourites, Coronation Street, Crossroads and Emmerdale Farm. The BBC wanted this new serial to reflect "London, today!" and together, Smith and Holland came up with the idea of a programme set in a Victorian Square within the East End of London, focusing on its close working-class families and eccentric Cockney inhabitants. Thus, EastEnders was born.
Holland and Smith wanted a primary focus of EastEnders to be a large extended family, representative of the type most typically found in the East End of London. Holland was from a large London family himself, and in creating some of the show's characters he was able to use some of his own experiences as inspiration for EastEnders central clan the Beales and the Fowlers. In creating the stories and characters, Holland delved into family stories, past and present. His aunt Lou Beale came to inspire the EastEnders character of the same name, along with her two children Peter (Pete) and Pauline. Holland also used some of his experiences as a barman in London's pubs and clubs to create the dynamic pairing of Den and Angie Watts, the owners of the Queen Victoria.
Holland worked on EastEnders for four years, initially as script-editor and going on to script many episodes himself. After four years, Holland and Smith decided to leave EastEnders together in 1989. In 1989, Holland was approached by Ireland's national broadcaster RTE to be a consultant on their new urban soap opera Fair City.
In 1991, they were famously tempted back to the 'world of Soap' by the BBC to produce Eldorado, loosely based around the lives of expats in Spain. Their new show was launched in July 1992, but plagued by a string of on and off-screen problems, it received little of EastEnders success, and was axed a year later, in July 1993.
In 2001, he was awarded with a Special Achievement Award from the British Soap Awards, and in 2004 he appeared on the Channel 4 documentary How Soaps Changed The World.