Tuesday, 29 December 2009

State of the Street - December 2009

It's the holiday season and tis the season on Coronation Street for either a birth or a wedding. We'll have Gail and Joe's wedding shortly after Christmas and tis also the season for the traditional disaster at Platt Towers and this Christmas, the potential certainly was there but it was all behind the scenes. David is still chasing Tina in spite of having a lovely girl, Zoe and the prodigal son, Nick is back. David ended up chasing Tina right into Nick's arms inadvertently. Now it's going to get tricky. Tina is with ex-Platt-son-in-law Jason and she used to live with David who is still obsessed with her as the "one that got away". It was bad enough that she ended up with Jason but if she and Jay split and she goes out with Nick? I don't think anyone in Weatherfield is safe. It'll make Gail's tumble down the stairs look like a run down the bunny hill at a children's ski resort.

The war of the Grandads heated up. Ken feels inferior and George keeps sticking his size 10s into Peter's business. Ken's sanctimonious posturing only made Peter run the other way, straight into George's pocketbook. It was inevitable. Why start the bar storyline in the first place if you weren't going to find a way to make it happen? It may or may not be a good idea for Peter to open a bar but it always upsets me that Ken never ever has a supportive word for Peter. Well, hardly ever. It just gives him a crusade and he's never happier when he's got one of them. No wonder Peter thinks he isn't good enough! And it's just as much about George's money in Ken's eyes as it is about Peter's potential risk with booze. And what difference does it make whether the neighbourhood has one bar, which it has had for 100 years nearly, or two?

I'll tell you what though, I'm not quite sure i trust George. I'm sure he took Simon to see "Santa" on purpose because he knew it was really Ken. It was a good way to get his own back and as he had probably hoped, Ken played right into his hands. He's taken every opportunity to undermine Ken and get one over on him, make himself look the better man in Peter's eyes and take advantage of the acrimony between father and son.

The Great Golf Game introduced Dev to a lovely new woman just as his ex and mother of his children, Sunita, came back onto the canvas. Bernie knew when she was up against the insurmountable. I want to know if Dev has been seeing his kids regularly, and there's no reason to think he hasn't, and if Matt is his friend, why he didn't know about Sunita's boyfriend *before* he became her fiance? What's up with that? Even if neither Matt or Sunita said anything to him, kids talk! I hate it when they write these things and don't pay attention to a detail like that. It's thrown Dev for six though.

Now. Gail is trying to sell the house to pay off Joe's debts. Other than Audrey noticing the sign, how long did it take for anyone else to mention it? Gail's best friend Sally lives two doors down and walks by the sign every day on the way to work but hasn't popped over to get the goss! Totally unrealistic. Audrey isn't too happy about Gail's choice and I can't really blame her. He might be an ordinary bloke, by his own words, and he loves Gail, but as a mother, Audrey sees that he has caused her daughter a lot of heartache and trouble and Joe has let Gail down time and again already. As viewers, we see he's still in deep and sinking (quite literally, by all accounts!).

The best thing about Rosie's short lived attempt at blackmailing Stape? Janice's reaction, giving her hell because lying about stuff like that makes it harder on the next woman who really does get assaulted and raped. Like Toyah. Ken Barlow is the most unlikely Santa i've ever seen. He even beats out Percy Sugden though he did sit high on his horse the same way, scolding kids for wanting so much and forgetting the real meaning of the season.

The shadow of Tony Gordon continued the first half of the month. Carla found out she didn't kill Jimmy after all, which, while I'm sure is a relief, also meant she got dropped in it well and good. Carla had to confess that she knew Tony killed Liam and said nothing but as usual, Michelle makes it all about her. Michelle's reaction really seemed a bit over the top and I started wondering if it all wasn't written to put that kissing incident with Ben in there. That aside, I can understand that finding out that Tony really did kill Liam and Carla knew etc. would upset Michelle but she seemed nearly in hysterics, for Maria's and Roy's sake. Eh? Maybe she should just be happy that Tony and Jimmy have been arrested. Meanwhile, we thought Carla had a big job trying to work on her destroyed reputation, which wasn't great to start with. Typically, she did manage to talk Roy and Hayley around to her side in about 5 minutes, and where Roy and Hayley support, the rest were sure to follow. Grudgingly. Don't want to lose their jobs, after all!

Kevin and Molly got bolder, sneaking sub-Sally's-duvet moments instead of going to the motel. It's came to ultimatum time. Affairs almost always do. Molly was getting itchy feet and stroppier with Tyrone by the minute. Problem with that is once they tell, the secrecy and thrill will be gone. But Kevin started to realize what he really had to lose, and started to back off. Molly played the oldest trick in the book. Told him to get stuffed so of course he came crawling back but just when they're going to go public, Sally gives Kevin devastating news that she's got to face breast cancer. I wonder if he's secretly relieved that he isn't forced to leave his marraige just yet even though he was on the verge of it? It also gave him the shock of his life and his priorities became crystal clear yet Molly wouldn't let it go, still hoping they can be together eventually.

It was hard listening to Sally tell Kevin, how she kept it to herself until she knew for sure and even then, she wanted to wait until after Christmas. When I say I'm looking forward to this storyline, I mean that I know Sally Whittaker will do an excellent job of it and Corrie writers are always so good at things like this that it will be well written and acted. I'm not even going to gripe about things like how soon test results get done or things like that. It's telly and they have to speed things up on the whole.

Claire and Becky? Mates? Stranger things have happened I suppose but it seemed unlikely yet even after the Panto, they seemed to stay on friendly terms. The first Street Panto in over 25 years and wasn't it all fun? I wish we'd seen more of the auditions and the show, though. Best part was Betty being the Fairy Godmother! It was put together in less than two weeks (Hayley must have sewn costumes until her fingers bled!) and the whole thing was non stop bickering and casting changes but they managed to get it on stage and it was good fun. Amy only managed one word instead of a song. "Bollocks" One word's nothing new, though, she never does speak more than that at a time. (They really need to get a new kid in that part!) Problem was, it wasn't the sort of word a child should be uttering. Fail!

We can't let this month's State of the Street pass without one last salute to Maggie Jones and Blanche Hunt. Maggie's death has echoed around the world in Corrie watching countries. In Canada, we have another 10 months to enjoy Blanche and it will be a bittersweet experience, knowing it will be coming to an end. Maggie will be missed and there will never be another Blanche Hunt.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Coronation Street episode update, Episode 1

A few years ago i wrote a summary of the very first episode of Corrie, broadcast on December 9, 1960. As today is the anniversary, i am reposting it here.

This is a street in the city of Weatherfield, not so far from Manchester. A short, narrow, cobbled street, lined on one side by a factory and Mission Hall. On the opposite side of the street stands 7 smoke-stained dark brick terraced houses, bookended by a pub on one end and a corner shop at the other. We see a group of children chanting a rhyme outside the shop where a middle aged woman is taking in a sign from the pavement and looking up at the name over the door. Elsie Lappin, it says. The woman re-enters the shop and says to another woman who is standing behind the counter, "Now the next thing you've got to do is get a sign writer in. That thing above the door'll have to be changed". The other woman's name is Florence Lindley, or Florrie, as she is preferably known. She has just bought the little shop from Mrs. Lappin and is already changing the look of some of the product displays to entice buyers. She thanks Mrs. Lappin for staying on until she gets settled and is helpfully warned to watch that breadman, he'll try to sell you the world!

What about tick? Mrs. Lappin instructs her she'll have to use her own judgment but watch them Tanners at Number 11. Don't let them go over 10 bob or you won't see them from the end of one week to the next! Taken under advisement. Credit isn't advisable but the customers won't spend as much if you don't give it. A customer arrives, a young dark haired woman in her 20's and is introduced to Florrie as Linda Cheveski, Linda Tanner as was (with a meaningful tone of voice).

We next see the door of Number 11 and inside, Mrs. Elsie Tanner has charged her son Dennis with taking 2 bob out of her purse. Dennis, a handsome man of about 21, slicks back his ducktail hair and defends himself. Elsie is a curvaceous woman in her very early 40's, attractive in an obvious sort of way. Not content at that, she then nags him about getting a job but he's insistent that he's tried and nobody will hire him and she knows why. She can't quite say it but he does, prison. He's just 7 weeks out of Borstal and that's why no one will give him a chance. He shifts the chip that has settled on his shoulder and accuses his mother of preferring to have a son like "Kenneth Bahlow" at Number 3 (said with the utmost contempt, I might add). And what's wrong with him? at least he's got brains and will make something of himself. Elsie sighs and wishes her fractious family were more like the Barlows, at least they aren't rowing all the time. (ah but who knows what goes on behind closed doors?)

We're about to find out. Action shifts to Number 3 Coronation Street where Mrs. Ida Barlow, a tidy woman in her 40's serves up the tea for her husband Frank and her son Kenneth. Kenneth is a somewhat good looking clean cut young man of about 21 or so but he doesn't look best pleased when his mother hands him a bottle of brown sauce to pour on his meal. She thought he always liked it! Used to, he groans with embarrassment and a vague expression of contempt when he sees his father helping himself to the sauce and swilling his food down with cups of tea. His father notices and takes his son to task for looking down on his family with that snooty expression. Mother Barlow tries to steer the conversation elsewhere but it doesn't work. Father Barlow barks that his son thinks they're common, not good enough and keeps needling Kenneth in spite of Ida's protests. Bet he doesn't tell his poncy college friends where his mother works, slogging day after day doing the washing up for the Imperial Hotel. Ken defends himself. Of course he tells them... if they ask. The barrage continues and it sounds like Ken has been sporting a less than acceptable attitude for his father's taste since starting college, with Ken's habit of making condescending comments about how his family eats and lives in the back streets of a working class neighbourhood not going over well at all with his working class father.

Ida wonders where her younger son, David has got to and Ken takes this opportunity to tell his parents that he's going out tonight, meeting a female friend from college...er...at the Imperial Hotel. Oh no you're not, storms his father who forbids it! He's not throwing money back at the awful place his mother has to work so hard for so little wages. The subject appears to be closed, the master of the house has spoken and being the well brought up lad he is, it looks like Ken is going to obey his dad, not liking it one bit. Frank retires to his easy chair with that last cup of tea. Into this tension bounces David who is late because he's had a puncture. Mother fetches David's tea from the oven and heats up gravy while Father helpfully goes to look for the puncture kit. Left alone with his brother, David asks Ken what's up and is told about the Imperial Hotel disaster. David understands how "well" that went over. The brothers are obviously friends as well and there doesn't seem to be any sibling rivalry between the two though it seems to me that Dad favours the younger son over the older.

The next scene establishes that we are about to enter The Rovers Return. Inside, Ken is at the bar, dressed in a sport jacket and tie, hair carefully combed. He orders two ten-packs of cigarettes from the landlady, a small older woman named Annie Walker who runs the pub with her be-spectacled husband Jack. In slouches Dennis Tanner, looking tough in his grotty leather jacket and long hair, very James Dean. He orders a half and decides to order cigarettes as well but he hasn't enough money to pay for them so isn't allowed to have them. No credit, house rules he is informed. He and Ken strike up some semblance of a conversation. They have grown up together but have turned out very differently. Dennis makes a few caustically sarcastic remarks referring to scholarships and colleges. When Mrs. Walker goes to get Ken's change, Ken slides one of the packages across to Dennis, generously. (old times sake perhaps?) Dennis is surprised but doesn't turn him down nor offers to repay him at a later time. He chugs back his beer and leaves, nodding to Ken in a sort of thanks, cracking that it's all government money after all. Annie shakes her head at Ken's generosity and feels sorry for Dennis's mother, Elsie. "Oooh some mother's do 'ave 'em!".

Meanwhile, Elsie is observing her face in the small mirror of a compact, examining the signs of age. "Eh Elsie, just about ready fer the knacker yard" she mournfully exclaims. We hear a rattling from outside and she hollers out the window at some children who have knocked over her bins. Her daughter comes in with the few things she picked up at the corner shop but won't accept money from her mother. It was her that took the two bob from Elsie's purse! She gets a scolding. With the radio playing soft music in the background, the women talk about Dennis and his job finding efforts. The conversation turns to Linda's husband, Ivan. Elsie has guessed that Linda has left her husband and Linda confirms it. She won't really say why other than she is afraid of him when he gets so moody at times and they're always rowing. (sounds like that's a normal occurrence for this family!)

Linda looks in the mirror and wonders if she should go blonde. Elsie has sat down with the newspaper and is only half listening. Linda keeps interrupting her with comments about her marriage and seems to be wanting to tell her mother something but can't quite bring herself to do it. Instead she asks her mother if there's a job going at the department store where her mother works and is told possibly in millinery but it's only temporary until Christmas. Hopefully Linda will have a think by then and be back with her husband.

Back in the shop, the ex and current owners are restocking shelves and chatting about houses. Mrs. Lappin is retiring and buying herself a little bungalow but Mrs. Lindley prefers a house with an upstairs. It doesn't seem right, somehow, not going upstairs to sleep! Elsie decides to brew up and just as she goes into the flat, a stocky older woman with a face like an old bulldog comes in. She introduces herself as Ena Sharples who is caretaker of the Glad Tidings Mission across the street. It's her personal mission to find out all about the new shop owner and she begins, after gleaning Florrie's name, by asking where Florrie worships. Florrie is ambivalent which leads Mrs. Sharples to assume she's C of E and she launches into a narrative about her sister and her husband who turned C of E. Another ambivalently answered question about where she plans to be buried brings another lecture about avoiding the local crematorium whose musical director plays inappropriate hymns. Mrs. Sharples seems to have known of Florrie Lindley because she knows that Florrie was from Esmerelda Street, ("Very Bay Window down there, you'll find it different round here!") that she worked behind the bar at the Farrier for donkey's years, is a widow and has no children ("Better off without them"). In and amongst all this are several requests, commands really, for a packet of baking powder, a bottle of bleach and a half dozen of them fancies "No eclairs!". Ena also warns Florrie about the Tanners at Number 11 and then manages to get a replacement egg from the former owner, claiming the one she had this morning was off. And off she goes, expecting her purchases to go on the slate ("Don't worry, I'm not thinkin' of running away"), leaving the two women laughing. "She's quite morbid, in't she?" observes Florrie.

Back at Number 3, David and his father are wrestling with the bicycle tyre, trying to determine where the puncture is. Frank seems to have a much easier relationship with his younger son than he does his elder. More in common perhaps. Even when Frank gets annoyed at David, it's more of a loving exasperation than it is the defensive position he seems to take with Kenneth. David steps out to hire a pump and Ida picks her way carefully past the parts on the floor, fetches her knitting and sits down. Frank looks at her sheepishly and whines that he can't back down and let Kenneth go to the Imperial now and thinks Ken should learn to live within his own class. He establishes that Ken is over at Number 1 visiting Mr. Tatlock and observes that his older son spends more time over there than at his own home these days. "We've certainly raised a rum 'un".

Inside Number 1, Mr. Albert Tatlock, a short round WW1 veteran is examining his coin collection and making small talk with young Kenneth. He realizes Ken has something on his mind and offers an ear to listen but is told he wouldn't understand. Thank you very much retorts Mr. Tatlock who already knows that Ken was forbidden to pick up his friend, Susan Cunningham, at the Imperial Hotel. Mrs. Barlow told him. He suggests that Ken go into town and collect her and bring her back here. Ken is aghast at that suggestion and couldn't possibly. Why not? Oh, well, (and in a voice dripping with boredom, contempt and snobbery) "Coronation Street"! When challenged, Ken does say that he admits where he comes from when asked but he doesn't fancy bringing Susan round to see it either. After they make a gentle joke at Ena Sharple's expense ("My place of worship is the Rovers Return!") Albert in no uncertain terms tells Kenneth that the college has turned him into a proper stuck up little snob. Ken begins to protest but his mother interrupts at the back door, with the news that Kenneth's friend, Susan has turned up at Number 3 to see him! Ken leaves skid marks on the floor in his haste to get back to do damage control and Ida and Albert share a chuckle.

Back in Number 3, Susan is watching Frank and David on the floor mending the flat tyre and offers her help. David establishes that they know someone in common and are just sharing a handshake when Ken comes in and if it wasn't black and white, i think his face would be beet red with embarrassment.

The credits roll!

Writer - Tony Warren
Director Derek Granger

Elsie Lappin - Maudie Edwards
Florrie Lindley - Betty Alberge
Linda Cheveski - Anne Cunningham
Elsie Tanner - Patricia Phoenix
Dennis Tanner - Philip Lowrie
Kenneth Barlow - William Roache
Frank Barlow - Frank Pemberton
Ida Barlow - Sandra Gough
David Barlow - Alan Rothwell
Annie Walker - Doris Speed
Ena Sharples - Violet Carson
Albert Tatlock - Jack Howarth
Susan Cunningham - Patricia Shakesby

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Do they still fit in?

A few days ago, commenter, "Ena's Hairnet", on this post on The Coronation Street Blog, suggested a topic for conversation. When a character leaves for an extended time, do they really fit in when they return? She mentioned characters like Carla, Hayley and Leanne. As this post was getting rather long, I've posted it here on my blog rather than clutter up the other one and linked back to it.

I do think in many cases when an actor returns from an absence, be it health related or maternity leave or when the character is written out but returns down the road, that the producers and writers have to have a clear idea of what they're going to do with the character. Sometimes, I agree, things do fall flat. It's taken over a year for Hayley to get back into the forefront with the fall of Tony Gordon and having her back in the factory (where she belongs!) It seemed like her last storyline before her exit, the revelation of her long lost son (an unfortunate rewrite of history), was a stumbling block for the character. She and Roy are such a wonderful, supportive couple and she deserved to be slotted back into the canvas rather than spend a year being a spare part. I'm hoping we'll see a lot more of Hayley from here on in.

Carla's character always seemed to me to be un-Corrielike. A lot of people have commented in a similar vein that they didn't think she fit in the show. After her long maternity leave, it seems a jolt to have her back for a lot of people that didn't like her anyway. She's only just back but has returned in the thick of a major story, the downfall of Tony and it remains to be seen if she'll continue to fit in. Now that she doesn't have Tony, with Leanne her only mate, will she be with us long term? She'll have to make a few more connections to have a reason to stick, I think.

Leanne has been on the canvas since 1997 and has been away from Corrie several times over the years in addition to two maternity leaves. I have found that she always seems to fit in and they always seem to be able to find a return storyline that features her that re-acclimatizes us to Leanne.

When a long time favourite has been gone a long time, people still like to think they could come back but most of them really wouldn't fit in well. Things move on without them and they lose their connections on the Street. Curly is a case in point. I loved Curly, he was always one of my favourites and yes, I'd like to see him back but only for a visit. Say, for a wedding or funeral. It always rubbed me the wrong way that he didn't return for Vera's funeral but it's down to the availability of the actor or whether ITV wants to pay for various and sundry to return for guest visits, as well, I suppose. Other than a visit, though, there really isn't anything there for Curly anymore aside from one or two friends.

Look what happened when they tried to bring Bet Lynch back! As much as I also liked her, I really don't know as she fit in either. Unfortunately, we didn't get the chance to find out because the actress found the new shooting schedule too difficult. It was still good to see her, though, for a short visit.

It isn't always the case, though. If the writers have a good storyline in mind to feature the returnee, it can work. Leanne is a case in point and upcoming, we will be seeing Sunita return. I don't know if it's for a long term or short term but I'm looking forward to it. She only has Dev as a connection, really, since her best mate, Shelley is gone, but she was a fixture on the Street for a long time and should slot back in nicely. They're also bringing back Ciaran who has a history with her as well as a history with Peter. Do you think he'll hit on Leanne like he did Shelley or has he learned that lesson? Nick Tilsley is also coming back with a new face. It will be interesting to see how that works.

So what is your opinion on returning characters after either short or long absences? Do they fit in again? Do the writers really need to know what they're going to do with them before they bring them back? (Especially characters who have been away more than a year)

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