Tuesday, 29 April 2014

State of the Street - April 2014

Peter's stuck between a rock and a hard place. Oh boy, is he ever. Carla's up the duff and Tina thought she was too but she wasn't. Tina's getting pushier with Peter and the bottle is beckoning. And now Steve knows the secret and that really puts him in the middle. Steve doesn't do well in the middle and he's horrible with secrets. He's also Tina's boss and he sure had attitude towards her, didn't he? He was able to cover, but for how long? He won't tell, he says, because Michelle would kill him. What does he think she's going to do when she finds out? She will, you know. I would love to see her dump him but now both of their names are on the business as licensees and it's going to be more difficult to split up.

Steve also found himself in the middle of Kal and Nick's issues even though he had no idea. Kal and Leanne fancy each other rotten but Nick wants Leanne back. Problem is, she didn't get the chance to tell Nick before he really started putting on the campaign to woo her and Kal took it out on Nick by pushing him hard at the gym, leading Nick to blow up and wallop poor Stevie Mack! All Steve wanted to do was get a little fitter to beat Lloyd in the upcoming fun run! I don't know. I kind of like Kal and Leanne but it's really not a good situation since Kal and Nick got to be good mates. Too close to home. I guess I just never liked Nick and Leanne together and always felt she only went to Nick because she couldn't have Peter.

Back to Peter, for a minute, I do like how Leanne is really sympathising with Carla over Peter's drinking. Enemies they might have been, and they'll never be friends but Leanne knows what Carla's up against more than anyone else. Simon's really paying the price. Again. And maybe one small good thing might come out of this, maybe Simon may end up not being so against Carla. There were some good scenes between the two of them, Simon so angry and wanting to blame everyone but his dad so he laid into Carla. It did seem that he realized that Carla wasn't to blame, not really, and he let her comfort him a couple of times. There's hope for the two of them yet.

I don't know about this baby, though. Carla seems insistent on getting rid if Peter can't stop drinking and he's really not having it easy.  He might be in rehab at the end of April but rehab and Peter have never really seen eye to eye in the past. It's only ever been really shocking things that have pulled him up, like nearly causing Simon's death in the fire in the flat or having Si run away from Grandad George in Blackpool. Carla really thinks that her getting pregnant was what pushed Peter over the edge. We know different. It was the pressure of the possibility of his wife *and* his mistress being pregnant! If Carla has an abortion or a miscarraige, that might be the tragedy that sobers him up again. Awful that it would have to come to that, though. I might have enjoyed seeing Carla struggle with motherhood. But  there's no way of knowing yet and not even any spoilers out about the future of any baby Barlow so we'll have to wait and see.

Meanwhile, Tina is waffling between trying to get Peter back and intent on keeping away. But Carla seems to be bonding with Tina as a new bestie mate. Funny that Tina doesn't look the least bit uncomfortable while Carla's pouring her heart out. And I notice that Carla hasn't confided that she's pregnant to Tina and when Tina finds that out, after Peter gave her the song and dance about not wanting more kids, Tina's going to hit the roof. Tina does seem to be taken aback at Peter's slip into drinking again and she blames herself. She's more to blame than Carla is, that's for sure. If she had stayed backed off after Peter dumped her, he probably could have stayed sober but she pushed and pushed again and helped open that door for him to stagger through.

Sophie and Maddie end the month living at Kevin's who reckons they're better off there than under Sally's upturned nose. I do like the actor playing Maddie, but I really don't like the storyline and can't figure out what on earth Sophie sees in Maddie. They have almost nothing in common except a gobby personality. I would rather have seen Sophie bend over backwards to help Maddie than fall in love with her. It would have made more sense. Then maybe once Maddie cleaned up, got a bit more confidence and blossomed, it could have happened then. It was just to out of the blue. It feels like Maddie's using Sophie and Sophie's looking for a cause.

Maria is spinning out of control and you can hardly blame her. She has gone through the wringer and has made yet another bad choice in a man. Well at least Marcus wasn't a murderer. That's something. Now she's rebounding hard and wishing she'd never let Tyrone go and she's taking advantage of Tyrone's good nature and his fear of Kirsty. She's already driving Tyrone and Fiz apart but I really hope they don't split up over Maria's machinations. Maria needs help, not a man. And isn't it ironic that David is the one that knows her secret and actually thinks she should tell the truth? David? He's not spilling any beans, mind you, but he could at any moment if Maria crosses the line. That's not the David we've grown to know and love is it? But maybe he's actually maturing a tad.

Phelan is just about the creepiest villain that Coronation Street's ever had, I think. I think he even surpasses Alan Bradley. I enjoyed Tony Gordon as a real baddie but he had charm on top of his controlling personality. Pat Phelan is slimy, creepy, manipulative and he makes your skin crawl. That, ladies and gentlemen, is the mark of a top actor. He's one of the most watchable characters on Corrie these days because of it.

Now by the end of the month, after he's wrung Owen financially dry, reduced Gary to a gibbering wreck and made Anna give up her virtue, he's seemingly out of the picture but I don't think we've seen the last of him. We might be focusing on the Windasses trying to get back on their feet, with Anna's secret hovering over them like a Harry Potter Deatheater ready to suck the soul out of them all, but Phelan probably hasn't done his worst yet. And because he's such a baddie, I think he's going to end up dead. Likely Owen or Gary will be the accused or even Anna when it comes out. The real killer? Probably his wife. Unless Faye's cold, calculating, death stare means there's more than meets the eye with that troubled child.

Speaking of financially dry, Owen does have a few assets to sell if he has to, the house, the builder's yard and the flat. Now, luckily, there's another builder in the offing. Maybe Jason could buy the business back? There's a turn about. He could be Owen's boss! Jason's dodgey father might be a candidate, as well, though I'm not so sure the business would do any better with Tony running it. He'd probably be cutting so many corners he'd have to be building round houses. He's already doing dirty deals with Rob and Tracy and that's sure to bite Barlow's Buys on the bum before too long! 

Now that there's a gym open on the Street, everyone seems to be crowding into the impossibly small workout space to have a go. It really does feel like there's a room the size of the corner shop, two treadmills that then get substituted for two cross trainers that get pulled out of the way for the athletics and boxing and benches and whatever else someone might use to work out with. They all seem to be in more or less the same place on the set when we see each of the punters. It's kind of funny really.

And they're busy! Always a few extras floating back and forth in the camera view. Amazing for such a small place on a back street! And why is Sharif always there? He's a business man, investing his cash. Surely he has other businesses to take care of and clients to see? Maybe he's just a busybody intent on meddling in his son's life, like Sunita's aunties! He seems to have made a friend in Eva so far. And where's Dev? After his big push to get fit, we haven't seen him in the gym once after the opening day and he owns half of it!

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Touring the Street

ITV has moved their production to a newn state of the art media centre over at Salford Quays and there was much speculation as to what would be done with the old studio and sets. Last year we discovered that a company that does tours, called Continuum, would be taking over the site and setting it up for tours for 6 months this summer. They opened last week and will close at the very beginning of October. They've sold out about 50% so far so I'm hoping if it really makes them money, they'll keep it open.

I was planning a visit to Manchester in April so I was really glad to find out that the tours would be open by the time I got here and I booked my tickets early! They cost 16.50 pounds which is a little high but not too bad comparing it to other UK attractions. They've got a good group of tour guides and you need to book your ticket for a date and time as well. They usher groups of about 30 through every 10 minutes.

You enter through the back of Granada on Great John Street, which is off Quay Street. That's the former staff entrance. Where the staff parking lot was is now where you wait to queue to go in to the tour. There's a little cafe to one side and some functional and accessible toilets there as well.

A quick run down of the tour: You enter through a doorway that was also used as the front entrance to Carla Connor Barlow's former flat and when you're through there, it's right next to the cast Green Room where they would be able to relax when not required on the set. You get an introduction there and there's some video showing on the wall. You are taken down a "corridor of stars", lined with portraits and photos of many of the famous faces from the 50+ years of the show and you can peek into a few of the old dressing rooms. They're so much smaller than you expect, little more than a closet.

You then come into the studio proper where you get to see a few of the old sets set up and "dressed". The first one is Carla's old flat, all reds and dark wood and pristine unused kitchen! Also on display is the living room and kitchen of Number 8, The Platt household. there's the Dobbs house, which used to be Jack and Vera Duckworth's house most famously.  You get a look at the large Underworld factory set, too, with some recorded voice from Mike Baldwin from his factory back in the day.

Of course, there's the Rovers. You really couldn't have a tour without that. Everyone gets to post for an official photo behind the bar. You can purchase them later in the gift shop for 7.50 pounds or two for 10. They print them about an 8x10 (A4) size with a nice souvenir folder for it. They will also put them on a usb stick for 8.50 I think. We managed to bag a seat in one of the famed booths while the guide chatted to us and group members took their turns behind the bar.

You then get a look at the production "nerve center" where the control panels and sound boards are, before waiting behind the door that's the entrance on the set into the Bistro. A few last minute words and they welcome you to Coronation Street and you are outside on the famed cobbles where you can spend as much time as you like wandering about and taking photos. You were not allowed to take them inside the studios because it slows down the process through the tour and there are other groups not long behind you.

Also inside the studio are displays that you can look at. That's a bit of a complaint for me. The displays are great. There are some costumes on display like Jack's jacket, Roy's jacket, some wedding dresses like Becky's pink frothy one. Hayley's flowered coffin is there as is one other one that has been used for quite a few funerals. Down further is Roy's train set complete with the hills and the little castle Hayley gave Roy. There's a glass case with iconic character trademarks like Hilda's rollers, Ena's hairnet and Deirdre's big 1970s glasses among other things. My complaint is that you really can't stop and have a good look. It's all pointed out as you walk by on to another set or room.

I think if the tours were every 20 minutes instead of every 10, you'd have that little bit of extra time to stop and look at the photos, displays and the award case. I've also been spoiled because the two times I have been fortunate to have backstage tours, they were private tours so there was no rush and we could stop and take photos  where we liked.

The guides are all very knowledgable and the one we had was very personable as well. He knew his stuff though I still could have told him a few bits and pieces. I didn't reallly get the chance but I've amassed a lot of interesting trivia over the years. One that occurred to me was when I saw the old red rotary dial telephone in the display case that was Elsie Tanner's phone. There has been a red telephone in the set of number 11 (now the Grimshaw residence) ever since. Watch for it.

I've been on the set before but it never gets old. I try to make sure I can get photos of things that have changed since the last time I was there. We walked around, explored down the ginnel, around on Victoria Street and had a peek into Sally's back garden. The medical centre at the Rosamund street end of the outdoor set has the gift shop in it and you can see from leftover signs that it was not just used as the medical centre waiting room, but also some hospital areas. In the shop are the two snowmen that were built for Roy and Hayley as well.

The gift shop itself doesn't really have a lot of merchandise and they've filled it out with some Manchester souvernirs. Perhaps as the summer moves on into high tourist season they'll be better stocked as it has only just opened less than a week ago. Much of the Corrie related items are Enesco products including the lovely Lilliput Lane miniature replicas of some of the houses and businesses.

For Corrie Fans, if you can get to Manchester this summer, it's definitely worth it. We were waiting in the cafe after the tour for the Conversation Street podcasters, Michael and Gemma, (See their tour photos here on Facebook) and one man was fairly bouncing he was so excited to get on the cobbles. I really love seeing people so excited and eager because I know what it feels like that first time, it really is magic. The cafe is inside the studio property but outside where you go into the studio. A bit pricey as you might expect and not very fancy but it's a good place to wait until your tour starts or have a cuppa and wind down after.

There are more tour reviews from others over on the Coronation Street Blog here.

 Gemma and Michael from Conversation Street

Tickets are available at Ticketmaster

More of my photos are here.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

State of the Street - March 2014

Peter and Tina really are a car crash. She's so naive and she really thought that once they both said those three little words, everything would move forward without a hitch. He'd leave Carla. They would be together. Happy Families. Ha! You can tell she's not been around too many blocks. Liz knows, the true voice of experience. Steph knows and she's even less experienced than Tina. (I think). Peter was happy as Larry. Well, of course he was. He's got it all, a beautiful wife and a beautiful mistress. He's lying so much I'm surprised he keeps it all straight. But then he's good at it.

I don't think we were ever meant to support Tina and Peter as a couple. It's clear he was just infatuated by a pretty face and she's not the love of his life. It's clear they don't have the chemistry that he had with Leanne and Carla. Tina was always meant to be his bit on the side and he's rapidly tiring of her but he's backpedalling furiously trying to keep Tina on side so that Tina doesn't tell Carla. That's why he's hanging on, now, I think.

I wonder if Carla will suspect before it all comes out? After all, she was in Tina's shoes and heard all those lies when she was the mistress and Leanne was the wife. It really does all come around full circle. Ah, but she's distracted by the time it starts getting heavier. She's pregnant! Now what? She prevaricated for several weeks and was nearly determined to have a termination but backed out at the last minute and the month ends with her telling Peter who looked shocked as hell. Now he's got a mistress and a pregnant wife!

Kind of thought that would happen. She really doesn't think she could be a parent and I'm sure down deep she's still scared to bits and it will be a very uphill battle for her to get her head around motherhood. I hope they don't make her an instant Earth Mother when she sees that baby. I want her to have a difficult adjustment. I want to see her struggle and for it not to go away in a few months. I want to see her fiercely love that baby but despair of ever getting it right and scared that she'll damage her child the way her mother damaged her. I want to see her succeed against her fears and better judgement. I think Carla can do it.

I still don't trust Tony and neither does anyone else. Even Liz says he's got his measure but it doesn't put her off. Tony proved he does have a dodgy side still, by stealing the tools from the other builder that Kal's dad hired thereby allowing Jason to get the refit back. He's even getting help from Tony which makes sense, I guess, because I doubt very much Jason is a qualified electrician so he'd have to hire one anyway. It's amazing that the gym was nearly finished in a matter of weeks with a total renovation by just two guys, or so it seemed.

Steve likened Liz and Tony to a car crash as did a few others and Tony played the heavy and warned Steve off. I don't think Tony will do anything to Liz directly but I imagine she'll find out about him doing something dodgy, letting Jason down, and kick him to the curb. The actor is very good, though, and the storyline is interesting to watch.

After Gary nearly killed Phelan, or at least gave him a nasty bruise, Phelan has them just where he wants them. No profit for you! Pushing and winding up Gary and Owen both is not going to help matters. Gary will be pushed to the edge I reckon. This building deal is going to get very messy. I think Owen will get back the money he put into it by contract, but that's it and he might not even get that if he starts trying to rip off Phelan and gets caught at it. Gary didn't get caught breaking into the house but something's bound to give.

I speculate that Phelan is going to end up really dead the next time but though it will likely be Gary or Owen accused, I also speculate that the "expendable crew member", aka the real killer, will turn out to be his wife, Valerie. I'm still enjoying the storyline, too. Phelan is such a watchable villain that even though it's frustrating watching Anna, Gary and Owen blunder around like idiots, i don't mind!

Now a few short notes: I like Steph. A lot. She's a bit dim but she's turning into a loyal friend and can tell you some home truths when you need it. I wonder how she learned all that at such a tender age? Inquiring minds want to know. I like her bother Luke so far, too. He could be a good addition to the show depending on what they do with him. I'm not overly bothered that Kevin's back. I hope they keep Sally and Tim together and give Kevin a new direction. Sally and Kevin are so over. While the actress playing Maddie is very good, I really hate the pairing with Sophie. If Jenna and Sophie had nothing in common, Maddie and Sophie have even less. There's no chemistry and we've done the redemption of the down and out girl with Becky and even Kylie.

I could understand Todd keeping his relationship with Marcus a secret from Sean as a kindness since they used to be together, but only if Todd were serious about Marcus, which he isn't and only if Todd were a truly kind and thoughtful person. Which he's not. And now Todd has successfully proven his point, that he could get Marcus back to the "dark" side. He's making out that he really cares about Marcus but I don't buy it. Ok. To be fair, maybe he's developed a bit of a crush but it certainly wasn't that way to begin with and I'm glad Marcus figured out straight away that Todd was playing games with him. Will he still end up with Todd? I don't know, possibly, but not for long I shouldn't think.

Maria is in bits after yet another disastrous relationship and this one looked like it might actually work out. Marcus is certainly one of the nicest men she's ever been with, other than Tyrone. The rest have all be selfish, in love with someone else, or even, in Tony's case, murderous. Many of them had an agenda and probably Marcus did too, because he wanted the family but I believe he truly does love Maria. It was never meant to be.

And finally, it seems we're going to see the end of Stella, she who used to be the Mistress of Beighe and has turned into the Black Almost-Widow. Have you noticed? I wonder if the Powers That Be  have switched her wardrobe from mostly beige to mostly black for a reason. It seems to have happened after the Karl calamity. She's not been a favourite of most fans. I can't say I hated her as much as some but she never gelled for me. I, like many, resented the fact that she was pushed into every storyline in an attempt to get the viewers to like her and get used to her. Instead, it felt like she was intruding, especially when Betty died. Since Betty Driver had mostly been off screen, we never bought that Stella and Betty made friends because we never saw them on screen together. Logically, of course, they would have but nobody accepted it.

I wasn't a fan of the actress herself, her methods and acting style. I found her lacking in emotional scenes and that whispery little voice drove me nuts. Funny, though, when I think of that, Gail's voice doesn't bother me and it's fairly whispery most of the time, too, but Gail is a far more interesting character.  I also felt kind of bad for Janice Battersby who raised Leanne and never gets so much as a mention anymore. She may be off screen, but Leanne did used to speak her name now and then, or call her. Janice did all the hard work raising Leanne, not Stella.

I did like her and Gloria together as mother and daughter and I thought that worked, though that could have a lot to do with Sue Johnston who has chemistry in buckets. I enjoyed Gloria but she was very underused. I also love Eva and I hope she stays with the show. She's a great character.

But Stella?

I won't miss her.

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