Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Characters I "Love to Hate"

Brian Packham as back on Coronation Street and many fans are rejoicing. For me, it's a mixed bag of joy and dread. You see, I never liked Brian. He's a buffoon. He's selfish, greedy and boorish. He's an intellectual snob, even more so than Ken Barlow.  One scene that stands out in my mind was Brian, staying at Ken's, helped himself to Ken's kimono without asking. It never seemed to occur to him that he should have. Borrowing a shirt or a jumper would have been bad enough, but a dressing gown is a rather intimate garment and it made me cringe with disgust that he would think nothing of rooting through Ken's closet or laundry and doing it.

This week, we saw him apparently investigating the Bistro for Environmental Health but in reality, was just after a free meal. Never mind that the complaint would have been logged and his superiors would be looking for a proper report. Never mind that not only was he angling for a free meal, he managed to down THREE bowls of mussels. I'm surprised he didn't insist Robert hand him cash to get out of the investigation. If I was Robert, I'd be reporting him.

Brian is very much cut from a similar cloth to Derek Wilton and I never liked him either.

Both men had a nicer side, a softer side. They both loved and were loved. Derek and Mavis were soul mates even though he exasperated her many times (and probably, vice versa!). Julie and Brian seemed like a good couple and were very much in love but apparently, they did not go the distance. Soul mates they weren't in the end.  Both men were a bit hapless and not very good at what they did in spite of them both thinking quite highly of themselves and their abilities.

Another current character I never liked is Norris Cole who's a sanctimonious, gossipy and at times thoroughly nasty little man.  He, too, can pull his heart out of the cold storage now and then and be kind to someone when you least expect it but for the most part, I don't know why he has any friends at all.  When he was first on the show in the 90s he was a spiteful and arrogant piece of work. He's softened a little in his old age but he still has his backside firmly on that high horse.

The fourth current character that evokes a strong negative response in me is Pat Phelan. There is very little soft side to him, and I think there's a stone swinging in his chest where his heart should be. He's opportunistic, greedy, ambitious, controlling and he's a bully. He's a classic Corrie villain.

I would describe my feelings for Brian, Derek and Norris as "I really don't like them".  But I very much enjoy Pat Phelan as a character.  I really enjoy watching him. He's so bad, he's good! I don't know what the difference is unless it's the villain aspect. Villains are always more interesting.

The thing is, I like/liked to hate all four characters. This comes down to two things. The writing is usually great and the actors themselves are highly skilled. I think all four men put in top performances and that contributes to the "like to hate" syndrome. I have to admit, Norris is a bit of a struggle at times and I don't find him as funny as most people I know (though he does get in a great line now and then) but Brian and Derek can always make me laugh and Pat Phelan keeps me glued to the screen.  (going with the present tense here, even though Derek Wilton and his portrayer are no longer with us) The actors all have impeccable timing whether it's for comedy or drama.

There have been a lot of characters over the years that I've not liked much. What brings a viewer to like or dislike a character, and note, I said "character" not "actor", is generally subjective. The character is usually written specifically *to* be dislikeable or to have dislikeable characteristics but the viewer doesn't always agree. What one person finds dislikeable about, say, Brian Packham, someone else will find funny or intriguing.

Other "love to hate" characters over the years have included Cilla Battersby Brown,  Nessa, Reg Holdsworth, Nick Tilsley and Tracy Barlow.  I confess I really disliked Kate Ford in her first few years playing Tracy, but she's settled in and come a long way. The perceived skill of the actor makes a huge difference for me in whether I like to dislike a character or whether I really, really find them off-putting. There have been many over the years that I felt couldn't act their way out of a paper bag but I'm going to refrain from naming names.

Characters that you like to hate are usually interesting, intriguing, sometimes funny, sometimes tragic, sometimes both. Maybe they're a bit exaggerated but others might be very understated.  I think that once an actor proves their acting chops and makes a character their own, the writers can really play to their strengths which makes them so much more watchable. Apparently, the writing team had a ball writing for Maggie Jones who played Blanche Hunt due to her amazing delivery of those acerbic lines we all remember.

The writing and acting skill really do combine to make a character great, whether it be a hateful piece of work, a comedy stalwart, or an adored sweetheart of the Street.  When the character is all over the place, when their personalities are unfathomably transplanted, when it seems like the writers and producers don't know what to do with them, they stop being watchable and enter that dreaded realm of the forgettable. (Katie Armstrong, anyone?)

I'm all for Love to Hate characters that give us the comedy gold or the tension that has us on the edge of our seats.  Kudos to the actors behind the facades who bring the characters to life, creating the unforgettable.

Tvor (Twitter @tvordlj)

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Villain du Jour

Pat Phelan is one of the best Corrie villains ever, says I. For me, he ranks right up there with Tony Gordon who is my all time favourite, and edging ahead of Richard Hillman who was second in line. He might even have a slim lead over Tony at the moment. He's slick, sly, sneaky, calculating, and cold. He doesn't lose his temper easily unless really pushed. He bides his time, thinks about what to do, schemes, and turns the tables on people. When he's backed into a corner, challenged, confronted, he keeps his cool for the most part, and always seems to find a way around what looks like inevitable exposure, either by twisting someone's words, blackmail, a plausible explanation (which is, of course, a total lie) or a grand gesture that gets him off the current hook.

Some fans see him as a one dimensional villain, purely over the top Panto and he does have elements of that. He practically twirled his metaphorical moustache over the final confrontation with Michael. I do think he's got layers and I do think he's even beginning to care for Eileen but his ambition and his greed are far too strong for him to really have true love and selfless committment to someone. 

He established his villain credentials early on, the first time he was with Coronation Street, by appealing to Owen's greed and financial straits over a building project. Pat wasn't going to use his own money, was he? He managed to take Owen's cash and reduce him to a minimum wage slave after Gary nearly killed him in a rage over him leering over Anna. Then to top things off, he used Anna's maternal need to protect her chick from assault charges and coerced her into bed as his blackmail payment. We are never quite sure if he would follow through with his threats if these characters would just stand up to him but as it's a soap, they never do and succumb to his blackmail and manipulations, leaving us cringing.

He dropped out of sight suddenly, leaving us all kind of hanging, without any closure. But guess what? He came back! Now down on his luck with a fresh divorce and a wife that pretty much took him for everything he had and then some, he slunk back to Weatherfield and got a job as a minimum wage slave for a local builder. Karma? Maybe. But Phelan isn't one to be kept down for long. He latched onto Jason Grimshaw and knew he was on to a good thing.

He continued to blackmail Anna over their one night stand so that she wouldn't continue to bad mouth him but he pushed her too far and she finally confessed to Kevin who understood and, surprisingly, didn't beat the crap out of Phelan. He seduced Eileen away from the lackluster Michael as a way of getting closer to Jason and his business, isolating her by manipulating both Sean and Todd out the door though Todd came back when Jason was beaten up at the hands of Callum Logan's cronies. Phelan took full advantage of Todd's lie that Jason's father, Tony, killed Callum and managed to drive Jason out of town on the pretense of protecting his family. He thought he could get his hands on Jason's business but Jason left Eileen in charge of the money so he had to step up the game.

Luckily, one of his old mates, Vinny, came to him with a scam. Invest in a project. Renovating an old building and constructing posh flats and taking deposits from people. There was an initial investment for an office set up and a barebones construction start up but there was never any intent on completion and Vinny and Phelan would skip town with the cash. Phelan was all for it and worked on Eileen to invest Jason's inheritance from Tony. She hovered around the project like a pesky fly but he seemed to be able to handle her good intentioned interference but he hadn't counted on Michael Rodwell.

Michael was still around and still constantly suspicious of his old love rival. Michael is very much the stereotypical "loser", a man that is not seen as a strong, macho man. He has a heart condition and he quickly backs down from confrontations but Michael is an honest man and we know he's the better of the two. Michael overheard a conversation he wasn't meant to and tripped into the scam. He was like a dog with a bone, determined to bring Phelan down and he almost did it.

In a final confrontation, Michael had the evidence against Phelan and we watched and waited. Would Phelan actually cross the line and kill Michael? It certainly seemed like he would. Phelan has threatened violence in the past, he's also got a lot of dodgey mates willing to do violence on his behalf for cash in hand. I am never quite sure if he would actually get his hands dirty and do it himself but he seemed to be backed into a corner and there were no witnesses. Luck was again on Phelan's side when Michael had another heart attack and he left Michael to die on the floor of the project offices, much like Richard Hillman left Duggie Fergusson crumpled and broken after a fall over a balcony in another renovation project.

Phelan always seems to have that luck following him. Some use the expression "horseshoe up your backside" to explain the unexplicable tendency for some people to dig themselves out of astonishingly deep holes. My Nan used to say "He could fall into a bucket of poo and come up smelling of roses". Phelan always seems to be able to talk his way out of a thorny situation and make himself look the victim or the good guy. This time is no different. His business partner has had enough of all the aggravation and has scarpered off with all the money, leaving Phelan with nothing but an empty building site for all his trouble. He's been duped just like all the people that have lost their deposit money! But again, he'll be able to claim that he is as much of a victim as the people deprived of their savings.

I think Todd better watch his back and make sure he knows a good solicitor. Todd knew what was going on and helped sell the non-existent flats to unsuspecting punters. I think Todd was hoping to find a way to bring Phelan down himself, from the inside, but it won't look that way if the police get involved and Phelan is very, very good at spinning a plausible story out of the fairy tale.

Connor McIntyre plays Pat Phelan and he's absolutely brilliant at it. As always, the character is much enhanced by the skill of the portrayer and Pat Phelan could have been little more than a pantomime villain in someone else's hands. He wouldn't have lasted as long and he would certainly have fallen from grace and favour by now or with the end of this storyline and found himself behind bars. It could still happen, and it probably will at some point over another scheme if not this one. He might not have killed Michael by his own hand but he left him to die and he scammed peoples' life savings. He's done some pretty nasty things to other, as well and if Phelan is going to be a longer term character, they will have to be careful. After all, it's a soap and he'll have to pay for his misdeeds at some point.

I can't wait to see where this will go.

Tvor (Twitter @tvordlj)

Friday, 11 November 2016

Plot Hole Hell

I initially thought this storyline with Caz and Maria was good. It kept my interest as Caz became more obsessed with Maria, manipulating and lying. But in the past few weeks it's getting rather bizarre. Now Maria is being suspected of Murder with no body (because we know Caz isn't dead) and plenty of evidence that isn't even strong enough to be considered circumstantial. I can usually suspend disbelief for the most part but this storyline is starting to get out of control. I hope when Caz is discovered alive, Maria gets an apology from the police and from that self righteous Kate but I doubt it will happen.

Caz was only gone a few hours and everyone was hopping up and down saying she'd disappeared mysteriously. Then, after the bloody handprint and blood on the wall (surely a blood splatter expert could tell something from that), Fiz finds a bloody rug in their wheely bin. I don't understand it, though. If it was Maria that had really killed Caz, she wouldn't hide the bloody rug in Tyrone and Fiz's bin. I guess where it's a set up by Caz, I can see her doing it to bring more attention to doubt Maria's state of mind. It's not as if that bin was near either end of the ginnel, it's in the middle! Wouldn't any old bin do?

Caz must have an Invisibility Cloak. She's been hanging out and lurking in the ginnel.

She must have slipped into Maria's just after she left for work. Nobody saw her. Maria was at work, left again, went to the pub, left again so she wasn't gone all that long and there was Caz about to make her escape from the flat in broad daylight. Yet, Maria got pulled away for a cuppa by Eva so Caz didn't leave after all, she went back upstairs. Why?

She ended up using Maria's scissors to open up a cut that was already on her hand and then replaced the scissors in Maria's case with a half-hazard swipe at the handle of the scissors and later, another swipe at the top of the case, presumably to wipe fingerprints off.

In this day and age of technology and DNA, it would be pretty obvious that wouldn't get rid of any evidence that Caz had touched the case. You just know that the police will not find a thing, though, right?

And another thing. How long was Caz in that flat? Must have been hours, yet we saw her put the scissors in the case and later, much later it must have been, after we saw Maria finish her police interview, Caz was only folding up the case just then. I do wonder why Maria never had the locks changed in the flat once she got home and all this started up.

Oh yes, the case. It's a bit odd that someone that has a permanent job in a salon would carry their work gear back and forth each day, especially when she only lives over the shop anyway. We've never seen Audrey carry hers in of a morning nor David nor anyone else in the history of the salon.

We also found out that Caz has installed a remote webcam and is monitoring it on a tablet from a room somewhere. At the very least it might be a shelter or hostel though it looks much nicer than that. Caz is broke, no job, no mates. The stolen credit card explains the table and webcam but Maria was in London a few weeks ago now, was she planning on video spying on her even then? Caz doesn't seem like a planner, more of an off the cuff kind of woman. And did it take Maria that long to cancel the credit card? If Caz's paying any sort of rent, I'd like to know how. Was she on benefits? I doubt the army would have given her a severance if they dishonourably discharged her. Perhaps she had pension money due.

The police turned up to search the flat and the salon. They claimed it was a tip off. Doesn't that raise alarm bells? And Aidan managed to get the bloody scissors out the door and into the nearest bin, the one outside the factory. Yet the police didn't find the scissors case which still had blood in it, in the flat where it wasn't really well hidden.

It's all confusing and though I did like the storyline, it's getting more and more difficult to ignore the plot holes, as deep as the Mariana trench.

Tvor (Twitter @tvordlj)

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