Tuesday, 30 November 2010

After the Lord Mayor's Show . . .

Oh for God's sake, someone throw away the key . . .
Is it just me (and it probably is) who really isn't looking forward to the return of Tracy Barlow? After what promises to be an emotionally draining couple of weeks on the cobbles (will anyone find Rita in the rubble?) we are being served up the tired old Tracy storyline in time for Christmas. Now, had Tracy emerged as a more contrite, sympathetic character, battling her demons and trying to make a new start, then this couldn have been a far more engaging storyline. Instead we are faced with another slice of her 'bitch-on-wheels' antics as she, yet again, makes life difficult for Steve, confronts Becky . . . We've seen it all before. If only she had been released from prison on December 6th, her taxi pulling up outside the Joinery . . . at about 8.30 p.m.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Good golly Miss Molly!

"Me? Confused? Never . . ."
I may be alone in thinking that the manner in which Molly Dobbs has been dealt with over the years can best be described as clumsy! Her character seems to have veered every which way. Back in 2005 she was a bit of a snide madam, intent on revenge against Fiz-bomb. Before long she was a dutiful daughter, reliable girlfriend and an asset to the business. Not that she remained in this frame of mind. She shed this persona like a snake sheds a skin and hey presto, welcome Molly the conniving trollop and all-round liar. No - sorry, I got that wrong. Another change, this time emerging as a loving wife and mother, home-maker and carer of poor old Jack Duckworth. Then on Friday - back to her 'confused tart' script.

I always thought, and indeed expected, Molly to become one of the cornerstone characters of the Street. Like many others, I feel that she was badly served by the Molvin story which now creaks up a gear. Whatever lies ahead for the character, it seems a shame that Molly, once a breath of fresh air, has become something of a backstreet bore.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Preparing for disaster!

With a few hours to spare, I decided to get myself in the mood for the impending Corrie tram crash by digging around in the archives for disasters of old. Over a bowl of tomato soup I watched the 1969 coach crash. Ploughing through this some forty one years after the event, I have to admit that these episodes are a little odd!

Hilda's tea leaves didn't predict this . . .
The real problem lies with the filming of the episodes. Having been shot largely in the Lake District, they were meant to welcome the glorious ages of colour TV to Corrie. However, it soon transpired that the legendary H.V. Kershaw didn't have enough colour film and so reverted to black and white. Bizarrely, the next episode, set mainly in the hospital, careers between monochrome and colour. Rather than the majesty of the gardens at Brockhole, viewers first taste of colour was a shot of a bloodied Hilda Ogden scurrying down a hospital corridor.

The action itself is quite gripping and builds nicely with the usual mixture of comedy and drama. Annie Walker comes over all imperious as she wanders the gardens, Emily dances a strange drunken jig with Stan Ogden and Ray Langton, with a curiously shifting accent, attempts to lure Audrey Bright away from her husband.

Ena spots Elsie's lipstick . . .
As for the hospital scenes? Well, the nursing staff were played as demonic Hattie Jacques types. Most of the cast appeared injured but with a fresh coat of make-up, including Elsie Tanner sporting vivid pink lipstick. Overall though, these vintage episodes reflect the Corrie style of the time and the fight to save the coach from crashing is both realistic and dramatic. Unlike the drama to come though, there was no need for a funeral director . . .

Thursday, 18 November 2010

A Royal Street Wedding?

Off to the Rovers for a pie and a pint
It seems to me that every time the UK is thrust into the joy of a royal wedding, "Corrie" steals the limelight with a big day for two of it's characters. Usually Ken and Deirdre . . . The grusome twosome managed to attract a bigger audience on ITV for their 1981 marriage than Charles and Diana. The Barlow's 2005 re-run also did significantly beter in the ratings than the Charles and Camilla fixture.

Ken & Deirdre - round one!
The big question is - who can we marry off in Weatherfield next spring? How about Graham and Tina? Anything to put a smile on her face! Or maybe the lovely Rita "Save R Rita" Sullivan can trip down the aisle for a third time? What do you think?

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

In the beginning . . .

The 'alternative universe' Martha, Minnie & Ena
This is perhaps my favourite picture from the pre-history of "Corrie"! It shows what might have been had the casting of some characters taken a different turn. The scene is taken from the dry run (or pilot episode) of episode three and shows Nan Marriott-Watson in the role of Ena Sharples. Sitcom fans will relish seeing the legendary Doris Hare as Martha Longhurst. In Daran Little's book, "The Coronation Street Story", Hare recalls being approached by Tony Warren to play Martha but casting supremo Margaret Morris decided that Doris was wasted in the role. Morris offered her the Ena Sharples role instead but Doris was busy with RSC committments.

Larry Dann - the alternative Dennis Tanner!
Alison Bayley played Minnie Caldwell in the dry run prior to Margot Bryant being cast. Neither Minnie nor Martha appeared in the other dry run. However, there were other casting anomalies. Ruth Holden, eventually Ena's put upon daughter Vera Lomax, was padded up for the role of Ida Barlow. Larry Dann was Dennis Tanner and, as we know from the wonderful "The Road to Coronation Street", Nita Valerie was Ena. Also amongst the cast was Peter 'Len Fairclough' Adamson as insurance man Harry Bailey. This particular character surfaced some years later, played by Ray Mort. Nora Gordon took the role of Elsie Lappin and Victor Tandy acted the part of Albert Tatlock. How different it all might have been!

Friday, 12 November 2010

Those not so golden moments . . .

Like many Corrie fans, I'm preparing to wallow in nostalgia as the golden jubilee month approaches. It's going to be a great time to indulge our love of all things Weatherfield and recall some of the memorable moments from the past fifty years. However, this got me thinking. What about the storylines that I really didn't like? The ones that had me gnashing my teeth or stifling a yawn as soon as they went on air. As they say, one man's meat is another man's poison so this little list represents the five storylines that drove me to distraction . . .

1 - The return of Linda Cheveski
1984 was a big year for the Street. Many well-loved faces disappeared from the cobbles including the legendary Elsie Tanner. Parachuted into her place was her long-forgotten daughter Linda who had last appeared way back in 1968. Sixteen years later she returned as an embittered middle-aged woman, hoping to keep her mother's house and snare Bill Webster into the bargain. For me, it all felt wrong especially as actress Ann Cunningham played the part with little conviction and later said that going back had been a "nightmare". Thankfully, Linda was soon gone for good!

2 - The Cult of Nirab
Perhaps one of the most nonsensical stoylines ever to surface on the Street. During 1997 we were dragged kikcking and screaming through a plot featuring Ashley Peacock and the grim Zoe Tattersall. Her life on the Street was fairly bleak at the best of times. She drank, she partyed, she gave her baby away, she stole it back and then went off the rails. Fresh out of a psychiatric unit, she embarked upon a new life with a pseudo religious cult named after one Nirab (or Corrie producer Brian Park, the butt of all the jokes). After various attempts by Ashley to 'save' her, Zoe and her dreary plotine, disappeared to the USA. Sadly for Ashley, years of relationships with slightly unhinged women would follow.

3 - Alison Wakefield snares our Kev
Fresh out of a loveless marriage, Kevin returned to life as a single man. Well, for a while. Another woman with 'dreary' for a middle name, Alison fell for Kev and eventually married him. Alison was never a dynamic character and, to me, seemed totally wrong for not only Kev but the entire series. She didn't last too long and was evenutally squashed under a lorry leaving Kev free to ravish a brace of Mollys and of course, the lovely Sally.

4 - Brendan Scott buys the Corner Shop
Having hung around the sidelines for a couple of years, the starchy Brendan bought the Corner Shop from Alf Roberts in 1993. Scott was a charm-free zone and heaven knows how he was supposed to fit into Alfie's comfy shoes. He revamped the shop and employed Emily Bishop as his servant, sorry, assistant, although she was made to dress like Ruby from "Upstairs Downstairs" circa 1912. Brendan Scott was a workaholic and eventually worked himself into an early grave, dying in the shop in front of poor old Emily. Luckily for viewers, Alf was soon back behind the counter.

5 - Michelle Connor and her boys
Was Michelle really deserving of this story? Suddenly she discovered that her son wasn't really her son and that there had been a 'mix-up' at th'ospickle. Enter the new son who proved to be even more annoying than the original. Then let's forget about the new one and never mention him again. An odd, unsatisfactory storyline and one best consigned to history!

These then are some of the storylines that didn't really play out for me. Did any have you reaching for the 'OFF' button?

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Keep our Connie!

Is it just me or does anyone else think that the lovely Connie Rathbone ought to become a permanent fixture in the Street? The show needs a new late middle age woman and Connie fits the bill. She's got a bit of money so why not have her move into one of the new flats? Rita May is a great actress. Those of us old enough will recall her performance in the chillingly horrific "Threads" back in 1984 plus the short-lived (but sharply observational) comedy "Early Doors". So what about it Mr Collinson? You know it makes sense!

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Goodbye Jack!

Well, I'm not sure that I can say anything about Monday's episodes that hasn't already been said! I feared a mawkish demise for old Jack, especially given the news that Vera was to re-appear. What unfolded though was a memorable piece of drama and yes, it worked well. It was lump-in-the-throat stuff as Vera came to collect Jack and dance a final dance before Jack's spirit left number nine forever. The death was handled in a warm, nostalgic and thoughtful manner. It was an ideal exit for a long-standing character and I found myself comparing it with the horrendous way in which Pauline Fowler was dispatched in "EastEnders" a few years ago.

Mind you, some residents of "Coronation Street" do deserve to be squashed by a runaway tram . . .

BAFTA salutes Corrie!

The great and the good of Corrie!
Like many others I braved the chill of london's South Bank last night for an evening of Corrie par excellence. In all honestly I wasn't quite sure what to expect. Would sitting through the first three episodes of my favourite soap be a case of overkill? I need not have worried. Firstly, it was wonderful to see these black and white beginnings on the big screen. As an audience, our affection for the characters was evident immediately. A warm murumur of "aah" went up as Annie Walker appeared. There was a cheer and plenty of laughs as Ena Sharples strode into the Corner Shop for the first time, with her machine gun delivery telling a tale of crematoriums, bay windows and bleach - and no eclairs!

Later it was the turn of the Corrie panel, consisting of Executive Producer Kieran Roberts, current producer Phil Collinson, David Neilson (Roy), Kym Marsh (Michelle)and the Grande Dame of all things Corrie, Tony Warren. Indeed, Warren ruled the roost in a manner that would have had Annie Walker applauding from the sidelines.

This latter stage of the evening kicked off with a wonderful montage of some of the most memorable events and faces from the past half century. I found this oddly moving and had a bit of a lump in my throat, especially the final scene of Ken Barlow walking down the Street in reflective mood.

Chaired by Radio 4's Dominic Lawson, the panel discussion was a good-natured meander down the years. Phil Collinson, who came across as a man who obviously loves is work, spoke about his reception as the new producer. He mentioned that actors did their very best to avoid in, probably fearing his tabloid persona of "Killer Cull-inson".

Tony Warren had a wealth of stories, many of them known to the masses already, but made that bit more special by having him chat about them in person. There was a lovely anecdote about his never-ending search for the 'right' Ena Sharples, concerning some woman who was whisked from reception at Granada and was made to stand in front of a camera for a screen test. "But I only popped in to meet my daughter" she told the director!

Each panel member chose a favourite scene from the past and so, amongst others, the audience relived Hilda's grief at losing Stan and poor old Roy trying to escape from the Barlows following his "night of passion" with Tracy.

I got the feeling that both the audience and the panel would have happily remained in the theatre until midnight. Perosnally, I loved being amongst a crowd of people who had such great affection for the show and who recognised the in-jokes. It was a cold walk back across the Thames to Embankment station but the memory of an evening full of warmth stayed with me on the journey home.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Boom bang-a-bang!

Well, judging by the pics released on the ITV1 website, Hilda Ogden's old home at number 13 is going to be a victim of the explosion in December. No doubt one or two of us will be hoping that dreary harridan Claire Peacock will be blasted as far as the French coast.

More disturbing are rumours - and they are only rumours - about the demise of dear old Rita "th'wholesalers" Sullivan. Will she be lucky enough to escape the carnage or will the train land in her bouffant?