Saturday, 8 January 2011

Sean Egan - 50 Years of Coronation Street

Like many Corrie fans I was fascinated by the prospect of a warts-and-all stroll through the history of the show, courtesy of journalist and author Sean Egan. He billed this as a 'very unofficial history' which is a fair comment, as it includes selected opinions of some of the people responsible for the programme since 1960.

Some of the stories are well-known. There were attempts at various times to reign in the excesses of Pat Phoenix, especially in light of the somewhat harsh treatment she meted out to any other actors who crossed her. However, of more interest is the tittle tattle that receives little exposure. Back in 1968 there were plans for several Corrie spin-offs, one of which would have seen Jack and Annie Walker running a country pub with Ena Sharples as their housekeeper. Or how about the lengthy three day conference on how to keep the character of Curly Watts in the programme.

Egan also lists, perhaps with a little venom, the many inconsistencies that have sprung up over the years. He particularly disliked the emerging back story of Mike Baldwin, as history was re-written in order to provide him with a family. Egan also flags up one of the current moans of many Corrie fans regarding the bizarre personality change of Tracy Barlow from forthright young woman into a murderous hussy.

Perhaps most interesting are Egan's interviews with various writers and producers, many of whom seem to have barely tolerated each other. John Stevenson in particular comes across as a man who put heart and soul into his relationship with the programme. Overtures to the likes of Stan Barstow in the 1960s failed, in part, as he felt that he could not write within the restrictive nature demanded of him. As an ideas man, he provided producers with a number of potential storylines, including Jerry Booth becoming the Street's first gay character and a pregnant single mum in the shape of Emily Nugent!

There are one or two sloppy errors in the book, most notably mention of Sally Webster marrying Danny Hargreaves but overall this an engaging, thought-provoking and highly titilating romp through half a century of drama both in front of and behind the camera.

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