(This post was originally posted by Llewella on the Coronation Street Blog in March, 2011.)
So, Liz McDonald is back in town – and boy has she made her presence felt. In the space of a mere week, the brassy bus-pass-wielding barmaid has kicked the ever-escalating crisis that is Steve and Becky’s marriage into hyperdrive, after their storyline had been limping along at a snail’s pace for what seems like forever. As a fiercely devoted (and occasionally disappointed) mother to Steve and ever-mistrustful mother-in-law to Becky, with a very personal stake in their story, she is uniquely positioned to do so. The people who installed one another’s buttons, after all, simply cannot resist pushing them, especially when under stress.
Liz’s return, short-lived though it promises to be, coming in the same fortnight as the impending departure of Janice Battersby, has got me thinking about the role these two characters – and others like them – play in their respective families. Neither one is a favourite character of mine and neither one would be considered a central character on the show these days, yet they both add a lot of weight and depth to their extended (and inter-connected) family units.
How different might Steve and Becky’s situation be now if Liz had stuck around for the duration instead of swanning off to Spain for months on end, leaving them alone to buy little Max and destroy the family they already had in the process? As much as Liz and Deirdre love having a mutual granddaughter to dote over, how much easier would their friendship be to maintain if not for Steve and Tracy's custody disputes?
How differently might Leanne’s recent marital crisis have played out if she hadn’t had Janice’s unconditional support to lean on when she had nowhere else to go? Or if she hadn’t had Ken and Deirdre adding their two penn’orth to the mix from the opposite direction? Would Ken’s life really have been more peaceful and content if he hadn’t had a disapproving mother-in-law living in his front room for years? He certainly thought so at the time, yet now that Blanche is gone he’d be the first to admit how much he misses that interfering, sharp-tongued presence…as do we all. Just imagine what she’d have found to say about the goings on this past year or so! The tension involved in all those relationships is what puts the meat on the bones of ongoing storylines.
Extended family has an important role to play on Corrie, always has. Couples who exist in isolation often have a lot less going for them than those who have a whole gamut of family connections to bounce off. Alone, a couple only have their own conflicting opinions to reconcile. Add an in-law or two to the mix, whether approving or disapproving, and the mess of personalities and points of view in play becomes dynamite – just look at any family gathering at the Barlows as an example! Whoever would have dreamt that Ken Barlow and Janice Battersby would one day be tied together by the union of their children? Yet the fact that they are now connected, polar opposites as they are, enriches the dynamics of that extended family unit immensely, here united and there divided by the rollercoaster ride of recent months. When Janice leaves, Leanne will no longer have to worry about trying to balance her obligations to a stepmother and husband who don’t always get along, but she will also be left with no one in her corner when things go wrong, and her character, and indeed their family, will be poorer for it. As for the rapidly disintegrating McDonald clan…well, only time will tell whether any of the relationships involved survive the strain of current events, including and maybe especially that between mother and son.
Neither Janice nore Liz is a favourite character of mine and neither one is a central character on the show, yet both would leave big holes in the families they would leave behind.