(This post was originally posted by Graeme N on the Coronation Street Blog November 2012, reposted to this blog with permission.)
Although I am still an avid viewer of the present day Coronation Street, I do often hark back to classic moments in the Street's illustrious past. Rather than repeat familiar cliches on the most famous episodes, I would like to start an occasional series remembering and commenting on episodes from the past 50 years that stay in my mind for particular reasons. I will provide a brief synopsis of each episode, explain why I have chosen it and then give details on my favourite scene and best performance (in my humble opinion). We'll start off with a rather sombre occasion, back in early 1978.The Funeral of Ernest Bishop - episode first broadcast: 18 January 1978
This episode focusses on the funeral of Ernie Bishop, played by Stephen Hancock. Ernie was of course married to Emily, still a Street resident today. His departure from the programme was a controversial and shocking one. His violent shooting in Baldwin's Casuals at the hands of two young men after the wages, was big news in 1978. In those days, high profile departures of this nature were few and far between. It therefore lost none of it's impact. However, as much as we all know that episode, for me Ernie's funeral is far more powerful.
Why I have chosen this episode
Unlike some episodes today, this one played out in a very realistic way with almost the entire 30 minutes given over to the one story. There were no fights by the graveside, no shock announcements or big secrets revealed. There wasn't even any major confrontation. It was real - the characters reacted and behaved as you would expect people to be in such circumstances. Yes, it was fairly sombre and grim, but the subject matter was so it had to be.
Before the funeral, the mourners all gather in Emily's house. For several minutes the characters sit, subdued, with minimal dialogue. What dialogue there is is inconsequential to the story, you really do get the feeling of people who are very familiar to each other yet still unable to say what they feel, or frightened what they do say will be the wrong thing. It really is a brilliantly played scene, with classic characters like Elsie, Suzie, Ray, Mavis and Bet showing how good they could be.
It has to be Eileen Derbyshire as Emily. As the longest serving female member of the cast, it is often possible to take the character of Emily for granted. However, this episode shows just what a great actress Eileen Derbyshire is. There aren't many episodes that focus mainly on Emily but she really does carry this performance off incredibly well. Her grief is real without being overplayed. While everyone else hesitates and struggles when they speak, Emily is the one who is succinct in facing up to what has happened.
Favourite linesBet: "I don't know where they'll put me, most of my lot are buried under a supermarket....they're not under t'sod, they're under a pile of special offers."
Albert: "The dead always are an embarrassment to the living and that's a fact."
Annie: "It's even affected her hasn't it? Our tough as old boots Bet."
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