(This post was originally posted by Graeme N on the Coronation Street Blog in January 2013.)
I think Liz McDonald needs a rival pub landlady to lock horns with. I love Liz and I'm glad Stuart Blackburn brought Beverley Callard back. The Rovers Return is a much better place under the McDonalds. I can't help but think something is missing though.
Yes, Liz has her strong, longstanding friendship with Deirdre Barlow, although I'd like more than the occasional glimpse of this please writers! However we don't see her interact with any other local landladies and that for me is a shame. Back in the day there were regular Lady Victuallers storylines when Annie Walker was at the helm. Who can forget the sherry parties and the famous incident with the monogrammed carpet which turned out to be an off-cut from the Alhambra Weatherfield Bingo Hall?
I'm not saying it could be the same now as Liz is completely different from the snobbish, imperious Mrs Walker. I love watching the scenes between Annie and Nellie Harvey, landlady of The Laughing Donkey. Nellie was played by the wonderful Mollie Sugden, later to find fame as Mrs Slocombe in Are You Being Served? Nellie was a regular visitor to the Rovers for over a decade and the one upmanship between the rivals provided plenty of comedy.
Another Lady Vic that Annie clashed with was the impressively named Olive Taylor Brown. Mrs Taylor Brown appeared for only a couple of episodes in 1980, however the sparring between the two licencees was super to watch. Olive naturally thought herself above Annie as she ran a "restaurant" in Derbyshire, as opposed to a pokey back street public house in Weatherfield. Mrs Taylor Brown was played by Paula Tilbrook, who went on to appear as WARTS member Vivian Barford alongside Alf Roberts, before taking her most famous role as Emmerdale's Betty Eagleton.
Bet Gilroy had her own friend and rival in Stella Rigby during the 1980s and 90s.Stella ran The White Horse and viewers enjoyed Bet and Stella's exploits on several occasions. At one time there were rumours of an affair between Bet and Stella's husband, which caused much upset between Bet and Alec. Bet and Stella famously went off to a health farm together, couldn't stick it and swiftly moved on to a posh hotel, without their husbands' knowledge. Alec Gilroy thoroughly enjoyed his revenge for being left in the dark.
The point I'm making is that the role of Rovers landlady is so front of house, so public and based on appearances, that it has been and would be great territory for the writers to explore. Corrie is often based on the rivalries, feuds and friendships of strong, middle-aged women, so where better to play that out than in the Rovers Return? Stella Price briefly came up against Carole Evans, landlady of the Weatherfield Arms back in 2012, but sadly nothing came of it. Perhaps Carole could make a return and do battle with Liz?
Would you like to see Liz McDonald interact with another pub landlady? Who would you cast in that role? I think it's time to return to the glory days of the Lady Victuallers!
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