Saturday, 19 July 2014

The best Rovers team Corrie ever had

(This post was originally posted by Graeme N on the Coronation Street Blog in June 2014.)

It was decided unanimously on Twitter yesterday that this blog post was long overdue. Today we're going back in time to look at what many believe to be the best team of characters the Rovers Return ever had. 

While I loved the Bet and Alec era of the late 1980s and early 90s and for me Raquel will always be up there as one of the best barmaids, the team of Annie Walker, Betty Turpin, Bet Lynch, Fred Gee and Hilda Ogden reigns supreme. Annie had of course been landlady on screen since Corrie began in 1960. She was joined by Betty in 1969 and Bet the following year. However the period from 1976 to 1983 is, for me, the golden era of the Rovers. The chemistry between these characters was pitched perfectly and the storylines, both whimsical and dramatic, showed off the talents of the Rovers ensemble to perfection. 

This was the heyday of the classic Rovers scenes. Staff chatted with each other and the regular punters over nothing at all. The dialogue and interaction between characters was key and the result was often funny, sometimes sad and poignant but always real and believable. The writers trusted the actors and the characters they played to sparkle onscreen and bring their scripts to life. And that they did.

I know it wasn't perfect. Fred Gee was always a tad coarse for my liking and sometimes the idea of Annie Walker being in charge of the pub did stretch credibility. However despite the fact our Betty walked out of the Rovers in a huff 68 times between 1976 and 1983, it was always good fun and the viewers were glued.

So here's a quick run down of the best Rovers team ever and some of my favourite recollections:

We must of course give top billing to the landlady par excellence, Mrs Ann Walker. Doris Speed gave stunning performances as the wonderfully stuck up Annie from her first appearance in December 1960 until her last towards the end of 1983. Annie was a loveable snob. Her heart was in Cheshire but her body remained firmly planted in the back streets of Weatherfield. She was regal (particularly in 1977 when she dressed up as Elizabeth I), snooty and above herself but Doris always managed to keep us onside as there was a touch of warmth and humility lurking there too. 

She talked fondly of her dear late husband Jack, coped with the disappointments of absent daughter Joan and errant son Billy and ruled her Rovers team with a rod of iron. I adored her oneupmanship with fellow landlady Nellie Harvey, her disdain for some of her more earthy punters and the constant scrapes with her staff. My favourite memory is when Eddie Yeats palmed off some old carpet from the Alhambra Bingo Hall onto Mrs Walker, claiming it had been specially monogrammed, just for her. Her reaction when the truth emerged was priceless.

Betty Turpin will always be one of my favourite Corrie ladies. Betty was just a natural behind the Rovers bar. It often felt like she really did work there. She filled the screen with warmth, but she could also be fierce if the situation demanded it. She stood up to Fred Gee and famously took on Annie when the imperious landlady accused her of stealing. Barely an episode went by without her reminiscing about her late husband Cyril and we loved her for it.  She was like an older sister to Bet Lynch and their relationship developed over the years. They looked out for one another and it was often very touching. Of course she is best remembered for her hotpot, but that was to come later. I will always remember her for her mother earth presence behind the Rovers bar, listening to the latest woes from Bet or Elsie and doling out advice to all that needed it.

Bet Lynch needs no introduction. Brassy, blonde and full of vim. "It's not a smile, it's the lid on a scream". That sums her up perfectly to me. She was always "on" front of house but very often concealing a heartbreaking disappointment or failed romance. Her outfits were as legendary as her affairs. Who can forget the day she walked into the Rovers wearing her frock back to front? She was wisecracking and could hold her own against the likes of Len, Rita and Ray Langton but underneath it all she was soft as butter. 

Both Annie and Betty knew it and the bond between all three was never broken. I loved that for years after Annie moved away Bet kept a framed photo of her in the Rovers back room. Such opposites in almost everything, but somehow it worked. 

Now we come to pot man Fred Gee. Fred Feast played himself I think - the result was a very authentic portrayal of a coarse, uncouth middle aged man, but underneath that, "Fredface" as Bet called him, was as vulnerable as the rest. He desperately craved female attention, rarely succeeding. He did marry Eunice Nutall in the early 1980s but it wasn't to last. 

While he was never a favourite of mine his presence behind the Rovers bar was a vital element. His constant clashing with Betty, the raft of bitchy comments from Bet and withering looks from Annie, were often the backbone of the Rovers storylines. I loved Annie making him dress up as a chauffeur when he took her out in the Rover. Fred's attempt at turning back time thanks to a dreadful wig was also obvious but hilarious. He had to handle a volley of rude remarks from the likes of Albert Tatlock, Rita and Vera Duckworth. Corrie gold. 

Of course we must not forget the most famous Rovers char of them all, Hilda Ogden. She spent a lifetime bottoming out the Select for Mrs Walker, singing out of tune and sticking her nose in where it wasn't wanted. I used to love it when she'd pop up from behind the bar or appear down the stairs, always when something juicy was being discussed. 

Fred Gee called her Super Nose and while she loved a gossip and could be cruel from time to time, she really had a heart of gold and worked hard to keep Stan in fried slice and pint pots of ale. I'll never forget Hilda inviting Bet and Annie to the unveiling of her new muriel. Like Annie, she was always trying to better herself and the result was often funny and touching. 

I doubt we'll ever see their like again. 

So what are your favourite memories of these wonderful characters? 

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Andy said...

Oh, such memories! I adored Annie threatening Bet and Betty with a pay cut in 1976 and the rebellion that created, Annie learning to drive in the same year, Fred's wig in 1979, the uproar with the binman and Annie extending the bar menu in 1980, and the Car In The Lake classic of 1983. Simply great.

Unknown said...

Just re watching the 70/80's episodes and they are pure Gold. The rovers scenes are sublime.Don't think Fred Gee is very likeable but the chemistry between The rovers staff is evident.

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