Saturday, 18 October 2014

Character Counts

(This post was originally posted by Graeme N on the Coronation Street Blog in September 2014, reposted with permission.)

The other day I tried to take up the challenge posed by this great blog and it proved something of a struggle! At first I thought it would be relatively easy to come up with a list of sixteen Coronation Street characters I couldn't do without. I only made it to fourteen, shock horror!

To begin with, the names came quite easily. Audrey Roberts, always my favourite even though she's woefully underused these days. Ken and Deirdre Barlow - Corrie legends and a terrific partnership spanning decades. Emily Bishop, although rarely seen these days, is still beautifully portrayed by Eileen Derbyshire after more than fifty years. Sally and Tim are a great new partnership and I hope they stay together for the duration, or as long as actor Joe Duttine wants to stay. Steve McDonald is already a Corrie legend to me, mainly down to Simon Gregson's wonderful performances. He's come such a long way over the past 25 years. I couldn't imagine Corrie without our Roy either, David Neilson often rises head and shoulders above both the material he is given and what is going on around him.

Then it got a little bit more difficult to come up with names. Carla Connor was there for certain. The modern day Elsie Tanner? I wouldn't dare suggest such a thing, but a great character in her own right who is yet to run out of steam despite being front and centre for years. Another couple I'm very fond of are Eva and Jason. Eva Price was the best thing by far to come out of that family and I'm glad she's stuck around. Her partnership with Jason has  a lot of promise too. As I've said before, Ryan Thomas has come on leaps and bounds over the last decade and is now a real asset. 

I've always been a fan of Mikey North as Gary Windass so out of that family he's the only one I'd keep. Another character I've warmed to is Julie Carp. Mainly playing for laughs, she doesn't get much of a look in as we've endlessly focussed on Tina/Peter/Carla/Rob/Michelle and that delightful merry-go-round of misery. 

Out of the more recent deluge of characters I could only really add in Steph. I think she lights up the screen every time she appears but I wish the powers that be would give her a proper storyline! She's crying out for one.

So that was my fourteen. And it involved quite a bit of head scratching let me tell you. What does that say about the rest of the cast? I dunno. Corrie must currently boast a cast of over sixty regular characters but I can't help feeling many of them are instantly forgettable, under-used, interchangeable with other programmes or have simply run out of steam.

Why did I not include characters like Rita, Gail, Liz, Norris or Leanne? Quite simply I don't think recent times have treated any of these characters particularly well. They are either stuck in a rut or have come off badly through association with daft plot lines, relationships with other characters or mind boggling character transformations. I do like Lloyd although for some reason the writers can never find a decent female character for him to play off. Tyrone and Fizz I really wanted to be together, but now they are it's all a bit bland and beige. The same goes for the majority of the Windass and Nazir clans. 

I keep coming back to the same point. Too many of the characters featured in the Corrie of 2014 just don't feel Corrie enough, if that makes sense. They could easily be in Emmerdale or EastEnders or Holby City. Coronation Street broke new ground in 1960, presenting a compact range of characters everyone knew but had never seen represented on television before. In an age when everything has seemingly been done before on the telly it feels like the powers that be are becoming even more desperate to push boundaries and find new angles. And at the same time, it often feels like we've seen all these new angles before. 

As a challenge to those at the top, how about producing several episodes that only feature a core cast of characters? I'm not saying they need to be two handers, but just less than normal. Simple, well written, character driven episodes without massive revelations, punch ups, police officers, explosions or weird sexy dance murderer scenes. How about half an hour of the likes of Audrey, Emily, Rita and Deirdre chewing the fat, reminiscing and talking about things that matter to women of their generations? Is that too much to ask?

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