Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Coronation Street's past, present... and future

(This post was originally posted on the Coronation Street Blog July 2015, reposted to this blog with permission.)

A guest blog post from Coronation Street Blog reader (and one of our Corrie fans of the week) ELK.

"Although it's not Chrismas, all of the recent posts about Tracy – whether she can be redeemed, whether she should be redeemed, etc – got me daydreaming about taking a tour of the cobbles with the ghosts of Corrie past, present, and future – in whatever mode you prefer, with a Dickensian flavour, or a more 1940s American It's a Wonderful Life – to see what everyone's  favourite Street would look like if there were no Tracy Barlow.

Corrie Past: It's possible, had Tracy's pram remained outside the Rovers the day of the lorry crash, that Deirdre, so bereft at the loss of her only child, might actually have thrown herself into the canal. (A sad loss for viewers indeed!) On the other hand, had she recovered from this trauma and proceeded to date and/or marry the many men in her life (To all the men I've loved before - Deirdre's song) without Tracy's meddling the relationship with Dave Barton might have flourished  or, for that matter, Samir, had he not been on his way to the hospital to donate a kidney to Deirdre's OD'd daughter, might still be alive – at least that's what Deirdre, in fits of anger, always told Tracy. Wally might have married Blanche. Roy and Hayley Cropper would have been up £20,000. Somebody else might have offed Charlie Stubbs (Bev perhaps?)  If Steve had not succumbed to Tracy's seductions, he might still be with Becky. Certainly Steve and Liz would still be full owners of the pub.

So far,  I have to say the case for Tracy Barlow's existence is pretty weak.  Except for one thing, a very significant someone, who is hard to overlook – and that is Amy Barlow.

Corrie Present:  Children are a mixed bag on the best of days, adorable, difficult, innocent, manipulative, hard to love, hard to hate, but one thing is unavoidable: in the face of mortality, they embody hope.  Ken's eulogy for Deirdre rang truest for me when it turned to the grandkids, Amy and Simon, seated together in the family pew, the closest thing there is to a Barlow legacy.  While the adults winced at Ken's reference to their parents' dubious credentials, the two kids looked pleased as punch to be singled out, to bask in the knowledge that their grandmother loved them, and implicitly, with the passing of an era, to come into their own as the heirs to all that.  The funeral was a rite of passage for both of them.

Members of the 1 o'clock club remarked on Amy's uncanny resemblance to Blanche – never one to spare others' feelings – which, in its own way, was high praise, compared to Peter's warning that Amy, in a worst case scenario, might grow up to be as despised as her mum. For all the uncertainty surrounding who Amy Barlow will become in the future, her present importance is clear. 

Ruth's recent blog about Mothers, non-mothers, children and future children... got me thinking about the fragility of couples on the street, who are in danger of dying out, like Mavis and Derek, if they have no children, or, like Stan and Hilda Ogden, of being forgotten if their children move away. 

Ruth's blog also made me wonder what it feels like for young actors to be 'born' into a particular family on the street, each with its own distinct character, history, and, yes, dysfunction. Is being cast in one of those roles like putting on the Sorting Hat in Harry Potter? If Hogwarts has four houses, it could be said that Coronation Street, at present, has four dynasties:  House of Barlow, House of Platt, House of Webster, and House of McDonald. With the exception of the Platt's, three of these main houses have taken hits in recent years, what with divorces, prison sentences, and the departure of close family members. However, as we have seen chez Webster, renewal is possible, along with new relationships and extended family units. Tim and Sally's connection not only allows us to enjoy the bromance between Tim and Kevin, but also creates a bridge, via FayE, between the Webster and Windass clans.

Returning to the subject of the Barlow's, Amy is the link joining two venerable households, the Barlows and McDonalds. Liz and Deirdre were not only best friends, they were also Amy's grandmothers. Now that Deirdre's gone, it's Steve and Liz who have taken a big role in comforting Ken.

Back to Corrie present sans Amy Barlow. Not only does Amy embody the next Barlow generation, calling up remembrances of Blanche and Deirdre, she also enlarges the family, if not through marriage, then through being Tracy and Steve's accidental love child. (On a side note, I really enjoyed seeing Amy and Simon together at the funeral as cousins united in loss rather than bad blood, so I hope the writers will continue to build on this relationship.)  But that observation extends to Tracy as well, who is, after all, Deirdre's only child.  Although Ken isn't her biological father, the three have been a unit for a very long time, with Tracy playing a key role in keeping her mum and stepdad together, as well as recently, according to Bev's report, keeping them apart. I think the only thing that would have been sadder at the end of Wednesday's episode than watching Ken go to bed without Deirdre in a house full of damaged, argumentative offspring, would have been to watch Ken, in a throwback to Uncle Albert, sitting alone in an armchair at Number 1, not only marking the end of an era, but the end of a family which has lived on the Street since its beginning.

I know viewers are alternatively skeptical and reluctant for Tracy to turn over a new leaf in Corrie future, but watching her bang about the kitchen in Friday's episode, cleaning, baking, fussing, brought back fond memories of Deirdre in her apron, keeping a cheerful demeanor while, at the same time, looking after Tracy, Ken, and Albert. Tracy will never be Deirdre, but, on a brighter note, thanks to surviving that lorry crash, there will be a future.

And as for Corrie's future? Ah, now there's a question!

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