Friday, 28 October 2016

An explosive week ahead in Weatherfield . . . again

(This post was originally posted by David (Clinkers) on the Coronation Street Blog in October 2016.)

There's been a great deal written about the wonderful Jean Alexander over the past few days both here on the blog and in the papers. I was struck by her comments, made several years ago, about how she no longer recognised Corrie as the same show she had been a part of. Those gentler times had indeed gone forever. It's very easy, as a fan of the show, to be swept along by memories of yesteryear in Weatherfield. Yes, they were different times, harder in some ways and Corrie provided us with a cosy, humorous antidote to the sometimes grim, grinding realities of life in 1970s Britain.

I hold my hands up and admit quite happily that I would still enjoy storylines where Gail and Suzie hard-boiled the eggs being laid by Hilda's hen, where a couple of Rovers barmaids end up in the middle of a lake and where the entire community gets together to put on a Christmas show. All very lovely but hardly a representation of life in twenty first century Britain. Corrie is a very different animal now and so are the demands on what the show has to offer. Five episodes a week, every week couldn't really centre themselves around tales of Mavis Riley's budgie problems or Alf Roberts having sat on a Christmas pudding. There have to be set pieces every now and then.

Coming up this week (Next 5 episodes airing in Canada) is yet another opportunity to wheel out the word 'explosive'. No doubt it will be.  In the hands of actors of the calibre of Jack P. Shepherd and Helen Worth, it should be a treat and who knows, there might be a few twists and turns along the way . Why then does it all feel a bit 'meh'? Is it a case of one explosive plot too many?

Maybe this inertia is partly the fault of the 2010 tram crash, the daddy of all big bang weeks, which served up drama 'par excellence'. Everything that's followed has been in its shadow and often involved characters who, dare I say it, we were not all that bothered about. So, the Rovers burns down with Stella inside. So what? Victoria Court detonated itself taking Kal and Maddie with it. We hadn't really invested much in them by that point. In addition, we have to suspend reality like never before. We have to dig deep and truly believe that the Tilsley-Platt-Rodwell crew will blithely carry on with their lives despite numerous murders, attempted murder, brain injury, mental health issues, teenage pregnancy, abortion, long-lost relatives popping up with the regularity of spring daffodils and a matriarch who can't pass a church without whipping out a veil and marrying the next unsuitable man with a pulse.

The over-the-top action weeks don't seem to be used sparingly enough to make them into 'appointment to view' telly. It's a dangerous path to take and one that led to Channel 4's Brookside running out of steam at the turn of the century. Credibility would only stretch so far and it soon became a joke when yet another helicopter crashed onto the shops or a murderous cult began to ensnare local residents. Not that I think Corrie is anywhere close to that level of ludicrous behaviour. Employing the 'explosive week' plot device is fine as long as firmly enhances the drama and provides an aftermath. To spend the next few episodes watching shenanigans in a basement and the race to stop David from becoming a human torch would be wasted if he ultimately backs down and has a little weep on Gail's shoulder. It would be nonsensical.

Do we need Corrie, or indeed any soap, to be more realistic? Are we hankering after the days of Annie Walker's whimsy, Rita and Mavis putting the world to rights over the Kabin counter or the factory girls going into battle against Mike Baldwin? Or is it right that Corrie should portray people living in contstant turmoil, people like Tracy for whom there is no redemption and men at odds with the world like Roy?

Jean Alexander was right. Hilda Ogden would have been an alien being, out of place in a Weatherfield fuelled by murder, immorality and angst. Hilda definitely belonged to those gentler times. We turn back to those times probably because we were younger and maybe felt safer. It's an age thing, seeking sanctuary in the cosy world of yesteryear. In twenty years time there will no doubt be a sea of Corrie fans looking back at 2016 with that rosy glow of nostalgia.

For now though, sit down, buckle up and prepare to journey into the unknown with David Platt.

David / Clinkers to Riddle. 
On twitter @bridglondon

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