Wednesday, 2 November 2016

The tales of Corrie that never were

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

How are we enjoying our Corrie at the moment? There's a feeling that the new boss has given the cobbles a bit of a 'bottoming' and a much needed kick up the rear portions. Of course not everything has been rosy (as opposed to Rosie - let's not even get started on that!) down Weatherfield way and recently we've seen that real life can impact on our favourite fiction.

Unsavoury off-screen events mean that we will never get to see the full flowering of Sharif's never-mentioned-before affair with Yasmeen's sly best 'friend'. For that we should throw up our arms and rejoice. Viewers have been saved from months of dreary, unbelievable and unpalatable storytelling together with the continuing rubbishing of Alya. Instead, we might be treated to the sudden disappearance of slimy Sharif and a nice little death. Yasmeen will emerge as a brighter and stronger character. We can but hope.

The vagaries of real life have often resulted in the need for a swift piece of re-writing or a sudden explanation. Maybe it seems a bit easier these days yet years ago it could sometimes feel a little clunky. The more vintage viewers amongst us will recall the mid-seventies when ill-health forced Violet Carson out of the programme. For most of 1975 she was referred to as still being a vibrant part of Street life despite never being seen. There were even a few scenes of closing shop doors with people calling out "Bye Mrs Sharples" and that was that. We believed.

The sudden demise of a storyline or character can often lead us down the rocky road to ruin - the pondering over what might have been. Would Martha Lonhgurst still have been cleaning the Rovers during Bet's tenure and if so, would Hilda Ogden never have existed? Could Len Fairclough have coped with Norris Cole? Had she lived, would Valerie Barlow have been Secretary General of the United Nations?

One of the most tantalising non-stories was provided by the sudden exit of Billy Walker in 1975. Reading about this forty years on makes you wonder how something so major as a contract could have been overlooked. The actor Ken Farrington was approaching contract renewal  time and decided to leave the show. Meanwhile the writers and producers had blithely carried on with their preparations for Billy's marriage to Deirdre Hunt. Suddenly came the realisation that this wasn't going to happen. Had it done so, then we would have been looking at a very different future for Deirdre. She would have been the new Mrs Walker, no doubt battling with Annie and trying to keep the peace between the veteran landlady and the very lovely Blanche. With Deirdre Walker in place, there would have been no Ray, no Tracy, no Barlow wedding, no Barlow bust-ups, no Wendy flamin' Crozier. Deirdre probably wouldn't have ended up behind the counter at the Corner Shop, or shared a home with Emily. She might well have been the landlady of the Rovers Return. An odd and frankly scary alternative vision.

At the other end of the scale though is someone having the foresight to ditch a storyline when it isn't going well or simply doesn't feel right. The odd, if not displeasing, coupling of Ken and Audrey looked like it might end up in a lovely, feel-good festive wedding come this Christmas. Yet this doesn't appear to be so. Instead the relationship fizzled out before it had really begun and Audrey's getting her jollies staring through the Round Window with Derek Griffiths from Play School. The prospect of Audrey Barlow was a cosy, pleasing one in some ways. It would have brought her more firmly into the Corrie landscape. Remember, apart from four years at number 11, Aud has spent over a quarter of a century on Grasmere Drive. Having her at number 1 might have been fun but it now looks unlikely.

Therefore the non-story of a potential Audrey Barlow will be flung into the Corrie Cupboard of those other tales that never came to fruition - single mother Emily Nugent, gay Jerry Booth, George Greenwood taking over the Corner Shop, the missing Ogden children,  Ivy Tilsley's non-marriage to George Wardle, the Ken & Deirdre reconciliation of 1993, Irma Barlow's affair with Alan Howard, the kidnapping of Freddie Peacock . . . and there may be more.

Whether or not any of those lost stories would have seriously changed the course of Corrie history is debatable - but that's part of the fun.

David Bridgman, twitter @bridglondon

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