(This post was originally posted by Scott Willison on the Coronation Street Blog in February 2018, reposted to this blog with permission.)
Corrie operates in archetypes, and has done for nearly fifty years. Liz McDonald has a lot in common with Elsie Tanner; ideas above her station Annie Walker is reborn in Sally Metcalfe; idealistic young intellectual Daniel Osbourne is a lot like his dad Ken was in 1961. What's been missing for a while, though, has been the battleaxe. An elderly, hard-done-by woman who sneers at the world and looks down on her fellow residents.
Ena Sharples was, of course, the original and best of this character; her shadow looms long as a sanctimonious old biddy who shoves her nose in other people's business and finds them wanting. The archetype has recurred throughout the show, sometimes successfully (The Blessed Blanche, Miserable Maud Grimes), sometimes less so (Megan Hopkins). The latest incarnation was walking bottle of vinegar Sylvia Goodwin, but she disappeared into the night in 2013 and the part has remained vacant ever since. This very blog has regularly called for the character type to return, but so far, no luck.
It occurred to me that there is currently a character floating around the show who might admirably fill this role. Step forward Geraldine Spellman.
Now admittedly, she'll need some work before she's welcomed as a permanent cast member. Geraldine has been an unconscionable ball of spite and hatred since she first appeared last summer. It would have to be toned down if she were made permanent; the battleaxe is nasty, but not so unpleasant that you want the Street to rise up in a Brookside-style vigilante mob and string her from the chimney pots. Knock a bit of the stuffing out of her; have her husband run off with a barmaid (he's not been seen since last year, so he might have done this already). Fracture her cold facade and show a chink of humanity. Lonely, embittered by life, she moves to Coronation Street to be close to her only family - Summer.
It'd help solve another problem, which is that thanks to Todd's disappearance, Billy is now a single parent with no-one to help. He could do with an ally and a confidante, and his only family member appears to be a smackhead. His recent injury has seen three people rally round to help - Eileen, who is constantly distracted by the antics of her serial killer husband; Eva, who is now up the duff and acting as surrogate for her sort of sister; and Adam, who's only pretending. Billy needs someone.
But how would Geraldine overcome her deep seated hatred for Billy? Simple: Christian love. Both Billy and Geraldine are believers and committed church goers (well, Billy is in theory; I don't think he's been near an altar for about six months on the show). I know ITV isn't going to go in for deep theological discussions at half eight on a Friday night, but both of them having strong religious beliefs shows they have more in common than you'd think. With Summer acting as a unifying presence, they could come together for her good, with some essential disagreements and drama to come. Geraldine, for example, might not mind a Billy who is theoretically gay, but who is single and therefore not doing anything about it; when he gets a new boyfriend in a few months time, she'll be forced to confront it. Similarly, Billy's woolly, altogether now version of Anglicanism would rub up against her more literal interpretation; but they both agree that Jesus was a pretty great guy, so that's something.
A final reason to bring Geraldine into the show is that Lynne Verrall is really good. She's superb with the acid tongue, and I find her silky, slightly hushed way of speaking delightfully menacing. It's as if the Grand High Witch was dropped into Greater Manchester. Imagine her interacting with the other cast members, perhaps taking up a favourite table in Roy's and passing judgement on the locals. Think of her verdicts on the likes of Gemma and Gina; her rolled eyes at Sinead's simpering, her disapproving frown at Liz's skirts. She'd be fantastic, and even funnier would be Billy having to run round making up for her horrors like Deirdre had to with Blanche. There's a vacancy waiting to be filled, ITV, and a top-class candidate on offer; you'd be fools not to take her on.
If you'd prefer Geraldine to boil in a barrel of hot tar, don't bother telling me on Twitter @merseytart.
Tvor @tvordlj on Twitter