Last night saw Dennis Tanner leaving wife Rita for Gloria Price. Although, I heard Sharon Marshall on ITV’s This Morning the other day saying that Dennis will return. I don’t know if it’s a brief comeback or have the producers given the character a reprieve? Who knows?
But for me, the writing’s on the wall where the Tanners are concerned. They’ve reunited so many times in recent weeks it’s very hard to keep track of when they’re off or on so I feel that they’re better apart. Honestly, I’ve never seen them as a great couple. I like them as individual characters, but as a couple it felt awkward for me watching. I feel cheated since Dennis’ return almost three years ago. We were promised big things by Phil Collinson about the character and I was excited that maybe Dennis would inject some humour back into the oldies section of the show. We were promised that Dennis would ruffle Ken’s feathers. Yet, that never happened. I was glad that the gossip of a love triangle between Rita, Dennis and Emily weren’t true because these women aren’t attracted to the same kind of men. And his returning storyline of being homeless was dealt with in a few episodes, which I found annoying as there could’ve been more potential for it. We wanted to know what led to his downfall.
Another mistake I felt the producers did was immediately link Dennis with Rita. They invented this love story that dated back to 1964. Whereas, in reality, Rita only stayed with Dennis the one night and from what I can see they were just friends. A far more plausible scenario would’ve been for Emily to see Dennis in the homeless shelter and let him lodge with her. And then at the Rovers, Dennis would happen to see Rita and they’d catch up. Emily recalled that she walked in on Rita at No.11 back in 1964. But in that particular episode, Emily didn’t even appear!
Whereas I accepted Rita taking in Dennis as an old friend, I felt uncomfortable when it was revealed that they would fall in love. The age gap didn’t concern me – Rita’s been with younger men that herself in the past like Alan Bradley, Fred Elliott and Colin Grimshaw. The fact was that Rita had been married to Len Fairclough, who had a long history with Dennis’ mother Elsie. Rita had a love/hate relationship with Elsie due to her friendship with Len. And for that on-screen history between Rita and Dennis’ mother I felt uncomfortable with the pairing. I would’ve been more comfortable to see Dennis embark on a relationship with Sylvia, Audrey or Gloria and maintain a strong friendship with Rita. Phil Collinson wanted to see another Mrs Tanner on the street and felt that Rita was the one to suit the bill. Realistically, I couldn’t imagine Rita wanting to have the same surname as her one-time rival.
Having got them married and having got his wish of a Mrs Tanner treading the cobbles once again, Collinson soon forgot about the couple and we quickly realised that the producers weren’t dedicated to the success of the couple. Dennis was quickly labelled the hen-pecked husband, living on Rita’s hand-outs. He tried to find some fun in life that was usually dampened by an uncharacteristically boring Rita. Possibly Dennis soon realised that the Rita he knew back in the day had changed and maybe regretted marrying her? Rita herself told Bet Lynch in 2002 that she had changed whereas Bet was still the same. The Rita of today is a far cry from the Rita of the 1970s and 1980s. She had an edge and was cheekier whereas now she's content on sitting in the Rovers with Emily and winding up Norris in the Kabin. She was linked to more rough characters like Len, Bet and Elsie and Alan Bradley. But when she became Mrs Sullivan she changed. She became more of a lady – her choice of men changed from the rough and ready to gentlemen like Ted Sullivan, Fred Elliott, Anthony Stephens and Archie Shuttleworth. Like Bet, Dennis hasn’t changed with age – he hasn’t morphed into Ken Barlow. And with that, possibly the gap between Dennis and Rita was there from the start.
And so, for me, it’s a big nay. I think Stuart Blackburn did us a favour separating the two characters but I am sorry that they’re thinking of axing Dennis because as a character he’s got potential, but not with Rita. Yes, they can maintain a friendship but what about associating Dennis with other characters and having his own storylines and ventures instead of just with Rita. And as a historian, I have also been annoyed at the lack of mentions to the past we’ve had from Dennis with other characters. Elsie’s been mentioned sometimes and a reference was made to Martha Longhurst. No mention was given when he first walked into the Rovers and seeing the changes to the place. No mention of the Walkers or the snug. It’s been criminal that the scenes between him and Ken and Emily were so low – they could’ve reminisced about Albert Tatlock, Frank and Ida, David, Leonard Swindley and Gamma Garments. Dennis could’ve mentioned Valerie to Peter in a poignant moment or reminisced with Gail and Deirdre about Elsie. He could’ve walked into the Corner Shop and say “Eh, what would Lionel Petty say about this place?” So much potential lost.
What’s your verdict on the Tanners? I’d love to hear your thoughts and sorry for rambling on!
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