Saturday, 1 November 2014

A Return to the Past

(This post was originally posted by Scott Willison on the Coronation Street Blog in September 2014.)

A couple of months ago I delved into YouTube to watch some 35 year old episodes of Coronation Street.  I found a world of drab fashions, inedible food and garish wallpaper, along with far too much Ivy Tilsley disapproving of Gail's love life.  The midget harridan was such an enduring presence in those two episodes I couldn't face watching any more.

Today I finally got up the courage to look at some more 35 year old episodes, only to find there weren't any.  ITV was on strike this month in 1979, so there was no Coronation Street to watch.  I was all gee'd up to watch something so I zoomed forward ten years to see what was happening this week in 1989.  It turns out Ivy was disapproving of Gail's love life.  Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

Episode broadcast 25th September 1989

The episode begins with what will be a recurring theme throughout this week: Vera Duckworth bellowing like a fishwife at various men on the other side of the street.  Her target in this case is Ken Barlow, who's in the middle of his Hot-Shot Reporter phase, and she demands that he writes up a story about Mike Baldwin and his dodgy treatment of the factory girls.  It's at this point that I noticed that the backdrop to their chat was a pile of rubble, and I realised we were at that point in the show's history when the old was being destroyed for the new.  Baldwin's Casuals is no more, and Vera wants retribution and redundancy money.  She points out that Mike has a Jag and a posh house and it was paid for off their back.

Meanwhile, Gail is letting Martin into her house.  That's not a euphemism.  Martin has been working at the all-night garage and now he's come to Gail's little house for a bit of R & R.  The two of them snog, and Gail reveals that Ivy knows about their relationship.  "Ah," says Martin, and explains that Ivy smacked him in the Rovers the night before.  Gail is, understandably livid; if she wants to cop off with someone barely out of nappies, it's her business and no-one else's.

Vera is breakfasting with Ivy and Don; yes, the former Mrs Tilsley is now the current Mrs Brennan, Bert Tilsley having taken the blessed release of death over spending any more time with the poisonous harpy.  The factory girls are getting steamed up about their lack of redundancy and they're going to have it out with Baldwin "Ivy Brennan style".  Ivy is annoyed that Vera makes a reference to her going around belting strange men in pubs, and tells her it's none of her business.  Personally I'd have thought if you wanted to keep something quiet you shouldn't go round committing acts of violence in a pub at the end of your street.

At the Fairclough house, Rita has bought Jennie a present for her first day at Weatherfield Polytechnic.  It's a Filofax, because apparently Jennie's huge hair and shoulder pads weren't enough of an 80s cliche.  "Don't turn into one of them yuppies!" Rita jokes, really ramming home that we're in the era of Thatcherism.

Boo!  Hiss!  It's Wendy Crozier!  She's flogging a gentleman a PO Box for "added privacy", making me wonder what his advert was for.  I bet it was something kinky.  That was how you met perverts before they invented the internet.  Speaking of which, well done to the Weatherfield Recorder for having a PC in 1989; it doesn't seem to have a keyboard or a mouse, and there's still typewriters for them to do their actual work on, but it's remarkably futuristic.  Ken arrives and he and Wendy engage in some banter, culminating in a promise to have lunch together in "the wine bar" - because it's 1989, you see.  The sexual tension is through the roof; it's like Burton and Taylor all over again.

Alma, sporting a bright pink jacket from the House of Dorien Green, barges into the Kabin in search of a pair of tights.  In the 1979 episode, it was Elsie Tanner buying tights; clearly Weatherfield is desperately in need of a decent hosiery supplier.  The Kabin is now renting out videos, because EIGHTIES.  Alma yammers on for her entire appearance then vanishes, leaving Mavis to disapprove of her for being "silly" and not asking after Rita.  It seems Alan Bradley's about to go on trial for that time he tried to suffocate her with a throw cushion, and she and Jennie are all nerves.

We're on location now, as Jennie turns up for her first day at Weatherfield Poly.  She hovers outside the main entrance - which looks suspiciously like Granada Studios to me - and encounters another student who's also lost.  And guess what?  That student is none other than future Blue Peter and Songs of Praise presenter, Diane-Louise Jordan!  In their brief moment of dialogue, Diane-Louise amply displays why she abandoned the stage; wooden doesn't even begin to describe her.  To be fair, she's saddled with some terrible dialogue - I can imagine the writer sitting back in his chair, smoking his pipe and saying "this is how the young people talk nowadays, is it not?"

Back on the Street the factory girls are spitting bullets and are preparing to make some kind of mass assault on the local job centre to demand their redundancy.  Quite why it's the job centre's problem is beyond me.  Emily Bishop arrives and tries to be a calming influence, but she gets a flea in her ear from Vera Duckworth.  I am saddened to note that my favourite Baldwin's Casual employee, Ida Clough, is nowhere to be seen.  They start their march into town, but Gail arrives and drags Ivy inside.  She tells her to mind her own business and leave her alone, while Ivy says she has to protect her grandkids.  Gail's dating Martin Platt, Ivy, not Gary Glitter.  It culminates in Gail telling her she can't see Nicky and Sarah-Louise again until she bucks her ideas up.  END OF PART ONE.

Mike and Ken are meeting on the middle of a footbridge, like this is an exchange of defectors in Cold War-era Berlin.  This is Weatherfield "Docks", by the way; the "Quays" name hasn't been invented yet, though it's still pretty yuppy-tastic.  Ken and Mike swagger up to one another, each radiating intense hatred, and they have an intense conversation about what Mike's going to do about redundancy money for the factory girls. Mike says it's nothing to do with him, then walks away cackling with a cigar between his teeth, like Kojak with hair.

At the job centre, Vera and her motley crew are bellowing at some poor civil servant and demanding that she give them a load of money.  The clerk, to be fair to her, remains remarkably calm; she sits them down and tells them that Mike Baldwin sold the factory as a going concern to Morris Jones, the builder, and so it's Jones who's responsible for their twelve weeks' notice.

After a brief scene in the Rovers where Phyllis Pearce calls the factory girls common and Ivy tells Don she won't apologise to Gail, we're back at the Poly.  Diane-Louise Jordan still can't act, and she and Jennie are joined by a man who is apparently a fellow student, though I think he's more likely a Jason Donovan tribute act.  He offers to buy the girls a coffee, but Jennie declines, and she turns down his offer of a drink as well.  Instead she rushes home to Rita, where they pick through a miserable looking egg salad and commiserate with each other about giving evidence in Alan's upcoming trial.  Jennie is uncomfortable with the idea of sending her own father to jail.

Hurray, it's Nicky Tilsley (original flavour!).  I miss Warren Jackson.  Ok, he was a terrible actor, but so is the current Nick, and at least Warren had a bit of history in the part.  Anyway, he's listening to some rubbish 80s music, which apparently belongs to Martin; Martin persuades him to turn the music down then sends Nicky and Sarah-Lou upstairs to wash their hands.  Gail takes this as a sign that he'd make a perfect father, and they make out some more.

In the Rovers, Ken and Deirdre are discussing the upcoming spread about how horrible Mike Baldwin is.  Deirdre suggests that Ken might be doing it all out of revenge (no!), a suggestion that gains weight when Jack tells them Morris Jones is actually responsible for the girls' redundancy and Ken suddenly goes cold on the idea of covering the story.  Ken's a bit of a git in these episodes, to be honest; Wendy Crozier deserved him.  The factory girls are deciding on their next cause of action when Emily Bishop turns up to be the voice of reason, and also, their glorious leader.  She has a clipboard and everything.  Vera does not look amused.

Episode Broadcast 27th September 1989

Jennie Bradley starts the episode fiddling with her Filofax and telling Rita about the loonies she has to study with; apparently there's a girl who dresses in black and wears ethnic bangles.  Can you IMAGINE?  I wouldn't go criticising anyone else's dress sense when you're wearing baggy pants that look like Coco the Clown's cast offs, Jennie.  Everything seems to be jolly until she suddenly makes it all about Alan's trial, and Rita pulls a pained face.

Emily is off to "open discussions" with Morris Jones.  For some reason, she's decided to dress as Margaret Thatcher.  Percy, Ivy and Vera join her at the factory gates, but Jones isn't about, so the women say they will stand and wait.  Percy has something more important to do.  Deirdre, across the street, has a go at Ken for not bothering to write the piece about the factory girls now he can't twist the knife in Baldwin.

Martin is fast asleep on the sofa, and Nicky is tickling his nose with a feather duster.  Gail tells him to stop, and Nicky wants to know why he's sleeping on the sofa.  "Why doesn't he sleep in your bed?" he asks, which is not something I really want to think about, thank you very much.

Morris Jones finally arrives at the work site and he's accosted by Emily.  She harangues him in that firm, polite, ever so slightly passive aggressive way that she's perfected over the decades, and he finally suggests they make an appointment to see him with his secretary.  Vera's not impressed by Emily's approach; she thinks they've been fobbed off.  I'm more distracted by the unexplained cameo from actor/dancer Gregory Hines.

In the cafe, Alma - still wearing all the mascara from her Carry on Cleo days - is trying to get Gail to go to a brasserie (EIGHTIES) with her.  Gail confesses that she has a date that night, with Martin Platt.  "That spotty kid?" exclaims Alma, and Gail says it's nothing to be ashamed of.  Am I the only one who thinks they're making a lot of fuss about nothing?  It's not like Martin's still in school or anything.

Vera is holding court with the factory girls behind Emily's back, and she decides to arrange the meeting with Morris Jones.  She puts on her poshest voice, but it soon goes to pot when the secretary asks who she is, and Vera says she shouldn't ask questions "in case she's his fancy piece!".  Emily arrives and reveals that she has an appointment with Jones at 2:30.

Deirdre goes to the Weatherfield Recorder to see Ken, and this happens:

It's the Wendy Crozier Punch and Judy Show!  Just don't ask what she did with the policeman's truncheon.  Deirdre tells Ken about Emily's meeting with Jones, and he still refuses to do anything.  After she leaves, Wendy lends him a sympathetic ear.  Presumably she'll lend him her vagina at a later date.

Audrey storms into the cafe to have a go at Gail for spooning with a younger man; the planets must have aligned in a devilish formation, because Audrey confesses she agrees with Ivy.  Again, this is Martin Platt, not the Yorkshire Ripper.  Gail tells her to back off, and Audrey says that she won't babysit or have anything else to do with her while this scandale is ongoing.  END OF PART ONE.

Percy compares Emily Bishop to Joan of Arc and Boudicca; yes, Emily Bishop.  Phyllis, meanwhile, says she finds militancy very off putting, and thinks that ladies should use their feminine whiles.  Then she puts her hand on Percy's and makes cow eyes at him.  In the pub, Jack is telling Curly to get off his backside and get a job, and Tina sticks up for him.  Curly reckons that Jack has a rare feeling of superiority from being the only person working in the house.

Emily is in the worksite's portakabin with Morris Jones, telling him that he owes the factory girls redundancy money.  He says he bought a plot of land, not a business, and if she needs to take it up with either Mike Baldwin or his lawyers.  Emily looks peeved and marches outside to tell the girls they have a fight on their hands.

Gail comes home from work to find Martin and Jennie chatting.  She clearly thinks they've been up to no good, which leads to Jennie storming out in tears; Martin explains that Alan's trial date has been set and she wanted a friend to talk to.

Deirdre and Ken are having a drink in the Rovers - I notice he doesn't take her to his fancy wine bar - and she's still demanding he write a story about the factory girls.  When he backs out of it again, she says he's putting profit before principle, because Morris Jones is a big advertiser.  Ken is really unpleasant in all of this.  Across the way, Emily is saying that there will be no more kid gloves.  FIGHT!

Alf is visiting Rita, and they have a drink together.  He basically says she shouldn't get her hopes up about Alan getting a conviction, that it's her word against his, and she'll get torn to pieces by the defence lawyers.  Wow, thanks for that little pep talk Alf.  Why don't you just tell her she's got a fat backside as well?  Rita, incidentally, is at the midpoint of her transformation from "mouthy good time girl" to "Grand Dame of the Street"; her voice is notably posher, but she's still willing to be seen cooking a fry up onscreen.

Back at the Tilsley/Platt House of SIN, Martin has made Gail a cup of tea.  Such shocking behaviour.  Gail tells Martin that her mam knows all about them, and so does Alma.  They talk about "going public" with their relationship.  Martin offers to back off, but Gail says she wants him around.  She makes her own decisions.  It ends with the two of them sharing a kiss, and I think, "THAT'S a cliffhanger?"

1989 Corrie is far more like our present day version that the 1979 one; it doesn't feel like an am-dram production of A Taste of Honey, for a start.  There are decent sets and some proper acting (with the notable exception of Jennie's student pals).  This is Coronation Street in the middle of a transformation - the arrival of EastEnders had given them a boot up the backside, and the storylines were more dramatic and more real.  I'm not sure there would be lengthy plots about labour relations in 2014, but the rest of it felt very modern.  Plus there was a lot less Ivy, and for that we should always be thankful.

Hat tip to Auntie Corrie for putting the episodes on YouTube for me to enjoy.

Follow the Bluenose CorrieBlog on Twitter and Facebook

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...