Saturday 28 February 2015

The return of the handsome man to Coronation Street

(This post was originally posted by Flaming Nora on the Coronation Street Blog February 2015, reposted to this blog with permission.)

Now then, I'm a woman. I'm straight. I like watching telly and I love Coronation Street. I also like it when Coronation Street casts a man with a certain something that shines through the screen and I can think "Ooh, he's nice to watch".  

Daniel Brocklebank, who's playing Billy the vicar, has that certain something, and it's a certain something that's not been seen on Corrie for a very long time. Yes, it's finally happened, it's the return of the handsome man to Coronation Street.

I'm not one of those women who fell for the charms of so-called Corrie heart-throbs Liam Connor, Tony Gordon and Doctor Carter. All of these were too smooth, too bland for my liking.  

As were Rob Donovan and Ryan Connor, cast as muscle-pumped and ripped. Fit fellas are just not my type. Far too sweaty and vain.

Much more cuddly and warm, to my mind, was Dennis Stringer. He was fought over by Eileen and Janice, so you can see what age-range I'm coming from (!) and where my tastes lie. 

Charlie Whelan was another (vest notwithstanding).  Again, he was fought over by Bet and Tanya "evil cow" Pooley. But he caused a bit of a stir while he was on the Street.

As did Cairan McCarthy

And Peter Barlow too.

It's been a very long time since we had a proper hunk on Corrie. But with Daniel Brocklebank now on Corrie, Billy the vicar will be keeping viewers - male, female, gay, straight - entertained for some time to come.

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Friday 27 February 2015

Time to hide your cheque book Rita!

(This post was originally posted by Graeme N on the Coronation Street Blog in October 2014, reposted with permission.)

Ah, the fragrant Jenny Bradley has returned to Coronation Street. Who can forget that long, ginger mane of hair; those unflattering 1980s anoraks and her own special brand of spiteful teenage poison she brought into our lives.

I love the idea of Jenny coming back to see Rita, with one or two reservations. I hope the writers come up with something fresh this time around, while still referencing the past (accurately). After messing up Rita's character and ruining Dennis Tanner's, I hope the next blast from Rita's past is handled better. I also hope it isn't just another opportunity for our Reet to open up her cheque book and raid her increasingly bizarre bank balance. Exactly how much money did Len and Ted have between them? All they did was fix the Rovers toilets and flog boiled sweets.

Jenny will notice quite a difference in the Coronation Street of 2014, compared to when she last appeared (briefly) in 1993. She will still recognise several residents though, thankfully. Ken, Deirdre, Emily, Gail, Audrey, Sally, Kevin, Steve and Liz will all remember her and her infamous father. Tracy and Nick were both children at the time but they must have memories of it all. And I'm sure Norris will have a few sharp comments for her when she turns up in the Kabin.

The Alan Bradley saga really was Barbara Knox's finest hour. It gave her the best storyline of her Corrie career. For three years the tension slowly built with the viewing public uncovering more and more about the shady character who had entered Rita's life. Mark Eden was superb in the part, smooth, menacing and all too believable. The storyline was probably constructed as a ratings winner to combat the soaring popularity of the BBC's Corrie rival, EastEnders. And it worked. Millions of viewers tuned in throughout the saga, peaking with Alan's demise thanks to a combination of Rita's frightful gold mac and a passing Blackpool tram. 

The storyline even won Barbara Knox the Oracle Teletext Best Actress award. Them were the days!

Jenny was, of course, one of several kids Rita fostered over the years. And bizarrely, we have Brian Capron to thank for this, in a roundabout way. Years before he turned up as Weatherfield's black glove wearing serial killer Richard Hillman, he played Don Worthington, a friendly social worker who brought Jenny Bradley to Rita's door in 1986. Just when you thought the man couldn't wreck any more havoc on the good folks of Weatherfield...

So what will Jenny get up to this time around, and what exactly will bring her back into Rita's life? Whatever happens, it will be interesting to see what's become of her over the past 21 years. She may not have been the most pleasant of characters, but she was part of one Coronation Street's most famous storylines. Revisiting that one will be interesting. 

Is it too much to hope for a cameo from Mark Eden as the ghost of Alan Bradley? Anything is possible these days...

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Thursday 26 February 2015

The return of Linda Armstrong, for better or worse

I was looking forward to Owen's ex-wife's return. I thought it would be a good storyline. I looked forward to Owen getting a comeuppance by having his charade blown out of the water. And don't get me wrong, I'm enjoying that aspect very much.

Owen has never been a sympathetic character. He's a bully and has a temper and he's not usually very nice. He was brought in to be the "next" Len Fairclough, or that sort of character, and I think they did do that well. I never found Len all that likeable or sympathetic, either! Owen was a good father, though, even if a bit strict. We now find out that his ex-wife left the family for very different reasons than they believed and that Owen refused to let Linda see her children.

I've had a couple of points in this that have fallen flat for me. One was Linda not taking legal action and the other is the actor herself. I have no prior experience seeing her in anything so I don't know if her acting style is typical of her or not. I don't like it. Linda should be a bit more fiery, I think, pushing back and getting angry at Owen with a bit more spirit that she seems to be so far.  I had a few thoughts about it all over here.

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Corrie Canada sneak previews March 2 - 6

Without further ado here is a brief sneak preview of what you'll see on  next week's Corrie in Canada.

Jason's jealousy loses him the love of his life. Tony and Tracy nearly get caught, in more than one way. Callum tells Max the truth. Jenny and Rita face off. Lloyd's back and is shocked at the news he gets.

For more details and photos, visit the Moosejaw Mercury at

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Wednesday 25 February 2015

Colson Smith on playing Craig Tinker

(This post was originally posted by Flaming Nora on the Coronation Street Blog August 2013, reposted to this blog with permission.)

We're big fans of Colson Smith, who plays Craig Tinker, on Coronation Street.   This week, Colson is interviewed in Inside Soap magazine about Craig's current storyline where he's supporting Faye when she tells him she's pregnant.

Colson says: "I was really excited when I first heard about Faye's pregnancy  It's such a big storyline and, being 16 years old myself, I knew this sort of thing happens in real life." He says that Craig steps up and is a rock for Faye, her voice of reason.

Colson joined Corrie when he was only 12 years old and signed up for two episodes, and says about his first day on set: "I was sat in the green room with Lisa George, who plays Beth, eating fish and chips and talking about what the future might hold.  Lisa was in a normal day job and I was just a school kid. We talked about what it'd be like to be in the show full time but we never imagined it would actually happen."

Away from Coronation Street, Colson is studying a Diploma in Performing Arts.

He says that the reaction he gets from the public is great. "That said, I mostly get asked where Craig's pet rat Darryl is!"

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Tuesday 24 February 2015

Conversation Street Podcast 136

Gemma and Michael's podcast for the episodes in Canada that aired (up to last night's Canadian Corrie) can be heard here.

This week the main storylines were the departure of Dev amid contention between Julie and Mary, Gail has a surprise suggestion for Michael, Owen's ex-wife has landed on the cobbles and Faye has the worst Friday the 13th ever. Vera Duckworth is the classic character profile this week.

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In Defence of Faye's Pregnancy Storyline

(This post was originally posted by Duncan Lindsay on the Coronation Street Blog in August 2013.)

Contains Spoilers 

You'd have to have been living under a cobble not to know that everyone's favourite teenage adopted Windass is to have a bun in the oven. Or, more (in)appropriately, a 'Hello Kitty' fairy cake in the oven. Given that the storyline was first announced over a year ago, there were even whispers that the plot had been scrapped due to the controversy it would inevitably cause. 
According to Stuart Blackburn when I spoke to him recently, however, it's merely been a case of waiting for the right time and, keeping the story away from the radar has been a very deliberate move by scriptwriters since the party Faye attended at which the ill advised liaison with a lad occurred. 

Forums, Twitter and cream cake laden tables in garden centre cafes have been buzzing with outrage that the storyline is in bad taste but my viewpoint is that it is surely fair to wait until the scenes air until passing judgement. In the meantime, to play Devil's Advocate, it's time to refute some of the most popular complaints about the story. Here goes!

"It's so unrealistic! It would never happen."
Firstly, yes it would, and does but I agree that a pregnant 12/13 year old is not commonplace. However, nor is the wedding of two murderers ending in arrest, a local housewife marrying her burglar or someone as eccentric as Dev. Coronation Street is a soap, not a documentary and, while it cannot be a bad thing to highlight underage pregnancy, its prominent aim is to entertain. The sad reality is, while someone like Faye who we recently saw believe that the Barlow house was being haunted by Blanche and who still eats fish fingers and smiley faces for dinner is an unlikely candidate for pregnancy, young girls DO fall into these situations. Short of alien landings, nothing, therefore is out of bounds for a soap. If it can happen, no matter how unlikely, then it will happen on a soap at some point. 

"It's a tasteless story and offensive!"
Offensive is a real buzz word right now and I have heard that Ofcom are taking on some temps to cope with the outpouring of moral outrage calls they will receive when the scenes air but something is only tasteless if it is portrayed badly. The storyline will deal with Faye's fear of becoming a mother and terror at how her family will react as well as her bond with the lovely Craig. It is a pre watershed show and Coronation Street has a track record of handling it's social issue stories sensitively. Until we see things unfold, we really can't judge whether the story will offend.

"You can't trust a story of this magnitude to young actors!"
I beg to differ. Ellie Leach gets a bit of a bad deal on fan forums and social media because people tend not to like her character's bratty edge. But therein lies the answer as to whether she's a competent actress. Teenagers and those entering their teenage years are notoriously infuriating and spoilt and if Ellie is getting on our nerves, then she is doing her job. At other times, we genuinely feel for Faye and her relationship with good pal Craig is truly heartwarming. And there can not be a negative word said about the legend in waiting that is Colson Smith, who portrays one of Corrie's best young characters in years. Long live Faye and Craig and, having seen some of the scenes already, I can assure you, the actors handle the story expertly and with every ounce of professionalism you'd find in an adult actor.

It's a popular bandwagon to jump on to slate a story like this but, looking at the bigger picture, I can honestly say I am approaching this with an open mind that is erring more to the 'this could be really good' side as opposed to the more widespread 'you've gone too far this time Corrie' angle.

I may be wrong (first time for everything) but I'm willing to embrace the potential rather than worrying about aspects that may not come to pass.

Catch more of my Corrie musings at Metro, Digital Spy and Pauseliveaction:

And follow me on Twitter here:

By Duncan Lindsay

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Monday 23 February 2015

Corrie Canada Weekly Awards for Feb 16 - 20

Birdwoman award: Sally and the invasion of the chicken.

Secrets and Lies award: Faye's secrets are coming out, but there's a bigger one she's going to have to keep now.
Owen's ex wife has appeared and it turns out Owen's been keeping a whopper of a secret and lying for years.

 Subterfuge award: Sharif's chicken laid an egg. Or did she? No, she did not, she had a little help from her friend, Kal!

Blast from the Past: Uncle Umed was mentioned!

Bad Hair Day award: Oh come on. If your hair looked like Steve's and everyone acted like it was no big deal, wouldn't you get a bit weird? I know I would!

Nanny wars: Mary has primary care of the kids while Dev is gone but Julie gets to live-in? It's going to be handbags at 40 paces and it's not going to be pretty.

Full On award: Julie intends on minding the kids *and* overseeing the shop and isn't going to take No for an answer.There's a mutiny in her future and she may  not come out of it as well as Captain Bligh did.

Fashion "What the heck?": Liz. Words fail me. Dev's travel neck pillow/hood. Well, it's different anyway.

Convenient plot device award: I'm sure some tiny corner shops like Dev's stock pregnancy testing kits but it seemed all too convenient, if you ask me.

Actions have consequences: Maddy's "retaliation" at Norris was a bit of a joke to her but even if she's 18, she's still immature and didn't realize the effect on Norris until Mary mentioned it.

Perfection award: Roy scattering Hayley's ashes, permission, poetry and saying goodbye. Golden scenes, writing and acting.

Lines of the week:
Sharif "How on earth are they (the chickens) supposed to perform with their cousins in here chopped to pieces!"
Liz about Steve "He's got depression. Not three ears"
Yasmeen "Makes a change to see you two smiling" Kal "I smile!" Zeedan "And me!" Yasmeen "Just not usually at the same time!"
Zeedan about the birds "If they ain't layin, they ain't stayin"
Maddy "You little devil" Norris "I've been called worse" Maddy "So have I and by you, for starters"
Katy "If I'm going to hate somebody, I prefer to meet'em first"
Mary "Talk about killing with kindness" (point scored for Mary on the DVT socks)
Steve "I've dragged meself out of bed, I've not won the Nobel Peace Prize"
Julie "We've got a lot of work to do, Sophie. It's a good job I've brought me jotter"

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Sunday 22 February 2015

Sunday Comments Feb. 22

Roy is making the trek to scatter Hayley's ashes in the park where they had their first kiss. Of course he did it right, getting council permission and dressed in a suit and tie. That's Roy all over. Wonderful scenes with David Neilson in this storyline, from him gently placing the box in a bag, taking the Woody to do the deed, finding the perfect spot and talking to Hayley, saying goodbye, then deciding to take more driving lessons after all. Perfect.

Faye continues to skive off school, continuing to forge Anna's name on an absence form it seems. I don't think Anna did believe Faye's excuses after Audrey told tales. She's got caught by Katy this time and caught with a pack of cigs because she thinks that will help her get thin. It's heartbreaking really, how kids can torture you if you're not rail thin or a little bit different. Anna and Owen find out after they grill Craig, though, about the bullying and Owen, in all his usual bull-in-china-shop tact calls Faye a "healthy" weight rather than being a bag of bones. To a bullied insecure 12 year old, that's really not helpful.

The next day, Faye's still trying to lose weight with no success. But Craig came up with the pregnancy theory and, having heard rumours about Faye and a lad named Jackson, thinks that could be the reason she's gained weight. He was very sweet and gentle with her, though, wasn't he? He even caused a distraction so she could steal a pregnancy test kit that the corner shop conveniently carried. Not really something I ever see in my corner shop, but hey. And yes, she's pregnant. Oh dear.

Back to the night before, though, there was more bickering between Anna and Owen. Later, though, everyone's trying to play happy families and the doorbell rings. Well, there's a turn up for the books. Owen's ex, Katy and Izzy's mother has shown up after what? 20 years?

Linda's her name. She has spent years thinking about her kids and regretting what she's done. But Katy and Izzy have no time for her. Izzy accuses her loudly of leaving because she couldn't deal with Izzy's illness which, Linda says, isn't true. Linda's protestations of love fall on deaf ears in the face of Izzy's onslaught of accusations. She is ushered out but not before she gives Katy her phone number and we hear the truth between Linda and Owen, out of the girls' earshot. She had an affair and left Owen. He then refused to let her see the girls. He didn't tell them it was due to Izzy's illness but he didn't tell them it wasn't and let them think what they wanted. Linda's determined to reclaim her daughters. They're adults now, so he really doesn't have any say but you know he's going to do his best to reinforce that negativity.

Izzy doesn't want to talk about her mother or to her mother. Katy has never known her mother and is more curious. Linda (Hancock) has proper business cards and all, wonder what that's about? Anyway, Katie's curiosity overrides her sense of loyalty to her father. Linda seems to be trying to take all the blame, she was too young and wasn't ready to be a mother. But it took 20 years for her to get the confidence to come back. Looks like Katy is going to give her mother that chance.

Owen doesn't want to talk about it at all if at all possible. Well, of course he doesn't want the girls talking to Linda, and blew up when he found out Katy called her. They might find out things he doesn't want them to know and he's already building up a case against Linda, hoping to ward off the girls. The next day, Owen figured he could bully Linda out of town, didn't he? Wasn't that the gist of the conversation in the cafe? She's right, he is still hurt and he took it out on the girls. He was hurt so much that he didn't give her the second chance she wanted back then. Izzy is firmly on Owen's side but Katy really does want to know her mother. How much do you want to bet Owen "sending her packing" actually worked? You'd lose. I wouldn't have thought she'd have backed down, either.

Anna's got a point. Owen's attitude does make you think he's still got feelings for the wife that left him nearly 20 years ago, the way he goes on. But it's more likely that he doesn't want the girls to know he wouldn't let Linda back in their lives and she didn't leave because of Izzy.

Michael has had his operation. Gail is supportive and even Ga'Andy is there for him. It's a scary thing to face but I had no doubt that Michael would come through the op just fine. Did it fix the problem? Time will tell. Gail has decided that she's going to marry Michael sooner than later and has made plans for a month's time. Meanwhile, every time Ga'Andy tries to tell Michael the truth, he gets interrupted. But he really doesn't want to tell him yet anyway. I suppose he'll continue to find one excuse after another. He's in so far now it's hard to get out. Everyone is concerned that Gail is jumping into a wedding again and to an ill man but they're going to support her anyway.

The comedy scenes of the week is Sally being interrupted by the flapping of a chicken at her window. It wasn't high comedy but her and Yasmeen's snooty exchange was amusing. Yasmeen does not suffer Sally's snobbery in silence! I'm enjoyng the chicken storyline, specifically Yasmeen's contempt and frustration with Sharif's obsession! Sharif's chicken has laid an egg! But Zeedan looks at his father and has an odd look on his face. Do we smell subterfuge? Yep, we do. Kal planted the egg and will continue even though Alya figured it out and had to be persuaded into silence.

It's Amy's birthday and Steve and Michelle have bought her roller skating boots and a helmet and she's well impressed. She's also had a manicure and pedicure courtesy of her mother! Unfortunately, she'd rather stay home with Mum than go out for pizza with Dad but it sounds like it's because Tracy has warned her not to tire her dad out. Steve's had a good day, though, and Amy is persuaded. But one good day does not mean he's out of the woods.

Another good day after that, Steve is up early and exercising but then freaks out over his hair. And to be fair, I'd be a bit upset if my hair looked like that and everyone was taking it like it was no big deal. You can tell he's still a bit shaky around the edges and no doubt he'll have more bad days than good ones yet and Norris is enough to send anyone over the edge. At least Andrea tries and she's honest about how she feels and admits to being on eggshells a bit. I'm sure Steve would rather his friends admit it than cover it up and hover. And Steve is also putting on a front trying to get through it. But at least he seems to be feeling up to trying, which is more than he could do before.

It seems Dev has decided to go to Mumbai to do some hands-on charity work with his orphan football team. Julie thinks he's so good but she really doesn't want him to go and feels selfish for it. He does offer to stay because it means so much to her but you can see his heart is yearning for his orphans and what he can do to help and Julie can see it too.

When Dev decides to go, he doesn't waste any time. He's got to break it to Mary though, that she gets to look after the kids full time which she doesn't mind in the least. I would say that gives her live-in rights. I also would say that there will be a conflict over that with Julie because he's actually given Julie the live-in rights so she's going to be the one to be responsible for the kids at night at least.

Dev's leaving for Mumbai with too-tight compression socks. Now I've not going on a flight as long as Manchester to Mumbai, but wouldn't it be just as healthy to get up and walk about a bit? As expected, Mary and Julie are definitely at odds over the child care duties. It's all Handbags at 20 paces between them and Dev really didn't think this one through, did he? Julie seems to be sticking her oar in at hte shop too and I wasn't too surprised when he was facing an out and out mutiny. Julie really does mean well but she's quite full on.

Uncle Umed was mentioned! Norris and Maddie did shake hands in the end but it was a near miss. I still think that chicken run is too small for the number of birds in it. Tony and Eva are still house hunting behind Jason's back. Still no Kylie and the salon is losing manicure business. David's really conflicted, loving Kylie and hating her. But he does love her and he does need her. Callum is now blackmailing David into providing an alibi for him. David is going to have to remember to stop locking the door so Callum can't just walk in. Callum must also sample his own wares, I like the little detail that has him sniffing every now and then.

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Saturday 21 February 2015

Mikey North confirms his engagement

(This post was originally posted by Flaming Nora on the Coronation Street Blog February 2015, reposted to this blog with permission.)

Mikey North, who plays Gary Windass on Coronation Street, has confirmed he's now engaged to his fiancee Rachael Isherwood.

Mikey proposed to Rachael in the Lake District and there's an interview in this week's OK magazine, which you can read here.

As one of my favourite actors and favourite characters on Corrie, I'm a big fan of Mikey North and Gary Windass and wish the happy couple all the very best.

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Friday 20 February 2015

Corrie's Janice Battersby - indie rock's new icon

(This post was originally posted by Flaming Nora on the Coronation Street Blog January 2015, reposted to this blog with permission.)

Sunderland Indie band Frankie & The Heartstrings are not just a great bunch of musicians and owners of the fab Pop Recs Ltd shop in Sunderland. They're also huge fans of Janice Battersby.

This week, Frankie & The Heartstrings are on a tour of indie venues around the UK and tweeted that finally, one of their requests on the band's rider had been fulfilled. Yes, they finally got their picture of Vicky Entwistle as Janice Battersby!
Have a listen to the band's new single, it's a cracker.  And yes, I am a fan!

See also: From Wearside to Weatherfield, Sunderland's Coronation Street connections

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From Weatherfield to Walford

(This post was originally posted by Clinkers (David) on the Coronation Street Blog in February 2015.)

Well, in the spirit of civility and good relations, we should at least raise a foaming tankard of Newton & Ridley's and toast the thirtieth birthday of that other soap. Yes, it was on this day in 1985 that curious Corrie fans first got a chance to size up the new kid on the block.

Back in the day I was more than happy to watch both shows. The 'Enders omnibus fitted nicely into a Sunday afternoon, post-lunch spot and that remained my viewing habit for several years. What became apparent in the early days was that the BBC soap was offering something rather different to Corrie. Weatherfield, at the time, seemed to be a haven for single women. We had Bet, Rita, Mavis, Phyllis, Emily and Ivy all shuffling around without a bloke in sight. Albert Square gave us families, something in short supply on the cobbles at the time.

Maybe 'Enders pitched itself in the right place at the right time. Corrie was a bit cosy and the cast upheaval of 1984 was still making the show seem unsettled. Channel 4's Brookside had gained plaudits for its realism but by the end of the year, the first of many sieges would have been staged on the Close and the show's slow death began. Emmerdale was still Emmerdale Farm in 1985 and probably still had storylines about Dolly Skilbeck falling into a bucket of sheep dip.

EastEnders did get blamed for its apparent tokenism in the early days but it battled on with uncompromising stories about teenage pregnancy, drug addiction, homosexuality and domestic violence. Not the stuff of Corrie and in its favour, our beloved soap didn't try and emulate the goings on in Albert Square. Weatherfield's grittier storylines were introduced in a stealthier manner. Hilda's mugging, Alan Bradley's attacks on Rita and the devastation caused by the loss of Liz McDonald's baby daughter were handled with care.

It's probably fair to say that neither of the soaps are much like they were on this day thirty years ago. Maybe they learned a little from each other. EastEnders eventually realised that a little comedy will keep people watching. Corrie escaped from the slumbering mid-1980s and began to reflect more aspects of every day life. As well as crashing cars, exploding buildings and every wedding day going down the drain.

I've not watched 'Enders since Tiffany Mitchell got squashed by Frank Butcher in 1999. The unrelenting misery finally broke my spirit. Tonight though, one more time, I will tune in and cheer them on. Tomorrow though, back to the cobbles.

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Thursday 19 February 2015

Empathetic Street

(This post was originally posted by Graeme N on the Coronation Street Blog in February 2015.)

David Neilson is a marvellous actor. Yet again last night he stole the show with his moving, touching and incredibly human performance as Roy Cropper. The scenes leading up to Roy scattering Hayley's ashes were beautifully played.

Everything about our Roy is pitched perfectly, David never ever puts in a below par performance, and that's after nearly twenty years in the role. His recent storyline with Gary Windass was on the controversial side, splitting opinion both on and off screen but the character of Roy was true and accurately portrayed throughout. Roy is also now one of the few Corrie characters who can move me to tears, often when I least expect it. I empathise with Roy in a way I do with few other Corrie regulars.

I was thinking about what an emotional programme Coronation Street can be for its loyal viewers. I guess continuing drama is in general as the viewing public often see the same faces in their living rooms for decades and you can't help but form attachments to many of the characters. However I always think the longevity of both Corrie and many of its characters make it extra special. 

Thinking of the classic Corrie scenes that always bring a tear to my eye is not difficult, however most involve longstanding characters. Hilda, clutching Stan's spectacle case, sitting alone in number 13 after his funeral. Rita and Mavis parting company after working together for 25 years in the Kabin. Audrey saying a tearful farewell to Alf and then Alma. Elsie Tanner walking out of Weatherfield for one last time in 1984. And of course Hayley's exit in early 2014.

All these examples have something in common - strong women showing their vulnerability. The question is, do today's strong Corrie women elicit the same response? Jane Danson has terrific acting talent but Leanne is quite often particularly unlikeable. Alison King is a joy as Carla but surely this character's emotional roller coaster of a life has now stretched credibility to snapping point? Helen Worth brings Gail to life with such ease, even after all these years but Gail is a character that, despite her long history, I really do struggle to empathise with, mainly because she's prone to simpering daftness. Michelle and Eileen are both typical strong Corrie women but I find it difficult to form emotional attachments to either these days.

And what of the younger generation? Fiz, Sinead, Katy, Maria, Izzy, Sophie and the rest. Unfortunately the only reaction most of these younger characters elicit from me is irritation. Sinead's speech to Roy the other night was one of the few exceptions, mainly down to the fact it was beautifully written. Eva, Steph and Julie are all superb modern Corrie women but sadly they are just not being given the chance to sink their acting chops into great material. I just don't buy into their stories as I did with the likes of Rita, Audrey, Alma or Elsie. 

Times change and viewers look for different things. For me though, nothing can beat the likes of Phyllis Pearce, quietly facing up to old age with dignity or the vulnerable, idealistic Raquel chasing her dreams. 

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Wednesday 18 February 2015

Soap Superstars

(This post was originally posted by Stevie Dawson on the Coronation Street Blog in February 2015.)

I started writing this on the day Anne Kirkbride died. When a few of the tabloids suggested that she was to retire from Coronation Street, I like other Corrie bloggers, started thinking about her impact on Coronation Street and television as a whole, and to ponder life without Deirdre.

If only the big news last week was that she had retired. Still, I've started so I'll finish. Here's what I cobbled together...with a couple of personal memories to finish with.

They are a dying breed. That truly legendary type of soap star that comedians impersonate, fancy dress costumes are based upon, and for whom the nation goes into mourning after their inevitable TV demise. You know they've made it when they get a waxwork at Tussaud's and their own tv special: Goodbye Blanche, Goodbye Jack, Rita and Me...a celebration of both the actor and the character. Indeed Jack and Vera Duckworth mattered so much to the TV audience of Britain and beyond, that writers temporarily suspended reality, bringing Liz Dawn out of retirement and Vera back from the dead to collect her beloved Jack.

The superheroes of soap become the character they portray and whether on or off screen, Julie Goodyear is now Bet Lynch, Barbara Knox is Rita and June Brown from Eastenders is Dot Cotton - whether they like it or not. Just like to me, Julie Andrews will always be Mary Poppins - that's the character that stuck in my head, no matter what other roles she played later. Anne Kirkbride, in the same way, will forever be Deirdre Barlow. 

The secret to becoming a soap superstar is in part down to the type of longevity and work ethic you see less and less of in continuing drama. Just when we see glimmers of a new soap superstar in the making, such as Becky McDonald, played by Katherine Kelly for example, bigger, brighter opportunities are sent their way and it must be difficult, however loyal to a soap, to resist new challenges. We live in a different world, with greater opportunity and increasing numbers of media outlets shining a spotlight on talent.

This is the very opposite of why our soap superstars are elevated to almost mythical status. They tend not to crave limelight outside of work. They are rarely seen at award ceremonies or on television chat shows. Soap superstars go to work to earn a living and once the wig is removed and the makeup is washed off, they are mortal again. Anne Kirkbride once commented in a rare interview that her work at Coronation Street was just a job, and that she hadn't wanted to be an actress at all. How ironic that she became one of television's most recognisable and loved faces.

It tends to be a woman's thing - this soap superstardom. Think of Pat Butcher, Elsie Tanner, Ena Sharples, Dot Cotton, Bet Lynch, maybe even Bianca Butcher and a handful of others. Corrie, probably more so than Eastenders, is based around and would be lost without strong, troubled and formidable women so it makes sense that the women become the real stars. 

The future of soap doesn't necessarily depend on the new alumni of actors becoming superstars, but it certainly helps. Unique characters are Corrie's U.S.P. and it is funnier and generally more enjoyable when they stretch the boundaries a little with characters who are slightly cartoonish but with real world problems. The longevity is the key thing though. If a soap character is as familiar to you as a member of your family, chances are that you will root for that character and become invested in their storylines. We were certainly invested in Deirdre's, and Anne Kirkbride's death has hit us hard as viewers and fans.

We who write and read this blog didn't know Anne Kirkbride, but we loved her work and we will always love Deirdre. I was however lucky enough to meet her when I worked for Bev Callard, Anne's dear friend and familiar to us all as Liz McDonald. Anne would sometimes come in for a gossip with Bev. The two friends would sit in a quiet corner, have a good old laugh about who knows what, smoking away as if in one of those famous scenes from Corrie or the First Wives Club. Two soap superstars sitting in the corner giggling away, like any other pals having a laugh. This was one of the first memories that came into my mind when Anne passed away. 

My only other personal memory of Anne, although she wasn't directly involved, was when I was in a car with former Corrie writer Daran Little on our way to Blackpool for a day out (to Tussaud's incidentally). We set off on our way down the motorway. Daran was driving and his phone rang so he asked me to answer it. I said hello, and a familiar voice came back: 'Hello Annie?' sounding slightly confused. I know Anne had quite a deep sounding voice but I'm slightly less raspy shall we say. The person on the other end of the phone was Bill Roache and god knows how, but he'd called Daran by mistake expecting to speak to Anne. I had a brief but memorable chat with Bill, who I'd never met and haven't since, and after making it clear that I wasn't Anne, and that I didn't look anything like her, I presume he hung up and went to find his glasses to get the right number. I was then left with the unusual but amazing right to boast that for a split second, Ken thought I was Deirdre. 

I of course took it as a compliment...


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Tuesday 17 February 2015

Conversation Street podcast 135

Gemma and Michael's podcast for the episodes in Canada that aired (up to last night's Canadian Corrie) can be heard here.

This week, Maddy battles Norris, Steve struggles, Faye skives, Michael has his operation and the Bistro reopens with a new look. Callum is lurking and blackmailing David and Katy believes his lies. This week's character profile is little Max Turner.

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The end of a Corrie era?

(This post was originally posted by Graeme N on the Coronation Street Blog in February 2015.)

Coronation Street and everyone connected with it has suffered a particularly traumatic start to the new year. Issues surrounding the casting of (Whoops, Canada spoiler removed), but far more importantly, the incredibly sad death of actress Anne Kirkbride has dismayed us all.

I didn't want to write about Anne passing away at the time and a week on from the news being made public, I still don't in any great detail. There have been plenty of superb tributes both on this blog and elsewhere across all forms of media. However, for some reason it has made me realise how fragile Corrie is. It's always seen as a powerful machine, trundling onwards as an unstoppable feature of contemporary British drama. It has an enviable history behind it and it shows no signs of slowing its pace, but I wonder if the central core of what makes Corrie "Corrie" is slowing being chipped away.

The exit of a pivotal cast member doesn't mean the end of Corrie. We have witnessed that on countless occasions in the past. Many household names have come and gone and each time it happens, headlines ask us if the soap can carry on. And of course it does, focussing on different angles and new characters. The beauty of a programme like Corrie is that it can regenerate as the need arises. The format is flexible enough to allow change while still providing the continuity regular viewers rely on. 

However it is not often that a character or actor departs who has entered the consciousness of the nation, not just avid Coronation Street viewers. The departures of characters like Annie Walker, Elsie Tanner and Hilda Ogden spring to mind, and more recently those of Betty, Blanche and the Duckworths. Each time it happens it is a huge wrench for all concerned, particularly if there is real life loss behind the on screen exit.

As a Corrie traditionalist, the fact that legendary characters are becoming an endangered species makes me sad. We don't often hear mentions of past glories and past characters these days and while it is important Coronation Street continues to move forward, while we do still see characters like Ken, Gail and Audrey, it would be brilliant if they name dropped Uncle Albert, Suzie Birchall and Alf Roberts a bit more often. It provides much needed continuity with the past and also makes proceedings feel more realistic. Families in the real world often reflect and reminisce about departed loved ones and while the current powers that be put a focus on family, it seems like a natural thing to expect. 

I worry that many people making television today put far too much effort into attracting young viewers. Talking about this recently with friends, we discussed how watching television has changed beyond recognition. Programmes like Coronation Street are watched most regularly by older people. The younger demographic do tune in, but perhaps not as loyally and definitely not as often through the traditional way. I think the majority of older Corrie viewers have watched for many years, just like my gran. 

They do remember the older characters and love hearing about them still. I'm not suggesting Corrie goes on a desperate mission to bring back past characters. Too often this move promises an awful lot and leaves a bitter taste. Too much had changed when Julie Goodyear returned as Bet and Philip Lowrie, while a welcome addition as Dennis Tanner, was woefully underused. The writers of today simply did not know what to do with him.

I think a renewed focus on more mature characters is very much needed in the Weatherfield of 2015. They are the ones who foster a sense of community and provide a stable backdrop for the high drama. Yes we still have Ken, Rita, Norris and Audrey but their appearances are increasingly fleeting. I loved Stephanie Cole's stint as Roy's mum Sylvia but as yet there has been nobody nearly as good to fill that gap. I hope Roy's new storyline with the widowed lady at the allotments is a good one but I think we need more. Like the wonderful Deirdre, they often provide the small yet memorable moments that stay with us long after the high drama and ratings grabbing stunts have faded away.

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Monday 16 February 2015

Corrie Canada weekly awards Feb. 9 - 13

Troll award: Even baby Lily can't stand Norris. He really is an instigator (a nicer phrase instead of the other "something disturber" one i could have used). There is nothing really redeemable about this nasty little oik.

Agony Granny: Agnes might just tell Chesney a thing or two. Listen to her!

New double act award: Tim and Craig. Potential for gold!

Irony award: Norris complaining about bad customer service. Pot? Kettle?

Pygmalion award: Maddie. She really has come a long way from "street urchin"

Fashionista: Eva in her animal print coat, hat and scarf with the big pink bag!

Two faced award: Ga'Andy's ex saw him, and thought it must be him unless he's got a double. Well, in a manner of speaking, I guess he kind of does!

Pants on Fire award: Ga'Andy and Steph both are doing a lot of ducking and diving to cover up the truth this week. It even got Ga'Andy slapped in a staged fight.

Living arrangement shuffle: Are Sophie and Maddie living back at Sally's? Sophie was packing for their spa break out of that abode, not Kevin's.

Tech Fail award: Norris for ordering 111 copies of Chicken Quarterly. I wonder if Sharif will buy extra copies to line the chicken coop?

Idiot award: Gail should not have torn up that will. Even if she was trying to keep Michael's spirits up, having a will is just a smart thing to do even if you weren't facing a major operation.

Gaslight award: Maddy has decided to get revenge on Norris by making him think he's losing the plot.

Pigs fly award;
Zeedan smiled!!

Lines of the week:
Maddy to Norris "You should be living under a bridge, you miserable troll" (and then some)
Todd "Your secret's safe with me" (of course it is)
Agnes to Ches "You've got to be more like that Mo Farrah. Pace yourself else you'll never last the distance"
Norris "Nobody gives a jot for customer satisfaction"
Max to Michael "You won't win"
Maddie "It will complete my Eliza Doolittle transformation from street urchin to stately home"
Rita to Norris "I want you to be on your best behaviour while I'm gone" Norris "I'm not a child!" Rita "Good! Then don't behave like one" (not a chance he's taking that advice)
Gail about the bubbly "I don't nick, I sip" (and sip, and sip)
Norris to Maddie "Shouldn't you be reading Oik magazine?"
Eva "Y'all right?" David "Me wife's left me, a drug dealer's about to break up what's left of me family, I think I'll give cartwheels a miss" (She's not left you, you kicked her out)
Kevin "I don't think progress is all it's cracked up to be"
Sinead to Roy (about Hayley) "Wherever you go, she goes" (that's exactly how it is, too)

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Sunday 15 February 2015

Sunday Comments February 15

Poor Sinead has to lay flat on her back all the time. That in itself is enough to put pressure on her back! I'm glad they're showing Sinead scared and tearful at times instead of being stoic and strong. It's more realistic. It's really not Steve's fault and even if he didn't walk away, it wouldn't make any difference to Sinead's condition but Chesney isn't in any state of mind to understand.

Maybe Sinead's great-gran will be able to talk some sense to him. She had a really full day with lots of visitors and at the last, she was able to feel Chesney touch her leg. You never thought she was going to be permanently paralyzed did you? Sinead is still staring at the ceiling, though, it's got to be awfully boring for her. Agnes is whipping the household into shape, making everyone else pitch in with the housework that Sinead was obviously doing herself. Chesney had to leave Joseph with Roy because Joe had a little cold and didn't want to bring the lad to the hospital with it. I don't think I'd bring a 3 year old to a hospital to see Sinead in that shape. I'd wait until she could at least sit up so it wouldn't be so scary for him.

Anyway, he pretends that Katy has Joseph, knowing Sinead still has a grudge on against Roy for what he did to Gary. But Chesney cannot tell a lie and admitted it. At least she's backing down and starting to understand that Roy's violent outburst was a one off and out of character. She even asked Roy to the hospital to apologize. Back to Sainthood for Sinead. And what she said, seems to have struck a nerve with Roy.

I just don't see why Eva and Jason couldn't move out and rent? Why the big deal about buying? Eva's determined to house hunt behind Jason's back with Tony's help. Todd knows the truth but he's determined to interfere and interfere he does so that Jason discovers Eva and Tony meeting behind his back. Stupidly, they lie and cover up what they're really doing and Todd kept dripping poison in Jason's ear, subtly. And Jason doesn't do subtle and he's easy to push in the direction Todd wants.

Norris really needs a lesson in customer service. And Maddy's due an apology. Pigs. Fly. That about sums it up. This week, Norris is on the warpath yet again, this time against Maddie and Simon for kicking a football and bouncing it off the walls and windows of the Kabin. They're not hitting the windows on purpose but it does happen on occasion so really, they should take it to the Red Rec or find somewhere else to kick around.

The football ends up punctured and Norris is blamed. (he'd already got under Maddie's radar last week when he short changed her) His face after she accuses him sort of indicates he might have had something to do with it, though. And yet, he continues to instigate trouble, like he just can't help himself and i suppose it's a good thing that he doesn't really care if people don't like him. I certainly never did. He's thoroughly nasty, dislikeable and contemptible. He deserves everything he gets. He may get the occasional funny line but I hate him!

Maddy has decided to get her own back at Norris by gaslighting him, making him thinking he's lost the plot and he is really starting to worry. I didn't realize the magazine order mixup was her fault. I don't think she realized the effect she was having until Mary talked to her. She just thought it was a bit of a joke, really. She might have had a rough life, but she's still immature at heart and doesn't think of the consequences of her actions. She apologized but Norris, of course, isn't gracious about it at all. 

Meanwhile it's Maddie's 18th birthday and Sophie has organized a weekend away at a really nice spa or resort, all inclusive. Maddie isn't so sure about it, thinking she will have to dress up but Sophie says not, it's all about having fun. Maddie is having a serious self esteem issues over the whole thing but she went anyway, stopping at the Kabin for a magazine where Norris continued to push as many buttons as she can.

Max is not dealing well with Kylie's absence and Katie has volunteered to mind him. With Callum lurking in the corners. Now Katy's met Callum and it's instant fancy. If he wasn't a drug dealer (thought she doesn't know that) you could understand the attraction. He is pretty good looking. David has Katy pick up Max after school and when she does, she encounters Callum in the cafe again, because Callum is doing a lot of lurking around corners in his car, watching David and Max. He charms Katy into letting him stay for milkshakes, bribing Max with it, of course. Katy knows how David feels but not why and David goes off again when she finds them.

When David tells Katy about Callum's drug dealing, Katy understands and backs off Callum who's not best pleased with David's interfering. Well, what did he expect? Now Callum's getting right in David's face and is threatening to get a residency order to take Max away and he thinks he will be successful because Eva slipped and he knows his name is on the birth certificate. I still don't think he actually wants to look after a kid full time so he's probably just winding David up. Callum naturally lied to Katy that he's not dealing anymore but he did tell the truth that he's Max's dad. Katy's still determined to date Callum and she believes his lies that he's changed.

Steve started counseling. The first step is the hardest. At least he did talk to the therapist a little though I found the doctor a bit stern. Steve seems a tad brighter but perhaps that's just because he doesn't have to keep secrets anymore. But Liz and Michelle seem to be disagreeing on how to support Steve. Michelle wants to coddle him and Liz thinks tough love is better where Steve is concerned. You'd think she'd know best but in this situation, he's not his usual self and probably, somewhere in the middle would be better. Instead he feels like they're smothering him.

Of course Liz is worried about Steve. He's still hiding away and she thought a few days on meds and 2 sessions with a therapist would show a bit of promise. It doesn't happen that fast. I think a family session with both Liz and Michelle there would be beneficial, it would help them understand. Hiding the remote isn't going to push Steve into being more productive. I am surprised there's only one telly in the whole pub/living quarters. Even if the upstairs living area is no longer in play and we're supposed to forget it was even there, you'd wonder if someone didn't have one in their bedroom since so many people do.

Steve didn't last long behind the bar and it left Michelle and Liz arguing loudly, in front of the punters, and where Steve could overhear. And they continued to discuss Steve's business in the public bar as well. One's as bad as the other. I think maybe Eileen might be a good one to talk to Steve or even Andrea, They're more objective and don't treat Steve with kid gloves. 

The Bistro is reopened. I kind of like the decor. It's very different from the last go-round. It's more rustic, but with stainless steel and a bit of neon as well. Mind you on the day of, there still seems to be an awful lot left to do. Gavin/Andy and Steph get told off a couple of times for "canoodling" when they weren't really, but Leanne is stressed out. Later, a pretty blonde called Tara has delivered the plants and it turns out she's Andy's ex! Leanne sees her all over Andy like a dirty shirt, leaving him with a kiss.

Andy tries to fob Leanne off but she's good at lie detecting. He tries to pretend he and Tara had a one night stand but it all sounds too convenient and I don't think Leanne is really buying it and she told Steph about Tara. Now, Steph knows that Andy is Andy, as we know, so to cover it all, she and Ga-Andy stage a fight which satisfies Leanne but dismays Nick when Steph smacks Andy and walks out just before opening. Then they stage a reconciliation. They really are a cute couple, aren't they?

Owen's another one that's pretty despicable a lot of the time. And as I recall, it was Izzy that did the breaking up with Gary. Owen and Anna are still at odds over their offspring. Anna remarks to Katy later that Izzy and Gary need to move on and Katy actually finds herself agreeing, after all, Izzy won't be able to move on if she thought Gary was miserable. Now if only Owen would buy into it. Izzy needs to tell her dad to back off, that's probably the only way he will.

Meanwhile, Faye is forging Anna's signature on forms, skipping off school, that's why the school isn't calling to check I guess, and hanging around outside the gym and avoiding fattening food. She admits to Craig she's being bullied for gaining weight. As far as that goes, Craig knows whereof he speaks and offers to be his bodyguard. Then she talked Craig into skipping school with her. He's really worried about getting caught but he's such a good mate to her, too.

Michael's nervous about the op, naturally, and Gail is fussing over him, almost unbearably if you ask me. He's even made a will. And that's actually a smart thing to do and it was really stupid for Gail to tear it up.

Sinead is having physio, that's good. It's a long way for her to go. Also this week, Tyrone mentions Hayley's car and Roy contemplates selling it. It would still need an MOT to sell it, wouldn't it? Anyway, after talking to Sinead, Roy seems to have turned a little corner in moving on with his life. He's ready to scatter Hayley's ashes and that's a first step. Nice to hear Mavis being mentioned again, as Rita is going to visit.

Tony said he had to go into town for a  new razor. I would have thought they'd have some of those in the shop! Mary's mother is still alive. Seems like Mary still feels plagued by the woman even if she's not living under her thumb.

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Saturday 14 February 2015

Corrie spoilers: Less is more?

(This post was originally posted by Graeme N on the Coronation Street Blog in February 2015.)

I can never resist reading ahead to find out what is going to happen in Corrie. My partner constantly despairs that I seem to know everything that is going on with my favourite characters rather than waiting for the odd surprise. However, when thinking about this I realised that we don't often get surprises from Coronation Street these days.

I've been to several ITV press events as part of my role as a blogger for this site and they are always terrific. It's a great privilege and a pleasure to get sneak peeks behind the scenes and meet some of those involved. It is something that Coronation Street and ITV do very well indeed. I'm wondering though whether we, the viewers, are exposed to too much in advance in the hope of securing high viewing figures?

Take the mini bus crash. From the clips I've seen it looks brilliantly executed and yes, very dramatic (that much overused word). The trouble is that most Corrie fans and the viewing public at large have been keenly aware for months that this is coming. It has featured in many publications, newspapers, on television and the internet. Every member of the cast involved has been interviewed about their role in the big stunt and possible consequences for their characters. My worry is that this strips the storyline clean and leaves us with little that is unknown and surprising to look forward to. We will all still tune in tonight to watch the trauma unfold but will it, I wonder, have lost a bit of its edge?

Every so often the Corrie producer will appear on television or in the press to discuss upcoming storylines. Always an interesting interview which sparks many comments both here and elsewhere. But do we need to know it all? I hate to bring EastEnders into this, and I don't watch it at all, however I am aware of a new tactic that has been deployed in Albert Square. Every so often the producers will hit the viewers with a complete surprise. They have apparently very successfully brought back characters from the past for brief, but unexpected stints. This could be said to give the programme greater continuity and believability while also hooking viewers in who are waiting for the next unexpected twist. Is this something Coronation Street should explore?

We all love to gossip about Corrie and attempt to predict what will happen in the weeks and months ahead, but is it better left at that? Do we need all of Corrie's storylines to be discussed and previewed repeatedly leaving nothing left to the imagination? You can understand the need to stoke the publicity furnace on an ongoing basis but are we now at saturation point? I'll probably never stop reading ahead and pouncing on the latest bit of news, but what do you think?

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