Sunday, 25 January 2015

Spoiler Alert: My Audience Research

Last year I conducted audience research as part of my MA in Film and Television studies. My project was entitled Coronation Street: A Survey of Fan Engagement and Viewership, and I thought I’d share some of my findings with you. Our blogger Graeme recently wrote an interesting piece on spoilers, and as I have been considering writing on the topic myself, and this was a specific section in my survey, I thought where better to begin?

To spoil, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is to “diminish or destroy the value or quality of” something, and a spoiler is defined, amongst other things, as “a description of an important plot development…which if previously known may reduce surprise or suspense for a first-time viewer or reader”. Where film and television drama is concerned, revealing too much or ruining the ending for others is a big no no, but this is not the case with soap opera. Indeed, spoilers are generally considered a positive thing, and have long been part of the discourse which surrounds them with the programme makers themselves actively releasing information on upcoming storylines. This makes the spoiler an interesting phenomenon when it comes to soap, and something that has become particularly prolific.

When it comes to Coronation Street, in addition to the usual written teasers of what is to come, we can also find memes, photographs and video previews concerning the week ahead, and in recent times, we've seen ITV release trailers showing actual scenes from upcoming seasons, and big storylines such as Tracy and Rob's wedding and the bus crash. Like Graeme, I too have had the pleasure and privilege of attending ITV for various press days, interviewing cast members about the action to come and viewing previews, and they're always intriguing experiences. The spoiler is most certainly alive and well, but I was interested to know how people perceive and consume them, so it’s over to those who completed my survey.

Of my 339 respondents, 237 (69.91%) were female and 102 (30.09%) were male. 43.95% (149) confirmed that they did read spoilers and made a point of doing so while a marginally greater number, 48.67% (165), only read them sometimes, and don’t go out of their way to do so. Amazingly, only 25 people (7.37%) of the 339 claimed to never read them. Male and female figures in respect of this and other questions on this topic did not deviate much from one another. Spoilers are therefore consumed by 93% of my respondents. But with less than half actually seeking them out, what do the viewing public actually think of them? Naturally word count precludes me from giving a full picture of the huge response I received, but I hope you will find the following summaries of interest. 

Those who responded negatively to spoilers had some interesting and sophisticated insights. Some felt that there was too much information released, and watch in hope that something will appear that they won’t have been expecting. These viewers felt that the volume of spoilers was such that watching the show could almost be considered redundant. They felt that if there was less revealed, their enjoyment and engagement with the show would be greater. It has been interesting to observe some unexpected twists in the interim such as Tracy’s decision to shop Rob to the police, and the mystery surrounding Gavin’s identity to which we were not privy, and these will undoubtedly have been welcomed by such viewers. One insightful respondent felt that if viewers didn’t know what was going to happen, they would be less likely to form negative opinions of the drama to come.

Of those that do read spoilers, the main reason is curiosity and nosiness. A number stated that they wanted to see if what they thought would happen would occur, and also, to see how the storyline would be handled. Spoilers are also a source of excitement for some and used as a means of watching on a selective basis for others, with their choice as to whether or not to tune in motivated by storylines as well as characters. They also act as a substitute if the viewer, such as those abroad, can’t see the programme, but one very interesting observation revealed that spoilers are possibly the reason they are watching less.

Some use spoilers to see when a storyline they aren’t enjoying is likely to end. Others appear interested in which characters will feature and how they are going to be interacting with one another. A number claimed they enhanced their anticipation and viewing pleasure.

One respondent pointed out that an exception to wanting to know an outcome would be in the case of a “whodunit”. It’s an interesting observation, as it is clear that these are very seldom revealed in advance thus retaining the element of surprise and suspense, the ‘Who Killed Tina?’ storyline being a perfect example from 2014.

Some read spoilers to allay fears as to what a character might do and others use them as discursive currency, being the first to be able to tell work colleagues, friends and family what’s going to happen. Others read them out of fear that they will hear about the action from someone else.

Some acknowledged that nothing compares to watching the actual programme, so while they read them, spoilers cannot fully reveal how a performance will be delivered or a storyline played out on screen. Of the small percentage that don’t read them, a number claimed it ruined Coronation Street for them and some preferred to guess what would happen.

In the event that a viewer was feeling disappointed with an upcoming storyline, an impressive 80.53% (273) said they would watch anyway. 12.09% (41) indicated they would take to social media, internet message boards and fansites to complain with 8.85% (30) complaining to others in person. Such a low percentage of complainants is perhaps an indicator of viewer loyalty. In any event, disliking what is to come has a minimal impact on viewership with only 17 respondents (5.01%) indicating that they would stop watching until an undesirable story concluded.

With spoilers being consumed by the multitude, I think we can certainly anticipate their continuance. Perhaps the fact that spoilers exist at all makes unexpected twists all the more exciting when they do occur, and maybe a regular combination of the two would make for an interesting viewing experience. I'd like to express my sincere gratitude to anyone who completed the survey. I hope you have found this blog on what I find to be an intriguing phenomenon interesting, and I hope to cover other areas of my research in the near future.

By Emma Hynes
Twitter: @ELHynes


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Coronation Street weekly awards, January 19-23

Broken award: Steve completely fell apart between the shock and the guilt and he ended up huddled in a dark corner of the woods, freaking out.

First impressions award: Yasmeen thinks Carla is a cold fish. Roy and the rest of us know otherwise.

Priorities award: Liz made sure Amy knew her dad was ok but there was no mention of her mother. Did Liz know that Tracy was with them? Tony did so Amy would have been told directly.

Hero of the hour award: Julie and Maddie did good but Tracy saved Carla and nearly went down with the bus!

Musical ambiance award: Living on a Prayer playing on the jukebox as the neighbours are about to hear of the accident.

Cloud Nine award: Michael is in Lala land over this pregnancy.

Fantasy award: Jason as Tarzan? He's up for it, at least. Maybe too much information.

Convenient excuse award: Everyone thinks Steve's diagnosis is just a bit too convenient. It's a difficult illness to understand.

Public Enemy award: Roy and Steve. Aren't they a pair? Roy, as always, knows there's more to every story.

Top Bloke award: Roy gave Gary a job in the very cafe Gary tried to rob. He's also giving him a second chance at getting his life back.

Lines of the week:
Carla "Tracy Barlow? She's about as popular as nits!"
Sally "Is it 4 or 5 stars for Marlbury Hall?" Carla "It was 5 stars, Until tonight!"
Todd "When push comes to shove...Tracy Barlow"
David to Grandad Michael "It's not all Werther's Originals and stories by the fireside"
Gavin "I'm leading a double life within a double life. It's the Matrix like Postman Pat " (Not sure about that last bit)
Carla "My heart won't bleed for Steve McDonald"


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Saturday, 24 January 2015

Coronation Street double episode review, Friday 23 January 2015

A wry David Platt is always a pleasure as he gives Michael a good dead pan ribbing over his enthusiasm at becoming a Grandfather. Michael is perhaps being a tad previous shopping for baby clothes, and when Steph and Gavin (AKA Andy) confess that there is no baby, he really is a sorry sight in his ‘World’s Best Grandad’ t-shirt.

News that Kylie has used her bank card in Freshco’s prompts David to approach the store who naturally won’t permit him access to the CCTV footage. He contacts a missing persons charity for assistance which is strange considering he reported her missing to the police who would surely be well placed to help. As he asks Michael why Kylie has abandoned them, I find myself answering through the medium of television for the umpteenth time, “because you sent her packing, and it was non-negotiable.” In an effort to convince Kylie to come home, himself, Eva and Max all leave voicemails for her.

There isn’t enough work at the Community Centre for Roy, and Yasmeen draws the line at him calling out crossword clues. She feels his talents are going to waste, and so Roy comes up with the idea of delivering culinary courses and gets to work on the plans straight away. 

Mary frustratingly continues to reject him despite his remorse and efforts at making amends. “There’s no rift that can’t be repaired over time” she reckons, but why should he wait around for her to decide when that's to be? He’s worth far more than that, and she's a fool not to recognise or appreciate this. It’s moving, and a tad exasperating, to hear him reply, “to lose your friendship would be unthinkable”, and it makes me even angrier at her.

The suffering continues in the aftermath of the bus crash with many trying to come to terms with what happened. All appear as obsessed with what page two of the Gazette has to say as the crash itself. As Sinead prepares for an emergency back operation, she could do without Beth standing over her declaring she hopes the surgeon doesn’t lose concentration. After a tense few hours, Sinead emerges and they’re told that while it went really well, it’s still too early to say if it has been a success, leaving her worried that she may never walk again.

Despite being oblivious to the crash at the time, Gary’s observation that Tracy’s polka dot blouse is fitting of the Tour de France’s King of the Mountain isn’t far off the mark in either style or substance, as she is celebrated as a hero by all. Privileges include ordering her breakfast from Ken on the house phone from her bed, and being visited by a humble Carla.

Sean has walked away from the crash with cuts and bruises, but is nevertheless swathed in self pity as he cries into Eileen’s blouse that nobody wants him. She secretly puts Billy wide to the crash and this results in a visit during which he reveals that he has been kidding himself about how he feels about Sean, and suggests a proper date.

Gary and Jason know nothing of the crash after spending the whole night out together. As Zeedan berates Gary for turning up at Alya’s bedside 10 hours too late, and Eva asks Jason where they were, I’m left wondering if this pair have phones. As Alya arrives home, Zeedan orders Gary to finish it and stay away from her.

Poor Steve is in everyone’s bad books except for Michelle, for once. As she rightly blames herself for treating him badly and missing all the signals, Carla’s pity is non-existent as she spits, “Tracy flamin’ Barlow had to save my life,” and Eileen goes a step further by laying into the man himself at the bar. Meanwhile Steve has been to the doctor and has been prescribed tablets and counselling. Michelle offers her support and assures him “I’m here for the long haul” as they get back together. Hopefully this will be the end of her dreadful treatment of him. Eileen also sympathises with Steve once the truth is revealed.

There is a lovely scene with Steve and Roy on Maxine’s bench as they declare themselves public enemies number one and two. “Well aren’t we a pair” sighs Steve as Roy observes that the best way to cope is to find a way to make amends. One of the wonderful things about Roy is that there isn’t a situation from which he doesn’t learn something. The conversation prompts him to call up to Gary and offer him a job in the café, pointing out that there’s something in it for both of them.

There was some lovely writing from Simon Crowther and Mark Wadlow in this pair of enjoyable episodes, and while the subject matter was heavy for the most part, they proved that the appropriate amount of light relief can work wonders in lifting the mood. 

By Emma Hynes

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In pics: Coronation Street bus crashes 1969 vs 2015

The Coronation Street bus crash this week was spectacular, that was for sure. I really enjoyed it a lot.  For fun, here's a look at the Coronation Street coach crash of 1969 alongside the crash we saw on screen last week.


First of all, for a soap bus crash, you obviously need a bus.  

Then you need images of happy, smiling people on the bus, unaware of any impending doom.

 Key characters are then aware of the danger....

 They know something's not right...

 ... open mouthed with shock.

And of course you need a tree for the bus to crash into.

 At the hospital afterwards, there might be say, a head injury...

And plenty of hospital bedside scenes.

In 1969 Coronation Street filmed the bus crash in black and white. It was supposed to be Corrie's first ever episode filmed in colour - find out why it wasn't filmed in colour at our blogger Sunny Jim's  50 years in 50 days blog post for 1969. 

Have a look here.

Have a look at the 1969 bus crash here



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Video: Coronation Street spring trailer

ITV Coronation Street have released a video teaser of upcoming storylines which will take us into Spring 2015.

They include Owen's wife arriving, Faye confiding in Craig about her pregnancy, Callum and David fighting over custody of Max, Steve telling Amy he's got depression, the start of the storyline of Eva and Jason splitting up, and the return of Jenny Bradley (pictured above).

There's a wonderful scene where Jenny leans into Kevin for a kiss with the saucy line: "Do you fancy some pudding?".

Our blogger Graeme met and interviewed actress Sally Ann Matthews, who plays Jenny Bradley, and he'll be bringing us all the news in the next few weeks.  Stay tuned!

In the meantime, for those UK fans who can see it, here's the ITV spring trailer video:



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Coronation Street spoiler: Roy Cropper's new lady friend

Coronation Street's Roy Cropper is set to make a new female friend, says Inside Soap magazine.

The spoiler says that Roy gets his own allotment to grow some fruit and veg, and meets a widowed lady on the next allotment lot. 

She won't be a love interest but someone who Roy will feel obliged to help guide through the world. Roy will offer real, redemptive support to this new woman.

It's just over 12 months since Roy's wife Hayley died of pancreatic cancer.  Making friends with a new woman could be just the tonic for Roy that he needs, I feel.  At least it'll get him away from moaning Mary.

<< You can relive Roy and Hayley's romance in my little book A Perfect Duet: The Diary of Roy and Hayley Cropper

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Coronation Street Weekly Update, January 24 2015

GOT KINDLE? GET CORRIE!
Corrie weekly updates from 1995 - 20 years in 20 e-books
All the wit and warmth of Weatherfield, none of the waffle

Available from
amazon.co.uk or amazon.com

PLUS... Coronation Street companion books!

Norman Bates with a Briefcase - the Richard Hillman story

With a foreword by actor Brian Capron (Richard Hillman)

A Perfect Duet. The Diary of Roy and Hayley Cropper

With a foreword by Julie Hesmondhalgh (Hayley Cropper)

This was bus crash week on Coronation Street. The Underworld girls and Sean all gather on the mini-bus in their best bib and tucker for the outing to the North West Trade Awards. Steve’s driving the bus and gets into a spot of road rage with boy racers on a quiet country lane, close to a cliff edge.  The mini-bus is run off the road, crashes, rolls upside down on its roof and ends up hanging over a cliff edge with the Underworld lot stuck inside. Steve’s first out of the bus, he can’t handle what’s happened and takes himself off in shock for a weep. Michelle’s next out and comforts him, only too aware that Steve’s blaming himself for the accident. Slowly but surely everyone else clambers, or crawls, out of the wreckage in various states of shock and distress with cuts and bruises all over. All the while, the bus creaks and moans with the shifting weight inside of it, barely hanging on to that cliff edge as everyone gets out alive, Sinead only just. 

But hang on, just a cotton pickin’ minute! Where’s Mrs Connor?  She’s only stuck at the front of the bus, dangling over the cliff edge, and the bus is threatening to break free and tumble to destruction at any second.  It’s Tracy who goes back to free Carla and becomes the heroine of the hour, much to Carla’s admiration and disdain: “I had me life saved by Tracy-flaming-Barlow!” 

The clan are all taken to th’ospickle (where’s Nurse Platt when you need him?) where most are given the all-clear, some bandages and pills.  However, Sinead’s kept in for a three hour op and in danger of being paralysed.  Meanwhile, Steve admits to Michelle that he’s depressed, he has been for months and feels responsible for the crash. She whisks him off to the doc where he’s given some pills and he gives her a hug. 

News of the bus crash reaches Billy the vicar, by way of Eileen who rings him to tell him that Sean has been hurt.  Billy rushes to see Sean and tells him he wants more than friendship, he wants them to go out on a date. Sean’s little face lights up, and to be honest, so did mine. Billy the vicar is lovely, just lovely.

Roy starts his community service at Jamila House Community Centre, helping Yasmeen tidy up leaflets, organise chairs and in desperation for want of something, anything, else to do, he even helps her with the crossword. Roy knows his community service is no punishment at all for what he did to Gary, and he tries to make amends by offering Gary a job in Roy’s Rolls.  Gary happily accepts. Mary’s still sniffy with Roy for what he did to Gary and she doesn’t deserve Roy’s friendship at all. But it matters to Roy that Mary thinks well of him although quite frankly, I’d like to give her a slap. She and Norris are horrid little people, horrid.

Fake Gavin and Steph have to break the news to Michael that they’re not having a fake baby after all. Michael got himself carried away this week, wearing ‘World’s Best Grandad’ t-shirt and buying babygrows for the unborn.  His heart is broken that he’s not going to be a grandad any time soon, but at least it keeps ticking and the shock doesn’t kill.

And that's just about that for this week. Remember, you can sign up to get these Corrie weekly updates by email at http://www.corrie.net/updates/weekly/subscribe.htm

This week’s writers were Jan McVerry (Monday double); not sure who did Wednesday’s as our Sky+ box started recording a little later than programmed; Simon Crowther and Mark Wadlow (Friday double).  Find out all about the Coronation Street writing team at http://coronationstreetupdates.blogspot.com/2008/11/exclusive-all-current-corrie-writers.html

Glenda Young
--
Blogging away merrily at http://flamingnora.blogspot.com

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Friday, 23 January 2015

Deirdre Barlow: A Special Legacy

What a sad start to the week it was when we learned of the shocking news that Anne Kirkbride had passed away. The intervening days have been filled with well deserved and fitting tributes and outpourings of respect, admiration and love for the actress who, for over 40 years, touched so many lives both as Anne, and in the form of Deirdre Barlow.

Much has already been beautifully articulated by others who lament her passing, but I would like to add my own humble contribution to remembering her. I didn't know Anne, but I knew Deirdre Barlow well.

As viewers and media alike looked back on her character this week, recurring highlights have included Deirdre's relationship with Blanche, her marriages to Ray Langton, Ken Barlow and Samir Rachid, her affair with Mike Baldwin, her incarceration at the hands of Jon Lindsay and the public campaign to “Free the Weatherfield One”. All are examples of great Coronation Street storylines in which she performed her central role brilliantly, and while I have enjoyed watching them all, I think that her performance over the past year is how I would like to remember Deirdre best.

Deirdre began 2014 in the absence of Ken, and having her house deliberately trashed by Tracy and Rob to make her fear living alone, and agree to Rob moving in. She was canny enough to realise who the culprits were straight away, and despite being furious, allowed Rob to move in anyway, but on her terms. This act would set the tone for a year which saw her put those she loved before herself while at the same time taking action and making decisions as she saw fit.

Deirdre Barlow took centre stage last year, and to my mind embodied the best qualities of the Coronation Street matriarch. She was selfless yet strong, humorous yet solemn, made tough decisions and defended them to the last, and did all in her power to keep things going and hold her family together as everything around them fell apart in the aftermath of Tina’s murder. She stood by Peter and believed in him when nobody else did, suffered for her efforts to spare Ken any pain, and agreed to go on a caravan holiday she was dreading, despite her dreams of sun and sand, all for her love of Ken.

What made Deirdre the everywoman who was so easy to identify with was the normalcy she maintained against the soapland backdrop of murder, deception and false imprisonment. She was an ordinary woman reacting ordinarily in extraordinary circumstances, and this is where the realism in any good soap must be found. 

Alongside her sacrifices and hardships, her grounded nature and representation permitted the motherliness at her core to shine through like a beacon. Allowing Rob to get some ‘posh crisps’ from the cupboard after recovering Uncle Albert’s medal, and preparing a parcel for rehab-bound Peter containing his Easter egg and a threaded needle are small but beautiful and very important details which brought her to life, conveyed who she was, and were central to why so many could relate to her, loved her, and felt they knew her, as she was representative of many beloved women in our own lives who we know would do the very same.

To these lovely details we can add her marrow, her belts, her sneaky ciggies, her pottery, her glasses and her special trifle, for after all, no matter what happens to us, these are the details that make up who we are, that constitute a life. Across her 42 years on Coronation Street, that life played out alongside ours, and this is a remarkable and very special thing.

Deirdre’s visits to Liz in The Rovers were another endless source of joy for me. I can see her with a glass of red in front of her at the side of the bar, pondering how wine is not quite the same without pork scratchings, and confiding, sharing, laughing and chatting about life with her best friend. This was one of Deirdre’s pleasures, and consequently ours.

It's hard to imagine Coronation Street without Deirdre Barlow, but she leaves a very special legacy in that it is not just made up of memories, but the sense of what it was to know her. For a fictional character to leave not just recollections but feelings is a testament to Anne, and we have her to thank for the gift of Deirdre, a woman who illuminated both our televisions and our lives.

May she rest in peace.

By Emma Hynes
Twitter: @ELHynes

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