Saturday, 23 February 2013

Has DJ Ryan got his deck out, or is he just pleased to see Katy?

Another fab guest post from Anna Kalinski, who will soon be joining us as a Coronation Street Blogger.  Follow Anna on twitter @annakalinski

During my usual foray across to the Weatherfield Gazette to check the upcoming Corrie spoilers this week, I was disappointed to see that Katy is set to ‘break Chesney’s heart’ with her upcoming dalliance with Ryan.  Yep. I’m thinking what you’re thinking.

“Oh Dear!  I need a DJ at my party! Oh! Wherever will I find one?”

“Oooh! Has he got his deck out, or is he just pleased to see me?”

The interactions are already set up like a low budget 80s porno film.  (What? My friend’s dad hid it in a Video Library case. We were 13. How were we supposed to know what ‘Electric Blue’ was? Traumatised.  I’ve never since waited in for a sparky without a chaperone present. )

I am willing to wager that if we looked at the broad demographic of Corrie fans and their viewing habits - particularly amongst long-standing viewers - there would be many who do not watch other soaps because they feel alienated by the fake tan of Hollyoaks, the explosions of Emmerdale and the affairs of Eastenders.  Cheap thrills have no resonance with most viewers, yet daily we see Corrie edging away from Tony Warren’s kitchen-sink premise and inching ever-closer to ‘A Corrie-mole revealed to the Sun’ territory.

My late grandmother, Hilda-Jean, Lancashire born and bred (she was never going to be from St Albans with a name like that.), would always watch only Corrie because for her it represented what she liked to call “real Lancashire people’s normal lives”. That and she didn’t like Cockneys.

Corrie viewers are traditionally more suspicious of newcomers and sensationalism than viewers of any other soap.  Let’s admit it, when new characters start on Corrie, we don’t really like them; at least not before they’ve proved themselves.  We start muttering about how we don’t like this new-fangled Stella/Eva/Kylie/Becky. We’ll stop watching at this rate. We’re the soap equivalent of those people who start saying they’ll “refuse to use Facebook if it changes to this new...” but then are happily posting away on it the next month.

However, if there’s one thing of which we are intolerant, it is ‘flavour-of-the-month’ younger characters monopolising the bulk of the airtime with their petty, circular and ultimately hollow dramas. And justifiably so. This week, we have seen some truly diabolical ‘performances’ from Katy’s ‘mates’ as the cast of the Chorlton-cum-Hardy version of Clueless, heralding yet another out of the blue pairing.  What-ev-err.

The Katy/Ryan thing is not a storyline. Here’s what’s really happened: Ryan, easy on the eye though he is, is floating around aimlessly. What is a “hunk” without a sexy storyline? The producers have seen the recent paparazzi pictures of Georgia-May Foote glammed up.  They of course think, ‘hang about, we can cash in on her if we put a bit of make-up on her, a miniskirt and pop in some Carmen rollers’. They might even get a cheeky Nuts shoot out of her.  A Babes of Corrie shoot in a Sunday TV supplement beckons. They need new blood because, of course, you can’t be voted Sexiest Female over the age of 29. I mean Michelle Keegan is over 25 now, almost ready for the knacker’s and so of course will probably be put in a home soon or minced up into the soap equivalent of a Birdseye lasagne. Or Holby City, to call it by its name.

So, the Corrie sixty-minute makeover it is.  Nice, fresh-faced homely female character suddenly turns temptress, working her way around the street with affairs and arbitrary  pairings with any available male. Who all of a sudden notices her. They do however, usually wait until the actress turns 21. It happened to Maria, Rosie, Molly, Tina, hell, even Sunita, but they were pushing it there.  But after that, where do they go?  Nowhere. And herein lies the problem. They just drift into overexposure with no real storyline, or find themselves axed.

But, believe it or not, young women can do more than just have affairs and get involved with random wrong’uns. Audiences can actually enjoy the enduring relationships we see on screen: who could conceive of anybody disliking the pairing of Roy and Hayley? Jack and Vera? Ken and Deidre? Because, as in life, if a pairing is right, it will last. 

Why on earth can’t Kylie actually continue to grow into a character of substance? Why can’t we see her as a successful mother? Why does Katy have to be incapable of fidelity because she’s young? Is it really so boring to represent young mothers in a positive light?

Coronation Street is fundamentally about families and interesting things happen in families. Not just people having affairs. Sometimes, women do stay faithful and most times drama does not have to be out of the ordinary for it to be extraordinary.

There were high hopes for new Corrie producer Stuart Blackburn (mind you, any port in a storm...) but here he is doing it again with recent spoilers of fires, deaths and suicide. Alas, we have again been underestimated. Blackburn can trust Corrie viewers. We’re not like all the rest. This is why we are so hard to please and exactly why we want characters to earn the crown and prove themselves to us. We will tune in for gritty, working-class character-based drama- if we are given it. We don’t need shocks, bombings, fires or sexy pairings. That’s not why we’re here. It never was.

The past few years have been increasingly difficult for families. Given its prominence, how disappointing that Coronation Street hasn’t really been able to provide at least a degree of social commentary, and by this, I don’t mean picking a controversial issue such as rape, and plonking it amongst all the other ‘A Weatherfield Gazette please, Rita’ sorts of goings on in the street in a token attempt to be seen to be “tackling tough social issues”. I mean something that we can look back upon and say that it genuinely reflected British society as it was back then.

With 2.5 million unemployed, when you lose your job, the owner of the local cafĂ© doesn’t pop up and give you a few hours just because you asked. You aren’t made redundant one second, then the next, a card conveniently goes up in the window of your local newsagent and you’re hired without interview. In fact, it has the opposite effect of providing social commentary, for such scenes make it implicit that ‘it’s easy to get a job if you’re looking’ and reinforce already deeply negative stereotypes about the jobless. I don’t know what these positions are paying, but presumably a good solid twenty-five quid an hour to pay the rent or mortgage on a house and support a family, whilst leaving enough disposable income to keep buying these laptops?  Though presumably, people struggling doesn’t provide enough material from which to create any sort of engaging drama.  Alan Bleasdale might disagree.

Corrie suffers greatly from such lack of strivers. I’m not saying families don’t break up. They do. 1 in 3 families is estimated to be a stepfamily.  And yet another trick missed.  Here on Coronation Street, family dynamics are glossed over unless it’s affair-related. Aadi and Asha take to Karl like a duck to water; did they even notice?  Amy welcomed Becky as a second mother without a glitch. It’s all a bit Wife Swap.

Families are immensely complex, intense and problematic and there is scope to explore this and to give women in particular, opportunities to take on roles of substance and show their mettle and of course, to provide a forum for quality characterisation without resorting to courting the bad boys or the tabloids.  Because we’ll never get another Jack and Vera at this rate…

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Anonymous said...

Hear, hear! I also believe Tony Warren might disagree... Look forward to more of your articles.

Humpty Dumpty said...

Couldn't agree more, Anna, excellent post. It's fine that Coronation Street is in a parallel world and has an element of escapism, as with all good drama. I don't want a documentary about social ills but I would find it entertaining to watch people struggling to get by and - this is the point - succeeding. What happened to the Dunkirk spirit of early Corrie residents? And you need at least one person of moral fibre to act as a counterpoint to all the shenanigans. Can't there be one resident who declares 'No, I'm not thieving/having casual sex/doing drugs etc'? (Don't mention Sophie!)When you push back every boundary, what's left?

Janice said...

Well said. Perhaps those Pollyannas will now understand that being a Corrie fan does not mean you take whatever is doled out and love it.

Anonymous said...

What an excellent, thoughtful post. I guess Stuart Blackburn is too busy to read this blog, but I really wish he would read your passionate plea.

Coronation Street is the only soap I would dream of watching and thinking about it, the same is true of most of my acquaintence. We are not watching breathlessly hoping for shots of Ryan in his boxer shourts.

Carly said...

I agree, why does every couple have to split then descend into a life of disgrace without a second thought?? Rather than getting any realism, we are just getting stupid ideas that every other soap uses and it's an insult to what Corrie used to be. It was known for its strong matriarchs who held it all together. We never see any characters genuinely struggling with unemployment or debts, as so many are doing in the north now. They always lose their jobs then get others two seconds later. Yes, those jobs in the caffy certainly pay a comfortable wage, right?? Not. I look forward to more posts!

Anonymous said...

Great post, Anna. Hope you keep 'em coming. You have mirrored my thoughts almost exactly.

Bill Mul said...

Monogamy is a totally foreign concept on Corrie.

Anonymous said...

I've always found it strange on this soap (and of course others) that the females - especially the younger ones- have no more ambition that to pop out a kid or when they're a bit bored or have a fight with their husband, boy-friend or live in lover, the first thing they do is spread their legs for some other bloke. I know it sounds crass, but surely one of the characters on this soap might rise to higher education. I had thought they might do more with Katie, have her go back to school and try to juggle motherhood, school and family life and really depict how hard it is or to try to be a role model to someone younger - Faye perhaps - by bettering herself. The fact that the writers have chosed to destroy yeat another character by putting her into such a predictable plot is shameful. There is no reason given for her to suddenly decide to become involved with another man
other than the writers cannot think of anything else but to do the same thing to her that they did with Sunita's character.

Anonymous said...

Makes you think that Collinson is still pulling the strings I guess his promotion gave him more power than he had before.
I feel sorry for new producer Stuart Blackburn it looks like he's well under Collinson's thumb and things won't get any better.

Anonymous said...

I still don't see the point of Ryan he was brought in as some kind of druggie who was going to raise all kinds of hell and get everyone addicted to cocaine - well that went no where.
Now all he's good for is being whatever the male equivalent of the street bike is unfortunately his acting is so wooden that Norris might as well put a dildo vending machine outside the Kabin, the acting would probably be better.

Anonymous said...

LOL @ Anon 00:08

Anonymous said...

Yes, very witty observations! Well, true yeah I know, Ryan was cast as the street hell raiser, but again after his shocking cocaine storyline, he's become more dead wood floating about. There's no point to him. He could become a really complex character but nope. The acting is too poor. He's the eye candy instead. It could have at least lasted longer than five minutes him being a drug addict.

Anonymous said...

Eye candy? Not in this girl's opinion.

Anonymous said...

Actually after tonights episode, I find him really cringey!

vicky said...

Soaps generally aren't that good at "issues" are they? I don't know whether they think that nobody notices that everyone seems to work in the same street they live in, or whether they just think it's a decent trade-off to have all the action situated on the same few sets. Either way, it would be nice to see someone acknowledge that things aren't good for a lot of people now, especially since this is supposed to be set in Salford where poverty is going through the roof.

The last time I remember Corrie tried to tackle something like this, it was with the Polish lady (Wicki?) who worked in the factory. No alarmist nonsense, no big drama, she was just a nice woman who happened to be from Poland and people were occasionally mean to her for no reason. But then they got rid, so I guess maybe there's no audience for that kind of thing.

Anonymous said...

Yes, that's another thing, aside from wiki, there has never been anybody foreign, has there?

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