Saturday, 17 May 2014

Five lessons for the Corrie powers that be

I quite frequently long for modern day Coronation Street to be more like it was, back in the day. We all keep watching through habit, affection, loyalty and those brief moments that shine through amidst all the explosive drama.

I do often wonder if the powers that be read the comments on this Blog. 

If they do I want them to watch a few clips of past glories. Images, dialogue and performances that scream Coronation Street to me and why, despite the modern scavenging for ratings, over the top storylines and characters interchangeable with other programmes in the soap genre, I still hold Corrie so close to my heart. 

For all the Michelle Connors they throw at us, there will always be Annie Walker. For all the funeral punch-ups they subject us to, there will always be Hilda crying over Stan's specs. For all the Corrie cat fights that are here today and forgotten tomorrow there will be clips of Elsie, Bet and Rita showing them how it's really done.

So here for me are a few reasons why Corrie will always be great and a few lessons the powers that be can still learn.

Take this scene from the first ever episode. It sets everything up so well and it's all in the dialogue and the cracking performance of Violet Carson, hitting the ground running as Ena Sharples.

The Rovers Return has always been the centre of Corrie. It needs a strong Landlady and that Landlady needs a rival...and there were never finer competitors than Annie Walker and Nellie Harvey:

Corrie is all about the female characters for me. Strong, yet vulnerable, they rightly dominate the men and the show itself. We've seen many cat-fights in Corrie's 53-year history. While I love a bit of a scuffle on the cobbles, they just don't seem to live up to the hype these days. This next scene, from not all that long ago, is a classic - two legendary Corrie women at the top of their game:

As viewers we always need couples that stay together long enough so we can root for them through good times and bad. Today for example we have Tyrone and Fiz and Maria's daft texting meltdown. Or there is the ever expanding, ever imploding Windass-Armstrong tedium. For me, you can't get better than the Ogdens. They were often down, but never out:

Finally, everyone always has to leave in an explosive fashion these days. All I have to do is mention the increasingly bloated Peter/Tina/Carla love triangle which will hopefully be burst with a pin soon thanks to TIna's dramatic departure. It's supposed to pull in more viewers and prove so memorable we're talking about it for the days and weeks to come. I'm sure social media will be ablaze in the aftermath, but personally I'll just be glad when it's done. My favourite Corrie exit is very simple but very atmospheric. Leaving in a black cab doesn't have to be dull, as Elsie Tanner shows us here:

I might be sentimental and we might never see such wonderful characters again, but I honestly do believe there are qualities in all of these clips that can still form the basis for Corrie in 2014. Memorable moments these days are rare, but I'll keep on plugging away as I'm sure improvements will come.  

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Anonymous said...

Agreed. On every count.

Kristine said...

Bravo for this. Back in the day, it was strong writing, storyline development and the understated acting by talented actors that made us really care what happened to Rita, Hilda, Ivy and the rest. When something "big" happened to anyone, it wasn't a sensationalized "big," i.e. an hysterical cat fight. It was only big in that characters' life, as when Ernest or Len died, or when Mavis and Derek both failed to show up for the wedding. Nothing outsized, nothing sordid or shocking, just every day events that seemed "big" to us because we knew what they meant in lives of the characters we grew to love. And we loved each of them, good and bad, because they were so well drawn, by both the writers and actors who played them.

Anonymous said...

Graeme, once again you've reduced me to tears. You have such a way with putting things together, and finding all those clips, well! Thank you, and please never give up blogging.

Anonymous said...

Agree 100%. I too long for the characters of old. Far too much bed hopping these days; I can't keep track of who used to be with who.

Anonymous (from Canada)

Anonymous said...

I have been thinking about these very things recently.

When an actor decides to leave the program, why can't they just move away for the reason most people move: a new job, etc? Why does every departure have to be "explosive"?

And why don't any married couples put some effort into working through the hard times and save their marriages? I wonder whether we will ever again see long lasting marriages such as that of Jack and Vera.

Anonymous said...

Nailed it again, Graham! As I watched these I realized that what these snippets demonstrate is what today's writing lacks - whimsy, and, most of all, WIT! Wit is hard. It takes, well, wit; which is to say, cleverness and humour, and that takes intelligence and education, both of which seem on the decline these days. Today's episodes are like a sledgehammer, compared to the scalpel of the past.
Graham, you've thrown down a gauntlet, which, sadly, today's writers seem incapable of picking up. Whether that's due to the demands of five episodes a week, with a bloated cast, or just the 140 character "sound-bite" mentality creeping in to today's thinking, is hard to say, but either way it's a sad loss.

Humpty Dumpty said...

Well written as always, Graeme.

Although actors might have been hired in the early days partly because of their appearance eg Elsie had to be attractive for the role, these days it seems actors get hired primarily on looks. How is it that Michelle, Katy, Sophie and numerous others become part of the furniture when the actors clearly can't do the job? There must be hundreds of talented actors just waiting for the chance to get a part in Corrie.

Talia said...

May I say that I agree with Anonymous No.1 and Kristine, you said it SO well! Exactly so, imo.
and Anonymous No. 3, I absolutely second your opinion and have thought as much myself.
Thank you Graeme your comments are always in line with my own thoughts and you certainly do have a way of putting your thoughts down so well.

Beth said...

Superb as always Graeme!

lizzirizzard said...

Beautifully written thank you

John McE said...

Wonderful clips, perfectly demonstrating why us older viewers still long for the days of Annie, Elsie, Bet etc.

And why also, we still long for the first 20 years to get a full airing on one of ITVs endless channels. They can repeat far less popular shows, so why in God's name can't they show the most popular show in the land?

There is one other thing these vintage clips demonstrate - how much better it is to have some long scenes between two characters, which allow verbal to and fro. These date such scenes are almost invariably chopped up into small pieces, with cuts between two or more stories ruining the drama that can develop between two characters.

Graeme N said...

Thank you for all your lovely comments, glad you enjoy the old clips as much as I do :)

Anonymous said...

Thank you Graeme for posting these clips.
How I appreciate now the relative simplicity of the show back then.
I'm reminded of how much, over the many years, I cared for these characters as if I knew them, for indeed, I felt then I did.
The show today reflects the way life is for many these days, just as the show reflected the way things were then.
People's problems and emotions and ways of reacting haven't changed, but the presentation has, everything must be faster- paced and more exciting than the last crisis. Marriages break down quicker and more frequently today because fewer people have the patience to persist. In one tiny street the marital problems and 'bed-hopping' shown amongst the street residents is a bit much.
I now see what people mean when they describe the show back then as being 'character driven' as opposed to 'plot driven'.
I miss the old formula, and unlike you Graeme, sadly I've stopped hoping for a return in the way the show is presented, but I hope you'll always provide us with your hopeful comments and wishes for the show's future; they make good reading.

Graeme N said...

Kristine, I completely agree with your comments, well said

Kristine said...

Thanks to all who seconded my opinions! John McE - so right, character development is key. As others have said, the writers/producers/powers that be seem to be under the impression that they have to dazzle viewers with too many characters, many fast moving scenes and sensationalism in order to keep them interested. Not so! Wish they'd cull the cast and plot lines and go back to the core values of the original shows. I'm new to Corrie and started with the 70's episodes on YouTube a few months ago. I'm up to 1994 and, to be honest, am cringing at the thought of entering the 2000's.

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