Tuesday, 27 January 2015

The end of a Corrie era?


Coronation Street and everyone connected with it has suffered a particularly traumatic start to the new year. Issues surrounding the casting of the new, grown up Bethany Platt have caused negative headlines, 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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27 comments:

AmandaB said...

Totally agree Graeme.

Maybe we should get to meet Mary's mother in 2015 - Peggy Mount would have been marvelous in the part, but alas is no longer with us.

Humpty Dumpty said...

There are some great mature actresses around: Lynda Baron, Pam Ferris, Liza Tarbuck, all of whom could find a slot in Corrie. I could see Pam Ferris as Mary's mother.

Nikki NZ said...

I wouldn't be surprised if Bill Roach decided to retire - perhaps coinciding with the 55th anniversary in December.

He's now in his 80s. With the death of his wife a few years back, the more recent stress of the criminal charges and now the death of close friend, Anne Kirkbride and loss of his onscreen partner (on top of Peter Gascoigne's departure) who would blame him if he realised that his heart was no longer in playing Ken?

Graeme N said...

I really hope he doesn't Nikki

Graeme N said...

I agree Humpty Dumpty, any of those you mention would be super.

AmandaB said...

I was thinking that too last week that he might retire this year.

abbyk said...

Deride was certainly a foundation upon which so many stories and relationships were built, but her loss has not left the street flapping in the breeze. The are other characters with roots just as deep and wide and the first who comes to mind is David Platt. He has gone from a little boy with a pet bunny to a demon seed who pushed his mom down the stairs to world's best dad. And took about 20 years to do so. That bit on Monday with Gail being dead might have played as pure fun for new viewers but for us long termers it worked because it drew upon his time as the devil incarnate. No one else could have pulled it off. He does need a male friend (oh I wish they could bring back Graeme Proctor) but he is well integrated into every facet of the street. I only hope they can find a way to keep him, Jason, and other interesting young'uns on the show.

As far as matriarchs, when she isn't shouting, Yasmeen can be interesting. She has a respectful friendship with Roy and leads Sharif by his ear. I cannot understand why she and Ken haven't bumped into each other -- he practically lived at the library and surely must know her. I'd like a Rovers scene with Audrey and Yasmeen commiserating over Leanne please.

Rosie said...

Kens retirement crossed my mind too, if he did, that would just leave Tracy to carry the Barlow banner, unless they decide to bring in one of Kens many offspring, they must all be grown up by now.
And I would love to meet Mary's mother, there are a lot of older actresses out there who would fit the bill.

Shan said...

A few days before Anne passed away, I was thinking about some of the older characters and how, given that life is fleeting, we don't know how long they will be on our screens (not being morbid, just thinking about people retiring, working less, and unfortunately passing...though Anne was not one of the ones that crossed my mind.)
That thought made me wish they would give some more time to the older characters. I'm young and enjoy the characters the same age as me, but there is a different class to the more mature actors. It's a different humour and a different warmth and I love when they are on the screen. It saddens me to see people like Emily used pretty much as seat fillers in the Rovers.

ChiaGwen said...

For all the time on Ken's hands, why has he not visited the Community Centre....surely he can't be reading ALL day long? Bring in Mary's mother, perhaps to sort out Norris once and for all! I don't believe I have ever heard Roy or Anna make reference to his mother since she left and agree some references to characters past are needed.

Anonymous said...

It would be ideal if they wrote Deirdre out by revealing that she found a beautiful yet civilized outdoor sanctuary to both create, display and sell her pottery with people of like mind. Being right up Ken's alley and giving him space and time to write that secret detective novel series he's always had in the back of his mind, he can gracefully exit to join her in retirement there.

Anonymous said...

Great idea, anon. 19:01

Graeme N said...

A lovely idea. However they write the character out, I hope it is a fitting farewell. I'm sure they'll do her proud

Anonymous said...

I still can't believe when Betty died, her sister Maggie Clegg wasn't even mentioned! but on another note I would love to see Mary's Mother too I could imagine actress Ruth Madoc as her Mum ! also what about bringing in Emily's sister, Norah Seddon , she was last seen at Ernie's funeral, and if the character of Dierdre is to pass away, I do hope we seen the return of the brilliant Roy Hudd as Archie Shuttleworth!

Nikki NZ said...

i hope not too, Graeme. But my head thinks it is a strong possibility.

Nikki NZ said...

I too love the older characters. But I suspect that the work schedule has simply become too gruelling for them.

With five episodes per weeks (at least 2 too many IMO), a character embroiled in a major storyline must work around the clock - literally if they have to film night scenes. It is unrealistic to expect those over 65 to work that hard. And it could well be burning out some of the better, younger, actors too hence the departure of key characters who might otherwise have had more longevity (eg Katherine Kelly, Peter Gascoigne, Michelle Keagen).

MelindaWarren said...

I still can't believe she is dead...in real life! The show won't be the same without her.

All I keep thinking is what is Tracy going to do without her mum! Ken can't leave....they can't leave Tracy with no family to support her.

They tribute show they do for Deirdre is going to be so hard to watch....

Anonymous said...

I recently lost both of my parents - one to cancer, the other to Alzheimer's - all at the same time. This makes me identify with what Melinda Warren says about Tracy and the possibility of her becoming the oprhan of the street. In a nanosecond, she's lost most if not all of her family, save Amy. An interesting reversal of fortune for our villainess.

Anonymous said...

I agree that all the older characters have been sidelined and Deirdre it has to be said was also very badly neglected by the writers in recent years with only fleeting appearances and few storylines of her own.

I too worry about how the show will withstand the loss of its last great mainstay characters and also how much longer the likes of Ken, Rita and Emily will be able to soldier on for.

Strange as it might seem to say it, maybe the tragic passing of Anne Kirkbride will be a wake up call for the writers and encourage them to give the older characters a fuller role in the show.

It is also a timely reminder that they will not be with us for ever so make the most of these characters while they can.

Graeme N said...

Well said Anonymous!

Zagg said...

Ken, Audrey, Rita, Emily, Doris, Liz, Ken's new love interest, Roy's Mom Sylvia, Gail's dad Tim, Rita's husband Dennis; Some of Corrie's mature folk who deserve(d) more.
It's obvious that the corrie controllers are turning this soap into a young and younger and dumb and dumber crew. It's all about EXPLOSIVE storylines and Huge ratings over who's the hunkiest or the sexiest.

Anonymous said...

slippery slope.

Anonymous said...

I still can't quite believe we are never going to see Deirdre again. Over the last few years, she has really shone and there have been so many times when her one-liners have made my stomach hurt because I've laughed so much. A wonderful actress and character who will be sorely missed.

It is a shame that Corrie couldn't hold onto Stephanie Cole. I think we only saw 10% of how good Sylvia could be.

- I would like to see Carla Connor's father and aunt turn up with dark secrets, revelations and lots of drama.

- I would also like to see more Barlows.

- Audrey and Gail need some good material and maybe a return for Claudia.



Zagg said...

Is someone posting with my name ZAGG? That seems kind of odd. That above post at 12:10 is definitely not mine. I didn't think names could be duplicated. It's not like it's a common name either. So, I guess I have to say, I am not a big fan of whoever this is.

Anonymous said...

I commend Stephanie Cole for putting personal matters above a storyline. I hope Kirkbride's involvement in a punishing work schedule wasn't what prevented them spotting her health problem sooner. What we as viewers want is not always best for the actors, especially as they get older.

Humpty Dumpty said...

Re: the Zaggs, I saw a posting from someone with a very similar name to mine which I commented on. My doppelganger was using rather coarse language which I didn't want people to think was coming from me.

Zagg said...

I completely understand that Humpty. It's just weird that someone would use someone else's obscure name on a forum. It's not like I'm using Julie or Mary.
Be your own person, please.

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