Saturday, 28 February 2015

Getting it right when a Rover Returns

Ah, the perils of a returning character. It either works or it doesn't. For me at the moment, Coronation Street is all about the return of that legendary ginger minx, Jenny Bradley. 

This is a joy for me as it brings back memories of one of Corrie's best ever sagas from what I still see as a golden era for the show. So far Sally Ann Matthews has been on fine form, performing the difficult task of bringing life to Jenny over twenty years after her last appearance. 

I think it is working a treat. It is stirring up drama for some of the more established, long standing members of the Corrie cast and that can only be a good thing. The return story is plausible and Sally Ann is clearly relishing being back. I can't wait to see what happens next.

Bringing back former characters is a risky business. It's a gamble that can pay off, rewarding long-time viewers with references to the past, although sometimes they can just get it wrong. I think the main principles for bringing an old character back to Corrie are quite simple. Firstly, the character concerned must still be relevant. They must have current, ongoing links and often unfinished business with regular cast members. Secondly, the actor must be returning to play a character that is still recognisable to enough of the regular, loyal Corrie viewers. Finally, the writers must be able to write authentically for the character and understand both them and their motivations.

Sometimes I do sympathise with the powers that be. They can't do right for doing wrong. Either they are bringing in too many new faces which fans think do not gel or are not right for Corrie or they are bringing back too many old hat characters that have long since past their sell by dates.

Some recent returns have been surprisingly good. Jenny aside, I found myself enjoying CIlla's brief visit to Weatherfield last year. I was never much of a fan of Cilla during her original stint, she was always too extreme and too pantomime for my tastes. However the toned down, vulnerable CIlla we saw more recently worked well and felt a lot more believable. One of my favourite returning characters of recent years has to be Wendy flamin' Crozier. Coming from the same period as Jenny Bradley, the Ken-Deirdre-Wendy triangle of the late 1980s was superb. Roberta Kerr just seemed to pick up where she left off and it was great to see her back to upset the Barlow applecart.

Sometimes though, we are left scratching our heads and wondering where it all went wrong. Step forward Julie Goodyear, former queen of the Rovers Return as the iconic Bet Lynch. I loved our Bet - the comedy, the drama, the frocks, she had it all. The ill-advised come back in 2002 left a sour taste in the mouth as both Ms Goodyear and the viewing public quickly realised too much water had flowed down the Irwell since her last appearance in 1995. Some things are best left in the past as glorious, camp memories. 

At least the character of Bet remained true to herself on her much heralded return. The same cannot be said for others. I loved Sunita when she first appeared in 2001. She was sweet, kind and easy to love. Her come back in 2009 proved otherwise. She returned to Dev, they did a crazy, Nazir-like move into the street and the writers morphed her into a vamp, a seductress with the morals of something you'd find up the ginnel late at night. The same can be said of Dev's errant daughter Amber. She was the funny, sharp kid for a while, then left only to return solely to ruin Sawphie's relationship with Sian. It didn't work at all. Of the current cast, we have returnee Todd, another previously mainly decent character who has now inherited the warped mind of the tricyle riding child from The Omen. I think we are finally due an explanation of what the devil has happened to him.

There are always characters I would still love to see make a return to Weatherfield, whether for a special one off appearance or for a longer stint. Everyone has their own wish list of those they'd love to come back, so here is mine:

1. Mavis WIlton. Oh for one final glimpse of our Mave. I want this so badly I was over the moon just to hear her name mentioned recently when Rita went to stay with her. Seeing Barbara Knox and Thelma Barlow reunited for that special documentary at Christmas was an absolute joy. It would be wonderful to see RIta and Emily visit Mavis at her guest house for a special episode. Go on, Corrie, make it happen.

2. Eddie Windass. Why Corrie ever got rid of the fantastic Eddie Windass I'll never know. He was a classic Coronation Street character in the making. He was lazy, work shy and needed a good going over with a damp flannel yet he still managed to turn out beautiful cakes for any occasion. Now that we are seeing the back of Owen, isn't it time Gary went to look for old Eddie, bringing him back to Weatherfield and reuniting him with Anna?

3. Suzie Birchall. One of my all time favourite Corrie women, Suzie epitomised the golden Corrie era of the late 1970s. Indeed, Suzie really brought Corrie into that decade with a bang. I loved the set up of Gail, Suzie and Elsie, it really was cracking stuff. Gail rarely mentions Suzie these days, perhaps not surprising considering she tried to pinch her husband Brian back in 1983. In fact, with hindsight, it might have been better for Gail if she'd succeeded. I understand Cheryl Murray has suffered some ill health in recent years but I think it would be terrific to see Suzie turn up on Gail's doorstep one more time. We've had Gail the overpowering mother from hell and we've had Gail the simpering lovestruck bride to be, so why not have Gail having some fun and turning some heads with her old pal?

4. Janice Battersby. Perhaps a bit of a Marmite choice here, but for me her relationship with Leanne was always much more truthful and believable than anything the writers cooked up with Stella. Janice has all but been wiped from our memories which I think is a shame as Vicky Entwistle brought a lot of verve to the role. She wasn't always nice, but she was fiercely protective of her own. I'd like to see Janice back for a visit.

5. Finally, please powers that be, tempt Suranne Jones back for a stint as the wonderful Karen McDonald. Karen has been the only real match for Steve as far as I'm concerned. I loved their fiery relationship and Suranne is a brilliant actress. There are plenty of reasons for her to make a return with the likes of Steve, Liz and Tracy all still in the show. And I for one would love to see her take on Michelle.

So there we have it, my take on the pros and cons of bringing back classic characters to Corrie. The next cab off the rank will be Gail's darling Sarah Lou. We shall have to wait and see how that one goes. 

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Anonymous said...

Would love to see Gloria return with Eva

Humpty Dumpty said...

Timing comes into it. Janice could have come back during the Stella period but it feels as though that ship has sailed. Mavis would be a one-off which would be great. It would be a wonderful romp through old times but the authentic returning character for me is Karen. She was a machinist at the factory which is still there. She could have done very well for herself, perhaps marrying a wealthy man and even have a family. With a solid basis in her life, she zooms up the career ladder and is now a fashion buyer. She could be in Corrie, subject to the actor's availability, for a few episodes but hopefully not in a love cheat story with Steve. I could see Karen becoming great friends with Carla and, through her, Michelle. Steve would hate his ex and his current being good friends. Karen either saves the factory with a huge order or has been sent by her company to buy Carla out. She still has contacts on the Street and would spend some time with Leanne catching up on Janice's life.

The other returner could be Danny Baldwin but Bradley Walsh is far too busy atm.

AmandaB said...

Well said Graeme, great post.

I was afeared that Jenny's return would be a la Bet Lynch, all gob and seeming like a fish out of water, but she's slotted in really well and I hope she stays.

Returners have mostly been underused and badly written as was the awful sad case with Dennis which was such a wasted opportunity.

Your idea for a trip to visit Mavis would work so well. They've not done a holiday away episode for years.

A Raquel return would be interesting, as a successful woman who's back to invest in the area.

But please no Spider!

Graeme N said...

Thanks Amanda! Yes I hated what they did to Dennis

Doll Lady said...

I would like Andy to come back to help Steve, visit his Mom

Frosty the Snowman said...

Frosty is enjoying Jenny's return as the outwardly reformed character full of remorse for the way she treated Rita - why did she have to drag barmy Mary and annoying clingon Norris, and Emily along with her, a one to one between just the two of them, would have been far more believable and more poignant - but we all know there is something simmering under the glorious red hair! There is unfinished business between them so there is a reason for her return, unlike the annoying Sarah Louise Platt but we will have to wait and see. Whoever wants Gloria back obviously has a short memory of what an awful character she was! I wouldnt mind seeing Danny Baldwin back for a short stint but that is not going to happen.

Anonymous said...

Archie Shuttleworth, the cast is lacking an elder gentleman, (apart from Ken and Norris) and Roy Hudd is such a joy to watch !

bbhilda said...

I agree with everything, especially Karen, loved her with Steve more than anyone before or since.

I have a couple more I would like to see back. Kathy Jones as Tricia Hopkins. Also was a friend and roommate of Gail's, and I think she could put a bit of fun back in Gail's life, she can keep Michael if she wants to, but let it move past the 'simpering Gail's in love' stage, as that makes me cringe, and give her a fun friend for distraction.

I would also like to see Curly back. He still has lots of people who know him on the street. He can bring his son with him if he likes, but not his wife. Her character was ruined when they corrupted her. What is it with their compulsion to make every police officer turn bad? There was her, Kirsty and that boyfriend of Janice ( I forget his name) all started out as good police officers, then ended up bent.

While I am on a rant, why too can they not allow women to have a decent career? Immediately to mind is Maya, (lawyer) Jenna, (physiotherapist) and as mentioned already, Kirsty and Emma (policewomen). Jenny went to Uni, and showed great promise, but then turned bad and came to nowt. Charlie Ramsden (teacher) became an alcoholic. There are probably many more.

Shan said...

I would love to see the return of Karen, and have a good rivalry between her and Michelle. I'm not saying a cheating story or having Karen and Steve get back together. It would be nice if things were great for Karen and her return rattles Michelle.

Graeme N said...

I loved Roy Hudd in Corrie as Archie and would be great to see him back, good suggestion!

Anonymous said...

I would also love to see Roy Hudd return and thought there was a missed opportunity to bring Archie Shuttleworth back for Hayley's funeral. the writers had Sophie and Maddie take over the episode instead.
Another character I wish would return would be Toyah[sans Spider]to visit her sister Leeanne now that Eva is leaving soon.but no Janice as I always thought she was mean-spirited revelling in the misery of others and sadly Eileen is slowly but surely becoming like Janice.

Jonathan said...

Suzie Birchill is one character I definitely don't want to return she was a self-obsessed sponger with delusions of grandeur. I was frankly amazed that Gail and particularly Elsie put up with her for so long, since she was always behind with the rent, was lazy at work, got Gail the sack and tried to have it off with Brian purely out of spite.

Anonymous said...

I would love to see Archie, Ted (Gail's dad), Curly, Angie Freeman and YES SPIDER back.

Graeme N said...

I loved Angie and yes it's a shame Ted disappeared

Anonymous said...

I can't stand a Steve-Michelle wedding. Why would Steve marry a woman who belittles him and dates other men under his nose. Let's get rid!

Anonymous said...

I love all of these ideas because they would bring back some interesting folks but also allow others to have some screen time for a change! :)

Louby said...

I'd like to see Shelley come back for a visit, although I can't think of a good reason for her to do so. But I would love to see Tracy unnerved by the appearance of a mini Charlie!

Graeme N said...

That's a great idea! Not sure Sally Lindsay would want to return though you never know!

Graeme N said...

Not keen on them getting married either but at least Michelle has been a bit kinder of late

BarrieT said...

I agree with all your ideas except Janice. I used to like the character but when i saw the actress on big brother recently she appeared so ungrateful. She said she hated how the fans would come up her and talk about Janice and wished she could be taken seriously as an actress and not for being janice battersby. So she doesnt deserve her job back. I'd love to see the baldwin clan back. I thought they really worked as a family, it was just a shame they ruined them in the end with that incestuous story. Theres no reason why jamie and Violet couldnt come back & move into the street. (I know they split up but they could be back together) There could be a custody battle for seans son. I'd like spider & toyah to come back. We need a new alternative couple. They both have links to relatives still on the street. We also need someone for Ken. What about Martha or Denise or Wendy flamin crozier. Even joanna lumley.

Graeme N said...

I've never watched Big Brother Barrie so not seen her on that. I'd like to see Jamie Baldwin again, he was a good character and it would be great to have the Baldwin name back. Toyah was a great character too.

I think it's too soon to be talking about a new on screen partner for Ken though.

abbyk said...

They'll have to do a funeral for Dierde and that would be a natural time to bring Archie back, even for a visit. He was so fond of Blanche, of course he would do a fitting service for her daughter.

Ted was a character with great potential and a good friend for Ken. I'd like to see him back, even if his face had to change.

I'll take anyone who can wipe the simpering out of Gail.

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