Sunday, 20 December 2015

A Christmas on the cobbles

It always feels as though Corrie has been an integral part of Christmas Day forever. There it sits, occupying a regal slot in the schedule, post Doctor Who and pre-mince pies and Downton Abbey. This wasn't always the case though and the Street only appeared on the big day once in the 1960s (1961) and then only once in the 1970s (1972). The latter was the fabled 1940s revue in the ever-expanding Rovers' concert hall which appeared to seat around two thousand. As reviewed earlier, this was an odd little episode, with characters suddenly in cabaret mode, entertaining a throng of odd-looking extras with mad hair.

The next Corrie Christmas, unbelievably, didn't occur until 1985 when viewers happened upon oily barman Frank Mills making merry with deluded Gloria Todd behind Bet's back. There was the usual Barlow misery (save for Tracy who seemed pleased enough with her dull gifts), some irritating nonsense about Sam Tindall's missing plum pudding and Emily hosting one of her fraught Christmas dinners. Festive though, it was.

Although most fans must have watched it several hundred times, the Hilda Ogden departure episode in 1987 remains a delight. This has all there quintessential elements of a good festive drama. Lots of characters bustling around with their preparations. Hilda was lighting the oven one final time in her grim scullery, Audrey pottered into Ivy's full of bonhomie and made a quick exit to the pub where Bet and Alec traded gifts and insults. Plus we had the lovely scenes at number 7 where a giddy Mavis got slowly plastered as the day progressed, much to the amusement of Alan and Jenny. Even minus the sentimentality of Hilda's departure, this stands as a joyous little Christmas Day outing.

Christmas has remained on the cobbles ever since and often followed a certain pattern. There would always be an unlikely gathering around a dinner table such as Emily entertaining Bet and Alec Gilroy or Natalie Barnes sitting down to lunch with Kevin Webster and Jim MacDonald. A crisis might be on the offing - Gail giving birth, Deirdre being kidnapped or Don Brennan attempting suicide.  Comedy has often been at the fore though with the Battersby's gloomily ignoring their road kill turkey, the Duckworths barricading themselves in their bedroom in order to escape Alec Gilroy or Maureen Webster single-handedly destroying the Platt's festive table. All joyous slapstick.

The Corrie Christmas can often descend into corny sentimentality but it has probably been the soap most loyal to the idea of the big day. Unlike the much-maligned Crossroads, it never had a lead character belting out 'We Need a Little Christmas' with the rest of the cast on backing vocals and although Corrie has never reached the dizzy heights of the 1986 EastEnders festive edition (31 million), it has also never killed off one of the show's main characters on Christmas Day. Under a Christmas tree. It's simply not the Weatherfield way.

A few days to go then until, slumped under a surfeit of turkey and sprouts, we see the cobbles transformed into yet another winter wonderland and watch a Christmas crisis with the Connors. We wouldn't have it any other way.

Deirdre: A Life on Coronation Street - official ITV tribute to a soap icon. Available here.

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1 comment:

David said...

There were actually four Christmas Day episode of Corrie in 60s - 1961, 1963, 1967 and 1968.

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