Friday, 19 February 2016

Our Mutual Friend

Watching Coronation Street of late, for me, has felt like sitting alone in a room peering at a dear, old friend through the window. I’m certain it’s my friend, as I can recognise them, but something about them has changed, and I’m left feeling rather puzzled and uneasy.

My heart hopes that my kindred spirits share the same concerns and fears for our mutual friend as I do, but as we look on collectively, we do so as individuals in an unusual relative silence, so I cannot be sure. My deflation and fatigue sees me go inward to reflect, and I’m uninspired to pen my concerns.

This is in part because negativity tends to breed negativity, and I am already feeling enough of that. In truth, when our friend is at their best, my words flow like Newton and Ridleys at a Rovers showdown; at its worst, they’re as abundant as the solitary Hobnob languishing at the bottom of the Streetcars biscuit jar.

Another motivation for hovering in the wings is loyalty. No friend worth their salt finds it easy to abandon another, or renounce them utterly to the world, and so we keep the faith as we look and hope for the best. But sometimes that’s not easy. What keeps us going, is that we’ve stuck together through thick and thin, and we know how good our friend can be.

Anyone who reads my reviews and opinion pieces knows I’m not afraid to be critical where it’s warranted, and while I have continued to do so, of late, it felt as if a relative hush had descended about how we truly feel about Corrie at the moment. While we tweeted, blogged and commented about our friend and their current shortcomings, and voiced our despair at the news that ahead lay domestic abuse, drug addiction and assault (yet again), most of us appeared to stop short of verbalising any deep seated concerns. Perhaps, I thought, I’m the only one feeling this way; as above, I couldn’t be sure.

On Tuesday of this week, something changed. Our blogger Graeme wrote his brilliant piece, My Corrie Quandary, in which he provided a very astute account of both the positives and the negatives of contemporary Coronation Street. It felt as if the canal gates were permitted to be opened, and many readers sailed forth to say how they were feeling. I found it to be therapeutic and cathartic, and his second blog concerning Toxic Tracy, had the same effect. I felt liberated by everyone’s words, and assured that I wasn’t alone.

For me, it is absolutely essential that any criticism is balanced and respectful, and so it was a joy to read both of these blogs, and the comments that appeared beneath them. Us Coronation Street fans can be very proud. We are an articulate, intelligent, loyal and perceptive bunch, and it is for these very reasons that lapses in the quality of what we are seeing can be so disappointing and frustrating.

In her 1991 study of prime time soaps, Christine Geraghty observed, “‘Soap’ was a term of derision, an expression which implied an over-dramatic, under-rehearsed presentation of trivial dramas blown up out of all proportion to their importance.” Soap's well deserved reputation as something worthy, of cultural and critical value, has been hard won, and Coronation Street has played a huge part in achieving this. The fact that it attracts people such as ourselves as loyal viewers is a testament to its quality. I personally can’t bear the thought of soap adopting the very lowest common denominator traits it was so unfairly criticised for in the past.

We will always have drama, and we will always need to suspend our disbelief, but the realism and quality derives from the subtle nuances of performance, authenticity of dialogue, faithful adherence to history and characterisation, and believability in the day to day from which the spectacular arises.

While storylines naturally move with the times, Coronation Street should never worry that it needs to change the characteristics and values that lie at its core, the very reasons we love it, in order to attract new fans. It turned 55 in December and continues to draw in excess of 7 million viewers per episode; a phenomenal feat considering the choices 21st century audiences have with regard to what they can watch and the means by which they can view it. Indeed, altering to adapt to a perceived ‘new audience’ could prove damaging and, to my mind, is wholly unnecessary; is it not Corrie's unique qualities that have seen it appeal to and survive through generations to be the longest running soap opera in the world?

So, with my loyalty and faith intact, my final wish for our mutual friend is this: stay true to who you are, and all we know you can be. This is, after all, why you hold such an important place in our hearts, and those of the generations of viewers before us.

By Emma Hynes
www.emmahynes.wordpress.com
Twitter: @ELHynes

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26 comments:

Tvor said...

Perfect.

Newfy Pearl said...

You are not alone.

Graeme N said...

Lovely piece Emma, agree with everything you've said.

Humpty Dumpty said...

A very thoughtful piece.

I wonder if we’re a strange bunch here, helping each other to see faults (and, of course, joys) which we might not have seen on our own. Once you see a fault, it seems to grow bigger like a stain on the wallpaper. Do we analyse too much for our own good? I have friends who watch Coronation Street simply for superficial entertainment. They're busy texting and tweeting while they watch with half an eye. Maybe they don't see that a storyline has come round again for the umpteenth time. That approach might work for a sitcom but in a soap you really have to care about the characters. And at the moment they’re not so many of those in Corrie.

Anonymous said...

The show's quality has been mediocre at best for quite some time. The storylnes have stretched credibility to tatters and the characters old and new are bland. Nevertheless it bears mentioning now and then when this show sinks to new levels of low. All great results from hit shows stem from good writing. It seems the writers currently on staff are not talented or their bosses have shoehorned them with impossible or unreasonable demands which are contrary to the natural flow of the stories or the various characters, often whom the audience knows so well.

I certainly hope that this malady is remedied or I will just keep missing episodes and pressing the fast forward button...and probably stop watching all together.

DollyTubb said...

A very thoughtful piece, Emma, and I agree with everything you say. Funnily enough I was thinking the same things just the other night. I have watched Corrie almost since the beginning (I was 2 years old when it started so I can't in all honesty say I have watched it since the very first episode!). I was thinking about the things I remember about 'old' Corrie, and it was not so much storylines but little snatches of humorous conversation, such as Deidre trying to decide if she should wear contact lenses or glasses, whilst Len and Jerry tried to carry on working around her. Or Annie and Jack Walker discussing the images they could see in the floral bedroom wallpaper. I wanted to be like Lucille Hewitt when I grew up, and dance on the bar of the Rovers Return. And then there was racy Suzie Birchall, and the scene with her in a bedroom with a man (gasp!) buttoning up her two top buttons (gasp and gasp again!) and the memory of my dad burying his face in the paper with embarresment, because the whole family settled down to watch Corrie back then. Nowadays, I can go whole weeks of not watching Corrie and not feel as though I've missed anything. My memories of 'nuCorrie' are tedious rehashes of implausible and forgettable storylines. I feel personally betrayed and that TPTB have also betrayed the rich legacy of sensitive, nuanced and thoughtful writing of the past.
It's amazing that something as comparatively unimportant as a soap opera can make folk feel this way isn't it? I have suggested before a national/international 'Don't watch Corrie day'. Sadly I don't think it would work. TPTB seem to be happy that they get several million viewers per episode. The penny hasn't dropped that with better, more creative and more balanced sorting they might get even more viewers.

Humpty Dumpty said...

A very interesting post. I wonder if we’re a strange bunch here, helping each other to see faults (and, of course, joys) which we might not have seen on our own. Once you see a fault, it seems to grow bigger like a stain on the wallpaper. Do we analyse too much for our own good? I have friends who watch Coronation Street simply for superficial entertainment. They're busy texting and tweeting while they watch with half an eye. Maybe they don't see that a storyline has come round again for the umpteenth time. That approach might work for a sitcom but in a soap you really have to care about the characters. And at the moment there aren't many of those in Corrie.

Anonymous said...

There is just so much nastiness in the street nowadays which characters don't comment on. Tonights episode showed Anna, a long term resident, smash up a van with little consequence other than a snippet from Eileen. There are bitchy spats left right and centre and then a cut straight to our working class characters eating out at the bistro...again! Everybody is double crossing each other, sleeping with each other, swindling each other but to be quite honest the viewers don't care because they don't particularly like the characters being double crossed or conned to start with. Look how things have changed, in 1998 when Deidre was conned by Jon the nation was in uproar. We cared deeply about Deidre having invested in her for so many years, so much to the point that our outrage became a national campaign of justice. Who cares whether _Phelan has done Anna a misjustice? I for one don't give two hoots about her because she is a nasty piece of work a lot of the time. I don't care whether Kev splits up with her, whether she has money troubles etc because she has no redeeming qualities. I am fed up of seeing scenes of Rita being narky at the Kabin. Where are the scenes where she is actually pleasant to the customers nowadays? Where is the warmth behind the bar in the rovers? TPTB are at last using the corner shop as a warm hearted place in the community after years of Sophie snapping at folk as they buy their goods so at least there's hope there.I sincerely hope that the new producer realises that loyal viewers don't necessarily want to see residents fighting bitchy fights, hopping into bed and conning each other and instead introduces some real family troubles back into our favourite show or else the street will just become a carbon copy of all the rest of the tat thats on the box these days. - Micky

Anonymous said...

When I think of the original Corrie, I think of the current crime drama TV; gritty and real. If crime writers can make murder, rape and mayhem seem as real as their complex characters, why can't Corrie writers do the same with everyday life? I really question the quality of both storyliners and writers on this show and why things seem to have strayed from drama to fluff in such a short time. It is like all the folks involved in creating and directing dialogue have forgotten that these are supposed to feel like real things happening to real people rather than cardboard cutouts moving through their motions. Perhaps it's because the show runs too many days a week?

Anonymous said...

To Emma - all I can say is wow!!! I'm not sure if you are a professional writer/author - if you are not then you seriously need to consider it. I was absolutely blown away by your words and your writings. You expressed so many ideas that we all share, but you expressed them so eloquently that I still feel moved by your words. Golly if your sentiments and words cannot move TPTB than there truly is no hope for us, the long time viewers of Corrie. I can only dream of the fine productions that could be made if you (Emma),Graeme and Jordan got together to produce a TV series. I think I read somewhere that the actors that play Nick, David and Owen had started a production company??? - maybe you should all collaborate and produce some wonderful drama. Who knows where that could lead????

Beth said...

There are some beautiful writers on this blog. This piece shows that as does Graeme's writing, Jordan, Clinkers, Flamin Nora and others. Dolly Tubb, above has commented so eloquently so there's not much more to add other than these days I get more from reading a blog and the comments about the show than the show itself!

Louby said...

I love to read the blogs and the comments that follow. I totally agree with anon at 22.29 about caring about the characters we are viewing and it made me feel quite sad to think back.

I didn't see it Monday, and only part 2 last night, and I don't feel as if I've missed much. Maybe I could take a break until Roy returns. Or until the dreadful Carla exit storyline is over.

I don't really have any faith that Corrie will ever really return to the way it was when it was a joy to watch.

Anonymous said...

I don't like to be negative, or to spread negativity, but having been a loyal Corrie fan since a child, & not knowingly ever missed an episode, I'm afraid this week's atrocious set of episodes has pushed that loyalty to breaking point. So horrific was last night's first episode that I had absolutely no desire to watch the second episode.

The one beacon of hope is that Kate Oates will soon be at the healm. However, she's going to have to make some deep dive changes to the production team who are responsible for writing the absolute trite we are seeing on the screen, so it's not going to be a quick fix by any means.

The soaps all fluctuate over time in terms of quality, and it's my understanding that the death knell was ringing for Eastenders not so long ago, but is now top of its game. Therefore I have hope that Corrie can get back on track, though it's veered way, way off course.

Anonymous said...

I sometimes think back and laugh when most of the comments on the blog page were aimed at how much we disliked Phil Collinson - now look where we are? You know the old saying "better the devil you know than........"

Anonymous said...

It's really sad when a long -serving, much loved character leaves, especially when the actor sadly passes away. Some characters are irreplaceable and I think if you've watched Corrie for a long time it's almost a disadvantage because you can remember how good it used to be. However, this doesn't excuse the terrible modern scripts, plots and lack of character development. There are exceptions with people like Tim who was initially not very pleasant but has developed into a likeable character. But mostly any new characters nowadays have rather nasty traits.

Emma Hynes said...

Thank you Tvor

Emma Hynes said...

Thats heartening to know Newfy Pearl, thank you.

Emma Hynes said...

Thanks for this Graeme, and for your blogs which really helped foster discussion.

Emma Hynes said...

Thank you DollyTubb, I'm glad you enjoyed it. Thanks too for sharing those lovely memories of Corrie past.

Emma Hynes said...

Thank you Humpty. I would argue that Corrie is worthy of our analysis, and while soap's origins meant it was designed for you to be able to tune in while being engaged on other tasks, I feel those who choose to watch with half an eye are missing out on all it has to offer. Maybe they're simply not interested in engaging with it on a deeper level. I guess there are, perhaps, different types of viewers, and different levels of engagement available depending on your preference. I think the number of us who find viewing to be an enriching rather than a superficial experience remains substantial, and I believe it's possible to serve both kinds of fans at the same time. You are spot on about the need to care, and that's a necessity for all fans.

Emma Hynes said...

Thank you so much for those lovely words Anon @ 01:45.

Emma Hynes said...

Thank you Louby, always great to hear that readers enjoy our blogs.

Emma Hynes said...

Thank you for that Beth, glad to hear you enjoy our blogs.

Anonymous said...

Excellent blog, Emma. Corrie at the moment for me isn't so much a friend, but it's like having an old aunty in the room with you. She's much loved but she's farted and no one has the guts to tell her.

Anonymous said...

Anon 16:36 you made me chuckle with that one. I haven't laughed much about Corrie these days so it was a nice relief.

Anonymous said...

Thanks! From Calgary, Alberta.

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