Friday, 4 July 2014

Come on Corrie, get a grip!

I've been commenting *moaning* on Twitter a lot over the past few days about the current state of Coronation Street. I've been watching Corrie since the early 1990s and mostly I've watched religiously. I'm worried though that I'm now starting to slip away from my favourite telly programme.

I started watching Corrie really just because it was on. My mum always watched it, as did my gran. It was part of life. At the tail end of the pre-digital age it still commanded massive viewing figures without having to resort to desperate measures to encourage people to tune in. Corrie had just gone to three episodes a week but we were yet to experience Sunday episodes, double episodes on a Monday and Friday or entire week long "specials". 

Corrie wasn't repeated on other ITV channels immediately after it was shown, there was no catch-up service and hardly any special documentaries. It was shown at 7.30pm three times a week and that was that. And for us, then, it was enough. Corrie was a treat to watch. It was a viewing highlight. 

Competing in a multi-channel media age is harming my favourite soap opera. Ratings are the most important factor. This means the schedules are saturated with Corrie, still an ITV cash cow. Everything is explosive. There are so many twists and turns I'm left exhausted, but I just don't really care like I did. Opportunities are missed for classic characters like Deirdre, Audrey and Emily while the likes of Tina, Peter and Rob dominate continuously without a let up.

Not every character needs to bed hop. We don't need to be subjected to an explosive exit every time a Weatherfield regular leaves. Every character must experience an extreme, there's no middle ground any more.

Whatever happened to small things happening to normal characters that affected them in a big way? These days massive events happen to characters at such regular intervals that all believability is lost. It was always the simple, quiet, tender moments that made me watch The Street. We, the viewer, tuned in to see things happen to our favourite characters that could or indeed had happened to us. There was empathy, a shared history and truth. The dialogue was sharp, funny and warm. We still get snatches of these wonderful qualities but more often than not we get characters behaving badly, the dialogue spiteful and cruel at times. 

I recently watched two classic Corrie episodes from 1992 on Youtube. Not that long ago really, but the difference in quality, storytelling and all round performances was striking. In the first episode Alma Sedgwick married Mike Baldwin while Don Brennan went off the rails. In the second, Lisa Duckworth gave birth to Tommy while Rita's husband Ted passed away. Both episodes featured big life events - marriage, infidelity, the arrival of new life and the ending of another. Big events for any of us but portrayed realistically and with feeling. 

The other striking aspect of both episodes was that they displayed a quality Coronation Street used to portray so so well. Switching from comedy to tragedy, light to shade, with such ease. Showing one marriage begin while another reaches the end of the road and the creation of new life while another is snuffed out may seem predictable but the combination really does prove effective. 

These days such qualities are far less in evidence as far as I can see. There has been far too much doom and gloom of late and very little humour. The Powers that Be need to enlist the help of the Corrie archivist to demonstrate how cracking working class storytelling used to be done. 

I know times change and many aspects of the old Coronation Street wouldn't pass muster in this more sophisticated modern age but I really strongly believe that the original qualities of Corrie, dating all the way back to December 1960, can still be relevant today. 

I saw something online earlier this week quoting Russell T Davies, creator of Queer As Folk, saying that the future of soap operas was now looking rather shaky and wondering whether they would all survive another ten years. 


I sincerely hope Corrie does survive and goes on to flourish for many more years to come. I do however, think it needs to look back so it can move forward. 


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29 comments:

Stephen Feldman said...

Applause! I so feel the same as yourself. I've been watching Corrie regularly for over 15 years now when I met my wife who re-introduced me to it after I immigrated to Canada. When I travel for work, I really don't miss the show anymore and don't often watch the saved recordings my wife would watch while I was away... like you, I just don't care about these characters anymore like I used to (when it was MUST SEE TV). Right now, with my wife out of town, I just have no interest in viewing it and I'm sure there are many others that feel the same way. Yes, Corrie has won many awards over the last year... but let's look at that... it was won primarily around the Haley storyline about people we CARE ABOUT. I can't point to one character on the street right now I would give a toss about if they left tomorrow... I've lost interest due to the recycled storylines, unbelieveable personality transformations and way too many characters we need to keep track of, yet only see the same dozen ALL THE TIME! I plead to SB and the writers to get a grip and take us back to the glory years of a smaller cast that we get a chance to know and care about that has humor, not this 'explosive' crap we see all the time that we are now getting desensitized to. Corrie's biggest challenge now is keeping their viewing audience and making the most of their new investment in the new production site... keep up with what you are doing and it will be a ghost town in 5 years. Mark my words. :-(

mayann57 said...

My feelings exactly.

Anonymous said...

Well said!

Anonymous said...

I go back to the early 70's when Corrie relied on clever dialogue and strong characters who all lived in a typical terrace in the NW. Now, the terrace has lost its identity, the story-lines are ridiculous, sorry, "explosive" and, just recently, they have tampered with the ethnic balance of the cast to such an extent that it is barely recognisable. This should have been done steadily with the emphasis on quality (Kal's wooden father is not quality!). Has there ever been a Jewish family? It is set in the Salford area after all. Bring back Maureen Lipman and a family? Overall, it's a mess. It's lost it's 1960's Salford backbone. It doesn't have to be up to date, nobody lives in a street like that anyway. Oh, and the Crossroads Gym has to go!!!

Talia said...

Graeme, your posts are so well-written; beautiful really, so well-thought out, so genuine, I actually felt a catch in my throat.
Seriously, as I do feel your great disappointment in this once wonderful show.
I agree with everything you've said, particularly paragraph 6.
Whatever did happen to small things happening to normal characters that affected them in a big way?
I can't tell you how unhappy I am that this once great show has changed so much.
I didn't say it got worse, as that's my own opinion and I know I don't speak for many viewers.
It is sad though to know that even if the show chugs along and churns out eps for a few more years, many long time viewers will have already tuned out by then.
Thank you Graeme for speaking so expressively on behalf of so many of us.

AmandaB said...

Absolutely agree.

Don't like the sensationalism and constant barrage of the same characters pushed in our faces every episode, plus its always the ones I don't like. Significant I feel is the fact that I don't remember not liking any characters way back in the day, certainly not the case now.

Anonymous said...

You're whining for something that clearly won't return. Producers have caught on that these "big events" and mean spirited scripts and characters make for better ratings. Sorry, but you're just waiting your breath.

Stephen Feldman said...

Applause! I so feel the same as yourself. I've been watching Corrie regularly for over 15 years now when I met my wife who re-introduced me to it after I immigrated to Canada. When I travel for work, I really don't miss the show anymore and don't often watch the saved recordings my wife would watch while I was away... like you, I just don't care about these characters anymore like I used to (when it was MUST SEE TV). Right now, with my wife out of town, I just have no interest in viewing it and I'm sure there are many others that feel the same way. Yes, Corrie has won many awards over the last year... but let's look at that... it was won primarily around the Haley storyline about people we CARE ABOUT. I can't point to one character on the street right now I would give a toss about if they left tomorrow... I've lost interest due to the recycled storylines, unbelieveable personality transformations and way too many characters we need to keep track of, yet only see the same dozen ALL THE TIME! I plead to SB and the writers to get a grip and take us back to the glory years of a smaller cast that we get a chance to know and care about that has humor, not this 'explosive' crap we see all the time that we are now getting desensitized to. Corrie's biggest challenge now is keeping their viewing audience and making the most of their new investment in the new production site... keep up with what you are doing and it will be a ghost town in 5 years. Mark my words. :-(

Humpty Dumpty said...

Cast and characters are getting older, but so is the audience. In ten years' time, a significant number of viewers will have died and I don't imagine they will be replaced by younger viewers. We have all ages in our family who were once fans but have lost interest: the ninety something aunt who can't bear the love triangles, the twenty somethings who prefer to watch American soaps, comedies or DVDs, and there's me in my sixties deciding that Jamie Oliver might be more interesting. BBC soaps may disappear first and then if advertisers can find another hook for their products, the soaps on ITV will fizzle out. I really do hope that Coronation Street reduces the number of weekly episodes and characters. We've said this here many times but are tptb listening?

Rosie said...

Oh Graeme, why arnt't they listening? who's holding the reigns? What's happening? Television as a whole is changing, it's all 'reality' shows, repeats of repeats and some pretty rotten programms.
The one thing I want to rely on is our Corrie. Sadly it's not the same anymore, I have trouble keeping up. Some of the cast must be exhausted, I know I am!

Anonymous said...

So true, so true...what I have been saying as well but you have expressed it so clearly as well as elegantly!

Corrie, get a grip and then up your game!

Anonymous said...

Could not agree more

Anonymous said...

I completely agree!
I started watching for the same reasons but in those days it was only on Mondays and Wednesdays.
Unfortunately, these days it is becoming more of a duty with only little glimpses of what a show it used to be.

Tvor said...

I love it just as much as I always did. Is it different? Yes. There were stories in the "good old days" that I found tedious and boring and i do now. No difference there. I do find that they really overuse some characters now at the expense of the older ones, I will agree there, but if it's a character or actor i like, i don't really mind. There's always been affairs, murders but at 2 or 3 episodes a week, it seemed spread out more. When I watch the older episodes now, I find them so slow! I also felt it lost its way in the mid 70s to early 80s and was dull as dishwater. I loved the early 90s, to me that was the golden era. Brian Park may have introduced a few good new characters but the sensationalism began there as well.

I guess I just don't mind it as much as others do and still see so much positive in the show.

Graeme N said...

Really? I've always thought the mid 70s to mid 80s period was corrie at its best! A wonderful time for the show

Graeme N said...

I take you point anonymous, but I don't whine, I whinge! :)

Graeme N said...

Thank you Talia you are always very generous with your comments. V much appreciated

Anonymous said...

I too loved the early 90s. Now Corries getting like Brookside and how Eastenders used to be--misery heaped upon misery with extra lashings of nastiness. Although on the bright side Michelle is nicer to Steve. Let's hope Nick bogs off to some kind of rehab and David and Kylie naff off to wherever it is Becky lives for their jollies, and Gail and Michael have a bit of fun -Smelloid

Canadian Bacon Sarnie said...

Hallelajuha! You took the words right out of my mouth. I too am on the brink of no return. I don't want to go... but can barely stand what's going on. All of what I've been feeling and screaming at the t.v. was said beautifully by you.
Thank you. I too hope 'They' hear this and respond. Placid viewers be damned. It's time to fight for our right to good Corrie!

Anonymous said...

Cheer up! You could be stuck in the States with American "reality" shows, glacially-slow soap rubbish, formulaic "dramas" or lame "comedy" programs.

I watched Corrie when I was in Canada in the 80's and no, today isn't the same. But I have been keeping up on Corrie here in the States for the past 3 years thanks to the Interwebz and I'm not ashamed to say that Coronation St. still wins hands down over anything else on U.S. airwaves. It's the ONE show I will. Not. Miss.

Anonymous said...

You've said what I've felt about Corrie for some time. I cared about the characters and the storeylines were believeable. Now I 'keep up' with the show by blogs and occasional episodes on line. Can't give it up yet, however, with shows that have quality and integrity, e.g. Downton Abbey, my interest has dwindled. To the powers that be...please return to a show about ordinary people with ordinary lives!

Anonymous said...

You've taken the words right off my keyboard; I couldn't possibly agree more!!! I've been watching Coronation Street since the mid 60's and loved it then. Now, I watch more out of habit more than anything else. I could do without all the violence and bed-hopping of the last decade or so. I long for the good old days when humour was abundant.

Anon (in Canada)

Beth said...

Agree x 1000! I haven't watched an episode since the murder week and just come here for the catch ups. I found it frustrating, tedious and so many characters so mean and spiteful. I didn't want it on in my front room. I've watched since the late 70's and it's easy to harp on about the good old days but with the access of old episodes on u tube they really were classic episodes.

There's no happy medium these days. Too much misery, back stabbing bitchyness. A merry go round of bed hopping sleeping partners. Punch ups, murders, fires, comas..... on one big loop. I gave up Eastenders years ago for these rasons. Corrie was always different. Warmth, humour, great dialogue, wonderful characters, camaraderie. .... pah all that's gone. We catch glimpses of it at only at times.

So I read the updates here and the fab comments and until Nick loses his ridiculous bad temper and gets sectioned or the windbags open a building yard in Walford my off button will stay off for the time being :)

Anonymous said...

Thank you so agree with all those who have written their heart and soul feelings above Corrie writers I feel you have lost your way you are catering to those who need a thrill and sometimes it comes across trashy sorry but I really miss the older Corrie stories the way one felt for the character how we travelled with them on the highs and lows but now we seem to see only a few and it's all the time. WHERE is Emily and Audrey and the llke? Have the writers decide to put them on the top shelf to gather dust and only push the younger ones who in many ways I'd like yo kick their backsides at times as they are all coming over as me me me. Gail being redirected to cleaner once again is so unfair sorry but I'm not enjoying the new family seems like a hostile take over - come in bring back the older characters and more true to Corrie story lines your losing true viewers

Anonymous said...

spot on.

Pickledjo said...

It won't change. Sadly.
Ratings and awards are too important.
And we have become use to and need the fast pace, otherwise we moan it's dull and nothing is happening.

SARAH LUIZE KIDGER said...

why cant the police who are investigating tinas murder wake up peter barlow didn't kill tina it was rob Donovan who killed Tina and cant Carla wake up that her brother did it I wish the police arrest the right person and the right person is rob Donovan

Anonymous said...

You sum it up perfectly! I've been a true Corrie fan since the spring of 1979! I would watch on Channel 9 out of Windsor, Canada. Anyone would ask "What's your favorite TV show?" and my reply would be "Coronation Street" (and would be asked, "What's that?") I absolutely could not wait to see each episode. Now I haven't seen it (via YouTube) in almost a year because I just do not care about the cast of thousands, the terrible storylines, all the youngsters on the cobbles, the rehash of previous storylines (not done well at all). I cannot believe how each half hour has a different writer, different director--how can you possibly have any continuity with that? I hate all the Crime and Mayhem! I used to want to live on the Street (hard to pull me away during the 2 tours of Granada Studios I was lucky enough to be on--it was Hallowed Ground!) and it would be the last place on the face of the earth you would now find me. Too Dangerous! Too Boring! Save Coronation Street and bring it back to what it was!!

Anonymous said...

I also agree.
I've been losing interest more and more as these "explosive" storylines become more frequent.
I'm not sure how much longer I can watch what is fast becoming typical American style TV drivel.

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