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Monday 4 August 2014

Is Coronation Street in the doldrums?

It's a question us fans are often asking. There's a strange divergence of opinion at the moment, splitting Corrie viewers. While some people think Coronation Street still has more highs than lows, others are seriously concerned that the Street is in trouble.

My views are well known on the whole. I think Corrie is still the best continuing drama on British television featuring some bona fide telly legends, some great acting and some funny, poignant writing. However I also think it is shown too often each week which cannot help but harm the quality of Corrie's overall output. I also think the cast is far too large and while some characters dominate for months on end others barely get a look in.

I think some storylines go on far too long while others disappear without trace far too soon. Some of the writing is brilliant yet some in uneven and I question some situations and the actions of certain characters. I worry that the competition for ratings is pushing our favourite programme into areas of desperation previously unheard of - everything is dramatic and explosive when simple human dramas used to suffice.

Each new Corrie producer has their own favourite actors and that can be both good and bad for the show. The past year of Corrie output makes it abundantly clear to me who those are. I know Corrie has done well at awards ceremonies but when you look at the outcomes most of the prizes have gone to Julie Hesmondhalgh and David Neilson. Richly deserved, but take them out of the equation and what does that leave us with?

The introduction of new characters to a long running, ongoing drama can be tricky. Introduce too many at once and viewers feel all at sea and can't take to them. Bring them in too slowly and people get bored very quickly. The past year has seen the introduction of several new characters and on the whole I'm struggling to take to many of them. I know I must give these things time but many of them just don't feel like Corrie to me. Too many characters these days are too easily interchangeable with other programmes in the genre. Corrie used to lead the way with character development and character driven drama but now I fear this has been lost.

While many new characters have been added to an already bulging cast, too many others have been lost and in some cases it's just been such a puzzling waste. Charlie Condou decided to leave his role as Marcus Dent. Fair enough, however Marcus has been woefully underused in recent times. A normal, down to earth intelligent guy was suddenly cheating on his partner with someone he would previously have crossed the street to avoid. Not good enough. 

Dennis Tanner, one of Corrie's originals from 1960 was brought back, married off and given nothing to do. A criminal waste of Philip Lowrie's wonderful acting talents and a vital, tangible link to Corrie's golden age gone, just like that. Not good enough. Lloyd's daughter Jenna, brought in to give Craig Charles' brilliant character some family and some depth. Mismatched with Sophie Webster and there was no going back. Surely the writers could think up something else for Krissi Bohn to do apart from dish up beans in the background of other people's scenes? Whole stories of father and daughter connecting were left untouched by the writers. She'll be gone soon too. Not good enough. 

While there doesn't appear to be time to do these characters or actors justice, other stories drag on forever. Nick has become the new Demon David. Childish pranks and general unpleasantness instead of covering the serious topic of his rehabilitation. Tina's demise took month after month to reach a climax and the aftermath will be with us until Christmas. The Windass dramas show no sign of letting up despite being centre stage since the turn of the year. And Tracy keeps on being Tracy without any significant comeuppance. 

I know times change, viewers want different things and television companies face new pressures and an ever-changing climate but certain aspects of Corrie must remain the same for it to be Corrie.  

If I want depressing murder and mayhem, I'll watch EastEnders. If I want teenage screechy angst and pantomime performances, I'll watch Hollyoaks. I don't want these dubious qualities creeping into my Corrie. I want comedy. I want pathos. I want real, believable drama. I want characters I can root for and get behind, not characters that irritate and have me reaching for the remote control or my DVD boxed sets. I want the modern day equivalent of Hilda quietly grieving for Stan. I want the modern day equivalent of Bet painting on her barmaid's smile to mask her pain. 

I know this will be controversial for some but I write this because I love my Corrie and I want it to be the best it can be. 

There's still enough about Coronation Street to keep me watching. I think. 

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Llifon said...

Brilliant Graeme! Agree with everything.

Let's hope Ken's return will make it better.

I also watch Neighbours and I have to say it reminds me of the Corrie that was and that's why I love it so much.

Anonymous said...

Amen, Graeme. Now how do we convey this to the people who can actually make a difference -not counting us viewers, who can only watch or not watch?

Anonymous said...

Aside from Hayley's cancer I'd say the overall quality of writing/storylines on Corrie has been appalling over the last few years. They've managed to be over-sensationalised and unoriginal at the same time and consistent believable characterisation is also a thing of the past. They badly need a new writing team.

JA said...

Starting with the positives - I have to say, Alison King has been fantastic over the last few months. Chris Gascoyne, David Neilson, Marc Baylis, Debbie Rush have all been brilliant too and I found Corrie unmissable when it all kicked off with Tina's murder but Corrie has been dire these last few weeks and I just hope it improves sooner rather than later!

Unfortunately, I'm tired of Leanne and Nick's domestics. I have no interest in watching them and personally, I think it's a shame that Nick has to become the 'bad', 'unreasonable' guy just so that Leanne can be entitled to half of his business and whatever else she wants. It seems like that storyline will be going on for a while.

I'm dreading Faye's pregnancy.

I wasn't really a fan of Dennis but I fail to see why the writers brought him back for such a weak exit. Phil Collinson didn't appear to think he needed to be axed. Dennis and Rita's wedding was a big week for Corrie (coincided with the queen's Jubilee) but now that just seems silly. Why did they make such a big deal of it and then force the actor to leave the show?

7twonder2011 said...

I've always defend Corrie to the 'non-believers', and i still do, but in secret i prefer Eastenders right now and that's a line i never thought i would say!

Anonymous said...

IMO it seems that they don't know what to do with it anymore. I stopped watching regularly when Haley was killed off. As far as Tina goes..who cares. They should have done away with that character eons ago, instead it was the Tina show for the past 3 years. Now what? More boring Ken to look forward to? No thanks. I surely am not the only one who's opted to tune out.

Rosie said...

You've done it again Graeme, nail on the head, I've been disappointed for some time now especially the episodes last Friday, an all time low. Something needs to be done or the viewing figures are going to drop dramatically. Corrie needs to be corrie not some poor carbon copy of lesser soaps.

Beth said...

Yep, so true again! Thank you!

Anonymous said...

The most noticeable problem for me is that every character seems so aggressive. Nobody exchanges a pleasant greeting anymore, they instead are always on the defensive. Another problem is that the street has always had explosive storylines right back to the sixties. The difference now is that the writers dont take the time to show the impact of these dramatic events on the everyday lives of the characters. There is no interaction, no gossip which is a crying shame. The third problem is that the characters dialogue could be transferred to another, I used to love the fact that a character would say something distinctly 'them' where as now you get the feeling that if an actor was ill they would just swap them for another keeping the same lines! I do keep watching corrie but do not look forward to it as much as I used to. I urge the producers to watch the street from the eighties and early nineties to see the quality of writing they should be producing!- Micky

Humpty Dumpty said...

Agree, Graeme. For me, it started to go wrong with Tina's pregnancy. We were locked into a storyline that went on for nearly a year. There are certain characters who have never done it for me: Carla, Anna, although I know they have their following. Shoved down your throats and they change from being mildly irritating to down-right loathsome. Tracy, Sophie, Maddie and others have run their course and should be written out.

Maddie is an interesting case. SB said: "Short of a writer bringing in another story that I haven't expected, or Amy wanting to go, the character of Maddie will be here as long as I'm here." Which means nothing at all, and confirms what I've suspected for a while. Not this producer, nor anyone else seems to have their finger on the pulse of what is happening. Georgia May Foote changed the character of Katie and made her more bolshy. She said that she thought the people 'upstairs' had noticed ... Wasn't there anyone 'downstairs' to spot the change? I get the strong impression that the writers throw in a lot of stories round the table and thereafter it's a case of hit-and-miss. Why did Michelle's dad appear for a few episodes never to be heard of again? I could go on but I won't.

Others may say Corrie is still a lot better than other soaps but we're a different audience these days. I don't need *any* soap if it's not up to standard. There's plenty of choice elsewhere on tv.

Anonymous said...

Wouldn't that be nice. A smarter, gentler show, and people oriented stories with real life situations and reactions. Seems that whomever is the almighty creator of this current mess is confused and trying to do 50 different things in hope one of them might work. Or maybe there's 50 different people trying to make one show work. Either way, lately so many stories are ending up in the toilet and they either flush it away (get rid of characters) or keep dredging it around cause they don't know what to do with it (Windarsses / Nick and Leanne). It's the world's longest running soap for cripes sake! There isn't a more solid fan base anywhere to be abused. But anyone can only take so much. So Graeme, thanks for using this blog to voice an intelligent opinion that means a lot to a lot of viewers. Who listens, who knows?
a Canadian corrie fan

Kookla1999 said...

Agree with Graeme but I would love to see one strong couple stay together and not go through any cheating or separation just like some normal good strong couple do.

Defrost Indoors said...

Where to begin?! I've said my bit elsewhere about Dennis so we'll leave that. Too many affairs and no long-term, stable couples. Jack and Vera fought and occasionally looked elsewhere but there was never any real danger of them splitting up! Even, say, Gail and Martin stayed together for several years. Too many plots which are internal family sagas and not enough interaction across family lines in general. The factory is probably the only place where characters have concerns and scenes which are not confined to their families or 'group'. We have also come to expect that romances for certain characters (Lloyd, Eileen) will always end in disaster. Too many 'explosive' storylines with medical crises (which are quickly resolved after the initial shock and never mentioned again). Too many new characters (Kal and family, Madduh etc.) although Steph and her brother seem to be quietly fitting in better than most. Too many stories which dribble on and on and test the viewers' patience, such as the Nick/Kylie affair and its aftermath -- Nick and Leanne's split can be seen as a continuation of that, so it's been going on for a year and a half at this point. The Windass/Armstrong downward spiral is beyond tedious at this point; please focus on another family! The factory seems to wobble between being on the verge of closing and prospering madly, depending on the needs of the plot at the time. Not enough surprises as everything is telegraphed months in advance.

What *are* they doing right? I like Gail's budding relationship with Michael and think it has potential, if it is developed properly. Steve continues to delight, and Roy's involvement with the library is true to form (even if the library burning down is depressingly predictable).

Anonymous said...

Speaking to the part of Tracey's comeuppance - I'm going to really enjoy her realization that her beloved is also a murderer, who was easily going to let her brother go down for it.
Can't wait to see the look on her face...
C in Canada.

Carry On Blogging! said...

Humpty - agree with you 100%

Carry On Blogging! said...

Micky - thank you - I think you are spot on with all the points you make

Carry On Blogging! said...

Thank you to everyone for your comments. Believe me, I don't like being so critical of my favourite show. I don't find it easy at all. I just think it needs to be said and I'm glad I have a way of airing my views. Keep the comments coming.

Anonymous said...

Agree 100%. The warmth has gone, it's become a miserable mess. I feel disappointed and sad at the end of each episode - a cross between EastEnders, Holyoaks and Brookside sensationalism Corrie is not Corrie anymore. Lack of character progression e.g. Jason, why need two Traceys (Todd)? Even the banter in the Kabin has turned to sniping. No laughs anymore - and they are heavily contrived when there are.

Anonymous said...

Emmerdale is better thant Corrie at the moment!

Anonymous said...

Jane Danson, Debbie Rush, Simon Gregson and David Neilson have all been fantastic even if some of their storylines have been less than believable.

The main problems for me are the ott storylines and ESPECIALLY the fact that the cast is far too large - and I mean RIDICULOUSLY large - it actually needs HALVING.

I agree with the OP about Neighbours - it's great and I must disagree about the so called "panto acting" in Hollyoaks - another soap that's also on a roll at the moment.

Anonymous said...

Great post, Graeme. Rather than blame the writers, who often come up with wonderful lines, I think the problem comes from much "higher ups" - ie. the producer, and those who develop the overall story arcs. That's where the rot has set in.

abbyk said...

To which of the following scenarios can you honestly relate: You haven't got two nickels to rub together, your van is vandalized, you know who did it, it will cost a fortune you don't have to repair but you don't report it to the police so you can make an insurance claim. You solve a problem by hitting someone in the head with a 2 by 4. He survives, but doesn't call the police. You're a trained P.T., a new gym is opening in walking distance, you need a better job but don't apply for one. There's a cab firm, you're out of work, you can drive but don't apply for a job. You aren't a drug addict, but you sell something your mom & dad treasure for a wedding fancy. You shtup the babysitter at your own wedding reception. You honestly think sleeping with the your partner's nemesis will make everything better. You make a public spectacle of leaving your wife; you think she'll take you back.

There have been so many unrealistic situations in the past year that I'm having trouble buying in to most of the current stories. Without buy in, there is no caring. What we're given is out of the blue (Leanne & Kal's romance, Max's ADHD, Amy's personality transplant), dragged on far too long (crazy Uncle Nick) or shared mostly through unpleasant, unproductive shouting (Nick & Leanne's divorce, Sophie & Maddie, anything Tracy, Yasmeen -- she's too new to be so bossy). If the Windass/Armstrongs fell off the viaduct tomorrow, I'd feel sad for Craig who seems to have some feelings for Faye but that's it. I completely agree on how Jenna, Marcus and Dennis were wasted. Criminal to have talent and treat it like a one trick pony. They should have been so much much more than Sophies new gf/the gay guy with a straight life/Rita’s bedwarmer. They didn’t know what to do with Marcus and Jenna probably because they don’t know how to handle educated people. Ditto Yasmeen — seriously, a shouty librarian? — and all the university dropouts.

I hold on, waiting for the bright spots. Michael & Gail -- I like him, this pairing and the pace at which it’s developing so far, in spite of the childish adults in Gail’s house. Stef & Luke aren't in any front burner stuff, but they are also very pleasantly filling the background when ever they turn up. Mature David dealing with a demon child of his own, Ken talking sense to Peter, Maddie and Simon, Eva behind the bar, Roy doing absolutely anything, these are what keep me watching.

Spot on, Graeme!

Anonymous said...

Anon at 18:07 you hit the nail square on the head! Half the cast would make a world of difference! Believe me when I say there are certain characters I would love to see the back of. For starters the Windass clan all of them, Nick and Leeanne, Norris, Sophie and Maddie.

Anonymous said...

Am I the only one who is thoroughly sick of the Nick plot at the moment; why hasn't anyone reminded the guy that he slept with his brothers wife for which his brother tried to kill him, he trashed his Mum's friends ice cream van, he with his brother has plotted revenge after revenge. In real life if he treated his bistro staff and customers like that he wouldn't have a business, What goes around comes around I say. He deserves all he gets and should accept it.


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