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Monday 29 September 2014

Character counts

The other day I tried to take up the challenge posed by this great blog and it proved something of a struggle! At first I thought it would be relatively easy to come up with a list of sixteen Coronation Street characters I couldn't do without. I only made it to fourteen, shock horror!

To begin with, the names came quite easily. Audrey Roberts, always my favourite even though she's woefully underused these days. Ken and Deirdre Barlow - Corrie legends and a terrific partnership spanning decades. Emily Bishop, although rarely seen these days, is still beautifully portrayed by Eileen Derbyshire after more than fifty years. Sally and Tim are a great new partnership and I hope they stay together for the duration, or as long as actor Joe Duttine wants to stay. Steve McDonald is already a Corrie legend to me, mainly down to Simon Gregson's wonderful performances. He's come such a long way over the past 25 years. I couldn't imagine Corrie without our Roy either, David Neilson often rises head and shoulders above both the material he is given and what is going on around him.

Then it got a little bit more difficult to come up with names. Carla Connor was there for certain. The modern day Elsie Tanner? I wouldn't dare suggest such a thing, but a great character in her own right who is yet to run out of steam despite being front and centre for years. Another couple I'm very fond of are Eva and Jason. Eva Price was the best thing by far to come out of that family and I'm glad she's stuck around. Her partnership with Jason has  a lot of promise too. As I've said before, Ryan Thomas has come on leaps and bounds over the last decade and is now a real asset. 

I've always been a fan of Mikey North as Gary Windass so out of that family he's the only one I'd keep. Another character I've warmed to is Julie Carp. Mainly playing for laughs, she doesn't get much of a look in as we've endlessly focussed on Tina/Peter/Carla/Rob/Michelle and that delightful merry-go-round of misery. 

Out of the more recent deluge of characters I could only really add in Steph. I think she lights up the screen every time she appears but I wish the powers that be would give her a proper storyline! She's crying out for one.

So that was my fourteen. And it involved quite a bit of head scratching let me tell you. What does that say about the rest of the cast? I dunno. Corrie must currently boast a cast of over sixty regular characters but I can't help feeling many of them are instantly forgettable, under-used, interchangeable with other programmes or have simply run out of steam.

Why did I not include characters like Rita, Gail, Liz, Norris or Leanne? Quite simply I don't think recent times have treated any of these characters particularly well. They are either stuck in a rut or have come off badly through association with daft plot lines, relationships with other characters or mind boggling character transformations. I do like Lloyd although for some reason the writers can never find a decent female character for him to play off. Tyrone and Fizz I really wanted to be together, but now they are it's all a bit bland and beige. The same goes for the majority of the Windass and Nazir clans. 

I keep coming back to the same point. Too many of the characters featured in the Corrie of 2014 just don't feel Corrie enough, if that makes sense. They could easily be in Emmerdale or EastEnders or Holby City. Coronation Street broke new ground in 1960, presenting a compact range of characters everyone knew but had never seen represented on television before. In an age when everything has seemingly been done before on the telly it feels like the powers that be are becoming even more desperate to push boundaries and find new angles. And at the same time, it often feels like we've seen all these new angles before. 

As a challenge to those at the top, how about producing several episodes that only feature a core cast of characters? I'm not saying they need to be two handers, but just less than normal. Simple, well written, character driven episodes without massive revelations, punch ups, police officers, explosions or weird sexy dance murderer scenes. How about half an hour of the likes of Audrey, Emily, Rita and Deirdre chewing the fat, reminiscing and talking about things that matter to women of their generations? Is that too much to ask?

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njblas said...

I agree with all your choices, but I would add in Mary. Her weird anecdotes always make my day:)

Carry On Blogging! said...

Fair enough but she needs to be given something proper to do.

Llifon said...

What would be essential in a smaller cast would be diversity between the young and the old.

So along with Rita, Norris, Emily, Ken, Deirdre and Audrey, you would have David and Kylie, Roy, Steve, Sally and Tim, Kirk and Beth, Carla and Owen. But maybe a cast of 20-25 would be better.

Before the third episode was introduced, I think Corrie had around 25 in its cast that appeared in over 30 eps or more a year.

Humpty Dumpty said...

Being realistic, for one reason or another, the cast will probably shrink within the next five years due to the age of some cast members. Perhaps Corrie are right to keep the numbers up so that the newer characters get a chance to become established during that period. The problem for me is that too many of the characters are inter-changeable. Fiz and Tyrone promised to be a strong, young couple with a modern outlook but traditional values. Unfortunately, they've been written as fifty year olds (forget their offspring). Worse still, you could give their scripts to Chesney and Sinead (another middle-aged couple) and you'd never know the difference. As well as diversity as Llifon comments, I'd like some individuality amongst the characters.

The Nazir family hasn't worked as a group. Are they all going to live on the Street? Kal's parents are far too middle class to live on Coronation Street; more likely to be neighbours of Audrey. We could lose them all and not notice. The Windarms can go, too.

Carry On Blogging! said...

Agree it would seem weird for the Nazir's to live on the Street. As you say, much better if they moved in near Audrey. I don't get why everyone must live and work within two minutes of the street!

Anonymous said...

Graeme, as I read your offering a thought occurred to me. I live in Canada so don't really know anything about the situation, so I'm asking. Does the demographic of the north of England, where Weatherfield is supposed to exist, still look much like it did when, as a young boy, Tony Warren originally heard the women in his life talking, which was his inspiration for the show. If, instead, he were to have been born just a few years ago, what would he hear now? Do those feisty, strong, independent women that so impressed him still exist? Do they still congregate in their local? Do they still form small groups of friends? Do they still have the time to sit and gossip, or are they home juggling housework, babysitting and one or more outside jobs. Are they on their I-phones or computers with any spare moments? Has increasing ethnic diversity changed the dynamic and interplay?
Does the current show accurately reflect today's cultural makeup in northern England, and if so, is that amenable to a continuing night-time drama? Maybe the writers haven't figured out how to write such a show, and what such characters should behave like. Maybe the distinctive nature of those northern women (and men)no longer exists and we're asking for a nostalgic period piece, instead of a current, topical drama.
Just asking!

AmandaB said...

You made some good points Anonymous @ 21:12. In some places there are still streets like that with people the same as they were in the 1960's but on the whole, especially in larger towns things changed long ago.

I for one though would not want to watch if the show reflected current times as much as it could. I'd much rather it retained it's roots and kept it's Audreys and Sallys rather than have unemployed, tattooed iPhone addicts populating the cobbles. People who want that can watch Eastenders and lets hope Corrie keeps it's traditions.

Carry On Blogging! said...

Interesting points Anonymous. I don't think Corrie could feature the same kind of characters it did in the 1960s, today. I don't know if it accurately reflects the North of England today or not however given the genre we're dealing with I'd guess probably not so much


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