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Monday, 27 October 2014

The year of Bet, Alma and Wendy flamin' Crozier

I've recently fallen in love with 1990. That's Weatherfield in 1990 to be exact. I can just about remember watching Coronation Street back then as a child, although how much I think I remember and how much I've picked up on since I'll never know. Anyway, a recent episode from January of that year was so enjoyable I thought I would blog about it.

What struck me most about this episode, first broadcast on 19 January was that it concentrated on every day happenings. Two bigger storylines dominated the episode - Alec Gilroy being rebuffed well and truly by his long lost daughter and Alma Sedgewick being a flighty piece and moving in with Mike Baldwin. Everyone featured in the episode felt real, like you could bump into them in the street, the pub or the local cafe. If there was glamour it was of the back street variety. And that's what Corrie does best. 

The Gilroys dominated the episode. Alec, played by the superb Roy Barraclough, had started to feel his age and realising the clock was ticking, decided to track down his daughter Sandra. Not having clapped eyes on her for twenty years, it didn't go well. The fact that Sandra was married to a nice middle class man called Tim, with a horse owning daughter in Victoria just jarred even more with Alec, Bet and the back street pub that was their world. It was awkward and doomed to failure. Alec was humoured and then disowned by the daughter he'd disowned years before. It was a tragic story made even more so with the knowledge of what was to come the following year. 

Bet visited Sandra to try and make her see sense but it was all for nothing as Mrs Arden, as she now was, gave her snobby short shrift and showed her the door. Crestfallen Bet returned to the Rovers only for Alec to see through her lie about going shopping. Bet told him where to go in no uncertain terms, reminding me of the power Julie Goodyear could put into a performance back in the day. Glorious stuff.

Meanwhile, cockney charmer Michael Vernon Baldwin was luring the lovely Alma back into his flat and into his bed. He wined and dined her one night, the next day her suitcase was packed and she was cooking his dinner for him when he got home. Of course, being Baldwin, there's an ulterior motive to all this flowers and filet steak malarky. Out of pocket and out of luck, he's realised Alma's doing quite well for herself so it's obviously more than just those big eyes and turned up collars he's got the hots for. 

The reactions of those around them are typical and true to character. Mavis, in pale pink tabard, is shocked at Alma's flighty nature, mostly because she is doing what Mavis never dared to do and probably wished she had. Audrey on the other hand gives Alma a piece of her mind, calling her "lady" more than once and saying it'll all end in tears. Her judgement is probably coming from direct experience, never having been one to don a pale pink tabard. Audrey knew her mate though. "Alma has never seen sunrise in her life. She thinks God switches it on every morning.”

What makes this episode so rich and rewarding are the little gems that are content to appear in the wings of the main performances. Martin, teased gently by Sally and a 'tache wearing Kevin, about his new relationship with Gail. Don Brennan, mad before he went crazy, over his recently stolen cab. 

The original Rovers Tina (Michelle Holmes) all bubbly about a trip to France with her boyfriend Eddie. Phyllis Pearce, at the other end of the romantic spectrum, friskily chasing Percy into the cafe for a cheeky hot chocolate. All joyous cameos.

One of the most fleeting scenes of all sees Emily shopping with pre-devil Tracy, catching a glimpse of Ken and Wendy flamin' Crozier linking arms as they shop for their frozen peas in Reg Holdsworth's emporium. It was brief with little dialogue but spoke volumes nonetheless.

I loved it. I loved every second of it. The characters were all interlinked, you got a true sense that they all knew each other. They all had their own voices. It was comfortable, cosy, funny but also sad, tragic and knowing. The writer, Leslie Duxbury, knew the show and its audience. Not bad for a half hour in deepest January. 

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Louby said...

Phyllis was brilliant! Thanks for the post, it's great to relive old Corrie times.

Carry On Blogging! said...

I adore Phyllis. Jill Summers was a fantastic actress

Carry On Blogging! said...

Thanks very much!

Rosie said...

Oh! those were the days Graeme, when corrie was a 'soap' and the stories were written about the characters, now corrie is a 'serial drama' and the characters are bent to fit the exciting and explosive stories.

Llifon said...

I've been looking at 1990 eps, mainly about Rita moving the Kabin and from No. 7. Wonderful scenes. :)

No explosions - simply a normal-life episode of people moving on with life.

John said...

You wait until 1991. Des Barnes, a boat and petrol it does not end well.

Barrie.T said...

Whats great about the 20th century corrie is the script is so full of wonderful dialogue, some scenes lasting 5 minutes . What we get now is bang, bang, bang. 30 seconds jumps from one scene to another scene and back again.

Anonymous said...

What does it say about the present program if our bloggers have to go back almost 25 years to find the kind of presentation we enjoy?!

Anonymous said...

Great post Graeme. I started watching regularly about 1988 (about the time I first visited the set on the Granada Tour). Until then, Corrie had always been my parents' programme. This reminded me what hooked me back then, great 'little' stories and real characters. Brilliant stuff.

David said...

A great year for Corrie. Low on high drama, but very character-driven. Plus lots of Angry!Ken moments, as his life falls apart leading to his attempted suicide on Hogmanay.


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