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Sunday 18 January 2015

Happy Monday – Martin’s Mission to Manchester

Sorry for the delay in posting but I’ve only just come down to earth after an action-packed Monday which lifted the January spirits higher than Nozzer “too many nights in the ’açienda” Cole on a typical Saturday night in the 80s.

On the least Blue Monday ever, I was in Manchester for a Corrie Press Day with several journos who were quicker on the draw than I was in revealing a string of spoilers for the year ahead. You’ll have read them by now in the papers and on this blog but perhaps not in so much detail as this fan’s eye view.

I have so much to tell you about my Corrie Awayday that I am splitting it into three instalments, the first of which will focus on a preview screening of the minibus crash that I attended.

I got an early train from London before catching the tram out to Salford Quays. Coming from Croydon, I like a decent tram system and Manchester’s is marvellous. But knowing only too well what it is with Corrie and trams, I was sure to exercise caution when boarding and alighting!

Arriving in one piece (phew) I made my way to the Lowry Theatre to watch the dramatic bus crash episodes that will hit our screens tomorrow night. Brace yourselves because these scenes will have you on the edge of your seats while Weatherfield’s knicker-stitchers hang perilously on the edge of a sheer drop. Talk about a cliffhanger!

2014 was a good year for Underworld, if not for its boss, personally. The green shoots of recovery that sprung from that big McNees order have resulted in Mrs Connor being nominated for a North West Fashion Trade Award. About time! As you know, this is the premise of the factory night out that will have such devastating consequences. If only that sparky Trainee Manager, Alya hadn’t taken the initiative…

I had wondered if Izzy would be a casualty of the crash but she is not on the bus. Neither is Beth who is too drunk to show up in time and gets bladdered in the Rovers instead. It is Sinead who will be left seriously injured (the usually sensible seamstress is not wearing a seatbelt) and Chesney, for one, will be pointing the finger at Steve. The whole incident will bring Steve’s depression to a head and force him to seek help at long last.

Liz has finally twigged that something isn’t right with Steve and booked him an appointment at the Medical Centre. She is being considerate towards Steve (for a change) and offers to go with him – but is it too little too late? Desperate to avoid confronting his problems, Steve volunteers to fill in when the factory lot are short of a driver to take them to their do. It is an avoidance tactic that will only compound things for Steve after a terrible accident is caused by boy racers running him off the road.

The crash episodes were written by Joe Turner (who penned the tram crash ep in 2010) and directed by John Anderson. They were filmed over three weeks, before Christmas, and involved a combination of blue-screen acting and lengthy night shoots in the freezing cold at a quarry in Glossop. Over 200 hours of footage was shot and hundreds of special effects were used (though the mist is real and adds an eerie aesthetic to proceedings). Some cast members were hung upside down in harnesses and most suffered for their art – bruising, chest infections, coughs and colds were among the occupational hazards that resulted.

For more behind the scenes information and production facts, check out this media pack (by clicking here), which the Corrie Press Team kindly gave me permission to share with readers of the blog. This contains everything you need to know about Corrie’s biggest stunt since the tram crash. It also includes interviews with Simon Gregson and Katie McGlynn, which are well worth a read.

I enjoyed the clips and can’t wait to see the full episodes this week. There is a cinematic feel to them and it really is gripping stuff. Tracy will surprise you; Maddie will impress you; and what happens to Steve and Sinead will upset you – both immediately and in the weeks ahead.

But in true Corrie style, there is some humour to sugar the pill – when the action swings back to the Rovers, for example. There are even some comedic moments amidst the chaos of the crash (wait for Maddie trying to revive Sally) and some really touching moments in the pub and at the hospital afterwards.

There was a round of applause when the screening finished and we were then treated to a teaser of what is coming up on The Street over the next few months (***spoiler alerts from here on in***) and told about the two weddings due to take place in 2015 (Michael and Gail, Steve and Michelle). It is certinaly going to be a dramatic year on our favourite street and Corrie producer, Stuart Blackburn revealed the following:

We now know about Andy Carver, but the real Gavin Rodwell will show up at some point and don’t be surprised if it’s around the time of Gail and Michael’s wedding. Gail will stumble upon Andy’s secret before Michael. The gamble she takes is “do I tell him and risk his heart giving out completely or we just have to carry on this charade until he’s had his heart fixed… and she goes with the lie”. Like Steph on Friday night, Gail takes the view that the truth will literally break Michael’s heart. Naturally, this will “come back and bite her in the bum”. Will Gail ever learn not to keep secrets?

I wanted to know Andy’s motives and the nature of his relationship with the real Gavin. The backstory goes that they were bezzie mates from the age of 6 or 7 but Gavin has become more reckless and selfish as the years have gone by. Andy “feels like he’s lost his best mate” and “he knows Gavin hated his dad, he was short of 50 quid for the leccy bill – he just thought well, no one’s going to be hurt by it”. But he then found out that Michael’s alright, really – and he is, in a soppy sort of way. Andy comes from a cold family and he actually quite likes Michael and, God forbid, the Platts. Now “his biggest fear is killing his Dad who isn’t his Dad”.

Callum is going “to step up to the mark” with Max. David has very few rights over Max because he is not his biological father. The part of Callum that is genuine, according to Blackburn, is that “he’s going to start falling in love with Max and we’re going to see a massive custody battle prior to the return of Kylie”.

The arrival of Owen’s ex-wife, Linda, will be “devastating for the Windasses”. For 20 years, both Armstrong girls have believed their mother walked out because she couldn’t cope with Izzy’s disability. We will learn that “Owen has been rather disingenuous and has told less than half the story”. Owen has always had a hint of malice about him, if you ask me. Anna will feel insecure about Owen’s feelings towards Linda and his reaction to Faye’s pregnancy will also cause problems. Expect a “rocky time ahead for the Windasses”.

Faye’s pregnancy is definitely happening. People will think that Craig is the father but he’s not. It’s Jackson – the lad she had a big crush on. Remember the night Gary lent her some money to go ice-skating and she came back all upset? That’s when it happened. Craig recently mentioned some rumours he’d read on Facebook and they were about Faye sleeping with Jackson. I’ve heard some rumours myself – that Faye will leave her baby outside the hospital. Stuart Blackburn notes, “she was adopted by Anna and it’s the best thing that’s ever happened to her”. Consequently “it’s not a cruel act in her eyes - it’s the best thing for the child”. Craig will become her confidant and have more time on screen as a result. The baby is due around Easter time. I doubt he or she will remain abandoned but let’s wait and see.

On the subject of young motherhood, the return of Bethany and Sarah-Lou is “proper laugh out loud stuff”. Sarah-Lou will be forced to come back to Weatherfield because Bethany has nicked her credit card and booked a flight from Milan to Manchester. Bethany doesn’t want to live in Italy anymore. Sarah has a decent marketing job in Uncle Stephen’s business but she works 12-14 hours a day and “behind it all, she’s kind of let Bethany down”.

Terrible Todd (he used to be such a nice boy!) will seek revenge against Jason and Eileen “who he blames for getting beaten up and scarred for life”. He will cause problems for Jason and Eva before Catherine Tyldesley exits our screens to go on maternity leave.

Kevin will find a new friend in Jenny Bradley but is “going to wish he’d never met her as the story unfolds”. Jenny will be hanging around for 4-6 months initially – “it’s a story with a beginning, a middle and an end and then who knows afterwards?” 

Claire King will be back as Erica. She will start filming in February and be on our screens in March or April. Sadly, rumours of Curly’s reappearance are unfounded.

On Tony and Tracy, the former “is going to wish he’d never got involved with her. He thought he could control her… no chance!” 

Simmering away in the background is Tracy’s hatred of Carla, who she blames for Rob’s demise. This will “come to a dramatic head”. 

Steve and Michelle’s wedding will be “a big community event… a proper old fashioned Coronation Street street party where everyone chips in”. It will mark the point “we stop talking so much about Steve’s depression”. It’ll take time – possibly 18 months – before he comes off the medication “because that’s how long these things take”. Steve’s tendency towards depression will not go away “but it won’t stop him from living a fulfilled happy, loving, funny, joyful life”.

Planning for September’s live episode will begin at the end of this month. They have already started tightening up on staff holidays and are putting technical things into place but creatively it is “a fairly blank canvas”. Cautious of avoiding a copycat spectacular along the lines of the tram crash, Stuart Blackburn currently favours a “play for today” approach focused on “pure and simple storytelling”. However, “if someone comes up with something that runs counter to that and it’s brilliant then we’ll go for it.”

Stuart Blackburn promises a big year in 2015 – “Corrie at its best… surprising, romantic, funny”. But going back to the crash, Blackburn claims it is “not just a stunt for stunt’s sake” but will “mark a massive change for Steve”.

Steve will confide in Michelle and everything will begin to fall into place for those around him: “the wanton spending of money, the long silences, the ludicrous airport run” are all examples of the erratic behaviour that will suddenly make sense in the context of Steve’s illness. It is not going to be easy but it will be the beginning of an “upward journey” for Steve. It’s just a shame he has to hit rock bottom in a quarry before he can begin to climb out of his depression.

Stay tuned for the second part of my Manchester report, which will be up here tomorrow morning. It will be on the press conference that followed the screening and the round table interviews with cast members involved in the crash. Put it this way – I doubt they’ll be traveling to the National Television Awards by minibus this week! 

By Martin Leay
Twitter: @mpleay

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Anonymous said...

I'm so glad the live is going down a storytelling route. They will never top the tram in terms of stunts so is better not to try and character interaction is what corrie does best when it really pulls the stops out so could/should be brilliant. The Faye pregnancy actually looks like it will be a little different to the run of the mill teenage pregnancy story so could be good, especially if it gives Craig more screen time. Not so keen on Tracy and Todds revenge storylines. Todd has a small scar on his face so its a little over the top. Wish he'd clear off back to that London! No need for Erica to come back and a little disturbed that Bethany looks older than her Uncle David but willing to give it a go. -Micky

njblas said...

Yes, Craig is gold, glad to hear we will see more of him! I really wonder why they go to all the expense of stunts like the bus crash, when they tell us exactly what's going to happen as a result. We already know no-one will die, but Sinead will be badly injured. The suspense is non-existent, so why do they bother?

maggie muggins said...

Martin, that was a brilliant read! Thanks so much for the first part of your report from Corrie Press Day. I'll be reading the press pack later as a treat.

Tvor said...

Wonderful! I find I'm really looking forward to a lot of it. Faye's pregnancy irritates me because it's still "been there done that" even if they make the details different but never mind. It is what it is and yeah, more Craig! I"m looking forward to hearing more about Owen's past lies with his ex's return upcoming. I think that's because he's not a likeable man on the whole and this will reinforce that and lead to his exit.

Not keen that Michelle and Steve are going to be married but again, it is what it is.

Humpty Dumpty said...

Faye and Craig are a good team. They're both on the fringes of their peer groups. Craig has never had mates round to the house, and Faye's friends were using her. I'm not looking forward to Anna asserting that she'll look after the baby when Faye returns to school. Another act of martyrdom! Anna will hate the idea of social services interfering but I hope Faye insists on the adoption route. It would be a good storyline.

Great write-up, Martin.

Ziggy said...

I just can't buy into the EXCITEMENT of the future of Coronation Street. I really think it's joining the ranks of the sloppy soaps for ratings club.

I must quote the tabloids to make the point..

"They say there is growing discontent among the cast, who are concerned the tone is "spiralling downwards" and leaves little room for the soap's comedy characters.
One said: "It's not just viewers who are starting to grow tired that violence and death seems to be the only dramatic device.
"On top of that they are killing the comedy. Even the characters who should be playing it for laughs are dragged into the despair."

and another quote regarding the lack of respect for the actors:

"the actors had to do most of the stuntwork without the use of stand-ins. "Body doubles? You have to be joking," he laughs. "We were told, 'get in there. Get it shot!'"
Sally Dynevor, who has played Sally Webster for 28 years, told The Sun: “It is the first time I have been injured in a big set-piece like this.
Kate Ford, who plays Tracy Barlow, revealed: “I had quite a few bruises, but it was probably worse for those hanging upside down in a harness.”
And Antony Cotton, who plays Sean Tully, added: “I got a chest infection from being out at night and broke a rib coughing.

Yet, I read, Stuart Blackburn promises a big year in 2015 – “Corrie at its best… surprising, romantic, funny”. (?!)
Apparently, Blackburn "currently" favours a “play for today” approach focused on “pure and simple storytelling”. However, “if someone comes up with something that runs counter to that and it’s brilliant then we’ll go for it.”

..which is to say, I'm all over the bloody place and willing to do a 360 on any storyline with disregard to the true essence of the longest running soap in history if it'll help me be a hip producer.

Anonymous said...

This report says

"Simmering away in the background is Tracy’s hatred of Carla, who she blames for Rob’s demise. This will “come to a dramatic head”."

Rob's DEMISE? I thought he was just in prison, not dead.

Martin Leay said...

"Demise" was the word used by Stuart Blackburn but you're right, the dictionary definition of "demise" is "death". "Downfall" would have been better!


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