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Thursday 31 August 2017

Why Corrie would be crazy to kill off Rita


I'm flipping furious and that's a fact. There has been a great deal of publicity surrounding Coronation Street legend Rita Tanner over the past few days. Yes folks, her future is in doubt. Well, according to the tabloid press it is at any rate. I'm usually one to take these things with a huge pinch of salt as this kind of story sells newspapers and while Coronation Street are neither confirming nor denying the news, no news is good news as it suits the show to have Twitter a-flame about the famous Weatherfield redhead and #SaveRita trending away merrily. 

I'm torn on the whole issue. One the one hand I don't want anything rotten to happen to our Reet but on the other, at least it gives the Queen of the Kabin something to do other than raise an eyebrow heaven-ward at Mary and make camp asides at Norris Cole's campy side. The brilliant Barbara Knox has demonstrated time and time again what a cracking actor and asset she is to the Street showcasing her talents for both high drama and sparkling comedy since she joined the show on a permanent basis back in 1972. Being part of a double act in Corrie is normally a sign of legendary status however being part of several is taking the whole thing into a different cobbled stratosphere. Over the years we've seen Rita enjoy and endure a fiery, tempestuous marriage with Len; a sequined shoulder padded mare-fest with Bet Lynch; a chalk and cheese joyous pairing with dithery Mavis and most recently the Rita and Norris show. Legendary doesn't do it justice.


So why am I flipping furious? I loathe all the wild speculation at the imminent demise of such a strong character as Rita. She's weathered more storms than I've had gin and tonics. Let's look at the evidence: 

Rita's been the resident artiste at the Crossroads-esque Gatsby. She's woken up next to Len Fairclough after a night on the ale during the very brown 1970s (just what did they get up to during the ITV strike of 1979? She's brought up a teenage ginger-winge in Jenny Flamin' Bradley. She's tussled with a Blackpool tram (wearing a horrendous gold lame mac) to get away from evil Jenny's evil father. She married a sweet salesman with a BRAIN TUMOUR - been here already dear!. She endured the ups and downs <shudders> of the Wiltons' bedroom pursuits (it's all about the parsnips). She crawled through that awful storyline which saw a love hatch created between her flat and that of Bet's leftovers, Alec Gilroy. She inhaled a nasty dose of carbon monoxide poisoning, piped in by Mad Axe Man Brian Park. She was nearly flattened by a flying tram, coiffeure remaining intact throughout - "What is it with me and trams?" And for the past 40 years, she's been made to sing at will, sometimes while dressed as a pearly queen.


Those reasons alone are enough for Rita to hug a deadly illness and say "take me now!" but for me, Coronation Street just would not be the same without Rita Tanner and the brilliant Barbara Knox who plays her. I believe some online journos would call Rita a "legacy character". I'd call that a load of balls. Rita is quite simply class. She links the old with the new, bridges the gap between so many classic stories and characters with the generation which will hopefully keep the Corrie flag flying proudly. She has moved with the times, still has the wow factor and is one of the few surviving Corrie people who we fans would speak of in hushed tones if we ever had the stupendous fortune to curtsy before her. Rita and Barbara are Street royalty, part of the very fabric of the show and in the days when real bona fide Corrie legends are so thin on the ground, we surely cannot bid farewell to Rio Rita so soon. As a character and an actress she has much more to give.

I have moaned on before about how I feel Corrie's focus has switched away from portraying the lives of older people. It used to be such a strength. These days it's much more like Hollyoaks with added barm cakes. There are loads of younger characters I relish seeing but that trusted community of older characters has long since diminished and as of yet, they have not been replaced. Ten years ago we had Ken and Deirdre, Betty, Blanche, Jack and Vera, Emily and Audrey. Now we're down to Ken, Rita and Audrey (who has somewhat disappeared this year). The backbone of Corrie was always the older characters and the older audience who watched them, empathised with them and followed their ups and downs loyally for decades. 


Of course I'm not ignoring the possibility that Barbara Knox has decided to switch out the lights in the Kabin for one last time. She has been dedicated to Coronation Street longer than I've been on this earth and no matter what happens, we have decades of glorious moments to savour again and again. If Barbara has indicated she wants to retire or just move on, fair play and we should all respect her for that. Six episodes a week is looming and I've ordered my bulking up powders in preparation for watching it all, never mind learning the lines and being in it. If this is goodbye, I'd much rather see Rita go out with a fond farewell akin to Jean Alexander's exit back on Christmas Day 1987. The fondness the audience felt for that character and the years we'd collectively watched her struggle meant that a sweet finale that left a warm glow was all it could ever possibly be. I feel the same about Rita. So if she must endure this nasty brain tumour rubbish, please let's see that tough old broad Reet fight it tooth and nail and win. Then perhaps she can reassess her golden years, Mavis can make a brief reappearance and the pair can exit stage right together, Cartmel-bound. 

Nothing has been confirmed by ITV. We don't know how it will pan out, how long the story will last and how it will end. I will be bloody annoyed if it ends with credits rolling over a black screen and silence. I'd find that decision hard to stomach, so I hope you are reading Kate Oates.

To finish, a few reasons why Rita is simply the best, and therefore demands the very best from us and those who steer the show in 2017. First up, a joyous bit of gentle comedy from the 1990s. Remember when Corrie did comedy instead of locking people in cellars?

Here's a classic ding dong between Rita and Bet back in 1995:

And to show just what Barbara Knox (and Eileen Derbyshire) are capable of, have a look at this from 1983:

And I couldn't end without Rita's rendition of A Winter's Tale post-Tram Crash apocalypse:

And don't forget Rita's come back from the brink once before:

So please, Coronation Street, don't let this be the end of RIta. She deserves a whole lot better than a brain tumour and some silent credits.

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Anonymous said...

I think it is another publicity stunt along the lines of Ken Barlow being killed. Sadly, he survived his stroke as well as the push down the stairs. What is really pathetic is that none of the younger actors would garner the same outrage and fan mobilization.

Anonymous said...

It's also possible that she wants to leave the show. Maybe she has health problems we know nothing about. She's 74 so she may just wants to retire and be a grandma.

Newfy Pearl said...

I would rather - if it is her choice - for Barbara to leave on a high with a great storyline and enjoy her twilight years in retirement.

I love her and although I will miss Rita I want to thank Barbara Knox for her fine portrayal for all of these years.

As for Bill Roach....strange how many feel that he is the back bone of the show....yet many were 'disappointed' that he did not die! What does that say about the character/actor/fans?????

I think that it is admirable when actors can 'leave them wanting more' and slip back into their own lives - enjoying the companionship of family and friends who truly love them...not the character they portray.

Of course that is my opinion....and no doubt there will be those who will have strongly differing opinions. To each his own. :-)

Anonymous said...

Jeanie (anon):

All seems a case of turning a minnow into a whale. Highly unlikely that Rita will be killed off but quite likely the actress wants to move on. Rita/Knox will have a great, age-appropriate story line (after years of tut tutting), finally agree to do the surgery after working through the very natural fears and doubts (ie. is it worth the risk?), and then realize life is too short to remain behind the counter and head off into the sunset--maybe on a cruise or something else glamorous and exciting. I think it will be a story line the reverse of Hayley's. She refused treatment because it would only drag out her end; Rita will have to decide whether or not she wants to do a high risk surgery that might end well or leave her worse off. From the writers' point of view there are no dramatic benefits or necessity to kill Rita off. Hayley's demise was appropriate because we couldn't imagine her leaving Roy, while Kylie's death spawned a multitude of new story arcs, still on-going with Shona. But it's very easy to imagine Rita leaving to travel the world and there are not a lot of stories to be launched through her death.

Humpty Dumpty said...

Barbara Knox is 84 this year. She may want to take it easy. Maybe, she's got a house in France which she wants to enjoy for a few more years. I'm pretty sure that she will have been consulted about the exit story. I'm glad that fans will be able to say 'goodbye' to Rita. For goodness sake, what's happened to Emily? If Eileen Derbyshire wanted to slip away from the limelight without a fuss, I feel rather cheated. Barbara Knox, if she is leaving, is doing justice to her character. We've seen the new set-up emerging with Norris and Mary probably running the Kabin together. What would Rita do if she retired, sit in the Rovers most of the day and then saunter off to the café? If Barbara Knox wants to leave Corrie,it's much better Rita goes out in a blaze of glory, meaning a very emotional funeral. Of course, another possibility is that Rita and Mavis take off on a grand tour. As for Ken, we don't know what's being planned. Peter's back, ready to take on the role of head of the family. Perhaps Bill Roache will be the next actor to bow out.

Come Back Emily said...

Barbara may want to leave and want to retire.
I'm sure if this is the case Kate Oates has talked top Barbara and they've decided the best way for Rita to leave is to kill her off. I'm sure Barbara would be part of the decision of how Rita will leave.

I'd prefer Rita to be killed off rather than her just going off into the sun set to never die. It would mean that the decision would be final and that we could give Rita and Barbara a brilliant send off in the form of a funeral where many past faces show up.
Barbara may want Rita to die when she can show it and she can act it out, not when it's not seen.

If Rita is going to die, we'll be in line for some brilliantly acted, amazing and emotional scenes,

casual viewer said...

I hate the phrase 'killed off'. Rita is not being murdered. If the rumours are true that Barbara is leaving why not give her a dramatic send off. When Pat Butcher died in Eastenders it was very dramatic and touching. Mavis disappeared and was never heard from again......Alma had a death scene.....which actress do you think felt better at the time?

Also why should characters like Ken, Rita and Emily be getting such high pay scales when there are younger actors and actresses who probably need and deserve better pay for their efforts.

Newfy Pearl said...

I think for Rita to leave Whetherfield would be sadder than to have her character die among people who love her.
Becky had her happy ending but she was much younger and had a real life to head off towards.
Would Rita truly be happy living her twilight years away from the Kabin and the friends she has known and those she has loved such as Sally and her girls, Jenny and Gemma. Don't be angry. Don't be sad. Just wish Dame Knox the fantastic dramatic and touching and respectful sendoff she deserves as an actress who has served us for so many years.

Maricha said...

I read the comments saying Barbara Knox may want to retire and if so, then more power to her but, in my experience, people who want to retire do it long before they're 84. Frankly, I'd sooner believe she was fed up with being on the backburner for years at a time and figuring out if she can get a role as the next Dowager Countess.
Older characters weren't only loved by older viewers.When I was little, essentially all the characters were older than me but I still got hooked on Corrie. People of any age can appreciate good actors even those who are old enough to be their grandparents just as they can characters who could be their peers or children.

Unknown said...


Carry On Blogging! said...

I was using the expression kill off, not because i necessarily agree with it, but because it's the one being used in the media.

Also if you read the press around Alma's exit youll see Amanda Barrie was wholly happy with it. And i think many of the younger stars are paid very well indeed.


Carry On Blogging! said...

I think having a positive fond farewell would be more appropriate than a grim death as a result of a tumour.


Come Back Emily said...

It would be 'grim' but she'd be surrounded by her friends and family - Norris, Mary, Audrey, Jenny, Gemma, Sally, Kevin (potentially even Dennis, Sharon, Emily and Mavis).
If you saw Ashley's death on Emmerdale, it showed that they could have a 'grim death' however it was happy and celebrated his life, despite him having dementia. Corrie could do the same.


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