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Thursday 26 October 2017

Five things we've learned from Classic Coronation Street this week

I was overjoyed when the announcement came that ITV3 would start re-running classic episodes of Coronation Street. To begin with, I was disappointed the network wasn't going to show episodes from earlier on - I believe the mid 1970s to early 80s to be the golden age for the show - however I can now see the benefits in starting in 1986. The episodes broadcast this week are modern enough to feature a vast number of characters viewers today will still be aware of, either because they are still regularly on our screens or because their time has only recently been and gone.

Coronation Street in 1986 featured regular characters who stlll appear today - Ken, Rita, Jenny, Audrey, Gail, Sally and Kevin. The likes of Deirdre, Emily, Jack and Vera, Betty and Hilda are still very much in our consciousness too. Early '86 also began some long running stories, introducing Sally Seddon to enliven Kevin's life for many years to come and most of all, the start of the three year Alan Bradley saga. 

I have been tasked with cobbling together a blog on five things we've learned from this week in the life of Classic Coronation Street on ITV3. Week four of these wonderful repeats and it's finally time for Mike Baldwin to take Susan up the aisle. Ahem. Susan's father Ken, the aging bouffant provocateur of the piece, is still refusing to play any part in the proceedings until a stern talking to from the lovely David Lonsdale incarnation of Peter sees our Kenneth finally turn up to the wedding in style...

He had style back in the day, our Kenneth

The saga of Hilda's Drawers

The Street's answer to Bargain Hunt
Poor Hilda lost a friend this past week, albeit one we never actually saw. The main reason for this little storyline was Hilda's inheritance - some rather manky looking old furniture and Rommel the cat. Ada, for it was she, left her cousin Tony (a rather unsavoury looking creature in a cheap suit and bad hair) to inform Mrs Ogden what she had been left and after initially feeling rather crestfallen that it wasn't cold hard cash, she soon perked up after a visit from Weatherfield's very own Cheap and Cheerful, Terry Duckworth and Curly Watts. I'll let you decide which one's which. 

Terry and Curly soon convinced Mrs O that the old sideboard (the furniture that is) was actually worth about £400. No sooner had that little lot spilled out of Duckworth's mouth than our Hilda was down the travel agent booking a week in a hotel in Torquay (so posh they have shaver plugs in every room, apparently). As Hilda pegged out her best clobber, all of which looked out of date in 1968, Kevin the grease monkey persuaded her to splash out on some new outfits in case she went on to meet a rich sugar grand daddy with a penchant for fried bread. Unfortunately, as is the luck of the Ogdens, the sideboard is actually worth a lot less than estimated. Well so says a posh piece in a dodgy beret (Granada wardrobe for arty) and an old geezer in a kipper tie (Granada wardrobe for dirty). Poor old Hilda!

Vera Duckworth - Women's Choice

Yes but only if you've got it parked outside a nice bit of stone cladding
No, not some controversial storyline that never made it to the screen. In May 1986 Vera Duckworth got the shock of her life when she opened a letter to find she'd won a competition she hadn't actually entered. Vee would hardly write in to win a husband of the year competition given she was married to "our Jack the piecan". Jack had sneekily entered himself while laid up with a bad leg and as soon as the truth came out the Duck-eggs were at odds about whose car it was going to be. 

I loved Jack and Vera the most when they were knee deep in one of their comedy arguments and this was a cracker, with their Terry as the voice of reason (they were desperate). Of course Vera couldn't drive so I'm braced for the comedy storyline which sees her learn and eventually pass. The car itself also led to one of my favourite pieces of dialogue some years later when Vera shared her concerns with Jack that they might be common. As Jack rightly stated, "Who could think we were common? Loft full of pigeons, Vauxhall Nova". Who indeed.


Ivy gets a surprise from Down Under....

Gail in flirtatious mood
Don't worry, it doesn't involve a trip to Dr Lowther. After a quiet time on screen in which Ivy mainly shuffled across to the faktry in a cavalcade of dowdy outfits, this week saw the beginnings of a new storyline for Ivy and the rest of the Tilsley family. Praise be! Instead of Gail popping up to order a tomato juice in the Rovers or chuckling at Mrs Pearce and Sam Tindall getting down to business in the cafe, Gail is about to grab a big story arc, and no it doesn't belong to Brian. The permed teeth himself has been conspicuous by his absence too but that's all about to change with the arrival of cousin from Oz, Ian Latimer. This name may not be familiar to modern viewers but Ian led Gail down a very different path and saw our Brian on the other side of infidelity for a change. 

The most important thing to come out of this little lot was the birth of a certain Sarah Louise Tilsley the following year. Oh yes, I rub my hands with glee at the prospect of endless episodes of Gail calling her daughter Sarah Lou. Oh how I hated that. The parentage of Sarah was questioned by all and sundry in 1987 and led Brian and Ivy to be even more unpalatable than usual. In a brief glimpse at Ivy's abode this week, I realised she still had the same nasty red brown leather furniture that poor, late lamented Bert used to park his polyester strides on back in the day. 

I thought having the Barlow family front and centre was bad enough, what with Susan grasping at RADA accents (I think she was aiming at Taste of Huney this week), but I'm not sure we're all collectively braced for the return of the Tilsleys. Who am I kidding, even though my mother used to leave the room every time either Ivy or Don appeared on screen (they put her off her Maxwell House), I loved nothing better than a good verbal scrap between Ivy and Gail. Those were the days when Gail had spirit and I actually voluntarily rooted for her. 

What I noticed from Ian's arrival was how the street almost stopped at the sight of a black cab and a stranger with a bad fake tan. If the same happened as a result of that lot today the whole place would look like Madame Tussauds. 

It's all happening in Audrey's Front Parlour

Audrey promises Alfeh a blow wave after hours
And I'm quite happy to let that stand as a euphemism if you want it to, cockers. This past week saw the action heat up in Audrey's front room salon. Or saloon as Alfeh called it. Alfeh kept popping in to check on things, normally with a full bladder and a calculator to work out how much Aud had spent on the new fixtures and fittings. Despite clearing Alf out, unfortunately it didn't stretch to ditching that awful stained wallpaper which looked like it went up with the ark. I can't imagine previous resident Elsie Tanner tolerated that nasty wall covering when she was entertaining half of Burtonwood. Given its deeply questionable finish, it was probably slapped up by the Clayton family during their brief, boring tenure. 

Audrey had quite a few blow and gos this week - Mavis, Vera, even Percy Sugden popped in to be humiliated under a blond wig (not one of Ms Goodyear's alas). Unfortunately without a sink in the parlour, Aud had to hoof clients upstairs to their very own bathroom which cause a problem for Alfeh when he was caught unzipping himself in the presence of a strict Methodist. Sounds more like a programme on Channel 4 to me. 
Bet gets Butch 

The regulars aren't impressed with Bet's Prisoner audition outfit
Finally, I cannot end without a Bet Lynch style update. Ten years before the regulars of the Rovers were always agog waiting to see what sumptuous to the floor evening gown Mrs Annie Walker was going to emerge resplendent in behind the pumps. Too many trips into Cheshire in the Rover meant Mrs Walker's upstairs must have been packed with man made fibres.This trend continued under Bet Lynch who certainly knew how to make an entrance. Last week I wrote about the changing state of Bet's weave and this week saw a very severe development. 

Gone was any trace of the seventies beehive we had come to know and fear. In its place was a very short blonde back and sides, almost shaved up the back, as it were. To further compliment this back street Prisoner look, Bet was seen this week in a very masculine get up of shirt, tie and slacks. As usual nobody batted an eyelid, probably because they knew the better of it. Just what was going on with Bet's private life, we all wondered. At least she wasn't wearing it back to front, for a change...


Until next week!

Classic Coronation Street is broadcast on ITV3 every week day at 14.40 and 15.15, repeated from 6am the next day.

You can follow me on Twitter @GraemeN82

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