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Thursday 30 November 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.This past week saw Alec Gilroy back, circling Bet Lynch like a fat, bald vulture. Meanwhile Emily and Curly nearly came to blows over his big telescope (saucebox!) and Gail showed Brian how empowered she was by wallpapering her front room and going to the pictures with Pauline.

Dabbling with Derek

I think Derek's after more than a sherbet dibdab
This past week has brought some brilliant classic Corrie comedy from the superb Thelma Barlow as Mavis. Derek was back in her life, married to Angela and working for her father. He was as wet and snivelling as always but Peter Baldwin put in some great work. I think having watched these episodes I can see why he was a guest character for so long. Too much of him and you can't help wishing a nasty accident should befall him. The farce concerned boxes of stationery ordered by Derek as a cover story so he could meet with Mave behind Angela's back. To be honest I shouldn't have thought Ange would care as she mainly seemed to be down the golf club. 

The boxes went back and forth from the Kabin to Derek's car and finally Rita snapped and took them back to Hawthorne's. What saved this story from being incredibly irritating were the gorgeous performances from Barbara Knox and Thelma Barlow. A joyous chalk and cheese double act which was funny, fierce, dithery and always full of love and care. As Mavis tied herself and her dowdy tabards into endless knots over her faithful infidelity (they didn't even manage afters in the restaurant), it gave Dame Knox the opportunity to get her double takes out for a good airing. Classic stuff.

Gloria's trick with a tea towel

Glamorous Glo
It became startling obvious this week that Sue Jenkins the actress was with child. Gloria's day-glo wardrobe of bright shirts, Wilma Flinstone jewelry and side-ponytail were all present and correct, she just seemed bigger. One lovely yellow number resembled a paddling pool before inflation. Jenkins' pregnancy was easily covered up by a constantly levitating tea towel held in front of the bump whenever she appeared without the bar top nearby. Such sophistication. I'm sure it fooled many a viewer at the time but not me, oh no. For I had read ahead and discovered that within a matter of episodes a half brother she never knew she had would suddenly appear and whisk our Glo away from her depressing Don't Look Back In Anger bedsit to see her ailing mother in Canada. 

The Joys of the Parks and Cemeteries 

Alf can't believe she won sporting that perm
In a throwaway line this week Audrey was moaning to Gail that she was at a loose end due to Alfeh's council commitments. Apparently he was off to an evening meeting of the Parks and Cemeteries Committee to decide on some new flagstones. Why do I mention this humdrum detail from the life of Weatherfield's tubby greengrocer? Because it's the little things again. I love the civic business that went on back in the day. It gave the sense of a wider community and made it all feel real, domestic and believable. And Bryan Mosley was a superb actor, he just was that rotund greengrocer in his white coat, bustling about, getting stressed and doting on Audrey. 

The little details of ordinary Weatherfield life don't really get a look in nowadays and you don't feel, watching in 2017, that the community of Weatherfield exists beyond Victoria Court. It's sad as there was so much rich material for the writers to mine back in the old days. Local councils full of intrigue, gossip and goings on at the Community Centre and the memorable mysterious doings of the Square Dealers. We're lucky these days if we get a passing mention of Weatherfield County, hotpot or Newton and Ridley.

A Cheap Return to Chesterfield

Trevor Ogden, looking like a rancid extra from The Sweeney
Hilda's offspring got a rare mention last week. To begin with, back in the sixties, the Ogden's had four children but apparently two were in care. The only ones the viewers ever met were Irma, who married David Barlow (Ken's dead brother, never mentioned) and Trevor, who was a cut-price Baldwin if ever there was one. Trevor looked down on his parents and they didn't even get a chance to look up to him as he was never around. He lived in Chesterfield with his posher wife Polly (briefly seen, played by Mary Tamm in 1973) and together they had children Damian and Jayne.

Hilda begged Bet for some time off so she could go and stay with Trevor's lot this week and it was painful to watch. What started out as a bit of respite for poor Hilda turned out to be unpaid skivvying for Trevor while him and Pol were off on the Costa del Sol. Downtrodden Hilda was always easy to feel sorry for and to love. She never had much which meant where there were brief moments of simple joy in her life, it was always heartwarming stuff, safe in the hands of the glorious Jean Alexander. This reminder of Hilda's family made me ponder why they've never been re-introduced into modern Weatherfield. Wouldn't it be great to have the Ogden name back in town? I'm sure Trevor and Polly could be recast or perhaps one of Hilda's grandchildren could pop by for a visit? Hilda is still waiting for a fond farewell on screen following Jean's death.

Terry Duckworth: Content Advisory

I couldn't find a pic of Terry in his pants so here's another people pleaser from '86
If the Kevin and Sally wedding episode had aired in the age of Twitter, Terry Duckworth's powder blue briefs would have had their own hashtag. In fact, I'm sure if you paused your digibox you'd get a glimpse of his little hashtag anyway. Terry's pantage caused quite a flurry in certain quarters this week and I'm sure some viewers never made it to the end of the episode. For those that missed it I can confirm that Kevin and Sal did get wed, quite simply at the Register Office, without anything catching on fire, breaking down, falling off the viaduct or getting drunk on the faktry gantry. 

Anyway, back to Tel's knick-knacks. I have no real clue as to why that scene was written in or why Nigel Pivaro had to crouch so provocatively under Vera's kitchen table while Kev was chowing down on his breakfast sausage, but it certainly woke me up. Thankfully though, for viewers of a delicate disposition, the only bangers we saw were severely burnt in Vee's rather unsanitary looking frying pan. Still, in the days before rent-a-hunks turned up ten a penny to strip to the waist to give Audrey's Mazda a buff at Webster's Autos, Terry Duckegg was the best option going...

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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