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Wednesday 22 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 Vera lose her job, Susan walk out on hers (who can blame her, sat in that horrid office with the Melvyn Bragg of the Weatherfield Recorder) and Sally contemplating employment which would involve a 20 minute bus ride. That wouldn't even be written into the script these days what with everyone working a cough and a spit from their front doors.

Betty's back (again)

It made perfect sense for Betty to leave her hotpot recipe to him

This week Betty Turpin made her 843rd return to the Rovers after doing one of the following: walking out / retiring / stropping off / going to her Gordon's / sleeping with Phyllis Pearce / stealing Newton and Ridley pint pots. Now, two of those aren't true (well, only one if you're Phil Collinson). Betty returned from Wimbledon early as her Gordon had been called away on urgent business. Something to do with Jenny Seagrove's understudy refusing to work with Jack Douglas in a provincial tour of Run for your Wife. 

Anyway, Betty was back and so was her delectable hot pots (steady on, you at the front). Her red cabbage simmering away on the hot plate, all was well with the world. Unless you're Percy Sugden, more of him later. Sally Seddon flew into a strop herself when her corned beef barms were not considered appetising but Kev went ahead and proposed to her anyway. I look back fondly to the days when time was given over to cover the little every day things like the quality of the grub in the Rovers. Who can forget the drama that emanated from Mavis Riley's barb about the standard of Billy Walker's chutney? And what about that memorable occasion when Dame Annie Walker of Clitheroe introduced home made soup to the Rovers menu only for binman Eddie Yeats to find empty industrial soup tins in the back yard? Small beer to some (pun intended), but the writing, situations and performances always did it justice.

Susan Baldwin, one of Thatcher's Children

Time for Coq au Vin chez Baldwin

There were far too many scenes of Susan Baldwin this week featuring way too much dialogue. I've become quite obsessive about Susan, repeatedly checking the Corriepedia entry which details her final appearance in November 1987. Even at two episodes each week day, that still seems a long way off to me. This last week has seen Susan stomp about attempting to convince anyone who'll listen that she's capable, well-educated and a good actress. Susan wants a job. She's sick of microwaving Fray Bentos pies in Mike's kitchen and having to navigate those louvre doors while continuing on with her dialogue. 

It's a big ask for us to believe that Susan is hungry for success and wants to join the shoulder-padded Jackie Ingrams of the North West, especially when Mike manages to manipulate her in the space of 30 seconds. Before long all is forgotten and she's popping on that pinny and putting the cock in her coq au vin for one of Baldwin's unsavoury business associates who quite clearly has a wandering eye. This guy looked like something out of Rita, Sue and Bob Too and it's surely only a matter of time until his sweaty mitts are preventing our Susan from slopping out the trifle. 

Percy Sugden, Piecan in Chief

Here's Percy!
I may be looking back through rose-tinted pint pots, but I honestly don't remember Percy Sugden being quite as irritating as he actually was in 1986. Meddling in everyone's business, raising poor Alf's blood pressure (surely that's Audrey's job) and clucking about like the Ena/Albert Hybrid he undoubtedly was, Sugden really was annoying. He ticked me off this week almost as much as Derek did last week, all mealy mouthed snivelling and pate a la maison. I'd also forgotten that Perce had a link with the Webster family, with Elaine having wed Kev's dad Bill. My interest in that subplot had waned before I'd finished typing this sentence.

Apparently Bill Waddington used to write his lines on the inside of Percy's flatcap which is why he kept craddling it as he ranted at Gail about the quality of the caff's toasted teacakes. Bill left Coronation Street for the last time in 1997 and it was reported afterwards that he was dismayed with the amount of sex and scandal on the cobbles in the Brian Park era. Goodness only knows what Waddington would make of the Street today! My favourite Percy moment from recent episodes was seeing him charging down the street in his night attire as smoke poured from the Rovers. I never knew he had it in him.

On location with Brian and Gail

I'm not sure Brian and Gail stopped for afters
The war of the Tilsleys continued this week with Brian the Teeth being thoroughly unpleasant, demanding Gail have an abortion. Ivy's reaction to this news was priceless. I always loved it when her faith in golden boy Bri was severely tested and once again it proved that before the Powers That Be completely mucked up the character of Ivy, Lynne Perrie was capable of some amazingly powerful, down to earth and moving performances. As divorce proceedings moved on a-pace, Brian and Gail met up for yet another poisonous exchange out on location in what looked like the conservatory of a Harvester off the M62. Oh the glamour.

As Brian tried to act all angry, I was constantly distracted by his Vauxhall Conference footballer hairstyle, blimey what a weave. During this scene I worked out that Helen Worth was the same age at the time of filming that I am now. A sobering thought for all concerned. I couldn't tell from her reaction shots whether Gail was yearning for Brian to shut his gob so she could take advantage of a lull at the salad bar or just because like the rest of us, she was completely sick of him. Don't worry lovey, it's surely only a matter of time before Sir Peter Hall snaps our Brian up for a season at the National.

Kev'n'Sal - Happily Ever After

Three's Company

Lovely scenes this week as Kevin and Sally got engaged. I absolutely adored this storyline as it was full of genuine warmth, hope and affection. The trio of Kevin, Sally and Hilda Ogden was really starting to gel and it was a heartwarming watch. Despite glitches like neither the Webster nor Seddon families actually giving a monkeys and Sally walking out of her job at the Rovers, they still ended up sipping Bacardi and cokes with Mrs O to toast their future happiness.

Watching this, a tad moist-eyed, it made me think how sad it was that the Websters ended up the way they did. I know that's life and Corrie must reflect that but the young Kev and Sal were so sweet and believable together and it just worked. I know they got a bit bogged down and boring in the mid-90s when Sally dressed like a downtrodden Bananarama reject and Kevin lost his tache, but for me it all got a bit much when Kev starting bunking down with that piece from Loose Women and Sally prostituted herself with him from As Time Goes By to pay for Rosie's school fees. As we can see today, that was a wise investment Sal. 

Rosie Webster: Pride of Oakhill

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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Anonymous said...

As a very long time viewer I remember the episodes you are re-capping. I absolutely love your take on the shows! Keep up the good work please!

Carry On Blogging! said...

Thank you very much!

Cobblestone said...

No mention of Gina, as yet. And bizarrely, Sally claimed last week to have a brother, although this could well have been a joke in response to the lewd ‘Have you got a sister?’ enquiry.

Anonymous said...

I remember at the time the (re) casting of Susan Barlow being a sentimental decision because the actress had played Susan as a child. Unfortunately any subsequent acting experience was not strong enough for the demands of the adult Susan role. No spoiler intended, but she didn’t last that long. Maybe she was never meant to. But one of my “what if ...” parallel Corrie universes includes Susan Barlow as a permanent, core character these past 30 years.


Maricha said...

Thanks Graeme. I can't watch these episodes but I remember seeing them. What strikes me between the show then and now is that back then when I'd describe what I was watching everyone thought it was terribly small potatoes until they watched it and also got hooked.
Now, I have no trouble explaining the show because anyone can understand what the "ripped from the headlines" storylines are about but I haven't gotten anyone interested in watching it for more than a couple of weeks. I can't blame them as my own mind wanders when I watch out of habit more than anything else.

Louby said...

I love reading this weekly review! I too realised what a great actress Lynne Perrie was, and also realised that almost all of the characters back then (bar Susan!) were totally believable, unlike nowadays in my opinion.

Don't wish the time away - if Susan left in November 87, it was only another month before Hilda was gone.


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