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Monday 26 February 2018

Five Things we Learned from Classic Coronation Street this week

Fear of Fanny

Carby that is. Nothing against the late actress Fanny Carby, I'm sure she was a lovely lady who enjoyed a great career elsewhere, but what the hell is Amy Burton? Obviously preparing for the departure of Weatherfield grandee Dame Hilda of the Muriel, Vera's adenoidal ma was quickly shoehorned in this past week without any previous mention. Apparently she had visited several times before, however until now she'd obviously never popped over on a Monday or a Wednesday. This irritating foghorn of an old crone has made Vera seem almost reasonable and underplayed while her constant skriking has had me actually feeling sorry for Jack Duckegg. 

And it's going to get worse before it gets better. She set upon Alec up his back entry (Stop it) at the end of last week and was soon installed as the new Rovers cleaner. Good luck Gilroys as Amy looks more spit'n'chammy than bleach and elbow grease. Fortunately old Ma Burton would be gone by the following Spring, the Coronation Street production team suddenly coming to their senses and realising she was certainly no replacement for Terry crawling about under the breakfast table in his grundies.

Trouble at Dr Lowther's

Most of this past week has focussed on the violent (for 1987 Corrie) attack on poor old Hilda and Mrs Lowther. The Lowthers' were packing up their house and set to move away to Derbyshire and this, hard as it is for me to type, marked the beginning of Hilda's exit storyline after 23 years in the show. Even though these are repeats and we know it's coming, I've gotten so used to Jean Alexander's beautiful performances that I'm just not ready to say goodbye. The attack storyline, a bungled robbery, was actually quite shocking and featured much more location filming than normal at the time. The use of a real, rather grim looking hospital added to the drama. And back in those pre-multi channel days, with only two episodes going out each week, the cheeky cliffhanger which left viewers guessing which character had passed away would keep viewers hooked for five whole days, not the thirty minutes we're used to nowadays. 

One of the joys of this rather sad story, which also shone a light on Hilda's loneliness, was the brief return of the glorious Geoffrey Hughes as Eddie Yeats. Geoffrey came back for two episodes as he wanted one last chance to act with Jean before she left the show. Lovely stuff. Of course the drama of the situation was lessened slightly by the fact one of the violent thugs was played by Heartbeat's P.C Bellamy, Joan Lowther's sister by the actress who played tarty Marina in Last of the Summer Wine and the hospital consultant by the guy who played the husband of Sonia in the Julia McKenzie 80s sitcom Fresh Fields. And yes, I am that sad.

Alec Gilroy, Employer of the Year

One of the knock on effects of Hilda's hospitalisation this week was Bet having to don a tabard and set to cleaning the Rovers. Alec was most put out and as usual when Alec is put out, Roy Barraclough is at his funniest and most comedically inventive. Not only could he not lay his hands on a teabag, but he rather worryingly found a plentiful supply of jelly in the Rovers' kitchen. He had no idea why it was there but I have a creeping suspicion Bet does (shudder). In a brilliant line, Alec expressed his dismay at the thought of Bet going down the street in a pinny and headscarf looking like a woman who "had been driven from home". The mind boggles.

Later, Alec paid Hilda a visit, ostensibly to check in on the hardworking char but really just to chivvy her back to work. Failing to mask his shock at the sight of the infamous muriel, Alec uses that brilliant Gilroy tact to ask when Hilda will be back scrubbing the Rovers' toilets. With a toe-curling yet joyous touch of comedy, Alec carefully places a bottle of mild on the table in front of Hilda, almost like popping some cheddar on a trap. We soon found out that Mrs O was having none of it as once Alec returned to the pub, that same bottle of mild was bunged back on the bar top! 

The Rosamund Street Avengers

Derek Wilton, the John Steed of travelling salesmen, snivelled back into view this week, once again taking advantage of poor, twittery Mavis. In the hands of lesser actors this storyline may have been little more than an irritating diversion, however Peter Baldwin and Thelma Barlow are just delicious as Derek and Mavis, tying themselves in knots over the intrigue of the mysterious Angela and her alleged paramour. Derek, while sick of domineering Angela and her vile son Neville, seemed quite determined to leave his wife until he remembered his career, his company car and his pension. The scenes which saw Derek turn up on Mavis's doorstep one dark and stormy night, were beautifully played, with Mavis a little bundle of simmering sensuality at the thought of Derek sleeping on the sofa. She was deliciously coquettish in her pink winceyette, knitted toys on her candlewick. 

Rita raised more eyebrows than she sold humbugs this week as she cut through the Brief Encounter romantics with her razor sharp ginger wit. There was a lovely scene when Rita expressed her care and concern for Mavis though and it was smashing to see the genuine warmth and affection between those two chalk and cheese characters. Derek, calling on Mavis like Steed on Mrs Peel, made it clear she was needed and she was off in Rita's Fiesta to the Harvester last seen during Brian and Gail's estrangement the previous year. As Angela and her man friend enjoyed roast lamb and baked potatoes, Mavis sidled round a print of Constable's Haywain while Derek slunk even lower into the passenger seat of Reet's runaround. Belting stuff.

Audrey's Hard Labour

Poor Aud. In the days before Alma resurfaced, our Mrs Roberts was forced to divide her time between filing her nails behind the counter of Alf's Mini Market and taking never-ending tea breaks at Jim's Cafe. With young Martin the Mullet not yet back behind the Horlicks dispenser and Phyllis away having her throat re-gravelled, Audrey was frying chips for long distance lorry drivers and buttering teacakes for Percy. After a long day feeding the faces of folk, Aud exclaimed that she was too old for hard graft and insisted Alfeh took her out for tea. Little did Audrey know what was to come: serial killer son in laws, Gail scrapping in the street in her dressing gown, Demon David, a lapdancing great-granddaughter and Nicky suddenly looking twenty years older than she does. I'm sure our Aud is now sitting in her glamorous gran-pad at Grasmere Drive, looking back misty eyed at the days when all she had to do was shovel chips and submit to Alfeh's salacious desires.

Until next time...

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Lily Bigfield said...

Wonderful Graeme! I'm loving your write-ups as much as the fantastic vintage episodes. Phyllis having her throat re-gravelled- priceless!

Anonymous said...

I am enjoying these old episodes but some of the acting left a lot to be desired, especially from whoever played Dr Lowther, it was awful.

Carry On Blogging! said...

Thank you Lily!

Carry On Blogging! said...

Yes some better than others I agree. Generally the characters are pretty strong and well played though

Anonymous said...

Poor old Dr Lowther was played by the lovely David Scase who used to run Manchester's Library Theatre. He was a bit hesitant wasn't he?
I enjoy spotting some of the supporting actors - Mark Jordan playing one of the thugs who attacked Hilda went on to to be PC Bellamy in Heartbeat and Sarah Lancashire (Raquel) played the nurse Jack tried to rent the room to and of course Jean Fergusson who played Mrs Lowther's sister also played (as well as Marina in Summer Wine) played Mrs Hoyle who was tied up by John Stape.
Great review!

Carry On Blogging! said...

Thank you im glad you enjoyed it. Yes DS was a bit, I presume he had a wider career elsewhere. I agree it's always good fun to spot these other actors in supporting roles. Some of them keep coming back!


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