Friday, 11 May 2018

Smile, Though Your Heart is Aching


I can’t stand crime dramas. It always baffles me how successful they are. It’s a whole industry centered around death and misery. I did dip my toe into Broadchurch last year but that was only because Julie Hesmondhalgh was in it and it was the last ever series so I didn’t need to worry about getting hooked. Which I might have, it was very good. Julie was brilliant in it too.

Some of our most successful and long-running TV shows have been crime dramas. Prime Suspect, Morse, all of Agatha Christie’s work, Midsomer Murders, Silent Witness, CSI Miami, CSI Las Vegas, CSI New Brighton (etc, etc). And the basic premise in all of them is that someone’s dead and we all need to be kept in suspense until right at the very end when the person we least expected to be responsible turns out to be the killer. Or the rapist. Our obsession with death keeps these franchises going. Are we this eager to see characters on television peg it to prepare us for our own end? Or is it that death is still such a mystery to us that we use fiction to try and understand it more? Who knows. 

This week’s Coronation Street proved yet again that death is a key ingredient for soaps as well as drama. Aidan’s devastating suicide and the aftermath has been praised by fans and media alike over the past few days, and some have said Corrie is back to its best. Here's a Radio Times article including some Tweets from the public.

Gail’s monologue from her front window, looking out over the cobbles across the street she’s known for forty years, was a particular high point from Wednesday’s hour-long episode. She pondered how she and others could have done something to help Aidan, if only they’d known what he was going through. And how concerned she was for her son David’s own safety and wellbeing. It was a gut-wrenching episode that I found difficult to watch. But it was also a brilliant piece of television, beautifully and skillfully written by Jonathan Harvey. It will go down in history as one of Corrie’s best I’m sure.

For the chop
And it will be in good company. Some of my favourite storylines and scenes have centred around Corrie deaths. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched Audrey complain that she hasn’t had time for a cup of tea whilst standing over a near-lifeless Alma as she faded away. I swear I saw Amanda Barrie lick her lips in that death scene at one point. Anyway because I loved those two characters together so much, Alma’s death from cancer is one of my all time favourite episodes. 

I also enjoy reliving the moment Fred Elliott keeled over in Audrey’s vestibule. The two of them had some great scenes together towards the end, and after parting on good terms, Audrey ended up being the last person to see Fred at his best. I say at his best. Fred was given the perfect final goodbye as the comedic character’s coffin got stuck on the crematorium conveyor belt, causing Audrey to burst into fits of giggles as other friends and family looked awkwardly on.

The tram crash of 2010, widely criticised, is another of my top Corrie moments. Death and destruction everywhere. I thought we’d lose Rita at one point but she suffered nothing more serious than an Uncle Joe’s Mint Ball to the face. The disaster brought some questionable CGI along with a handful of dead characters. I loved it. It’s imperfections and all. I even enjoyed seeing real life reporters from ITV News and Granada Reports including Alastair Stewart, play parts in the unfolding drama. It was awkward as hell. But brilliant. The perfect way to celebrate 50 years of Corrie. 


Mind the Gap - in your roof

Going back a few years, Judy Mallett’s death was harrowing. She’d had a car accident a short time before her demise and suffered an embolism as a result. The scene of her collapsing, holding her chest in the back yard of Number 9 was awful. In heartbreaking scenes, her husband Gary was grief stricken and struggled to accept she was dead.

Aired well before my time, a Corrie death that everyone knows about it Stan Ogden’s. Actor Bernard Youens had passed away and it was decided that they would kill off Stan. This led to the iconic scene of Hilda, sitting at her dining table clutching Stan’s glasses case, wedding ring glistening in the light. It was perfectly heartbreaking.

Probably the most well known Corrie death was that of Alan Bradley in Blackpool. Despite the tram hitting him with as much force as a bluebottle flying into some double glazing, he met his maker in one of Corrie’s best rating episodes with over 26 million people watching.

All of these deaths in some way brought characters within Coronation Street together. Particularly Aidan’s recent death which seems to have touched everyone on the Street. And of course peppered among the distressing scenes of pain and anguish are little comedic gems, like Beth worrying if they would still have jobs now that the boss has croaked it. Perhaps we love watching these types of storylines on TV because at the end of it, we always see some kind of justice. And that is quite satisfying as a viewer. Quite what justice can be found from Aidan’s death who knows, but the awareness the story has created over mental health and suicide is a positive real-life effect that we can all be thankful for.

Coronation Street is all the better for it’s deaths. They can have a message, be heartbreaking, see storylines come to a conclusion, or in some cases provide a bit of comedy. Corrie is capable of handling all of the above, and I look forward to the grim reaper returning to the cobbles in due course. Who for? I wouldn’t like to say….

*******
Someone called ‘UnitedRoar’ on YouTube made this little compilation of Coronation Street deaths over the years. The sicko. Enjoy.


Twitter: @StevieDawson

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2 comments:

Rapunzel said...

I wonder whether the Poloce properly investigated Janet Barlow’s death? All those pills and no glass of water ...

Sarah Fallows said...

Mike breathing his last on the wet cobbles in Ken’s arms. Contrived? Possibly. All the feels? Definitely.

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