Thursday, 20 December 2018

Five Things We Learned In Corrie This Year

The institution of marriage is dead.  Births, marriages, deaths - these are the lifeblood of soap operas.  Coronation Street weddings used to be so important they'd get their own TV Times supplements.  Shame then that this year all the weddings turned out terribly.  Are the writers of Corrie okay?  Do they have issues they need to resolve?  Should we send Relate to MediaCity?

The year started with Sinead and Chesney, in a wedding so rushed they couldn't even invite the groom's sister because she was in Australia Birmingham.  Everyone walking around like prisoners heading for the gallows should've given us a clue that all was not well, but in the end Chesney decided he had to put Joseph first.  He decided not to marry Sinead because he couldn't rely on her to never leave him and his child - probably wise given that she'd spent much of the previous few months hankering after Daniel.  Still, it was nice to see Ches care so deeply about his son, since he spent the rest of the year more or less forgetting he existed.

Next came Robert and Michelle, who decided to get wed in the Bistro.  Things unfortunately went wrong when Pat Phelan burst in waving a pistol around and shot the bride.  This gave me severe doubts about Michelle's skill as a wedding planner; surely any reasonable nuptial arranger would have a section in their contingency plans folder marked Psychopath Interrupting - See Section F.  In the hubbub of Michelle getting taken to hospital and Anna stabbing Pat everyone forgot to get married - and they seem to have forgotten they're not married ever since.  You'd have thought a couple in love would've nipped down the registry office sharpish to make up for their first attempt, but Robert and Michelle seem to have decided living in sin is fine, putting them in the same nebulous category of "couples who I think the writers have forgotten aren't actually married" with Beth & Kirk and Fiz & Tyrone.

At least the third wedding actually resulted in two people getting legally married, though since those people were Tracy and Steve, maybe we shouldn't celebrate too much.  The two of them had been circling each other all year, Steve reluctantly being dragged along with her schemes for a wedding in a castle, until he finally caved into his characteristic urges and let his penis do his thinking for him.  The happy day was therefore overshadowed by the bride belting Leanne Battersby and screaming at everyone in sight.  Even the honeymoon was slightly marred by her abandoning him in the Moroccan desert.  Tracy and Steve are still married, just about, but it's difficult to argue that they're a great advert for the institution, what with them having to be contractually obligated to spend time together and all.


The fourth wedding came on the same day, a spectacularly classless move by Daniel designed to overshadow his half-sister's wedding and steal all the best guests.  He surprised Sinead (yes, her again) in the Community Gardens with a hippy-dippy ceremony overseen by Kirk - this is, unsurprisingly, not recognised as a legal marriage in British law so they may as well have swapped friendship bracelets for all the standing it had.  Mind you, within minutes of the ceremony Sinead was lying about her health and she spent the next couple of months concealing her life-threatening condition from her "husband", so maybe Daniel knew what he was doing and wanted an easy get-out clause.

Four weddings and not one of them was fairytale; the only person cheered by these "happiest days of their lives" would be the divorce lawyers.  Add into the mix Tim and Sally's ongoing crisis, Eileen happily becoming a widow and Nicky Tilsley marrying then separating from Elsa in the space of about six weeks and really, you have to conclude that being single has a lot of positives.  Still there is one plus side to all of this: Gail managed to get through 2018 without managing to marry anybody at all.  Well done girl!


There is a law of diminishing returns.  It's usually nice to see old faces return to the show.  2018 had a plethora of characters come back but as the year went on, their worth went down and down.

Starting the year, the magnificent Carla Connor announced she'd be staying in the Street.  Ok, it was mainly so she could cadge a kidney off one of her siblings, but it was great to see her back.  By Christmas she was where she belonged - swigging whiskey behind the desk of Underworld and sharing red-hot sexual chemistry with Peter Barlow.  How all this booze affects her new kidney is yet to be seen, but I suppose she's still got Kate if she needs another one.

Next to rise from the dead was Martin Platt of all people.  He'd left the show over a decade ago to move to - horror of horrors - Liverpool.  Scouseland was such a terrible distance away from Weatherfield, and there were so many horrific obstacles en route, that he'd never dared venture back to Greater Manchester over all the years.  Not to see his first grandchild, not to console his son when his wife died, not to check everyone was ok during the many disasters which have befallen the Platts over the years.  He finally worked out how to use the M62 and arrived to announce he was moving to New Zealand.  I'm still not entirely sure what the point of bringing Martin back was - he appeared, waved hello at everyone, almost got David to confess to the deep trauma in his life, then ran off Down Under - but it was nice to see.  And Sean Wilson had barely changed in the intervening years; he must be putting Oil of Olay in his cheddar.

May brought the best kind of return, the surprise!return, when Anna Windass loomed out of the darkness hell-bent on getting revenge.  Apparently she'd prioritised abusing Pat Phelan in a lockup over seeing her young daughter after months in prison but hey, the heart wants what it wants, and who are we to judge?  One quick knifing later Anna was off to the East Coast to become a cleaner; Faye went with her, but seems to find any excuse to come back to the show she can.  Hopefully Anna will continue to make surprise!returns, perhaps as an Angel of Death who turns up at opportune moments to off villains.  I can just see her descending from the rafters to wipe out the latest slimy businessman who's got Underworld in his clutches.

We also got the return of one of those plotlines we all thought had been quietly abandoned.  For ten years I'd been loudly complaining that Michelle seemed to have forgotten that she had two sons, and finally this year the producers heard my bleating and reintroduced Alex into the show (now rechristened Ali, because there was already an Alex working in the cafe), swiftly followed by Ryan.  They'd both grown new heads in their time away but it was good to know that I hadn't endured that boring baby swap storyline for nothing.  They quickly established a rivalry, with level-headed Ali competing with impetuous Ryan for the maternal affection of Exalted Queen of the Universe Michelle; apparently everyone's forgotten that they're meant to be men in their late twenties and instead are being written as teenage boys.

Over the summer, we got the return of Nigel Havers and Rula Lenska, both doing their very best to be as camp as possible.  Nige managed to wheedle his way back into Audrey's bed even though he'd been trying to con Gail only a couple of months before - Aud loves her daughter very much, but she has needs.  The fabulous Claudia Colby meanwhile tried to steal Maria away from the salon with promises of chandeliers and riches; eventually she gave up when she realised that Maria is no prize anyway.  She's since been hovering around Ken Barlow, though what a woman as impeccably constructed as Claudia sees in an old stick in the mud as Ken is beyond me.  Perhaps it's his hair; it certainly seemed to fascinate Emma.


It was time for the big guns to be brought out now, and we got the return of Jim McDonald, so we did.  This was where things went wrong for the resurrected characters.  He came back to the Street with a long-lost daughter who turned out to be his lover; the astonishing cruelty and calculation it took to even conceive of this scheme to defraud Liz was beyond comprehension, and certainly didn't seem in character for a man who'd adored her for forty years.  They tried to show him regretting the plan, and being manipulated by his Aussie girlfriend, but it was too late; Big Jim had been ruined, and when he left the Street again it was something of a relief.

By the end of the year, they were scraping the barrel for resurrections, and wedged at the bottom in some quicksand they found Nicky Tilsley.  He'd only been out of the show for a little over a year; I bet they hadn't even painted over his name on the parking space yet.  But here he was, back to be all Nicky Tilsley about everything, doing that raised eyebrows surprise thing and buying into Underworld, apparently for no reason other than to annoy Carla.  The rumour mill says that Norris will be making a return to the show next year; that's the kind of character we want pulled out of the plot cupboard.  Get him and Emily back!


Just say yes.  In the immortal words of Faye and Ro-LAND from Grange Hill, "you don't have to act like a great big star/you can be a hero - know who you are."  You might think that psychotropic substances are the best way to escape the miserable world of Trump and Brexit but don't: you'll pay a penalty for your actions.  Unless you live on Coronation Street, of course, in which case you'll be fine after a little bit of rehab.

Billy spent the start of 2018 off his head on various substances - first painkillers, then heroin.  This was ostensibly because of his terrible back injury caused by being shoved into a quarry by Peter Barlow, but it might have been to escape the pain of listening to his goody-two-shoes daughter Summer talking about the First Law of Robotics again.  Or it may have been to escape the upset of being dumped without a word by Todd; Bruno Langley's legal problems meant he was written out of the show so quickly his character's last appearance was a double's head in the back of a car.  Todd never came back - he assaulted a policeman and ran into some woods, where he is presumably living off acorns and leaves like Ray Mears - so to fill the storyline gap left by his absence Billy started taking drugs.  It climaxed with him shooting up in the middle of a church and saying "so this is heaven"; it was a moment that managed to be incredibly offensive to all the viewers, not for any blasphemous reasons, but because it was just a terrible idea.  Anyway Jez from Gimme Gimme Gimme turned up, sent Billy off to a rehab clinic and he was cured with no ill effects.

This must be the same rehab clinic they sent Abi to, because she reappeared in 2018 completely cured of her drug addiction and clean as a whistle.  When we'd last seen her, in 2017, she'd been a hopeless case, shamelessly taking illicit substances while her kids slept upstairs and neglecting her family.  Apparently she'd got over all that and was now an upright citizen who even knew how to fix cars; that rehab programme should be rolled out across the nation because it's a wonder.  I think it's called "Sally Carman Is A Great Actress And We'll Contrive Any Possible Reason To Keep Her In The Show."  She did eventually relapse, but that was mainly a convenient way of giving Sally a cellmate she could talk to; certainly Abi seems to have managed to resist the rampant drug abuse in prison with no problem at all.


The only time drugs were shown to have any long-lasting negative effects was when they were used by characters who didn't have long-term contracts.  Cormac, for example, a character who may as well have had "EXPENDABLE VILLAIN" branded on his forehead, and who spent most of his brief time on the show hopped up on happy pills.  Seemingly a bit of coke and some uppers were more dangerous than the heroin Billy and Abi injected into their bloodstream because he promptly dropped dead.  This lead to the year's most tedious storyline, where various members of the Connor-Preston household shouted at one another and then looked shifty in front of a policewoman.  Cormac's drug-dealing father also turned up, but as he was only a day player, he was swiftly killed off as well.  The Connors seemed to be working their way through the Truman family like a strain of TB; part of me hoped that they would spend the rest of the year accidentally bumping off successive generations, and Michelle would spend Christmas Eve inadvertently throttling Great-Granddad Truman.  Sadly, nothing that interesting happened, and we just got a lot of angst and sulking.  Frankly by the end of it I was ready to turn to drugs myself.


Harold, they're LESBIANS.  The problem with having a gay character on a soap is their potential for romantic entanglement is limited.  Liz could, theoretically, start an affair with any heterosexual man in the cast, from Ken to Chesney (and, incidentally, I would very much like to see a Liz-Chesney love scene, probably between my fingers).  Billy, though, has exactly one potential partner in the show: Sean.  And he's been there, done that.

The answer is to either introduce a new character or have one of your regulars undergo a major lifestyle change.  This year, Corrie went all out on lesbianism, and we went barely a week without a pair of pretty women locking lips.  The biggest story of course was Rana abandoning her marriage to Zeedan for Kate's elusive charms.  Kate's been in the show for three years now and she remains a complete nothing of a character - I couldn't tell you any of her interests, her passions, her quirks, because she's just... there.  The most interesting thing about her is she's a lesbian, and this was certainly the thing that caught Rana's attention.

Rana, on the other hand, used to be a really interesting character until she hooked up with Kate, and then she just whimpered and sobbed for the best part of the year.  Bhavna Limbachia was in five series of Citizen Khan - give her some comedy!  For a while their affair was conducted in the back of vans and on Michelle Connor's sofa - who says romance is dead? - but then she had another go at being heterosexual and Kate went out with Sophie instead.

Poor Sophie has been single ever since Maddie popped her clogs, so it was nice for her to get a bit of action, though she immediately ruined it by suggesting she move in with Kate on about their third date.  Eventually Rana left Zeedan for Kate; this caused Zee to immediately abandon his new restaurant and run off to London, a move by Qasim Akhtar that probably really annoyed the producers since they'd just spent all that money building a set for Speed Daal.

Sophie, meanwhile, was set up on a date with the daughter of her mum's defence lawyer, only to end up sleeping with the lawyer herself.  Paula was bisexual, which is at least a slight variation on lesbianism, but still: there seemed to be a disproportionate amount of lady lovers in the M10 postcode.  She dumped Sophie once the trial was over, making me wonder if she picked up a popsy on every case and there was a string of heartbroken lesbian daughters spread all over the north west.

Rana and Kate, meanwhile, went from appallingly over-cute dual proposals to splitting up.  Kate had succumbed to that most terminal of Corrie women's diseases - baby craziness - and spent much of December crawling round the cobbles begging passers-by for semen samples.  At the time of writing they've split up; this probably won't last long otherwise everyone on Twitter who's used the hashtag #kana will storm Salford Quays and burn ITV Studios to the ground.  Or maybe Sophie will hook up with Rana, and complete the love triangle.  It's either that or another heterosexual lady will start dabbling.  Go on Yasmeen, give it a try.


Everybody was hooked on a Phelan.  At the year draws to a close, and Jenny prepares herself for Rita's inevitable enforced singalong in the Rovers on New Year's Eve, it's hard not to look back at 2018 as the Year of Pat Phelan.  (Sorry, Jude in a shark hat).  Everybody's favourite psychopath spent January plugging Luke full of bullets; something of a blessing, to be honest, as Luke had been hanging around without much to do for ages.  It meant the end of his relationship with Alya.  They'd only been going out about three months, but she thought they were just celebrating their fortieth anniversary, and moped around the Street acting like an Italian widow.

With him out of the way, Pat moved onto setting up Anna for trying to kill Seb through a convoluted plan involving an earring.  It was the weakest criminal case since, well, the last time someone was locked up for something they didn't do in Corrie.  His reign of terror could've been brought to an end there and then if Rosie Webster had remembered she saw him plant it, but she was distracted by her reflection in a kettle and forgot all about it.  Instead Nicola and Gary tried to bring him down, and you can imagine how much use they were.

The problem with all of this was you couldn't really judge him too harshly.  Connor McIntyre is such a good, sparkling actor, even when he was threatening his own pregnant daughter there was a part of you that thought he had a point.  He finally met his apparent end falling off a lighthouse; however, Eileen had forgotten that the show needed a big explosive storyline for Britain's Got Talent week so he was dragged back to the Street having apparently swum the Irish Sea. 

After a bit of marauding with a shooter, Pat was finally done in by a vengeful Anna, bringing five years of torment to an end.  Were we glad to see the end of this vile rapist and murderer?  Definitely.  Would we be heartbroken if his identical twin brother Pete Phelan - just as roguish and charming but not quite so murderery - turned up in the Street?  Maybe not.


If the author has any requests for 2019 it's that there will be more daft storylines involving people getting drunk, petty rivalries between neighbours, characters getting ideas above their station and being brought down to earth, silly challenges and bets, and general hi-jinks.  And Mary is allowed to do anything she likes.  Let me know your suggestions on Twitter @merseytart.





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5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wonderful! But I'd like to add a "Sixth Thing" - the Street is a dangerous black hole for pets! This year Eva's cat Boo disappeared (another victim of a post-it note falling behind a radiator in continuity no doubt, like the late Maxine's cat Fluffy)and Rover & Eccles seem to have gone the same way.
Looking forward to reading more of your 'observations' in 2019.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely brilliant! I haven't laughed so much for a long time. I always enjoy MerseyTart's contributions. Please keep them coming.

By the way, how old is Eccles; wasn't he/she Blanche's dog? He must be at least 100.

David Hughes said...

Brilliant writing. Loved it all. I would just give a big mention to Maureen Lipman, who's finally been allowed to have here character blossom into Blanche Hunt, or, more appropriately Ena Sharples. Long may she stay.

Louby said...

I've finally warmed to Evelyn, I think it's since Fiz left and they're not bickering any more.

Brilliant review, but you forgot the return of the fabulous DS MacKinnon!

Daft Apeth said...

You had me at Italian widow.

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