Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Rita-tinted spectacles

One of the real joys about being a Corrie fan at the moment, slim pickings I know, is the fact that we get watch the torrent of episodes being flung at us by ITV3. Plus of course, there's also the opportunity to sit back and enjoy mid-afternoon adverts for hearing aids, walk-in baths and those 'final' expenses.

Of course, some of us are of a certain vintage which means that we all too clearly recall watching these episodes first time around. 1992 may seem like a far-off planet but it's amazing how quickly you can find yourself back there. Most of the storylines are familiar but what has changed (in some cases) is my reaction to both them and the characters.

It wasn't often, back in the day, that Corrie misfired with a story. Today, with more episodes, it seems to be more prevalent. In 1992 though I do recall being bored rigid by the tumbleweed episodes dominated by Rita's romance. Even then, it had the feel of the team sitting down and saying "we need to give Barbara Knox something. Anything." Enter Ted(ious), some dreary old man who apparently had been a Kabin regular for twenty years, just that we'd never seen him. Despite this though, viewers were expected to believe that Rio Rita was suddenly and inexplicably in love with the old drear. This is the same Rita that liked her men . . . well, manly. Ok, they were all mainly rotten to the core but Reet did a real 'volte face' and decided that her future happiness lay with an effete toffee seller. Her questionable behaviour may also explain why, overnight, she stopped patrolling the Kabin in hideous knitwear and instead, dished out wine gums dressed as Mrs Thatcher attending a summit conference.

Something that was quite lovely way back when though was the ability of the writers to let kids be kids. The teenagers had typically teenage stories. Steve and Andy were fun, Vicky fussed on about her horse, Tracy had her tapes. None of them became pregnant, morosely stared at their phones all day, had to support parents on smack  or trudge up and down t'cobbles like young fogies.

There were some admirable characters too. Liz come across as principled and caring, although the skirts were creeping up and the indoor smoking was taking hold. Gail was a relatively cheerful businesswoman, not the village idiot we know and love today. Bring her back! Bet and Alec - every scene a joy. Slightly alarming though were the close-up shots of Bet and Vicky. Bet's wig and face would often cast a shadow over the elfin Victoria.

Not everything basks in the cosy glow of memory though. I'd never really liked Mike Baldwin and revisiting now has made me positively loathe him. Ditto Ken. A couple of old dinosaurs even then. Audrey is unlikeable at times too. Not the giddy slattern of the early 1980s but not yet the Audrey we're used to. Reg Holdsworth, who I laughed at back then, now seems a bit irritating as does Curly, the latter forever darting into Bettabuys from stage left, face like a smacked bum. The 'lovely' list includes deluded Alma, lonely Phyllis, Betty Hotpot (love the new industrial size kitchen at the Rovers - presumably Liz MacDonald had it ripped out and replaced with a teeny tiny one), dear old Emily, donning leather gloves to pop two doors down to the Rovers, Deirdre as watchable as ever - bless them all.

Not travelling down the years so well though, Don or DON! as Ivy bellowed. Creepy, odd and with
the hint of a serial killer, DON! made my skin crawl. Also leaving much to be desired was Des Barnes, possibly seen as a bit of a catch back then but now coming across as a bore with a selection of terrifying trousers. Mavis and Derek, a ridiculously blinkered, shrieking duo with little gasp on reality and often displaying an unedifying selfish streak. Jim MacDonald, another of the 'borderline murderers', skulking around telling people to 'catch themselves on'. Our 1992 selves couldn't have imagined what a grim piece of work he was going to evolve into.

It's easy to peer at Corrie of yesteryear through Rita-tinted spectacles, warming to the cosiness of a bygone age. While the show certainly had a cheerier, possibly more unrealistic feel, it could still serve up a tepid hotpot of a storyline and with the benefit of hindsight, we know that this downwards trajectory would continue until Brian Park's 1997 reboot. For now though, spare a thought for Rita. In the coming years, the Widow Sullivan would attempt relationships with the man who guest starred in Terry & June,  but who was still married to someone from Carry on Camping. She spent a period with Alec's after shave on her dressing table before, in a storyline that was beyond belief, getting engaged to a paedophile. Then in 2012, another effete man took her up the aisle, namely the woefully underused Dennis Tanner. By 2020 she'll be hitched to Yawn, sorry, Sean in some awful re-imagining of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane. You read it here first.

By Clinkers to Riddle.






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5 comments:

Mrs Lynch said...

1992 is hardly what you call a golden period for the show but the repeats on ITV3 trumps the rubbish they put out on ITV in the evenings. Why? You had better writing, character-driven storylines and above all else better, more interesting characters.

Percy and Phyllis could have started in their own comedy. So could Bet and Alec. Gail wasn't written like a clown and she could hold the fort in times of crisis.

David said...

Nice to see an acknowledgement that the past wasn't all it was cracked up to me, one character who I really can't stand is Percy a miserable pain in the arse gammon if ever there was one.

Humpty Dumpty said...

I was thinking today that the decline in soap viewing figures is down to the public's enjoyment of reality TV. Stories were better thought out twenty years ago, characters held fast to their personalities. You could happily hate some characters because they weren't 'real'. Now, programme makers want us to sit in judgement on really real people. How do soaps compete with that on six episodes a week? Characters become OTT, storylines are always explosive, the humour is forced. Tim and Sally are the only couple who would easily find a place in old Corrie.

70sStreetFan said...

Great piece! Although inevitably we all respond differently to certain characters. I personally prefer the Audrey of 1992. Not as nice,but so much fun to watch. Ditto,Mavis whom I adore. And have to admit,I really like Percy too.

Louby said...

Thanks for the great review. I love watching the old episodes and enjoying the old characters. I'm appreciating some more now I'm older, especially Alec who was just a grumpy old man to my 20 something self, now a source of great dry humour.

Gail and Martin had such a good relationship for ages, it's a shame they had to wreck it, and Martin's character along with it. Didn't he have a thing going with Sally for a while, after it all went wrong with Jill Halfpenny?

Rita and Ted, yes highly unlikely but I don't think you're going to have to suffer him for too long!

I definitely enjoy the old episodes more than the new.

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