Cosy crimes and gritty sagas by Corrie Blog editor Glenda, published by Headline. Click pic below!

Thursday 19 December 2019

Five Things We Learned In Corrie This Year

There are roofless people out there.  The biggest story of 2019 was, of course, Underworld's collapse in the Spring.  There's nothing like a good disaster to shake up a show, but unfortunately, this was nothing like a good disaster.  For starters, it wasn't just a terrible accident, it was a CRIME.  There was an interesting storyline about Pat Phelan skimping on the work and Carla covering it up to save money.  Unfortunately, a whole whodunnit plot was wedged on top of it, so that instead of us focussing on Carla's guilt, we got a load of characters running around being suspicious for no reason other than to be suspects.  That police station set must've cost a fortune and the only way the show could justify it was having coppers turn up in every other episode.  By the time Robert was lobbing a brick through Carla's windscreen - because it was her fault Michelle had dumped him, somehow? - it became clear that the train had a very loose grasp on the rails.

It went right off the tracks when we finally got the disaster itself.  The factory was full of protesting workers, and Sally and Gina went out to string up a banner.  Sally then plunged through the felting, taking down the rest of the roof with her, and dropping tonnes of debris on various members of the cast.  Obviously someone had to die; less obviously, it was Rana, who had wandered into the factory to fetch her wedding dress then stuck around for no apparent reason.  Sally got a bit of a sprain, but that was it for Underworld casualties - everyone else was absolutely fine.  Even Sean made it out alive; surely at least one person in the factory would take the opportunity to crack him on the back of the head with a wayward beam and blame it on the accident?

It rapidly became clear that this was all an excuse to kill off another lesbian, as Rana and Kate spent what felt like fourteen episodes coughing and whispering they loved one another.  Rana finally died, but more importantly, so did the #Kana hashtag, and let's hope we never have to see it again.  (A quick reminder that gay people have had civil partnerships since 2005 and marriage since 2014 and Corrie is yet to get a single homosexual couple properly down the aisle).  Rana did make a brief reappearance a few months later as an apparition; Carla was also having visions of Aidan but evidently Shane Ward was too expensive to bring back for a cameo.  Kate eventually went off to the Far East to find herself.  Let's hope she's staying at the Hanoi Hilton and we'll never see her again.

Because the roof collapse was a crime, there had to be recriminations.  Yes, for month after month after month characters skulked round the Street, shouting accusations at one another and demanding that they justify their involvement in the roof collapse.  Everyone immediately assumed it was done deliberately, even though that's the exact opposite of what a normal person would think about that kind of tragedy, and Imran spent much of May smeared with tears reporting cast members to the police because he'd decided they were responsible for his sister's death.  Nick.  Gary.  Carla.  I think at one point he dragged Rita down the nick.

In the middle of all this, lovely Wayne appeared, Roy's former foster son now reintroduced as a nerdy Health and Safety inspector.  Wayne investigated the roof collapse and produced THE REPORT, a work of literature just below the Bible in its importance to human existence, and which was so vital it was robbed out of the back of his car.  It subsequently turned up under Nicky Tilsley's bed; how it got there was never explained.  With THE REPORT filed, Wayne vanished from our lives, as an interesting character played by a charming actor couldn't be allowed to stay in the Street unless he was secretly a thief or a scumbag of some sort.

This brought us onto the final stage of the roof storyline: it turned out that the saboteur was Gary all along.  How would he escape the clutches of the police?  Through the Machiavellian genius of saying "Rick did it, also he's now run away."  Unbelievably this was good enough for Weatherfield Police and they immediately stopped investigating.  (The HSE also seem to have wandered off without any action).  We'll get to Gary's descent into villainy later; suffice to say he's not exactly Blofeld.  He ended up buying Underworld through a shady third party, for reasons that were never quite clear, and then renting it back to Nicky.

Nicky, meanwhile, set up a replacement factory in the community centre, rather than renting an industrial unit like any normal person would, and ended up with the workers as his co-owners after Carla had a nervous breakdown and handed her share over.  It looks like Nicky will soon own the building again, or something.  Everything involving Underworld this year has been (a) incredibly boring and (b) about thirty eight weeks long.  If I wanted to watch idiots pretending to be competent business people I'd watch The Apprentice like a normal person.  I don't need to see Sarah-Lou in a power suit talking about margins.  Of course, this all looks like it's going to continue well into 2020; frankly I'm starting to think they should've knocked the factory down and built a nice block of flats there instead.

Babies can come at you from anywhere.  Mention of Wayne brings us to another theme of Corrie in 2019: surprise children.  Several other characters mentioned it was a strange coincidence that Roy's foster son had reappeared investigating the accident, but given some of the other unexpected kids that showed up this year, that seemed perfectly normal.  They came in two forms: one, surprise pregnancies, and two, surprise long-lost relatives.

The year started with Amy up the duff, having at some point hooked up with Simon's bully/criminal mate Tyler at a party.  This was doubly shocking, because not only was Amy not the type of girl to chuck her virginity away at the drop of a knicker, she had also shared at most one scene with Tyler in the entire history of the show.  Steve and Tracy reacted completely rationally to this news and decided to force their teenage daughter to go through the entire pregnancy then bring the kid up as their own.  Amy - being the sensible lass that she is - saw what an absolute disaster this plan would be and immediately had an abortion.  She's subsequently gone on to live a fulfilling, happy life without an unwanted child ruining things, which rarely happens in soap operas; usually a woman has a termination then goes bonkers and tries to steal a baby or something.  Meanwhile we can all be thankful that Tracy didn't get her hands on a newborn as she'd have probably sacrificed it to satisfy the Dark Lords who dwell within her soul.

Next to get unexpectedly pregnant was Gemma, who at first tried to hide that she was with child from Chesney because he'd dumped her for being immature and annoying.  The fact that she did this even though she lived over the road from him in no way validated his stance.  Eventually they agreed to get together and were promptly told - to scenes of "hilarious" fainting - that they were in fact having quads.  There is a one in 700,000 chance of having four babies naturally, but Gemma and Ches had conquered those odds with style, because the producer had decided having a pregnancy with an incredibly high risk of foetal death was a great idea for comedy.  The show lurched from Gemma being told one of the babies was underdeveloping to her being wedged in a football turnstile; I know there's mixing dark and light but this was whiplashing between extremes.  It didn't help that pregnancy made Gemma into some strange shouty goblin woman, always jamming food down her mouth and bellowing, while Chesney's sixteenth year in the nation's favourite soap was much like his previous fifteen, in that he looked a bit confused and was largely ineffectual.  Gemma finally gave birth in a cable car, because LOLS, and she's just brought the babies home; she may possibly adjust into being a serious mother now she has four more mouths to feed but the signs aren't good.

Another unexpected pregnancy came in the form of Vicky, who got knocked up by Robert as he used her as a rebound boink while he was on a break from Michelle.  Michelle, famously, didn't want any children, so he persuaded Vicky to keep his kid and ended up embroiled in the least funny farce since the Portsmouth Alhambra burned to the ground with everyone inside during a production of Run For Your Wife.  Robert darted back and forth between his two fiances, his Action Man Eagle Eyes shifting from side to side as he came out with yet another improbable lie that both the women believed.  As I write he's suspected of murdering Vicky, even though she's actually in a grim hotel in Ancoats; this is how Michelle treats men who've wronged her, because she's absolutely horrible.

The year ended with Maria getting pregnant, allegedly by Gary, but she was with Ali until about eight minutes before so really it could be either.  She immediately made plans to move in with him because she hasn't learned anything from the last time she got pregnant by a man she hardly knew and pledged the rest of her life to him even though he clearly had a thing for someone else (Liam) or the last time she fell for a man who was accused of being a psycho by all sorts of rational people (Tony).

Elsewhere, the unexpected kids were already out of the womb.  Michael Bailey turned out to have a baby we didn't know about, which wasn't really that shocking as he'd only been in the programme about five minutes; what was surprising was that the mother had apparently snatched the baby away from the family and none of them had seen to mention it during their time on the show.

Roy, meanwhile, got a long-lost brother from an affair the now sadly deceased Sylvia had decades ago.  The question of nature vs nurture was then comprehensively answered as Richard turned out to be Roy v2, though in much worse health.  Malcolm from Watching promptly pegged it; fortunately this wasn't a complete loss for Roy, as he's now acquired long-lost Goth niece Nina.  She'll fit right in at the cafe flat, as like Roy she loves bats, and like Carla, she never leaves the house without wearing fourteen pounds of make up.

Fiz returned from her maternity leave Birmingham with a teaching assistant friend, Jade, who was quickly revealed to be (a) a psychopath and (b) John Stape's never before mentioned daughter.  John was one of the nicer killers on the show because while he may have totted up a fair few deaths, he was, at heart, an accidental murderer, driven to extremes because of his overwhelming desire to teach (and also sleep with seventeen year old girls).  It remains to be seen if Jade's reign of terror will be equally comic.  Perhaps she'll spend next year trying to kill Fiz in ever more elaborate ways and she'll blithely go on living, a bit like Patricia Hayes in A Fish Called Wanda.  If Cerberus is crushed under a massive piece of concrete we'll know who to blame.

The biggest unexpected genetic link this year though was Emma turning out to be Steve's long lost daughter.  This was seemingly the writers taking on a fan theory and making it canon. This puts far too much power in the hands of the viewers if you ask me, not least because they're not paying attention to my brilliant ideas for the show, which can be obtained by e-mailing me at any time, ITV.  Viewers had noticed that Emma, as a mixed-race girl working in the hairdressers, was similar to Fiona, a mixed-race girl working in the hairdressers, and theorised that she was her daughter; this turned out to be the actual case and soon Steve had his third unexpected child on his hands.  It was all a bit contrived - Fiona now lives in Australia, but you'd have thought Emma would've mentioned at least once that she worked for a hairdresser called Audrey in Weatherfield and Fi would join the dots - but it meant there was more screen time for the wonderful Alexandra Mardell, so it's hard to really resent it.  Plus, tying her into the McDonald dynasty makes it more likely she'll stick around.  Emma has since bonded with her sister Amy, though she hasn't bothered trying the same with Oliver; maybe she rightly realises that all children are dull until they start school and even then they don't really get a personality until they're about ten.

With any luck that's the end of the shock! kids.  Not just because it's getting a bit boring having every character with a secret close relative, but also because it's not the greatest public health story.  Corrie is always going on about how it has a responsibility to show serious plotlines about paedophilia and modern slavery and lonely elders, but it never seems that keen to "raise awareness" of the effectiveness of contraception.  How about a storyline where Craig goes into the shop and buys a packet of condoms and then actually uses them?  Now that could make all the difference.

Evil comes in many forms, none of them very impressive.  With Pat Phelan definitely dead (or is he?) (no, he really is) the show started casting around for a new supervillain to cause havoc.  At first, they rested on Nicky Tilsley as Weatherfield's latest Big Bad.  This may come as a shock to anyone who's watched the show over the past, ooh, forty years, as Nicky Tilsley has never displayed even the slightest hint of being a wrong 'un.  The only thing the first Nicky was bad at was acting, while the second version couldn't be any threat as he was shirtless 95% of the time.  Even this third incarnation, who's got involved in some less than kosher schemes over the years, is far too boring to be terrifying.  He started the year knocking heads with Carla, smashing around the factory and being generally arsey with everyone, but he made his real bid for pure evil by swindling Audrey out of her inheritance from Nigel Havers.

Nicky was only swindling his nan to pay off his ex-wife, the enigmatic Elsa, though somewhere along the way the money got diverted into the factory.  Or did it?  Again, the finances of his crime were both extremely complicated and not at all interesting.  David ended up siphoning some of the cash to set up a barber shop, Trim Up North, one of those awful hipster joints where men drink beer and play table football and generally act like they're in a Jacamo commercial.  That should have been reason enough to lock him up but David was actually imprisoned for the theft, as Nicky got away scot-free, for reasons that still don't make sense.  Everyone seems to have forgotten about it now anyway, even poor Audrey, who as a result doesn't own the salon that's got her name any more.

With Nicky's general uselessness ruling him out of true evilness, the net was cast for a different dodgy character to go on a killing spree, and they ended up with Gary Windass.  Gary was, admittedly, a right little thug when he first came into the show, but that part of the character was dropped years ago, sent to the same place as Uncle Len and his work-shy dad.  He fought for queen and country, he became a father - twice - he acquired a couple of fianc√©s; it seemed like it was all going well for him.  Suddenly we learned that he was in dire financial straits having taken out a series of preposterously large loans with an extremely dodgy character, and everything began to crumble.  Next thing you knew he was smashing down the roof of the factory in the hope of getting the job, which was weird, because he was the only builder in Weatherfield and he had about fourteen jobs on the go at once - you'd have thought that was plenty.

Of course, the collapse of the roof killed Rana, and he was wracked with guilt for months.  Nah, not really - actually he showed absolutely no signs of guilt or remorse until it was convenient to the plot, by which time he was working for Rick the loan shark as a way of paying off his debt.  It was all a bit unpleasant, a Guy Ritchie film stuck in the middle of an Alan Sillitoe novel, as people went round attacking one another and getting beaten up and trying to get loveable old ladies to part with their pension.  Eventually Gary found himself in a wood with Rick and a ready-dug shallow grave; one of them was ending up in it, and Gary made sure it was Rick.

Yes, after manslaughtering Rana, Gary was now an actual murderer, and he once again felt no guilt whatsoever and instead took over Rick's entire business, ransacked his safe, and assumed a cover story as a second hand furniture dealer, the monster.  It's weird how good Gary is at all this considering he hasn't planned any of it in the slightest - he's pinballed around the Street from disaster to disaster somehow emerging on top every single time. 

As 2019 comes to an end Gary is the Godfather of the Street, in the sense that he looks like he'd be much happier running around a vineyard playing with his kids.  I've no idea why they decided Gary would be a suitable case for psychopathy, and they still haven't convinced me he's actually any good at it; even Ryan managed to get one over him, and he has a brain made out of that marshmallow stuff you get in Flumps.  I suppose the idea is somebody has to be the baddie, while conveniently ignoring that the show managed without any of the regular cast caving in anyone else's skull for much of its history.  Mike Baldwin might have been a bit of a bastard but he didn't stab anyone to death.

All change at number three.  The Baileys arrived in the summer as the new owners of 3 Coronation Street. The producers had finally decided that Eileen Derbyshire was never coming back, and sold off her home and all her possessions; she promptly agreed to do a FaceTime cameo at Ken's 80th birthday.  What a troll, I love her.  Norris (another character who made a welcome return after Malcolm Hebden's heart attack) sold the house to the Baileys who were loudly announced as Corrie's first black family.  This is only true if you don't count both those times Craig Charles moved in with his black girlfriend, but both those relationships were really dull so I don't blame the publicity folks for entirely forgetting about them.

The Baileys seemed at first to be a jolly family of perfectly nice people but, as is always the case in soap opera land, they were revealed to have secrets.  Dad Edison had lost the family's silverware through an addiction to internet gambling.  Son Michael had a daughter he'd never met.  Other son James was gay but closeted because he didn't want to ruin his footballing career.  Daughter DeeDee was so secretive she wasn't even allowed on telly.  And worst of all, mum Aggie couldn't cook.  The horror!  She still managed to get a job in the cafe though, even though when she arrived she was a pharmacy assistant - apparently she does that job as well?  Sometimes?  I'm not really sure.  All I know is they'd have a lot more money if they hadn't mucked about with Emily's house.

I don't like the way the Street is now preserved in amber, forever frozen in one particular look without ever being updated because it's "iconic".  I'm pretty sure the last person to paint the door at number 5 was Bert Tilsley and the less said about Vera's stone cladding still dragging down property values a full decade after her death the better.  None the less, the Baileys' comprehensive demolition of Emily's house felt disrespectful somehow.  Fine, put in a new front door and double glazing, but was there any need for them to literally rebuild the staircase so it went a different way?  That's just making work for yourself.  They built a weird porch (with a window in it), there's a cupboard next to the kitchen, they knocked through from the parlour.  By the time they were moving the back door I was convinced they were doing it just to annoy me.  It's been six months and I'm still not used to it.  They did at least keep Ernest's piano, which is sort of nice, but none of them strike me as the types to noodle a bit of Moonlight Sonata after dinner. 

The Baileys have done pretty well in their first few months - they just need to be in the show a bit more, making friends, forming alliances.  They only ever seem to appear as a group at the moment, like the Scooby-Doo gang showing up to solve mysteries.  They hinted that Liz and Aggie might be pals, and that I'd like to see more of, or perhaps Ed and Brian could become mates.  At the moment things don't look good for James because when Bethany leaves he won't have anyone left to talk to.

It's Grim Up North.  Back in February, the head of ITV, Kevin Lygo, launched his new schedule without a single scripted comedy in it.  When this was pointed out to him, he suggested that light channel viewers craving a laugh should watch Coronation Street.  Clearly he's not watched the show in a while.  2019 was perhaps the grimmest year on the cobbles ever as horrible things happened to all the characters and nobody stopped to have a laugh and a chat. 

There was the roof collapse, of course, and Gary's descent into criminality, but we've also Asha bleaching her face because she hates herself, Max selling drugs in school, and Hope running around being a firestarter, a twisted firestarter.  And that's just the children.  Among the adults we've had Alina being held as a slave, Eileen's boyfriend getting shot and then vanishing into witness protection, Paul's acceptance of his childhood sex abuse, Yasmeen being gaslit, Ali being a drug addict, and Sinead dying of cancer and leaving her young husband and baby alone.  The ITV advice line to call "if you've been affected" has got more plugs during this year's episodes than the Co-op. 

Is this what our Corrie should be?  It's EastEnders that's the depressing one; it's EastEnders that has become the national joke as the most miserable show on TV.  Coronation Street is a slice of life and life for most people is happy and joyous and full of laughs.  The show used to be like that, used to have episode where pretty much nothing of importance happened, where loveable well-drawn characters had conversations and emotional moments and nobody ended up sobbing in a ginnel.  We're in a kind of soap opera arms race where Corrie and EastEnders and Emmerdale are all fighting for the front cover of Inside Soap with more and more extreme storylines in the hope they can attract one or two more casual viewers.  The producer proudly previewed this year's Christmas storylines with the announcement there would be the show's first ever death on Christmas Day and I thought, really?  That's a plus point?  It's a far cry from Hilda singing "Wish Me Luck As You Wave Me Goodbye" while the whole Street gathers round her to smile and wish her well.  They're forgetting that there are millions of people watching who don't watch the show for violence and bloodshed and tension.

I've struggled with Coronation Street in 2019.  I rarely watch it live any more and, increasingly, I've not even watched it the same night.  Last night's episodes sit on my Virgin box, unwatched, but I know I have to, because there are two more episodes tomorrow night, and it'll just build up if I don't.  It's become a chore to be completed, three hours a week out of my life that I could be enjoying.  It's not fun.  I've genuinely considered giving up on the show entirely.  Breaking this habit.

There are still high points.  There are great actors in the show, there are great storylines, and now and then a good writer comes along and crafts dialogue that sings.  There's still - just - enough to keep me hanging around, enough to make me return in 2020.  But whether I last all the way to the 60th in December is a different matter entirely.  Spread a little happiness, producers. 

The author would like to thank Mary, Emma, Billy, Moira, Sally, Tim, Abi. Jenny, Johnny, Evelyn, Dev, Steve, Tracy, Amy, Aggie, Roy, Carla, Peter, Imran, Audrey, Shona, David, Gail, Norris, Wayne and Yasmeen for their service this year.  You guys have been the best.  If you think someone else deserves to be on that list, please let me know on Twitter @merseytart.  And merry Christmas!


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Pauline burke said...

I love reading your blogs, you have a way with words that crack me up sometimes. I don't blame you for getting fed up with the plots like a lot of my friends. Please carry on x

popcorn said...

Yes Scott. Please hang on. Your "5 things" is the highlight of my week. And I concur with all your choices for actor "thanks".

James said...

You see Scott the problem is what do you want? I've read your Classic Corrie reviews and your just as critical of them. Even though it was in many ways what you want Corrie to be noww.

Louby said...

Reading your post made me realise how ridiculous the show has become. When did it start? Too much misery and "high drama" - I don't mind in small doses but when there's no light-hearted and humorous stuff t balance it, it does become more of an obligation than a pleasure to watch. Rory's brother is the current bee-in-my-bonnet. Why not introduce him and let him be in the show for longer? It was good to see Roy and Richard together.

Thank you so much for for your posts, which are always a pleasure to read (where was the Classic review last week lol) and way more entertaining than the actual show! Happy Christmas.

Sharon boothroyd said...

I'm not too bothered spells to be honest chuck, but I did love this very candid round up of the Corrie year, Scott.
I think it's about getting a mix of cheerful northerners with a heart of gold versus high drama and trying to reflect today's problems in society, which as you point out, don't seem to include contraception. For humour, I like Steve Tim, Evelyn and Kirk. Abi and Kev can be funny, also Sally, Mary and Jenny. I hope you continue to pen 5 things and the classic Corrie reviews, we need astute, observant writers here who make us laugh.
I, too to have often jotted down plot lines for Corrie - only to find them come to life on the screen!


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