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

Sunday 19 December 2021

Five Things We Learned In Corrie This Year


Crime does pay. 
Back in January of 2021, ITV announced that production on Corrie would cease for a fortnight while the scriptwriters and producers thrashed out how to respond to the continuing pandemic.  They needed to regroup and re-evaluate and work out how to film a soap opera within government guidance.

I was briefly excited.  Perhaps, I thought, this would mean a smaller 2021 in Coronation Street.  The easiest, cheapest, simplest story to film is two people in a room talking.  Any room.  The Rovers, the cafe, anywhere.  I hoped that the writers would can the blockbuster storylines for a while and instead have character plots - ones that didn't need stunts or explosions or guns.


Fat chance.  Turned out 2021 was going to be just as crime packed as before, only now everyone would stand two metres apart.  The gangster-driven rollercoaster was embodied by the return of Sharon Gaskell after more than twenty years.  When she left she was a disillusioned woman, broken down by bad relationships and estranged from Rita, hoping for a new life with a man who'd once betrayed her.  When she returned, she was basically Ma Baker.  This was part of a trend of the show bringing in gifted comic actors to play thugs; as well as Tracie Bennett, we also got Will Mellor as Harvey and Vincent Ebrahim from The Kumars as Hashim, raising the possibility next year will bring us Caroline Quentin as an axe murderer and Russ Abbot as a pimp.

Sharon was here to find Leanne, who'd got wrapped up in a drug dealing plotline and had gone into hiding.  What this meant was for two months Sharon accosted random residents, invited herself into their house, went through their address book, then stood on a street corner hissing into a mobile phone.  She spent about four minutes in total with Rita, and she barely even nodded to Sally, her former best friend.  It climaxed with her tasering Jennie Bradley in the backside.  I think it was meant to be funny.  She was packed off to the tram stop eventually, barking orders, apparently having taken over her nephew's criminal empire, even though when she first reappeared she was supposedly living in fear of him.


It was part of a trend of Coronation Street dwelling on the dark side, with characters producing guns, stealing, blackmailing and generally being deeply unpleasant all round.  Nothing nice could happen - it always had to get a twist that kicked your legs out from under you.  Todd paid a young boy to pretend to be a victim of domestic violence so he could sleep with Billy; it spiralled into a blackmail plot, videoed confessions, and the theft of money destined for a homeless person.  Plus there was a load of business involving a heat pump which meant I heard the words "heat pump" more than I ever had in my life before or since.  A storyline about a deaf child getting cochlear implants devolved into a kidnapping; a woman struggling to cope with looking after her child ended up selling the baby; an affair lead to a fire and a miscarriage.   Emma met a lovely medical student and he turned out to be a massive liar, which made her cry, and Emma should never be made to cry.  It meant that Craig spent most of the year turning up in hi-vis and pretending to have authority; his mooted promotion to CID never happened, weirdly.

The worst example was the return of Zeedan, who left the show a couple of years ago as a perfectly nice young man and returned as some kind of thieving adulterer who'd got involved with the Yakuza.  This lead to a money laundering plotline that went on for roughly eight years and which never, at any point, managed to be interesting, and climaxed with the restaurant being burned down for the insurance (in her bed at Victoria Court, Leanne shuddered involuntarily, as though a ghost had walked across her grave).  Incidentally, you might think that the raging inferno would bring back tragic memories for Zee and Alya of their dad burning to death, but he didn't even get a mention.  Hashim ended up keeling over and that was the end of the matter, because it's widely known that when a gangster boss dies suddenly in the presence of people he has in his power there's no comeback at all and the rest of the gang just let them go free.  The biggest shock about his death was it didn't happen in the Alleyway Of Doom; I think he'd set up camp in there.


Coronation Street was so crime-riddled this year it was like Guy Ritchie directing a remake of This Sporting Life; it was weird and unpleasant and no fun at all.  And this is leaving aside the characters who went to prison for crimes they'd committed last year - I think we saw more of that pool table in the nick than the bar of the Rovers.  Weatherfield was basically Walford-On-Irwell; the producers should perhaps take a look at EastEnders' plummeting viewing figures and consider whether that's a good thing.


Is there in youth no beauty?  I get that, thanks to Delta and Omicron and lots of other things that sound like discarded Doctor Who villains, we've not been able to have the full cast on the show this year.  The older members, especially, have had to be absent from time to time, as nobody wants to be responsible for Barbara Knox ending up on a ventilator.  Now and then we've had odd appearances from the elderly characters, but Ken still went off to visit a mate in Southampton rather than be with Peter during his liver transplant, and Evelyn seems to have had about fourteen holidays this year.  Mind you, that might be the producers giving Dame Maureen Lipman whatever she wants to keep her in the show; she might have a contract that's one week in Salford, one week off to film Celebrity Gogglebox with Gyles Brandreth.

To fill the gaps, the young people on the show have been promoted to central characters, and have appeared in far more episodes.  Pretty much all of them in fact.  Barely a show went by without a teenager lurching into shot, full of angst and hormones.  It started to resemble Hollyoaks, except everything on Hollyoaks is fun and upbeat and glamorous, including the serial killers.  On Corrie, it was all a bit depressing.


There was even a publicity shot for Corrieoaks, with the young people in a line, looking moody and dramatic.  This was to publicise the big storyline where Seb was kicked to death; Seb had recently turned 20, and so the new Logan's Run-style of storylining meant he had to die so that the people still in their teens could cry in close up.  He was killed by Corey (17) while Kelly (15) looked on; fortunately Nina (19) survived.  Corey returned to his flat and asked his girlfriend Asha (16, sort of, if you ignore her actual birthdate) to cover for him, but she was with her friend Amy (17) at the time.  In short, it was basically a story about kids, acted by kids; when Abi hung out with them to investigate Seb's death she looked like Brown Owl taking the girls on a nature excursion and she's only in her 40s.


This storyline came on top of ones about Asha's romantic life, Simon's criminal shenanigans, Summer's university angst, that boy with the big eyes that Todd paid to pretend he'd been beaten, Max turning into the spawn of the devil...  Even the tweenagers started turning up and causing havoc, with Hope trying to kill Alina Pop! and Sam bouncing between being kidnapped two or three times a month and lecturing everyone about comets the rest of the time.  And this is without mentioning Sarah-Lou and David who, despite being in their 30s, still look about fourteen; Gail can't get a loft conversion like Yasmeen because Tina O'Brien and Jack P Shepherd have stashed their aging portraits up there.  Meanwhile characters like Brian and Cathy got given a dreadful trolling storyline for about a month then were sent away for the rest of the year - that's your lot, thank you for your time, we now have to spend thirty eight episodes on Kelly with a snot bubble popping out of her nose.  


I believe that children are our future; treat them well and let them lead the way.  But maybe dial back on them in 2022 and let the grown-ups have a turn.  Just think of the money you'll save on Clearasil.


Death comes to us all.  Births and deaths; these are the lifeblood of any soap opera, and while there was only one baby born this year - Glory Bailey, who continued her family tradition of only appearing when there's a SERIOUS ISSUE to be discussed by entering the world in the middle of a racism is bad plot - there were a fair few deaths.  Perhaps the producers were told they could only have the money to build the funeral parlour if they got their money's worth out of the set.  This year's deaths broadly came in two categories.

The first category is tidying up loose ends.  In this block were long-departed characters who were killed offscreen because the actor was never coming back anyway.  Through this we lost Gay Ted, Gail's father who was a regular on the show until he simply vanished from sight; his death meant Gail could buy back number 8, restoring balance to the universe.  We also lost Tyrone's ex Kirsty, though I'm not sure why they did that one - wasn't there more drama in the idea that Kirsty could return at any time to see her daughter?  In the end she was sacrificed so Tyrone and Fiz could get a little bit closer on the settee, which is like detonating a nuclear bomb because you need a way to light your fag.  


The biggest offscreen death was of course Norris Cole, sent to the stationer's in the sky after Malcolm Hebden decided coming back to the show was far too much faff.  He got a lengthy, loving tribute that I'm pretty sure was 90% a goodbye to Malcolm rather than Norris - people seemed to speak very highly of him, even though he was an awful nosy little gossip (this is not a complaint).  Gail even returned from Thailand for the event.  The funeral climaxed with that paperboy outside the Kabin getting decapitated; it's now completely restored, so either Rita was straight out there with the superglue or it has mystical powers and should probably be thrown on some kind of pyre.  I was sad to see Norris go, especially as it seemed to be a farewell to Claudia and Freda at the same time - they appeared at the funeral and haven't been seen since.

The other category of death this year was totally unnecessary and kind of gross.  There was the aforementioned Seb, of course, who didn't deserve to be murdered, and definitely didn't deserve to be kicked to death.  His death managed to undermine the work the producers had done with the Sophie Lancaster Foundation - while Nina was (sort of) attacked for being different (I'd argue that Corey despising her for being Asha's ex and not afraid of him had a larger role), this aspect was overshadowed by Seb's murder.  It all became about him, and less about Nina.  


Also on this list was the death of Johnny Connor.  You would think that if a character has been established as having a life-threatening condition like MS - that if, in fact, we'd spent several episodes at the start of the year watching that character grapple with his condition, and for it to get worse - that when the actor decided to leave, this would be the perfect way to write him out.  A tender farewell as he succumbed to his illness.  Or, you know, you could have him climb into a hole and drown in a sewer.  The second one makes hardly any sense but hey, it looks a lot better in the publicity shots than a guy in a hospital bed!


The most unnecessary, most repulsive, most irritating death this year was, of course, Natasha Blakeman, shot to death for the crime of wearing a bad Morticia wig.  A friendly, funny, intelligent female character, who is successful and attractive?  Clearly she must die.  I get that they wanted to bring Sam into the show permanently; Jude Riordan is clearly a star.  But did she have to die?  And in such a meaningless, throwaway fashion, accidentally killed because Harvey thought she was someone else.  Leanne and Nicky then moved poor grieving Sam into the very flat where his mother was murdered.  No wonder Sam is suffering so badly - every time he wants a glass of milk he has to step over the bloodstains on the carpet.


I'm hopelessly DEVoted to you.  There was one family that ruled above all others this year, and that was the Alahans.  Recasting Aadi with Adam Hussein - who is actually capable of talking - gave the Alahan family the next level development that made them into a top drawer family unit.  

As Queen of Angst, it was often Asha who lead the drama, leaving her father and brother to follow in her wake.  For example, she started the year by dabbling with lesbianism, becoming more than friends with Nina.  A befuddled Dev turned to Mary for help and they organised a film night: French lesbian cinema, posh crisps, and Aadi sitting on the sideline making sarcastic remarks.  It was, of course, wonderful.  When Asha split up with Nina and moved in with Corey instead, it was hard not to want the male Alahans to move Mary back in and quietly change the locks to keep her and her endless strops out.


They did let her back, when a little light murdering caused Asha to realise Corey maybe wasn't the man of her dreams, and she spent the summer sniping with her brother.  Dev gifted them their name above the shop, turning it into the somewhat clunky D&A&A Alahan's - though he notably failed to change anything else in the shop, leaving all the other signage still saying D&S - and Aadi embraced this new role, running around with an iPad and trying to tell Evelyn what to do.  Dev was thrilled that his boy was following in his footsteps, and so were we, as it meant Aadi got repeatedly insulted by the fearsome women in the Alahan empire.  

Of course, it all had to end, with SUPER SOAP WEEK giving us a terrible car crash and Dev forced to choose which child to save from the wreckage.  In the end, they both lived, which was awkward, and Aadi skulked around for a couple of episodes being generally unpleasant.  Summer also dumped him at this time because she had a crush on Daniel; all in all, not a great month for Aadi.  He seems to have cheered up now, having had a lovely chat with his dad on the sofa where they were affectionate and caring to one another; it was delightful.


In amongst all this, Dev has continued to be Dev at all times, because Dev remains one of the finest characters to walk the cobbles.  He's truly unique - able to be funny and serious, with a ruthless streak and a big slab of ham on top.  Nobody else talks like Jimmi Harkishin, not on the show, not on planet earth, and it means he can make a single, commonplace sentence into something truly astonishing.  Not that they've neutered the Corner Shop lothario; he tried it on with both Natasha and Sharon this year, and had his hopes dashed each time.


(It is a legal requirement that this picture should appear whenever one discusses Dev Alahan).

My wish for 2022 is that the Alahans have fun, exciting adventures, ones that don't involve tragedy or murder or Asha mutilating herself for some reason.  Perhaps a road trip in a camper van, solving mysteries, or a visit to a spooky ghost house, or a hilarious farce involving a large cake and the Mayor.  Keep Jimmi Harkishin and Tanisha Gorey and Adam Hussein bouncing around being little bundles of absolute joy for as long as possible.


They're writing songs... but not for me.  The biggest event of 2021 on the cobbles was of course SUPER SOAP WEEK, where everything went absolutely demented for six episodes.  Debbie held a Hallowe'en fair (a couple of weeks before the day itself, but never mind) and it was ruined by the cumulative effects of:
  1. rain
  2. sinkholes
  3. guns
  4. Ryan's DJing
Suddenly we were in a world where Abi was threatening Corey with a shooter in a drain; where sinkholes opened up only at moments of maximum drama and only under people who deserved to die; where Weatherfield was revealed to have a massive network of underground caverns flooded with gallons of clean water (not one drop of sewage) that also emptied out onto canal towpaths.  It was a week that was ludicrous, but not in a good, camp way, because we were meant to take it all very seriously; we were meant to feel the angst and the torment of the characters as they, for example, climbed down into a big hole for no real reason and then drowned.

I hated it.


I thought it was all absolute nonsense and when it was over I rushed to social media and this very blog to talk to people who thought the same.  And I realised... there were people out there who liked it.  Lots of them.  There were people saying this is so exciting and best week ever and oh no whatever will happen next?!?!  

It was at that point I realised: this programme isn't made for me any more.  I am coming to it, every episode, with a set of expectations that aren't going to be met.  You don't tune in to The Real Housewives of Delaware hoping for an in depth discussion of the new Michael Ondaatje novel; you don't put on a BBC Four documentary about the church in the Low Countries hoping to discover where the hottest shopping districts in Ghent are.  You adjust your expectations.


I'm coming to Coronation Street with expectations formed through forty plus years of watching.  I'm tuning in looking for a programme that hasn't existed for at least five years, maybe ten.  I'm hankering after a sweeter, less fast-paced, more understated Weatherfield.  I'm asking for character continuity, or pay offs to plotlines, or people remembering their past and using it to inform their actions.  That doesn't exist any more, but the point is,  they're making a show that people do still enjoy.  There are people out there who love a high-octane show full of crime and guns and hospitals.  There are millions of viewers who are turning in just for that; Corrie is still ITV's number one show, after all. There are viewers who would switch off straight away if an entire Friday episode was devoted to Sally and Tim discussing new curtains for her front room while I would absolutely record that show and watch it over and over again.

That's ok.  This isn't my show any more.  Since I realised that - since I screamed myself hoarse during SUPER SOAP WEEK, shouting at the screen this is ridiculous and other considerable more four-letter phrases - I've become a lot calmer.  For me, this show is now something to fill the time.  There's nothing else on telly at 7:30.  It gives me a chance to write a load of nonsense once a week.  It sometimes makes me laugh.  But I don't really care any more.  That's gone.


You might be sitting there thinking that SUPER SOAP WEEK was one of your high points of the year, and that's great.  I'm pleased for you.  I'm pleased you enjoy it, and certainly, the awards that are stacking up on ITV's mantlepiece seem to show that a lot of people feel the same way you do.  ITV doesn't want people like me any more; it wants people like you.  You are the future of Corrie; treat it well.


The author is available for all storylining conferences, ITV.  His main ideas involve Mary finding an amusingly shaped aubergine in her Tesco delivery, Gail buying a new hat, and George being befuddled by the settings on his burglar alarm, resulting in a siren going off in the middle of an emotional viewing of a corpse.  Contact me on Twitter @merseytart for more sure fire winners like this.







All original work on Coronation Street Blog is covered by a Creative Commons License

16 comments:

Sharon boothroyd said...

A great review of the year, Scott.
I admit that some of plots are absurd - brining Sharon back was rather silly- but the writers and production team have meetings to decide what to do and they get paid for it.
It must be a dream job to create drama on screen, and see your ideas and storylines happen.
I know there's a lot of inconsistencies, especially with the factory. Anyone - even someone who's just got out of jail - can secure a job there, very often without an interview sometimes. But it is fiction!
But Sally's snobbery, Evelyn's no - nonsense manner, Audrey's gin raddled memory lane tales and David's sarky humour make me laugh. And don't we all need a bit of cheering up and escapism with the awful circumstances of 2021 (and into 2022?)
Despite the gangsters, murders and guns, Corrie should be, in essence about families living on a Manchester terraced street.
Yes, some families are blended and broken, but that's the way it is nowadays.
This was Tony Warren's vision and remember it was almost thrown out for being too grim, even back then!
I hope you don't stop writing for the blog, Scott.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and Glenda, the Corrie bloggers and the people who leave comments on all the posts!

Anonymous said...

Sadly I feel you are probably right. Continuity is a puzzle for me, characters pop in and out - Mary, Gail, Tim,Tracy, Barlows, Evelyn etc spring to mind instantly - the taxi service disappeared, the funeral home doesn't need to be full of bodies, Freshco. The list should go on, my brain is befuddled instead of relaxed when Coronation Street is mentioned.

Anonymous said...

Came to the same conclusion a while back. I read the blog, enjoy your reviews, but rarely watch the programme any more.

Charles said...

I absolutely agree that we need far more Alahan family fun and far less crime. Just because other soaps have gangsters and guns doesn't mean Corrie should follow suit, or it should at least use these sparingly as it did in the past.

However, I do think Corrie should be commended for trying to develop their younger cast into proper characters with real storylines. Although the restrictions of the pandemic may have pushed the balance too much towards them, it's important that the show keeps exceptional young characters- that's how we get the Sallys and the Steves further down the line.

The main drawback from me regarding Seb's death wasn't the teenage characters but Abi. No doubt the acting is excellent, but Abi is written to be so selfish and her repetitive train wreck behaviour is a weak imitation of so many better characters before her.

I also don't really understand why people are mourning the loss of Natasha Blakeman. She didn't really strike me as all that exciting, she was an entirely different character from her first stint in Corrie, and it was clear the writers had no idea what to do with her. The show already has plenty of characters who serve no obvious purpose and have no obvious appeal, so axing her made sense.

Anonymous said...

We are a household of 3 fanatic Corrie watchers. Where my husband and male cousin enjoy all this drama, I feel left behind. I want a bit of comedy, I need a bit of Street stability. I have taken to reading spoilers just so I know which episodes to watch and which to avoid. ­čś× The show hasn’t lost me as a viewer, it’s just not “must see” tv anymore.

popcorn said...

Thank you for your superb reviews, which are always, in my view, right on the money. Please keep writing these wonderful commentaries! Us older viewers really need you, and I need the laughs.
Merry Christmas to you, Glenda, and all the regular posters.

Louby said...

Brilliant review, thanks for this and all the others this year. I've realised that I haven't really enjoyed it as a whole programme for quite a long time, although some parts are still good.

My big irritation with it is the reoccurrence of some themes; the affairs, violent deaths and the worn out "who's the daddy" storylines which seems to be appearing yet again, for Adam this time.

At least we have the classic episodes to enjoy.

Canadian watcher said...

Great article, Scott. I am no longer a watcher, I gave up when I read the spoiler that Tyrone was hooking up with Alina. Every once in a while I do check in with '5 things' in a vain hope that the story lines will change back. Not only is it "not my show" any more, I now have accepted that it never will be. Apparently I haven't missed anything good. I doubt I will check in again so thanks for all your hard work, you're the last bright spark.

Rebecca said...

I agree with you. I miss the old Corrie. Other than Norris's funeral I really haven't tuned in for a couple of years - the wit is missing and I'm sick of all the crime. I guess other people must like it now so I guess that's good but other than reading here I really do t follow Corrie at all any more.

dhvinyl said...

I feel much better knowing you are an ally, Scott. Congratulations and some sympathy for continuing to watch, as, like one of the anonymouses above, I am relying on you to tell me when I can come out from behind the sofa. I guess I understand the logic of bringing in loads of young actors to protect the old favourites, but the truth is, I really don’t care or bond with any of them except the Alahans and Nina. As you say, maybe we are not the intended audience any more. Keep writing though ….I think quite a few of us are relying on you!

Fluttershy said...

The words "Written by Jonathan Harvey" appearing on screen are an indication that we're in for half an hour of old fashioned Corrie and some sizzlingly funny dialogue. Other than that, yes, I fully agree, it's not my show any more. I 100% agree with you Scott, and I hope the show's producers are reading this and taking notes!

Humpty Dumpty said...

It would be interesting to know the modern demographic of Corrie viewers. The 20s and 30s in my family don't watch Corrie although they do watch high-octane shows on Netflix etc. I agree with Fluttershy that Jonathan Harvey (and other writers) will guarantee a good episode, but I don't know until I tune in which writer has penned the episode. So that's an unexpected pleasure when it happens. Viewers now are more sophisticated than those of early Corrie days. We know if an actor is actually any good. I'm sure a lot of Corrie actors are kept on because they can learn their lines overnight and don't need any direction. When the directors pull out the stops, we get amazing TV eg: Aidan's suicide, but the day-to-day stuff is often very boring. If viewing figures are king, we should bear in mind that the BARB viewing figures system uses five thousand(?) households to work out what the whole country is viewing. Corrie is higher than other soaps but that's because there isn't huge competition! What makes me groan most on Corrie are the endlessly used plot devices of over-heard conversations - characters appearing round corners at just the right moment, crucial conversations in the middle of the street or in the pub. Also, the interviews with actors who 'explain' how their characters feel. No time for character development, just give viewers a road map.

Bobby Dazzler said...

I've watched Corrie for fifty years....and yes, it's not the Corrie that we knew. I can go for weeks now, read the odd update and carry on. I wouldn't have missed an episode ten years ago, it would have been recorded and enjoyed with a cuppa and a bikkie. Roy Barraclough (Alex Gilroy) said in an interview about ten years ago that Corrie wouldn't last another ten years because of the reasons you stated. It's not funny anymore, we used to know people that were like people on the street, we used to identify with lifestyle.
As soon as the hospital and police sets were built that pretty much spelled out the future of the program.

I'll still check in, but I've resorted to Auntie Corrie 2 on youtube to watch the older episodes....While I love Sally&Tim, Dev(remember him golfing with Fred?)Mary, Tracey.....it's not enough to keep me permanently.
Thanks for the Five Things...loved it!

dhvinyl said...

I agree with Fluttershy and Humpty Dumpty but even a genius like Jonathan can only work with what he's given - previous episodes and cast members available etc. And yes, I'd love to know the demographics. If it is to be believed, the younger generations don't watch TV at all but spend their time with You Tube, streaming sites and Tik Tok etc. We are apparently promised a feel good Christmas week, but I'm reserving judgement.

C in Canada said...

A weird year to be sure. The only thing that felt true to form was Norris' funeral. Loved every bit of it, from Norris' letter, to Mary dressing as Princess Leia to the decapitation of the paperboy!

Chris22Webb said...

Love your reviews Scott. Sometimes it seems like the only reason I watch Corrie is to find out what you make of it.

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