Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Anne Kirkbride's funeral takes place

Anne Kirkbride's funeral took place yesterday, Tuesday 27 January.

It was a small, private funeral and some of the Coronation Street cast attended.

Bill Roache, who plays Ken Barlow, together with Kate Ford (Tracy Barlow) and Bev Callard (Liz McDonald) were among those who attended to pay their respects.

Filming on the Coronation Street set was halted.  Floral bouquets have been left at the site of the new Coronation Sreet set in Manchester.

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Preview of tonight's Coronation Street - Weds 28 Jan

Wednesday 28th January
TONY AND EVA STRIKE UP A DEAL. When Eva laments to Tony how Jason reckons they can’t afford to  buy a flat, Tony offers to lend them a deposit. Eva’s thrilled but when she tells Jason he’s furious, insisting they’re not a charity case. Eva’s upset as she explains to Tony how Jason refused his offer.  Tony gives her a comforting hug as Todd watches on intrigued, forming a plan. Elsewhere when Tony  tries throwing his weight around in the shop, Tracy realises she needs to show him who’s boss. Using  her feminine wiles, she drags him into the back and seduces him. Returning from work will Todd  catch them in the act?
DAVID’S READY TO FIGHT FOR HIS RIGHTS. David worries that with Kylie gone, he has no parental rights over Max and Callum could take him away at a moment’s notice.
CRAIG GETS THE WRONG END OF THE STICK. As it’s Tim’s birthday, Craig and Faye offer to do his window jobs for him so he can have an early dart. But as they beaver away on Sally’s windows, they spot Sally and Kevin acting strangely. Having heard this Tim heads to No.4 intent on confronting Sally and Kevin. What will he walk into? Meanwhile Tim offers Craig a window cleaning apprenticeship.
ELSEWHERE In the café, Zeedan refuses to let Gary serve him. Michael’s nervous as he reveals he’s had a call from the hospital and his heart operation is in two weeks. Steph puts pressure on Andy to track down Michael’s real son in case Michael should die during his operation.

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Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Soap Superstars

I started writing this on the day Anne Kirkbride died. When a few of the tabloids suggested that she was to retire from Coronation Street, I like other Corrie bloggers, started thinking about her impact on Coronation Street and television as a whole, and to ponder life without Deirdre.

If only the big news last week was that she had retired. Still, I've started so I'll finish. Here's what I cobbled together...with a couple of personal memories to finish with.

They are a dying breed. That truly legendary type of soap star that comedians impersonate, fancy dress costumes are based upon, and for whom the nation goes into mourning after their inevitable TV demise. You know they've made it when they get a waxwork at Tussaud's and their own tv special: Goodbye Blanche, Goodbye Jack, Rita and Me...a celebration of both the actor and the character. Indeed Jack and Vera Duckworth mattered so much to the TV audience of Britain and beyond, that writers temporarily suspended reality, bringing Liz Dawn out of retirement and Vera back from the dead to collect her beloved Jack.

The superheroes of soap become the character they portray and whether on or off screen, Julie Goodyear is now Bet Lynch, Barbara Knox is Rita and June Brown from Eastenders is Dot Cotton - whether they like it or not. Just like to me, Julie Andrews will always be Mary Poppins - that's the character that stuck in my head, no matter what other roles she played later. Anne Kirkbride, in the same way, will forever be Deirdre Barlow. 

The secret to becoming a soap superstar is in part down to the type of longevity and work ethic you see less and less of in continuing drama. Just when we see glimmers of a new soap superstar in the making, such as Becky McDonald, played by Katherine Kelly for example, bigger, brighter opportunities are sent their way and it must be difficult, however loyal to a soap, to resist new challenges. We live in a different world, with greater opportunity and increasing numbers of media outlets shining a spotlight on talent.

This is the very opposite of why our soap superstars are elevated to almost mythical status. They tend not to crave limelight outside of work. They are rarely seen at award ceremonies or on television chat shows. Soap superstars go to work to earn a living and once the wig is removed and the makeup is washed off, they are mortal again. Anne Kirkbride once commented in a rare interview that her work at Coronation Street was just a job, and that she hadn't wanted to be an actress at all. How ironic that she became one of television's most recognisable and loved faces.

It tends to be a woman's thing - this soap superstardom. Think of Pat Butcher, Elsie Tanner, Ena Sharples, Dot Cotton, Bet Lynch, maybe even Bianca Butcher and a handful of others. Corrie, probably more so than Eastenders, is based around and would be lost without strong, troubled and formidable women so it makes sense that the women become the real stars. 

The future of soap doesn't necessarily depend on the new alumni of actors becoming superstars, but it certainly helps. Unique characters are Corrie's U.S.P. and it is funnier and generally more enjoyable when they stretch the boundaries a little with characters who are slightly cartoonish but with real world problems. The longevity is the key thing though. If a soap character is as familiar to you as a member of your family, chances are that you will root for that character and become invested in their storylines. We were certainly invested in Deirdre's, and Anne Kirkbride's death has hit us hard as viewers and fans.

We who write and read this blog didn't know Anne Kirkbride, but we loved her work and we will always love Deirdre. I was however lucky enough to meet her when I worked for Bev Callard, Anne's dear friend and familiar to us all as Liz McDonald. Anne would sometimes come in for a gossip with Bev. The two friends would sit in a quiet corner, have a good old laugh about who knows what, smoking away as if in one of those famous scenes from Corrie or the First Wives Club. Two soap superstars sitting in the corner giggling away, like any other pals having a laugh. This was one of the first memories that came into my mind when Anne passed away. 

My only other personal memory of Anne, although she wasn't directly involved, was when I was in a car with former Corrie writer Daran Little on our way to Blackpool for a day out (to Tussaud's incidentally). We set off on our way down the motorway. Daran was driving and his phone rang so he asked me to answer it. I said hello, and a familiar voice came back: 'Hello Annie?' sounding slightly confused. I know Anne had quite a deep sounding voice but I'm slightly less raspy shall we say. The person on the other end of the phone was Bill Roache and god knows how, but he'd called Daran by mistake expecting to speak to Anne. I had a brief but memorable chat with Bill, who I'd never met and haven't since, and after making it clear that I wasn't Anne, and that I didn't look anything like her, I presume he hung up and went to find his glasses to get the right number. I was then left with the unusual but amazing right to boast that for a split second, Ken thought I was Deirdre. 

I of course took it as a compliment...


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The end of a Corrie era?

Coronation Street and everyone connected with it has suffered a particularly traumatic start to the new year. Issues surrounding the casting of the new, grown up Bethany Platt have caused negative headlines, but far more importantly, the incredibly sad death of actress Anne Kirkbride has dismayed us all.

I didn't want to write about Anne passing away at the time and a week on from the news being made public, I still don't in any great detail. There have been plenty of superb tributes both on this blog and elsewhere across all forms of media. However, for some reason it has made me realise how fragile Corrie is. It's always seen as a powerful machine, trundling onwards as an unstoppable feature of contemporary British drama. It has an enviable history behind it and it shows no signs of slowing its pace, but I wonder if the central core of what makes Corrie "Corrie" is slowing being chipped away.

The exit of a pivotal cast member doesn't mean the end of Corrie. We have witnessed that on countless occasions in the past. Many household names have come and gone and each time it happens, headlines ask us if the soap can carry on. And of course it does, focussing on different angles and new characters. The beauty of a programme like Corrie is that it can regenerate as the need arises. The format is flexible enough to allow change while still providing the continuity regular viewers rely on. 

However it is not often that a character or actor departs who has entered the consciousness of the nation, not just avid Coronation Street viewers. The departures of characters like Annie Walker, Elsie Tanner and Hilda Ogden spring to mind, and more recently those of Betty, Blanche and the Duckworths. Each time it happens it is a huge wrench for all concerned, particularly if there is real life loss behind the on screen exit.

As a Corrie traditionalist, the fact that legendary characters are becoming an endangered species makes me sad. We don't often hear mentions of past glories and past characters these days and while it is important Coronation Street continues to move forward, while we do still see characters like Ken, Gail and Audrey, it would be brilliant if they name dropped Uncle Albert, Suzie Birchall and Alf Roberts a bit more often. It provides much needed continuity with the past and also makes proceedings feel more realistic. Families in the real world often reflect and reminisce about departed loved ones and while the current powers that be put a focus on family, it seems like a natural thing to expect. 

I worry that many people making television today put far too much effort into attracting young viewers. Talking about this recently with friends, we discussed how watching television has changed beyond recognition. Programmes like Coronation Street are watched most regularly by older people. The younger demographic do tune in, but perhaps not as loyally and definitely not as often through the traditional way. I think the majority of older Corrie viewers have watched for many years, just like my gran. 

They do remember the older characters and love hearing about them still. I'm not suggesting Corrie goes on a desperate mission to bring back past characters. Too often this move promises an awful lot and leaves a bitter taste. Too much had changed when Julie Goodyear returned as Bet and Philip Lowrie, while a welcome addition as Dennis Tanner, was woefully underused. The writers of today simply did not know what to do with him.

I think a renewed focus on more mature characters is very much needed in the Weatherfield of 2015. They are the ones who foster a sense of community and provide a stable backdrop for the high drama. Yes we still have Ken, Rita, Norris and Audrey but their appearances are increasingly fleeting. I loved Stephanie Cole's stint as Roy's mum Sylvia but as yet there has been nobody nearly as good to fill that gap. I hope Roy's new storyline with the widowed lady at the allotments is a good one but I think we need more. Like the wonderful Deirdre, they often provide the small yet memorable moments that stay with us long after the high drama and ratings grabbing stunts have faded away.

Follow me on Twitter @GraemeN82

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The Mysterious Case of the Missing Tinker

We get it.  We're grown ups.  We understand that sometimes an actor just isn't available, or is too expensive.  Someone who should be in an episode just isn't.  These things happen.

Having said all that, where the fig is Sinead's mum?

This isn't like Sarah-Louise "not being able to get a flight", or Toyah "can't get time off work", or Ken "has to look after Adam."  We just met Arlene.  She was in the programme a couple of weeks ago.  She turned up for a wedding.  Why isn't she at her daughter's bedside when she's about to have a life-changing operation?

The writers and producers knew that this plotline was coming up, so it was simple: get Alison Burrows to stick around for a month instead of a week.  If she couldn't commit for that long, cast a different actress who could.  We'd never seen Arlene before - it didn't really matter who played her.  Any reasonable actress with a northern accent would do.  Just pay her to sit at Sinead's bedside while all this drama happens.

Because we just met the Tinkers, we're wondering where they are.  When Tina was in hospital, her non-existent mother wasn't such an issue because we knew there had always been problems between them, and she'd not been around for a long time.  Arlene, Nancy and Agnes all turned up at the start of January - so they know where Sinead lives - and they were lovely to her - so there are no outstanding Cilla Brown-esque family tensions.  Why aren't they with her now? 

In fact, I'm being generous in just calling for Arlene to come back.  The wedding episodes established that Sinead was the golden girl of the family, so it would be reasonable for her nan and great-gran to turn up as well.  That might be a bit expensive, fair enough.  Just bring back her mum then.  All the time Beth is sat there worrying - and yes, she's very good at it - I'm just thinking, where is her mum!

Sorry.  Had to get that off my chest.

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In Defence of Faye's Pregnancy Storyline

Contains Spoilers 

You'd have to have been living under a cobble not to know that everyone's favourite teenage adopted Windass is to have a bun in the oven. Or, more (in)appropriately, a 'Hello Kitty' fairy cake in the oven. Given that the storyline was first announced over a year ago, there were even whispers that the plot had been scrapped due to the controversy it would inevitably cause. 
According to Stuart Blackburn when I spoke to him recently, however, it's merely been a case of waiting for the right time and, keeping the story away from the radar has been a very deliberate move by scriptwriters since the party Faye attended at which the ill advised liaison with a lad occurred. 

Forums, Twitter and cream cake laden tables in garden centre cafes have been buzzing with outrage that the storyline is in bad taste but my viewpoint is that it is surely fair to wait until the scenes air until passing judgement. In the meantime, to play Devil's Advocate, it's time to refute some of the most popular complaints about the story. Here goes!

"It's so unrealistic! It would never happen."
Firstly, yes it would, and does but I agree that a pregnant 12/13 year old is not commonplace. However, nor is the wedding of two murderers ending in arrest, a local housewife marrying her burglar or someone as eccentric as Dev. Coronation Street is a soap, not a documentary and, while it cannot be a bad thing to highlight underage pregnancy, its prominent aim is to entertain. The sad reality is, while someone like Faye who we recently saw believe that the Barlow house was being haunted by Blanche and who still eats fish fingers and smiley faces for dinner is an unlikely candidate for pregnancy, young girls DO fall into these situations. Short of alien landings, nothing, therefore is out of bounds for a soap. If it can happen, no matter how unlikely, then it will happen on a soap at some point. 

"It's a tasteless story and offensive!"
Offensive is a real buzz word right now and I have heard that Ofcom are taking on some temps to cope with the outpouring of moral outrage calls they will receive when the scenes air but something is only tasteless if it is portrayed badly. The storyline will deal with Faye's fear of becoming a mother and terror at how her family will react as well as her bond with the lovely Craig. It is a pre watershed show and Coronation Street has a track record of handling it's social issue stories sensitively. Until we see things unfold, we really can't judge whether the story will offend.

"You can't trust a story of this magnitude to young actors!"
I beg to differ. Ellie Leach gets a bit of a bad deal on fan forums and social media because people tend not to like her character's bratty edge. But therein lies the answer as to whether she's a competent actress. Teenagers and those entering their teenage years are notoriously infuriating and spoilt and if Ellie is getting on our nerves, then she is doing her job. At other times, we genuinely feel for Faye and her relationship with good pal Craig is truly heartwarming. And there can not be a negative word said about the legend in waiting that is Colson Smith, who portrays one of Corrie's best young characters in years. Long live Faye and Craig and, having seen some of the scenes already, I can assure you, the actors handle the story expertly and with every ounce of professionalism you'd find in an adult actor.

It's a popular bandwagon to jump on to slate a story like this but, looking at the bigger picture, I can honestly say I am approaching this with an open mind that is erring more to the 'this could be really good' side as opposed to the more widespread 'you've gone too far this time Corrie' angle.

I may be wrong (first time for everything) but I'm willing to embrace the potential rather than worrying about aspects that may not come to pass.

Catch more of my Corrie musings at Metro, Digital Spy and Pauseliveaction:

And follow me on Twitter here:

By Duncan Lindsay

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Spoilers for next week's Coronation Street, Feb 2 - 6

Without any piffle, here's the storyline for the week ahead on Coronation Street, all wrapped up nicely in 50 words or less.

Week of Monday 2 to Friday 6 February

Callum blackmails David, Roy scatters Hayley’s ashes, Maddie causes chaos in the Kabin, Leanne’s suspicious about Gandy, Faye confides in Craig

The full weekly preview, with pictures is right here on

Missed last week's Corrie?
Catch up with the Coronation Street Weekly Updates   

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Monday, 26 January 2015

Coronation Street double episode review, Monday 26 Jan

Judging from comments I've read and conversations I've had, the vast majority of viewers are very fond of Sinead Tinker, played brilliantly by talented actress Katie McGlynn. So it was a masterstroke of the writers to make the most seriously injured person of the bus crash, none other than Sinead. A masterstroke because the characters on the cobbles like her and so do the viewers, hence maximum sympathy is evoked for the young, pretty, kind, stable, skilled, hardworking, delightful Sinead, who even makes Chesney smile from time to time. I for one am willing her to get better. There is a long road ahead but surely, not one viewer or character will wish her anything but a full recovery.

Heartbreakingly, Sinead didn't feel the pin the doctor stuck in her leg. Chesney is all for telling the truth, whereas Beth thinks it would be best to keep quiet and remain positive. At her bedside remain Chesney and Beth. Sally and Alya turn up and Chesney says he's worried that she's overdoing it. Sinead's response is brilliant. 'I'm laid flat on my back - I'm hardly pulling an all-nighter in town. I wish I was.'

Norris takes it upon himself to ask Steve, 'How is the guilty conscience?' Audrey jumps to Steve's defence as does Tony. 'At least you can walk,' says Norris. Tony says, 'Wind your neck in Norris.'

 Norris hasn't finished yet. In The Rovers Norris's spite makes Michelle burst out and tell the truth. 'Steve has clinical depression.' The pub becomes silent.

When Steve turns up at the hospital, Chesney tells him, aggressively to get out. No one will be more delighted than Steve if Sinead is able to walk again.

The search for Kylie brings little joy for David and Eva. This time though David employs a new search tool in his bid to lure Kylie back. He tells her in a message that Gail is dead. If two young children are not sufficient to bring her back, it seems unlikely that the demise of her mother-in -law will do the trick. Nevertheless, right in front of her and Michael, David leaves a message on Kylie's phone, telling her that Gail was mugged and that he had to go and identify her and that he threw up looking at her.  Gail cannot believe her ears, nor can Michael. David has made them take down the Missing Person poster of Kylie, fearing that Max would see it.

Some hope, maybe, comes in the form of a message telling him that Kylie has been caught shoplifting in Rochdale. With that news David and the most loyal friend in the world, Eva, head off. The trouble is that it is Gemma not Kylie, but Gemma has Kylie's bag, as Kylie left after a row, and which David takes from her, but they are no nearer finding Kylie. So, it's off to The Dog and Gun where Callum is complimenting himself on his darts prowess. Callum shows the usual aggression on seeing David and threatens to tell Max that he, Callum is Max's real dad, if David comes bothering him again.

Back home, David finds a note to Max and Lily in Kylie's bag. 'I love you so much it hurts,' she writes. Poor Max. He doesn't want a letter, no matter how sweet the sentiment, he wants his mum, at home, in his life, every day.

Amy is told about her dad's depression at Tracy's insistence. Tracy, in all her sensitivity, asks Steve if he has told Amy that he has gone 'Radio Gaga.' Amy echoes Gaga, in saying that Lady Gaga has depression too.

Eva and Jason go well together and as Eileen is fed up of the lack of space in her house, 'I feel like the woman in the shoe,' Eva formulates a plan. She and Jason should, obviously, buy a place together. They've been going out for a while now, so it is the logical next step. Over a frittata, French, Italian, Eva puts forward her plan. Jason is keen and also likes the 'omelette.'

Todd's reaction is interesting. He appears jealous of his brother, at the idea of Jason settling down. Eva tells him he will meet someone then he'll be happy. When the plan collapses, Todd appears pleased. He says to Jason that he could always rent a place, making sure Eva can hear, before Jason has a chance to tell her himself. So mean of Todd, to whom Eva has been so kind.

Great interaction between Craig, Tim and Daryl the rat. There is maybe more to come if Tim takes on Craig as his apprentice. Tim behaves in a fatherly manner towards Craig, despite his horror of a rat who might sit on his shoulders and lick his ear. He tells Craig not to let anyone tell him what he ought to do.

Things seem to be going well between Sean and Billy. Billy is extremely likeable and as his parishioner calls, because her son is packing his bag after an argument, off he goes to help her. I wonder if his number is available for all parents struggling with their offspring. He would never be off the phone.

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