It was in the early 1970s that I first started to regularly watch Coronation Street (the UK’s longest running soap opera). This was after my school drama teacher said it had some of the best acting and script writing on television. Acknowledged at the time as the ‘classic’ era, with its strong, distinctive female characters such as Hilda Odgen, Bett Lynch and Elsie Tanner, ‘Corrie’ has been a part of my life ever since. While there have been several short periods over these past 40-odd years when the plot and story lines lost their way, it’s always managed to come back strong and keep delivering great drama with memorable comedy moments.
Yet recently I’ve become somewhat disillusioned with Coronation Street’s direction. It has morphed into a chaotic ‘gangster soap’ where every character’s life appears to be in a perpetual state of turmoil. Such is the rise in brutality that episodes now regularly begin with the ominous voice-over warning, “Now on ITV with some violence and scenes some viewers might find distressing…”. This changing scenario has meant that the soap now incorporates police stations, prisons, courtrooms and hospitals as regular extensions of the street’s scenery and set. It’s seems no coincidence that these changes coincide with Kate Oates’ elevation to series producer in early 2016 with a mission to produce “greater breadth of story lines”. This ‘greater breadth’ takes the form of increasingly inconceivable and ludicrous story lines given, in particular, to the career criminal character with gangster tendencies, Pat Phelan, expertly played by Conner McIntyre. But it is not the obsession with gangster story lines that bothers me the most, it’s that the mystery and humour has disappeared. Coronation Street plots and resolutions were always difficult to second guess and they were peppered with witty lines and humorous quips. Nowadays story lines have become predictable, where you fear the worst and the worst always happens.