Saturday 8 February 2020

Corrie 10K: Why It's More Than Just a Soap For Me

This week, Coronation Street, the long-running British TV soap, celebrated it's 10,000th episode which is a huge and astounding achievement for any TV show. This isn't particularly something I've blogged specifically about before, with the exception of my Corrie Tour Review back in 2014 but I am a HUGE Corrie fan and it's probably one of the first things anyone who knows me would say about me. 
Now, many people really don't get that. Many people respond to that fact with utterances of "why would you watch that miserable drivel?" and similar remarks, some of which are much less mild in tone.

But for me, there are an abundance of reasons why I don't consider that to be the case. For me, as a Northern girl in a gritty little town and a blunt and abrupt society, Coronation Street speaks to me on many levels. I come from a family who like most, would bend over backwards for each other but aren't particularly always so open and talkative with each other about day to day goings on. But the one thing that has always been a constant and common talking point for me and several of the women in my family have been these fictional little worlds provided by British soap opera that we'd all stop life for, for the sake of an hour or two and be totally engrossed. On many occasions, I'd say that these fictional worlds have helped make sense of real life and put real life into perspective. They've always been something I can converse about and relate to with my mother, my nan, my grandma, sisters even. For that reason, when I moved to university at the age of 19/20, I kept up that tradition. 7pm each night was soap time in our flat and it was something my uni tribe got on board with and started to know me for. It was that little bit of home in my new home for 2 hours each night.

Coronation Street, whilst quite obviously stretched for entertainment purposes is fundamentally somewhere that we all know. For me, it's completely reminiscent of the house and street my grandparents lived in for the entirety of my life and that I now live in with my grandma to this day. The terraced houses, the back yards, outhouses, all in such close proximity to each other. And whilst it may seem far-fetched that one little street and it's neighbouring little offshoots would have and need every amenity on it's very doorstep, way back before I was born, the very street I live on was exactly like that. In it's time, my very street and the adjacent few have housed pubs, shops, post-offices, chip-shops. gyms, cafes, butchers, garages, churches, schools, warehouses, factories, parks, community centres and so on. And from the tales I've heard from my grandparents over the years, back in the 60s-80s it sounded like a Coronation Street away from Coronation Street with it's very own stock characters and the incredibly similar setting. 

These little things have been what's always drawn me to Corrie and when I decided to use it as the focal point for my university dissertation in 2014, my love for it only strengthened. I read about it's creator, Tony Warren and how he'd spent years subconsciously observing and listening to his surroundings whilst growing up, in order to come up with this little world and its inhabitants. I read about how he admired and felt extreme gratitude towards an abundance of strong women in his life that had impacted him in one way or another. How he'd paid close attention to how men and women, Northern in particular interacted with each other and the ironies and humour that often came from these interactions. I suddenly had a sense of pride for a man, I obviously never knew but just to know that his little vision had become such a staple of the British TV guide. 

One thing that always struck me was the notoriety of the characters. They were and are household names, possibly more noticeable to British families than many Hollywood megastars. And as I read more about the show's beginnings, it became apparent that this was always Tony's aim. To create multi-faceted, well-known characters, particularly females. And just as the setting is somewhere that we all know, the characters are too. I've met people who completely and utterly echo Ena, Annie, Elsie, Bet, Rita, Hilda and the many more that have come after them. I still meet people now who remind me of those characters, some of which were penned 60 odd years ago. Even looking at the street now, I would say I know a Beth Tinker, a Gemma Winter, I know a Jenny Connor, I know a Steve McDonald, a David Platt. Not by name, obviously, but by personality, values, mannerisms.

Some have a passion and a following for a football team, a favourite band, a celebrity. And those things build into to people's identity. Corrie is that for me. And so, for me, the 10,000th episode was a complete treat. It wasn't the most spectacular episode in terms of storyline, special effects, production values, not by a stretch, but it had all of those core things that Corrie was built on. Rich characters, humour, nostalgia, community, poignancy and relatability. It had the stalwarts of the street, either directly featured or mentioned, it had little nods to the scenes and quotes that us super-fans could recite in our sleep. It had heart but it had adversity. It was sentimentally self-referential and celebrated itself without arrogance. 

For me, Corrie isn't "that miserable drivel". It's somewhere to escape to, that isn't actually all that far from home. It can be miserable but life can be miserable. But it's also humourous and ironic, just as life is. It's relatable and it makes sense of real life and pokes fun at real life in equal and manageable measure. 
Yes, it's a little absurd that people would have the deepest conversation of their life in the local café or pub and yes, people's kids seem to be around one minute and not the next and yes it's always weird trying to work out how about THAT many people are living in a 2 bed terraced house but those things aside, it's a national institution and I hope it's still around in another 10,000 episodes, whether I am or not. I am a watcher of the three big soaps and have the same admiration for all of them but for me, Corrie is queen. It came first, it paved the way and whilst the others have their moments in the spotlight and rightly so, it remains for me, the best.

Video via Coronation Street YouTube: