I've never been into soaps really- I remember watching Brookside with my mum way back in the Body Under The Patio days, and I got more addicted to Hollyoaks than I'd care to admit in my uni days. Since then my interest in the genre has waned... I don't have the attention span or devotion to get properly involved. Plus, with the exception of the 'oaks, there are never enough pretty people to make it worthwhile watching.
In the last few weeks however, we've been learning about the construction of storylines and how different soaps are to regular ol' TV dramas. With this in mind, I settled down to watch Corrie yesterday (7th December) with a fairly open mind.
Surprisingly, I actually knew more characters than I thought I did- turns out I must have absorbed something whilst staring blankly at the screen when relatives had it on in the background. Plotwise, I didn't have a clue- thank God I had my wee nan, a Corrie devotee, at hand to act as a "Previously on...." for me. I couldn't understand why beige old Ken Barlow was so averse to his son opening a new bar- "his son's an alcoholic". I didn't get why leery old Kevin the Mechanic was drooling over some tubby chav with a face like a pitbull- "they're having an affair and she's going wi' Tyrone as well". Oh, and greasy Dev out the shop and Potato Head Steve McDonald? "They're golf rivals but he (Dev) fancies his golf tutor, but Steve doesn't know it's his golf tutor". Sorted!
From what I could tell, there were three main story threads running through the episode- as well as the aforementioned affair and the Barlow family dispute, there was the beginning of a storyline to revive the Rovers' panto. The golfing story was only touched on briefly in one scene, and kind of brushed aside. Another sub-plot came from the Ken Barlow story; his turkey-necked wife Deirdre angry because Ken's interference with the council had cost her the chance of a new job.
There were some scenes with other characters I didn't quite get, including one boy who was about to join the army, but they didn't seem central to the episode in question. It was fairly easy to catch up on the main points of the story, as it was re-iterated by the characters talking to each other. I wouldn't have known how they were related to each other, though, if I hadn't had outside help!
In terms of action, there didn't really seem to be very much of it. The episode I watched took place the morning after a fight between one character, Clare, and barmaid Becky- and not much ever happens in hangover episodes. The two women later resolved their differences by....planning to organise a panto in the Rovers Return. Err, yes. That's one way to settle an argument indeed.
The episode also featured alot of Ken's blustering about his wayward son, rather than any conflict between the two of them. I really thoroughly disliked him as a character- he's so condescending and dull, it's a wonder Deirdre's gone back to him. He acts like king of the hill, despite mother-in-law Blanch quipping that he got a degree 50 years ago and still gets stuck at the newpaper crossword.
I thought the acting was pretty hammy, and the characters all seemed like dull stereotypes. Most of the typical British soap characters were there: the brassy barmaid, the old lady comic relief, the old stalwart, the 'scarlet woman' (Leanne Battersby)... In saying that, I think my judgement's been changed a little considering what we learned in class. The performances may not be Oscar material, but the characters are acting fairly naturally, and talking like people from that region probably would (minus swearing, of course- it's 'real life', but it's still pre-watershed). I wouldn't say there was any great hook that'd make me want to tune in tomorrow, though. Maybe it's because I've only watched one episode, therefore not had time to get to know any of the characters.
It's amazing, though, how a show can become such a national institution- when I checked the episode guide on ITV Player, the headline read "CORRIE- THE NATION'S STREET". Considering the viewing figures it can command it's not too outlandish a claim. It's truly embedded in British culture; after nearly 50 years many older generations have grown up with the show and passed the tradition onto younger viewers. Personally I don't reckon I'll be in a hurry to tune in again (although if Andy is to be believed, I may have to, to further my screenwriting prowess...). Still, at least it's fairly cheery, and the 'Corrie bubble' provides a wee half hour of escapism for its die-hard fans.