As episodes of Coronation Street go, it’s no exaggeration to say that last night’s was one of the best I’ve seen. Slow in pace, dialogue heavy, location and character light and theme focussed with a brilliant script by the ever reliable Chris Fewtrell and tremendous performances by all concerned, it genuinely had me feeling euphoric afterwards and reaching for the remote to watch it again the minute it was over.
While Kate Ford, Chris Gascoyne and William Roache are consistently outstanding in my eyes, a contributory factor to the quality of their performances last night was surely the amount of time they had to play out and immerse themselves in the scenes in question. And while Ken, Peter and Tracy thrashed it out in number one, a small selection of aptly chosen neighbours sat around the Rovers for hours simply talking, and it was wonderful.
Corrie’s capacity for comedy and drama is always touted as one of its strongest features, and rightly so. But as I’ve argued before, this can’t simply mean a few funny one liners are thrown about while drama takes centre stage. Last night’s episode showed how it should be done. The drama in the Barlow’s was second to none, and the humour in the Rovers was sublimely organic as they chatted fondly, tactfully enlightened Michael as to Ken and Deirdre’s various indiscretions over the years, and tipsy Emily insisted on drinking the red wine which Liz had poured to toast their friend. Intercutting between these two scenes, from light to shade and back again, made for perfection.
Twitter user Gillian Skerritt made a comment a month back that has been playing on my mind ever since. While she was referring to Luke’s ‘designer’ Mule Face t-shirt, her remark that “I fear I’m not Corrie target audience any more” had me thinking about this notion generally. I worried that the intention might be to take Corrie in a new direction. However, last night’s episode proved to me that there is still a desire to retain, celebrate, and devote time to the characteristics that made this programme an institution in the first place, and lord knows the capacity for it never went away.
Episodes like last night’s are the reason why people have been watching almost 55 years later and don’t want to switch off. To my mind, it was the most fitting tribute possible to the memory of Anne Kirkbride and Deirdre Barlow.
While you can never make every viewer happy, the outpouring of praise for this particular episode makes clear that it can act as a blueprint for what we would all wish to see more of.
There are plenty of programmes on television that bring us the theatrical, but only Coronation Street can bring us theatre.