Is Coronation Street struggling to weather the storm? Conor Byrne investigates.
Coronation Street has been a regular fixture on our TV sets since it first aired in 1960. Apparently, it’s never done better; it remains, as of August 2013, the number one soap with viewing figures reaching well into the millions. Viewership peaked at 28.5 million on Christmas Day 1987. From the 1960s to the 1980s, most episodes rated over 20 million viewers, and although this has declined in the 2000s and 2010s, this can more broadly be seen as a result of decline in viewership in terrestrial TV in the UK as a whole.
But Kathy Sweeney’s article written for the Guardian in July 2011 questioned why Corrie viewers were ‘turning off’, and two years later, the show hasn’t improved. Sweeney is right to suggest that ‘some storylines… seem to have dragged on well past the point where anyone could be reasonably expected to care’, whether Kylie Platt’s fraught relationship with David, which began as long ago as Christmas 2012, or the totally unconvincing affair between Tina McIntyre and Peter Barlow which has, thankfully, just ended… we hope.
Not only are the storylines unconvincing, but the acting at times leaves a lot to be desired. Helen Worth rules the roost as a hilarious Gail Platt, while ‘Mad Mary’ makes for regularly entertaining viewing, but thank goodness irritating Stella Price (played by Eastenders’ Michelle Collins) appears in the show a lot less regularly. And don’t even mention characters such as Sunita – all she appeared to do was shout up the stairs telling her kids to brush their teeth and/or get into their pyjamas. Really convincing…
The departure of the best characters means that the show is slowly slipping into tedium. Gone are the days when sharp-tongued Blanche Hunt made us laugh or gape, open-mouthed, at her never-ending rudeness; and while Becky Granger’s constant storylines involving alcohol, adultery and scandal may have been slightly overdone, her pluckiness brought something to the show. This just isn’t represented anymore in the show – instead, characters are reduced to pitiful caricatures: the shrew Carla, the homewrecker Tina, the psychopath David. There’s no depth, and we just can’t empathise with any of them.
More simply, as Sweeney contends, the show’s lost its sense of ordinariness which was a very real reason it was so successful for such a long time. Instead, it’s moved to killing off characters with alarming regularity – ‘Coronation Street in recent years has had an astonishing death count, given that there are only about 15 houses’. The storylines are wearying and depressing, regularly focusing on death, betrayal and adultery.
But the biggest problem is that the majority of the characters just aren’t likeable. Something needs to change… before Corrie really does slide beyond the point of no return.bookmark me