7,487th Night: Coronation Street, ITV1
Friday 10 December 2010
I don't know why they put themselves through it really. It's the actors I feel sorry for – being asked to go live when the nearest some of them have come to live performance will have been in panto.
"Behind you!", you could shout – look behind you at poor old Scott Maslen, Albert Square's Jack Branning and Strictly Come Dancing favourite, still making self-deprecating jokes on Strictly about fluffing his lines on last February's live EastEnders. It's so unfair, you put in a 100-hour week with a rehearsal to performance turnover rate that would have normal luvvies manning the barricades, and then you mash one line and become a national laughing stock. Bring it on.
Last night then, the thrilling question wasn't going to be who would end up as a corpse (the bookies had Ashley and Molly installed as red-hot favourites and both duly obliged), but who would corpse, uncontrollable giggles surely not being far beneath the surface of such an effortlessly camp soap as Corrie.
And never mind the tram crash and the viaduct collapsing on top of Peter Barlow's stag do – what was really going to keep Corrie fans on tenterhooks was the possibility of on-air bloopers now the cast were without a safety net. The last time Coronation Street attempted this sort of caper, after all, was ten years ago, when William Roache had only been in the soap for, oh,40 years.
Mind you, it was such mayhem out there it was hard to tell if someone was genuinely messing up or just acting as if they were in shock. Alison King as Carla seemed to lose the thread at one point, but it's hard to be sure in the circumstances, and William Roache was a bit indistinct at times, but then he was standing over his son's deathbed.
There was a lot of shouting, which was convenient, and people saying their lines in exaggerated fashion, that rather suited the unfolding disaster. It was hard to say whether nerves were making people overact, or whether this is how they thought they should act. Put another way, if this was Radio 4's Just a Minute, Paul Merton might have been on the buzzer, claiming hesitation or repetition. But it wasn't. It was an exciting, well-crafted episode of a soap opera.
Barbara Knox and Becky Hindley, as Rita and Charlotte, had the easiest jobs of the night, both feigning unconsciousness for the whole episode, while Gary, enduring flashbacks to Helmand province, could have come up with any old gobbledygook and we would have assumed it was post-traumatic stress disorder. Fizz, yelling through childbirth, also had an unproblematic ride.
So in the event there wasn't car crash TV to add to the tram crash storyline. The 50th birthday party passed without any embarrassments – in fact it passed with flying colours.
Jane Danson as Leanne was a rock, even blubbing right on cue as Peter flat-lined after completing his deathbed marriage vows. And Sally Dyenevor as Sally Webster managed a tricky scene with Vicky Binns (as the dying Molly). Now, after a few funerals, we can all return to the normality that makes Coronation Street the nation's favourite soap – to the diet of mainly humdrum events, told with a tight script, leavened with lashings of humour. No more live episodes, or catastrophes, please for at least another ten years, when William Roache will have been in the show for, well, at least 60 years. They should leave all this live broadcasting stuff to James Naughtie and the Today team.
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