Coronation Street, ITV - TV review: This soap is streets ahead when it comes to the real world

The Gods of the Cobbles have chosen to visit mental illness on Steve McDonald

Ellen E. Jones
Tuesday 25 November 2014 00:00
Comments
Community care: Simon Gregson as Steve McDonald in 'Coronation Street'
Community care: Simon Gregson as Steve McDonald in 'Coronation Street'

Steve McDonald’s depression diagnosis has been a controversial storyline for Coronation Street (ITV), and not for the reasons that soaps usually invite controversy. Linda’s rape in EastEnders, ketamine addiction on Emmerdale and the right-to-die debate surrounding Hayley Cropper on Corrie earlier this year, have all got the nation talking – that’s what soaps are supposed to do – but depression just doesn’t lend itself to sensational telly in quite the same way.

It’s yet more evidence of Corrie’s superiority, then, that the Gods of the Cobbles have chosen to visit mental illness on Steve McDonald (Simon Gregson), ordinary bloke next door, Weatherfield wit and winner of Best Comedy Performance at this year’s British Soap Awards. Viewers like Steve because he’s funny; depression isn’t very funny.

It’s a risky strategy, but it’s also brilliant, because Steve is exactly the sort of laugh-a-minute lad who scoffs at the idea of seeking professional help for a mental health problem. The storyline was first hinted at a few months back, but it’s taken until now for Steve to accept a diagnosis more specific than “being a useless article”. A lesser soap might have left it there, reassuring viewers that help is available at their GP, but Steve’s story has gone on to remind us of a further heartbreak, the struggle of friends and family to be supportive about a condition they can’t understand. Steve’s hopes that his mum, at least, would have some sympathy were dashed when she put his behaviour down to the male menopause: “We’d all love to go gallivanting off every time we felt like it, but some of us can’t drop everything, we’ve got responsibilities!”

That’s one reason why Coronation Street is currently head and shoulders above every other soap opera, and many so-called “serious dramas” too. Another is how the writers dust their scripts with pop culture references like flour on a barm cake. Learning about what the Street’s residents are listening to, reading and watching on telly is not only amusing, but also very revealing of character. Mary says her mum is always getting confused with Ann Widdecombe “It’s a nightmare to go shopping with her. People criticise her politics, her dancing...” Audrey requested that Gail return “the Maeve Binchy that I lent you” and Emily Bishop complained to Rita that she “couldn’t get past the shower scene” in Netflix prison drama Orange Is the New Black. Persevere, Emily. It really picks up in season two.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in