Coronation Street (24th May 1976)

Written by Paula Milne

The episode opens in a somewhat bleak fashion – Tricia, a devotee of phone in programmes, remembers one caller who lived alone and when she went to bed each night started to believe that she didn’t exist (as there was no-one there to enquire after her). This sort of melancholy fits her recent character, but no fear, Mavis pops into the shop to cheer her and Gail up. Well sort of ….

Mavis mentions there will be a Bank Holiday street party organised by Ken, in aid of the deprived. She’s selling raffle tickets and lists some of the attractions. Such as jugglers (or as she’s forced to admit, maybe one juggler!). It doesn’t seem quite the girls’ thing, but maybe it’ll cheer them up a little.

1970’s problems – Ken, typing a letter, has put the carbon paper in the wrong way, thereby ensuring that he won’t have a copy of this precious document. Ken then has a heart to heart with Wendy over the washing up (she’s doing the work, naturally).  Wendy seems to have clicked into the role of the devoted housewife very easily, but – as touched upon before – there’s something mechanical about her actions, as if she’s simply playing this role on a temporary basis.

Ken continues to be blithely confident that any little problems they have – such as Uncle Albert’s cold-shouldering them – will be overcome in time, but as we’ll see, the forces of opposition are beginning to be ranged against them.

I don’t recall Elsie playing darts too often before, but there she is – throwing the arrows in the Rovers like a good ‘un. There is a pretext though, as she’s attempting to get chummy with Terry in order to find out what Renee’s plans for that shop are. She’s wasting her time – he knows nothing (and is far more interested in his prowess at the dart board).

But it’s not long before we learn what’s happening. Renee plans to buy the shop and flat, but requires vacant possession (which means that Tricia, Gail and Elsie will all be homeless).  It’ll be a little while before Gail and Tricia learn the news, as Renee isn’t keen to tell them, insisting that it’s Betty’s job to do so. And because kind-hearted Betty can’t bring herself to do it, the agony of their situation will be prolonged for an episode or two.

What will Elsie do? Her first thought is to move in with Len, but he’s not interested. “Old habits die hard” he tells her, leaving her to mildly enquire if that’s all she is, nothing  but an old habit. He’s partly motivated by image (as a councilor he couldn’t afford the scandal of living with a married woman) but there’s also a feeling that he doesn’t want to risk rekindling their old relationship.

It would have been interesting (and I’m sure audience pleasing) to get these two back together, but possibly even this early on there was some thought given to coupling Len and Rita on a permanent basis.

It shouldn’t go unnoticed that another public figure of sorts, Ken, has already fallen into the trap (living with a married woman) which Len is so keen to avoid. The stakes for Ken are raised higher in this episode’s key scene – a stormy committee meeting in which both Alderman Chapman (Frank Crompton) and Mrs Rankin (Julia Long) tell Ken that it isn’t acceptable for a man in his position to be living in sin.

It’s a cracking little scene, given a little extra spice by the fact that two of his friends and fellow committee members – Alf, Ernie – remain silent throughout Ken’s angry response. No surprises to see that Ken reacts in his usual way – an obstinate refusal to even consider anybody else’s point of view.

Key scene number two occurs after the commercial break, when a still seething Ken confronts the hapless Ernie. Ken’s annoyed that Ernie didn’t tip him off and then goes on to label him a hypocrite – Ernie admits that he’s keen that Ken should set a good example (but seems to have forgotten about his own indecisions – and later flagrant fibbing – down at the Gatsby club).

The episode is capped by the well-meaning Emily’s doomed attempts to make things better. She runs into Wendy and tells her that Chapman doesn’t speak for the residents of Coronation Street. The only problem with this is that Ken hasn’t told her anything about the meeting. Oops ….

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