Coronation Street (3rd May 1976)

Written by Adele Rose

Hilda’s first words in this episode (“jam or dripping?”) are suitably mundane, but Stan – for once – is in a philosophical mood. He tells Hilda that he had a dream in the night – he was a bird, who flapped his wings and flew up into the trees. “A big fat owl?” asks an unsympathetic Hilda. And so another day at Number 13 begins ….

The reason for Hilda’s extreme ire soon becomes clear. Had Stan won the Superbrain contest then he would have walked away with the star prize (a weekend for two in one of Newton & Ridley’s pubs on the Isle of Man). That Hilda is upset to have lost the chance of a fairly mundane prize speaks absolute volumes about her – how she sets her sights so low when considering what constitutes a dream holiday.

Although this opening scene zings with the usual sort of humour that characterised the relationship between Stan and Hilda, on another level there’s something very sad about the way Hilda’s dreams are constantly shattered.  Indeed, the events of today’s episode are a good case in point.

Terry Bradshsaw (Bob Mason) reappears for the first time since February. From now until the end of December he’ll be a regular character, never driving any storylines himself but always a dependable chap in a crisis.  Mason would have a second life with the series (he penned 36 episodes during the eighties). A number of actors had also turned writer over the years, but Mason was the only one who played a regular character to do so.

Alf’s still moaning about his job (he’s doing this an awful lot at the moment).

There’s a sale on at Sylvia’s Separates, which brings in the punters from far and wide. Hilda is one of them and she purchases a top that nobody has the heart to tell her is totally unsuitable for her. At least, not until Tricia pipes up that she looks like mutton dressed as lamb …

It’s a cruel blow which wisely isn’t played for laughs. Hilda is often the instigator of comic storylines but there are also times – as here – when she’s held up to ridicule. Sometimes (when she’s been acid tonged and inquisitive) her humiliation might be justified, but that’s not the case today. But either way, Jean Alexander always knew how to tug at the heartstrings.

It’s a shame that neither Gail or Elsie tried to dissuade Hilda from making the purchase (Gail must shoulder a modicum of blame – after all, she did say that she looked fine, even though Gail wasn’t even looking at her). As for Stan, he was diplomacy personified, making positive noises to Hilda’s face whilst later telling the Rovers regulars that the top made her look like Widow Twankey!

Hilda’s soon back in fighting mood though – returning to Sylvia’s and demanding a full refund (or “full retribution” as she calls it). Gail isn’t budging, so Hilda plans to return when Elsie is present …

Coronation Street (12th April 1976)

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Written by Adele Rose

It’s breakfast time and Elsie’s looking a little rough. This was always something of a sticking point between Pat Phoenix and the production team – Phoenix always insisted that Elsie looked glamourous, no matter what the circumstances were.  The fact that she allowed Elsie to look a little dowdy here suggests that, having only recently returned to the series, Pat Phoenix was still on her best behavior. It’ll be instructive to see whether later on she slips back into her bad old ways ….

Elsie’s old rival Ena Sharples pops her head round the door. The pair had enjoyed some battle royales back in the sixties, although their chat today is much more convivial.  Indeed, for those brought up on the image of Ena Sharples as a dreadful old battleaxe, her more relaxed and friendly mid to late seventies persona might come as a surprise. Although I’m prepared to concede than sixties Ena also had her lighter side.

Ena hasn’t changed all that much though – she’s still disapproving about the way Len and Elsie are co-habiting. And she’s also still able to land a few gentle jabs and punches (telling Elsie that she’s showing her age, for example!)

A major plotline in this episode concerns Ken’s relationship with Wendy Nightingale (Susan Tebbs). This was running before the Granada Plus repeats began, so it takes a few minutes to get up to speed. Ken (the dirty devil) has been carrying on with a married women, whilst her husband, Roger (Matthew Long), remains totally oblivious.

But now the cat’s been let out of the bag and Roger learns all. Eek! And if that wasn’t enough to raise Ken’s stress level, Elsie pops round and asks him to move out of No 11. He’s not budging though and even though Elsie still owns the house, she seems powerless to force him out. It’s odd for Elsie to capitulate so meekly, but although Ken’s currently living a bachelor life, that will shortly change for a little while (so no doubt it suited the story for him to hang on there a little longer).

But Elsie won’t be cast out into the street as Betty gives her the run of the flat in the corner shop and a number of volunteers – including our Ena – pitch in to make it habitable.

I was rather fond of Susan Tebbs’ role as a regular in the first series of Softly Softly: Task Force, so it was nice to see her pop up in Coronation Street. Wendy seems totally besotted with Ken (clearly the man has depths of charisma which aren’t visible to the naked eye) and her dangerous (well, dangerous in a very understated middle-class way) obsession with him threatens to tear her marriage apart.

Today’s cliffhanger is an absolute doozy. Roger, hanging round Coronation Street in the rain, is keeping an eye on the meeting between Wendy and Ken. Eventually he can’t take it anymore and storms over, punches Ken and spirits Wendy away. Now if that doesn’t make you want to tune in next time I don’t know what will.

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