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 ….

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)

corrie1

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.

corrie2