Wednesday 9 December 2009

Coronation Street episode update, Episode 1

A few years ago i wrote a summary of the very first episode of Corrie, broadcast on December 9, 1960. As today is the anniversary, i am reposting it here.

This is a street in the city of Weatherfield, not so far from Manchester. A short, narrow, cobbled street, lined on one side by a factory and Mission Hall. On the opposite side of the street stands 7 smoke-stained dark brick terraced houses, bookended by a pub on one end and a corner shop at the other. We see a group of children chanting a rhyme outside the shop where a middle aged woman is taking in a sign from the pavement and looking up at the name over the door. Elsie Lappin, it says. The woman re-enters the shop and says to another woman who is standing behind the counter, "Now the next thing you've got to do is get a sign writer in. That thing above the door'll have to be changed". The other woman's name is Florence Lindley, or Florrie, as she is preferably known. She has just bought the little shop from Mrs. Lappin and is already changing the look of some of the product displays to entice buyers. She thanks Mrs. Lappin for staying on until she gets settled and is helpfully warned to watch that breadman, he'll try to sell you the world!

What about tick? Mrs. Lappin instructs her she'll have to use her own judgment but watch them Tanners at Number 11. Don't let them go over 10 bob or you won't see them from the end of one week to the next! Taken under advisement. Credit isn't advisable but the customers won't spend as much if you don't give it. A customer arrives, a young dark haired woman in her 20's and is introduced to Florrie as Linda Cheveski, Linda Tanner as was (with a meaningful tone of voice).

We next see the door of Number 11 and inside, Mrs. Elsie Tanner has charged her son Dennis with taking 2 bob out of her purse. Dennis, a handsome man of about 21, slicks back his ducktail hair and defends himself. Elsie is a curvaceous woman in her very early 40's, attractive in an obvious sort of way. Not content at that, she then nags him about getting a job but he's insistent that he's tried and nobody will hire him and she knows why. She can't quite say it but he does, prison. He's just 7 weeks out of Borstal and that's why no one will give him a chance. He shifts the chip that has settled on his shoulder and accuses his mother of preferring to have a son like "Kenneth Bahlow" at Number 3 (said with the utmost contempt, I might add). And what's wrong with him? at least he's got brains and will make something of himself. Elsie sighs and wishes her fractious family were more like the Barlows, at least they aren't rowing all the time. (ah but who knows what goes on behind closed doors?)

We're about to find out. Action shifts to Number 3 Coronation Street where Mrs. Ida Barlow, a tidy woman in her 40's serves up the tea for her husband Frank and her son Kenneth. Kenneth is a somewhat good looking clean cut young man of about 21 or so but he doesn't look best pleased when his mother hands him a bottle of brown sauce to pour on his meal. She thought he always liked it! Used to, he groans with embarrassment and a vague expression of contempt when he sees his father helping himself to the sauce and swilling his food down with cups of tea. His father notices and takes his son to task for looking down on his family with that snooty expression. Mother Barlow tries to steer the conversation elsewhere but it doesn't work. Father Barlow barks that his son thinks they're common, not good enough and keeps needling Kenneth in spite of Ida's protests. Bet he doesn't tell his poncy college friends where his mother works, slogging day after day doing the washing up for the Imperial Hotel. Ken defends himself. Of course he tells them... if they ask. The barrage continues and it sounds like Ken has been sporting a less than acceptable attitude for his father's taste since starting college, with Ken's habit of making condescending comments about how his family eats and lives in the back streets of a working class neighbourhood not going over well at all with his working class father.

Ida wonders where her younger son, David has got to and Ken takes this opportunity to tell his parents that he's going out tonight, meeting a female friend from the Imperial Hotel. Oh no you're not, storms his father who forbids it! He's not throwing money back at the awful place his mother has to work so hard for so little wages. The subject appears to be closed, the master of the house has spoken and being the well brought up lad he is, it looks like Ken is going to obey his dad, not liking it one bit. Frank retires to his easy chair with that last cup of tea. Into this tension bounces David who is late because he's had a puncture. Mother fetches David's tea from the oven and heats up gravy while Father helpfully goes to look for the puncture kit. Left alone with his brother, David asks Ken what's up and is told about the Imperial Hotel disaster. David understands how "well" that went over. The brothers are obviously friends as well and there doesn't seem to be any sibling rivalry between the two though it seems to me that Dad favours the younger son over the older.

The next scene establishes that we are about to enter The Rovers Return. Inside, Ken is at the bar, dressed in a sport jacket and tie, hair carefully combed. He orders two ten-packs of cigarettes from the landlady, a small older woman named Annie Walker who runs the pub with her be-spectacled husband Jack. In slouches Dennis Tanner, looking tough in his grotty leather jacket and long hair, very James Dean. He orders a half and decides to order cigarettes as well but he hasn't enough money to pay for them so isn't allowed to have them. No credit, house rules he is informed. He and Ken strike up some semblance of a conversation. They have grown up together but have turned out very differently. Dennis makes a few caustically sarcastic remarks referring to scholarships and colleges. When Mrs. Walker goes to get Ken's change, Ken slides one of the packages across to Dennis, generously. (old times sake perhaps?) Dennis is surprised but doesn't turn him down nor offers to repay him at a later time. He chugs back his beer and leaves, nodding to Ken in a sort of thanks, cracking that it's all government money after all. Annie shakes her head at Ken's generosity and feels sorry for Dennis's mother, Elsie. "Oooh some mother's do 'ave 'em!".

Meanwhile, Elsie is observing her face in the small mirror of a compact, examining the signs of age. "Eh Elsie, just about ready fer the knacker yard" she mournfully exclaims. We hear a rattling from outside and she hollers out the window at some children who have knocked over her bins. Her daughter comes in with the few things she picked up at the corner shop but won't accept money from her mother. It was her that took the two bob from Elsie's purse! She gets a scolding. With the radio playing soft music in the background, the women talk about Dennis and his job finding efforts. The conversation turns to Linda's husband, Ivan. Elsie has guessed that Linda has left her husband and Linda confirms it. She won't really say why other than she is afraid of him when he gets so moody at times and they're always rowing. (sounds like that's a normal occurrence for this family!)

Linda looks in the mirror and wonders if she should go blonde. Elsie has sat down with the newspaper and is only half listening. Linda keeps interrupting her with comments about her marriage and seems to be wanting to tell her mother something but can't quite bring herself to do it. Instead she asks her mother if there's a job going at the department store where her mother works and is told possibly in millinery but it's only temporary until Christmas. Hopefully Linda will have a think by then and be back with her husband.

Back in the shop, the ex and current owners are restocking shelves and chatting about houses. Mrs. Lappin is retiring and buying herself a little bungalow but Mrs. Lindley prefers a house with an upstairs. It doesn't seem right, somehow, not going upstairs to sleep! Elsie decides to brew up and just as she goes into the flat, a stocky older woman with a face like an old bulldog comes in. She introduces herself as Ena Sharples who is caretaker of the Glad Tidings Mission across the street. It's her personal mission to find out all about the new shop owner and she begins, after gleaning Florrie's name, by asking where Florrie worships. Florrie is ambivalent which leads Mrs. Sharples to assume she's C of E and she launches into a narrative about her sister and her husband who turned C of E. Another ambivalently answered question about where she plans to be buried brings another lecture about avoiding the local crematorium whose musical director plays inappropriate hymns. Mrs. Sharples seems to have known of Florrie Lindley because she knows that Florrie was from Esmerelda Street, ("Very Bay Window down there, you'll find it different round here!") that she worked behind the bar at the Farrier for donkey's years, is a widow and has no children ("Better off without them"). In and amongst all this are several requests, commands really, for a packet of baking powder, a bottle of bleach and a half dozen of them fancies "No eclairs!". Ena also warns Florrie about the Tanners at Number 11 and then manages to get a replacement egg from the former owner, claiming the one she had this morning was off. And off she goes, expecting her purchases to go on the slate ("Don't worry, I'm not thinkin' of running away"), leaving the two women laughing. "She's quite morbid, in't she?" observes Florrie.

Back at Number 3, David and his father are wrestling with the bicycle tyre, trying to determine where the puncture is. Frank seems to have a much easier relationship with his younger son than he does his elder. More in common perhaps. Even when Frank gets annoyed at David, it's more of a loving exasperation than it is the defensive position he seems to take with Kenneth. David steps out to hire a pump and Ida picks her way carefully past the parts on the floor, fetches her knitting and sits down. Frank looks at her sheepishly and whines that he can't back down and let Kenneth go to the Imperial now and thinks Ken should learn to live within his own class. He establishes that Ken is over at Number 1 visiting Mr. Tatlock and observes that his older son spends more time over there than at his own home these days. "We've certainly raised a rum 'un".

Inside Number 1, Mr. Albert Tatlock, a short round WW1 veteran is examining his coin collection and making small talk with young Kenneth. He realizes Ken has something on his mind and offers an ear to listen but is told he wouldn't understand. Thank you very much retorts Mr. Tatlock who already knows that Ken was forbidden to pick up his friend, Susan Cunningham, at the Imperial Hotel. Mrs. Barlow told him. He suggests that Ken go into town and collect her and bring her back here. Ken is aghast at that suggestion and couldn't possibly. Why not? Oh, well, (and in a voice dripping with boredom, contempt and snobbery) "Coronation Street"! When challenged, Ken does say that he admits where he comes from when asked but he doesn't fancy bringing Susan round to see it either. After they make a gentle joke at Ena Sharple's expense ("My place of worship is the Rovers Return!") Albert in no uncertain terms tells Kenneth that the college has turned him into a proper stuck up little snob. Ken begins to protest but his mother interrupts at the back door, with the news that Kenneth's friend, Susan has turned up at Number 3 to see him! Ken leaves skid marks on the floor in his haste to get back to do damage control and Ida and Albert share a chuckle.

Back in Number 3, Susan is watching Frank and David on the floor mending the flat tyre and offers her help. David establishes that they know someone in common and are just sharing a handshake when Ken comes in and if it wasn't black and white, i think his face would be beet red with embarrassment.

The credits roll!

Writer - Tony Warren
Director Derek Granger

Elsie Lappin - Maudie Edwards
Florrie Lindley - Betty Alberge
Linda Cheveski - Anne Cunningham
Elsie Tanner - Patricia Phoenix
Dennis Tanner - Philip Lowrie
Kenneth Barlow - William Roache
Frank Barlow - Frank Pemberton
Ida Barlow - Sandra Gough
David Barlow - Alan Rothwell
Annie Walker - Doris Speed
Ena Sharples - Violet Carson
Albert Tatlock - Jack Howarth
Susan Cunningham - Patricia Shakesby

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