Thursday 14 April 2011

Character study: Elizabeth Jane McDonald

Now that we're about to say goodbye to Liz McDonald, it's fitting that we look back on her life on Coronation Street.

We first met red headed Liz McDonald in 1989 when she and her family moved to Coronation Street. Her husband, Jim, had just got out of the army and was determined to give his loved ones a more stable family life and a fresh start. Liz and Jim were married very young when Liz got pregnant for twins at 16 and by all accounts they've always been passionate people, both in love and marital war. Jim had a violent temper but Liz had a fire to her too and their battles were legendary. Liz was a strong woman, having to be both father and mother to her two energetic tearaway boys because Jim was off on maneuvers and courses much of the time.

During their first few years on the show, It was never stated for a fact that he was physically abusive to her or the children. Later on, it was implied that he sometimes would get a bit physical, maybe a bit of pushing around, especially when he was drinking. Liz was definitely not beaten down and victimized by Jim, so I always believed that he did more shouting and wall-punching than knocking her or the children around. Liz has never said that Jim was an abuser, either and she was not afraid of him. She would stand up to him toe to toe if the situation called for it, especially if she was defending one of her chicks and wasn't above a roundhouse slap across the chops when he really messed up. Most of the time, Jim seemed to know just how far he could push her and mostly only crossed the line when he was roaring drunk.

She stoutly defended her lads but she also knew when they were to blame, as one or the other would often get into trouble. When they arrived, the lads broke Alf Roberts' shop window twice accidentally. They later started a pirate radio station that made fun of local teacher, "Captain" Kenny "carpet slippers" Barlow. As they got older, Steve emerged as the main cause of trouble, getting on the wrong side of the law more than once. The stress of this may have caused Liz to go into early labour when she was pregnant unexpectedly. The baby, wee Katie, was born too early and died. Liz still has moments of grief for her lost daughter.

In 1993, she was hired by Alec Gilroy to help with the food in the pub and often worked behind the bar as well. This eventually led to an offer to run a Newton and Ridley pub, the Queens. Liz was thrilled. Finally, something she could find of her own! She had spent years being wife and mother and now that Steve and Andy were grown, this was something that she could do and do well. But Jim's endless jealous rages spoiled it for her and after a blazing row, she threw him out and handled the pub on her own. On the rebound, she even had a fling with Des Barnes' brother, Colin. She had to give up the pub when Jim knocked ten bells out of a brewery executive but she eventually forgave Jim and they gave things another try. (In a little nod to history, this was actually revisited recently when Liz and Jim met with the manager, Richard Willmore and Betty Williams told Tina behind the bar about the time Jim gave him a thumping.)

It wasn't to last. On the way home from an army reunion, Jim discovered that Liz had had a brief affair years ago with his best mate, Johnny. In a drunken rage, he lashed out and hit her, leaving her on the side of the road at night. That was the end of their marraige. Spitefully, Liz even enhanced the bruise to mke it look worse and went out in public so people could see what he'd done. Liz struck out on her own, barely tolerating Jim when he would turn up, wanting to reconcile. She'd have none of it or his temper anymore. His jealousy and temper were dragging her down. The lads waivered their support between their parents but mainly disapproved of their father's antics, especially when he broke into the house in another rage. She had him arrested for that.

To be fair, Liz had done her fair share attracting attentions of other men and though she didn't do it deliberately while she was married, she also knew it would bait Jim, both before their split and after. She worked in the betting shop for awhile. Flirtations with Des Barnes and his boss, Sean Skinner caused Des to lose his job.

Liz always kept herself in shape and always dressed attractively. But as she got older, she's clearly decided that she is fighting advancing age with her hair and wardrobe choices. She continues to wear the same trendy hair do's that women in their early 20s sport and continues to wedge herself into short tight skirts and low cut tops.

At one point, she became involved with criminal Fraser Henderson who had been in prison with Steve. Fraser's interest in her then got Sean Skinner beaten up as a warning to leave Liz alone. She worked for Fraser later in his wine bar, and though knew he was on the shady side of the law, didn't seem to realize how deep he was in. When she did, she half heartedly passed on information to a police detective, Alan McKenna who was dating Fiona Middleton, another of Steve's on-again off-again girlfriends. It all blew up when Fraser skipped town and his henchman held Liz and Andy hostage. Never one to cower, Liz helped take him down with a lethal stiletto!

Jim had an accident that left him in a wheelchair for awhile and it seemed like Liz's sympathies were leaning his way. Jim even bought a ring to ask her to marry him again but by that time, Liz was having it off with Jim's physical therapist. She broke Jim's heart when she left town with Michael Wall. We didn't see her again until a few years later though we did hear that she and Steve's new wife, Karen, absolutely did not get on well. Too much alike, I would hazard to guess. I think Liz saw a lot of herself in Karen and it seems like Steve basically married a woman just like his mother!

In 2000, Steve was badly beaten by Jez Quigley. In retaliation, Jim beat Jez badly who then died of his injuries. Jim confessed and was sent to prison. Liz returned to see him and the old spark was still there. They remarried in prison and Liz vowed to wait for him. She worked in the Rovers for awhile but ended up leaving town again to move closer to the prison where Jim was transferred.

She popped up on our screens a couple of years after that, in a bar in Blackpool. Jim had been suspicious of her relationship with her boss and escaped prison to confront her. Liz was indeed having relations. You can't keep a passionate woman down for long, so it seemed. In the end, Liz decided to try to run off with her husband but they were thwarted when, on a boat to Ireland, they encountered the young Peacock family in trouble in a small boat. They rescued them and Jim was arrested on the wharf and sent packing back to the nick. Liz went to Brighton with Bet Lynch for a time.

She returned in 2004 for Karen and Steve's second wedding. There was a bit of upset because she was spending time with her new granddaughter and Karen didn't like that one little bit. It also caused a bit of tension between Liz and her old best mate, Deirdre who was little Amy's other grandmother. Liz worked at the Rovers for awhile until she came along the wrong side of Charlie Stubbs who was living with Shelley at the time. She left there for the Weatherfield Arms and roomed with Maria for awhile in the flat over the cab office since it was owned by Steve. She also tried to get Steve and Tracy together, for Amy's sake but Steve was having none of that until he thought it might get him custody.

Eventually, she divorced Jim again because his temper kept getting him into trouble in prison, and his sentence was extended. She was lonely and wanted to find someone new. She had a few disastrous dates but has landed with a musician, drummer Vernon Tomlin who is the complete opposite of Jim in temperment. Vernon is mild and peaceful, if a bit feckless. The only problem is, he's also a lot less passionate than Liz herself and Liz was often bored and less than respectful of Vernon who cared for her quite a bit.

She had a fling with a delivery man, Derek but finished that when his wife found out. Vernon wasn't too happy about it either but forgave her and she decided to accept his marraige proposal, thinking that at her age, she really did need to settle down in a stable relationship, even if it wasn't as full of fire as she was used to.

Finally, too, she had her dream job. Steve bought the Rovers from Fred Elliott and Liz was the one that got to have her name over the door. There was one hiccup when Jim was released from prison just before her wedding. He seemed to have changed. He seemed to have accepted that she moved on.

Liz always remained close to her lads, as they grew up and settled down. She has always been fiercely loyal and though does admit that they don't always make the smartest choices, will defend them with every last breath, even if she's smacking one of them up the earhole for doing something stupid (usually Steve!). She's never really got on with any of Steve's wives. Karen was probably the most like her but Becky is just over the top troube, in Liz's eyes. She maybe right. Time will tell.

But Big Jim still loved Liz and so he always would. When he tried to convince her that she shouldn't marry Vernon, Vernon caught him attempting to kiss Liz and pulled him away. Red rag... bull... Vernon got a bloody nose for his trouble and Liz ejected Jim from her life altogether. Although she still had doubts about marrying Vernon, she knew she would never reunite with Jim either. She nearly called off the wedding but after Vernon took an injury for her, knew she couldn't hurt him and married him. He discovered she was going to call it off and was very hurt but they seem to have made up their differences and they were happy for a short while.

Liz was yet again tempted by a handsome man and realized that Vernon really wasn't the man for her, even though good looking bookie Harry wasn't either. Liz has found herself with affable Lloyd for a time but in the end, felt he wasn't the right one for her, either. Rough and Ready Owen might have been the closest to being someone Liz could really fall for, since he's cut from much the same cloth as Big Jim but due to Bev Callard's absence, that died a quiet death as did a potential clash between Owen and a brief return by Jim.

Liz returned from Spain and walked into a financial crisis. Steve and Becky were backed into a corner,having got themselves way over their heads in debt because Becky's sister, Kylie, insisted on 20,000 pounds to let them have her little boy Max. Becky stole an additional 3000 from Dev and Sunita's safe, which was broken open after the tram crashed into the corner shop. Tracy, recently released from prison, found out about Max and was holding it against them, using it to keep Amy from Steve.

Jim came back into the picture. It looked very much like there was a reconciliation on the books. Jim suggested that Liz buy the pub off them but she was unable to raise the cash. They tried to get the brewery to buy it back and when that was unsuccessful, Jim tried to get Kevin Webster to invest some of his recent lottery win. No dice. In desperation to give his beloved Elizabeth her dream, Jim committed armed robbery, was caught and went back to prison. There is nothing left for Liz in Weatherfield now. She blames Becky for all the bad things that have brought her to this point and there's no pub, no Jim and no dream.

Spain beckons and she's answering the call once and for all.

Digital Spy has a good gallery of McDonald photos.
ITV has a nice good-bye gallery here.

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