Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Those TV Times... 1981... Hilda Wants To Move...

How evocative of past times are pages from old TV listings magazines! Look at this! November 1981! Quincy!


Bullseye - in its very first series and yet to gravitate to its legendary Sunday teatime slot!   


Astronauts and 240-Robert!


Well, I remember the latter - dead good it was, an American import with a "a beautiful chopper pilot and two special cops trained to take on any emergency. Whenever someone's in trouble, they call in 240-Robert."


But Astronauts? Nope. But then I was never a Goodies fan, so a comedy by Bill Oddie and Graeme Garden would probably not have appealed and it's unlikely I ever tuned in.

And in Coronation Street, poor old Fred Gee was hanging onto the Community Centre flat, whilst Hilda Ogden had developed an upwardly mobile wanderlust and wanted to leave No 13. She and Stan went to look at a new house, and Hilda told the estate agent that it had "atmospherics".

Bless her!

And look at that ad for VHS/Beta Video Films! Heck - only about 5% of UK households had a VCR in 1981, and the race was on between Beta and VHS to become the best selling tape format.

Different days indeed...

Saturday, 23 August 2014

1980: Why Annie Walker Doesn't Like Pubs...

A nice little magazine article here from March 1980, featuring the wonderful Doris Speed, Mrs Walker of the Street.

Annie at that time, of course, was the landlady of the Rovers Return and held the place in great esteem - she regarded it as the hub of the local community, a place where customers could hopefully be taught better manners, and, of course, the building was also her home and housed many memories of her beloved late husband Jack.

Annie took great pride in the Rovers.

But the licensee's life was not one Doris Speed cared to contemplate in reality...

Back to 1980 for the facts...

Doris Speed - Coronation Street's Mrs Annie Walker, Britain's best-loved landlady - has a shocking confession: "I don't like pubs."

The sharp-tongued "boss" of the Rovers Return says: "I think I would have made a very bad landlady in real life. I've never drawn a pint. If I drink at all it's when I go out to dinner.

I NEVER go to pubs when I get off The Street's set in Manchester," says the real-life Doris.

"Arthur Leslie, who played my husband, and I were offered pubs by breweries who thought it would be a good idea.

"I think if he'd retired he'd have taken a pub - but this wouldn't appeal to me.

"If I do go to a restaurant I'd never perch on a bar stool, because somebody would either say 'Can I buy you a drink?' or would ask me to pull a pint.

"Mind you, very nice things do happen. I was having dinner with a woman friend and we had a sherry and a bottle of wine. I was the hostess and the time came for me to pay the bill.

"To my surprise, the waitress told us our drinks had already been paid for by a man who'd been eating elsewhere in the restaurant.

"He'd already left - without speaking to us - so we couldn't thank him. Now isn't that nice?"

To relax between recording the series, Doris plays bridge with other cast members.

She says: "I play with Johnny Briggs (The Street's factory boss, Mike Baldwin), Bill Roache (Ken Barlow) and Bernard Youens.

"Now, you'd never expect Stan Ogden to play bridge, would you?"

But some things must remain her private property, she says. She's unmarried and she lived with her mother until her death a few years ago.

Doris insists that the rest of her home life must not come under public scrutiny - and the same goes for her age.

She has been playing Annie now for almost twenty years [Andy's note: The Street would celebrate its twentieth anniversary in December 1980] and she's become fond of The Street's "Lady Muck".

"It's just the way Annie has developed - she's become a bit of a show-off. And possibly people believe that, if they talk to me, I'll be a bit like Annie - sharp.

"I like it, though, when Betty Turpin (played by Betty Driver) and Bet Lynch (that's Julie Goodyear) say things behind my back like 'Lady Muck'. They call me 'Barbara Cartland' too."

Her ambition is to be a successful stage actress.

"I'm quite good." she says, "but I don't get asked back. You have to give Granada six or eight weeks notice if you want to appear in something other than The Street - and most producers want you within a month.

"As for Annie, I think her ambition would still have been to be a landlady - but in a rather more exalted sphere. She'd love to have had a country pub, probably in Cheshire."

But that certainly isn't Doris' idea of the high life.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Speak Easy August 2014...

Mrs Sharples: "Speak Easy? If you're stopping round 'ere, you'll mind your p's and q's! This is a respectable neighbourhood, this is!"

Just one e-mail to catch up on. Sorry to Ed that's it been a while appearing!

Here tis...

Do you think the Street had different styles in different decades? More plot-driven in the 1960's compared to the 1970's for example? I'm interested in how the past decades helped make the show what it was during those times, in dialogue, plots, style and performance.

Well, all telly shows have to evolve to keep up with public tastes, Ed. But you can't split what was happening in soaps conveniently into decades, although many decade obsessives on-line attempt this. The reign of a particular producer may easily straddle different decades, for example (take Bill Podmore from the mid-1970s to early 1980s) and so on.

What is a "decade obsessive"? Well, it's somebody who obsesses about a particular decade, often one they don't really know much about (or were incredibly young in), pop it on a  pedestal and go on and on glorifying it. A fantasy alternative to living a proper life. 

One of my favourite on-line decade obsessive's ramblings features a guy saying how absolutely marvellous the show was in the 1970s. He then outlines a story-line from 1981 to prove it!

If I look at the Street from memory and what I've viewed recently I would say...

1960-1967 - the show was excellent - although it became increasingly idiosyncratic and removed from real life in some ways as time went on. The black and white filming of the show and gritty texture of Northern life was a wow.

1968-1975 - not a favourite era of mine. The Street moved further from reality, violence and OTT story-lines were on the increase (including the gun siege at Minnie's, the murder at No 9, Annie being threatened by intruders at the Rovers, the fire at the factory) and loads of dreary moaning. Some good stuff, but definitely not great. The viewing figures for that era declined. I'm not surprised. And would Elsie really have married posh Alan?

1976-1984 - Hooray! The muriel! Renee at the shop! Fred at the Rovers! The car in the lake! The Duckworths move in! Still quite a lot of violence (Ernie shot in 1978, etc,) but less than before, and now beautifully balanced by comedy and everyday life story-lines.

1985-1988 - rebuilding. So many old established characters had left or were leaving. One or two had died. The Street was having to draft in many new characters. Some worked. Some didn't. A patchy era, but the establishment of Bet and Alec and Alf and Audrey as couples was inspired - and ranting Percy was a joy. The long-term build-up of Alan Bradley as a twisted geezer with a hole where his conscience should have been was realistic and inspired.

1989 - in 1989, the Street had recovered its composure. The use of lighter cameras meant more location filming and we were out and about - visiting yuppie wine bars and docklands developments, a cardboard city, Weatherfield Town Hall and so on. The Street changed forever as the new houses, shops and industrial units went up, the show went three days a week, and Vera's stone cladding and the MacDonalds arrived. It was pacier than it had been, but still had plenty of time for everyday prattle and humour. And then there was Mr Bradley and the tram...

Those are my thoughts, Ed, very briefly laid out for you. But as you see, there's no convenient decade span within them. Because life simply doesn't happen in conveniently labelled ten year chunks.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

More About the Ena Sharples teapot...

Guy writes:

I enjoyed the post on your blog about the Ena Sharples teapot. I have spotted that there are a few variations on the design - including one with a slightly differently shaped handle, and one minus the bottle of stout and the glass on Ena's Snug bar table. Please would you publish a larger photo of your teapot so that I can study detail?

Certainly, Guy. My wife bought the teapot as a present for me around the late 1990s. She says she got it mail order. I'm sure they're around on eBay and such places. Very interesting to hear about the variations of design.

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Ena Sharples - 10th Anniversary Portrait

This lovely portrait of Violet Carson, in character as Ena Sharples, was one of a series commissioned by the TV Times magazine to celebrate Coronation Street's 10th anniversary in 1970. Other characters were featured over the ensuing weeks.

Ten years is a long time, and for Ena they had not been easy: she had faced the sad loss of her daughter Vera Lomax and her longtime friend and Rovers Snug companion Martha Longhurst; she had been buried in rubble when a train crashed off the viaduct; she had almost been killed in a coach crash; she had fought many battles with the fiery Elsie Tanner; her vestry home at the Glad Tidings Mission Hall had been vandalised and later demolished...

In the opening years, Ena was rather a scary figure and not terribly pleasant to have around (well, not for the other residents of the Street, but a WOW for viewers!). However, as the 1960s had continued, she had mellowed and, although still capable of epic battle, had become a much-loved and respected figure, a soap legend.

Violet Carson commented in 1970:

"Ena's still the battleaxe she was ten years ago, but she does have a heart of gold, and the mellow side of Ena has come out much more lately. Over the years I have tried not to let Ena's character overwhelm me. I've done my best to keep Ena and me well apart. Otherwise, by now, she would have taken me over."