It’s been an eventful few weeks in soapland of late; with the return of gobby Cilla to Coronation Street, the return of slimeball Robert Sugden to Emmerdale, the return of sinister panto-villain Nick Cotton to Walford and the return of the grumpy Dylan to Casualty but nobody can say that the soaps rely on old faces to bring in the viewers. Oh, no, there has been much, much more going on besides. Unfortunately not all of it has been good. Here’s my every-so-often roundup of what’s hot and what’s not in the world of soaps…
What I’ve LOVED…
More screentime for Gaynor Faye AKA Megan Macey (Emmerdale)
If there ever was a soap actress who was criminally underrated then it is the Dales’ Gaynor. She has proven over the last few weeks that, when given the material, she can consistently deliver some of soap’s strongest performances. Megan’s anguish in the wake of Robbie’s demise, her bitterness against Leyla upon discovering her business partner’s trysts with Jai and her viper-sharp cattiness towards Charity have all been sublime to watch. Megan is a character whose layers are only truly starting to be noticed and, the more I discover about her, the more I enjoy watching her. The tough exterior has long hidden a likeable vulnerability and I hope Gaynor and Megan both stick around for a long time to come. She’s the only one who can keep the Macey name alive!
Steve McDonald’s depression story (Coronation Street)
Could there have been a better candidate for such an important story than Steve McDonald, played by the fantastically versatile Simon Gregson? Taking a character who is often perceived as a joke and who has a tendency to mess around and be light hearted and show that they, as much as anyone else, can be susceptible to the demons of depression has been a worthwhile writing decision. The story is honest and non-sensational; it shows a man reaching his midlife crisis in a very difficult way; finally succumbing to the stress he is constantly under. It accurately captures the mistakes and misconceptions those around someone with depression can make and Simon himself is making a heartbreakingly perfect job of portraying a man at the end of his tether. While it’s sad to see Steve in this way, it’s providing incredible drama and it is important for viewers to go along on this journey with such an established character as, at some time in our lives, almost all of us will have brushes with depression in some way. Well played on this one, Corrie.
Peter Barlow is guilty of a lot of things such as bigamy, cheating, being somewhat of an unreliable father, heavy drinking and looking a bit like Al Pacino. But one thing he is not guilty of, unless you’re on the jury deciding his fate, is murder. In true soap fashion it was therefore inevitable that he would be convicted, much to the dismay of Ken, Tracy and Carla and to the short lived relief of true killer Rob Donovan.
Rob has blood and fake tan on his hands and, despite Peter now being officially framed for the crime, he is falling apart at the seams. And Carla, who has dealt with her fair share of liars and killers in her recent history, is beginning to smell a rat. Why is Rob so sure Peter is guilty and why does he hate him so much? Why, at the same time, is he assuring young Simon that his dad hasn’t done anything wrong? And why is he constantly looking shifty and sneaking covert looks of menace at the cameras at every opportunity? These puzzle pieces are beginning to slot together for Carla who, now more than ever, knows that her incarcerated husband is innocent.
The same can’t be said for the rest of the locals, with Eileen commenting that if Peter didn’t want to do the time, he shouldn’t have done the crime (forgetting that much of Weatherfield had her accused of killing Fireman Paul’s wife Lesley with a toaster), Foghorn Fiz claiming to have known Peter was guilty all along (forgetting that she stood trial wrongly accused of the murders of John Stape’s victims) and Gail suggesting that justice has now been done for Tina (forgetting that she once stood trial falsely accused of killing her husband Joe).
Deirdre doesn’t have much luck with desserts does she? I still have fond memories of Gail giving her a faceful of Manchester tart (I’m referring to the cream filled delicacy here; not Leanne) but last night, it was her famous trifle that was creating a mess, as recent pressures took their toll and she pulverised her pudding against the Barlow front room wall.
At first, I thought Deirdre’s fit of temper was a result of her anguish at the state of recent Corrie storylines such as Tyrone falling through his attic floor and Neil and Tim getting stuck on roofs. But it turns out that this whole Peter business has affected Deirdre more than anyone realised and as Tracy, Rob, Carla and Ken bickered over the imminent trial across the dinner table, unset jelly and a lack of hundreds and thousands sprinkles pushed Deirdre over the edge. In a cataclysmic pandemonium of watery jelly, wobbly custard (unsprinkled) and soggy sponge, the evening’s dessert was thrown against the wall and Ken finally realised just how stressed his poor wife had become. Continue reading
Very rarely in soap do you get what would be classed as a ‘golden couple’, that being a pair of characters that are so meant to be and have such on screen rapport and chemistry that they are clearly soulmates. With most pairings of soaps succumbing to affairs or killing each other within the year, it is a treat for viewers and fans to have that solid couple who, no matter what the writers would throw at them, their love would still remain.
Coronation Street’s Hayley and Roy Cropper and Vera and Jack Duckworth were prime examples of this. And so were the irreplaceable Jim Branning and his beloved Dorothy. As news reaches us that the fantastic actor behind the kindly and bumbling Queen Vic potman, John Bardon, has sadly passed away, I reflect on one of EastEnders’ most loved characters.
Jim ‘The Basher’ Branning entered the soap as a brash, cruel and violent character, portrayed convincingly by John, but it wasn’t long before the actor’s natural warmth meant that Jim could not always be written this way. John was an actor who conveyed the decency and humour that Jim became loved for, and it was only natural that the character’s progression would follow this. Continue reading
It’s been a distressing few weeks on Coronation Street lately. Between the hypocrite harlot that is Katy condemning Anna for a night of infidelity (yes, REALLY) the horror of whatever has happened to poor Gail’s hair recently (if only there were some hairdressers in the family), and Antony Cotton being handed a new contract (I kid, I kid…) there hasn’t been a lot to smile about recently.
Of course we have the equally traumatic events of Tina falling from a high balcony, grazing her knee and then further antagonising the man that caused her to fall. The result? Let’s just say that Rob’s temper combined with a metal bar led to blood and fake tan stains all over the cobbles.
Peter has hit the bottle again and is generally just going around being a nuisance, stressing Carla to the point of her collapsing in agony and tragically losing her baby. Being a prime suspect for Tina’s murder hasn’t helped lift her spirits much either, and spending a lot of time with mardy Michelle only exacerbates the gloom. Still, protective brother Rob is on hand to stand by her and he will do anything, ANYTHING, to help. Well, except for coming forward and admitting that he killed Tina, of course. Continue reading
On Corrie, we’ve left non-swimmer Roy Cropper floundering in the canal while Tony Gordon watches him drown. We’ll have to wait till Thursday to find out what happens (I’m avoiding spoilers because I don’t want to know yet, but I’m betting Roy will survive).
Tony Gordon is an absolutely classic villain, and it’s because the scriptwriters and actor Gray O’Brien have carefully given him that Jekyll and Hyde duality that the best villains have. Tony’s personality is based on getting what he wants, and it’s there that his ruthless streak comes in. What makes him successful in business becomes dangerous when it spills into his personal life, when an almost sociopathic streak kicks in so he doesn’t care about the feelings of others.
I say “almost” sociopathic, because Tony clearly does care a lot about other people, but only the ones he cares about, if that makes sense. You’re either part of Tony’s world (Maria, baby Liam), in which you will experience him as the most loving and considerate person in the world, or you’re outside, in which case, watch out.
I think if he hadn’t met Carla his “evil” side might never have surfaced. Carla is a person who brings out the passion in people, and Tony fell for her in a way he’d probably never allowed himself to do before. When he realised she was actually in love with Liam and not him, Tony reacted like he would with a business rival – destroy the opposition and things will be fine again. That’s been his pattern ever since, whether with Jed Stone or now with the Croppers.
What’s most powerful is that Tony’s self-interest is all about the people he loves. He isn’t trying to silence the Croppers to avoid going to prison, he’s doing it to protect the life he has with Maria and the baby. You can always see in his face the anguish that he’s found himself on this murderous road when really all he wanted was a normal, peaceful life, and that’s what makes him so compelling to watch.