What a difference a year makes. Twelve months ago, we had to suffer a sickly sweet schmaltz-fest of a Coronation Street Christmas as Lapland came to the cobbles. It was chocolate-box TV that left everyone with tooth rot.
Thankfully, the same mistake was not made in 2016: Corrie eschewed the fake snow (though Nick could have done with some to cushion his fall), there were plotlines fizzing away wherever you looked, plus we had that fun revelation about Toyah being Peter’s mystery woman.
OK, so a few of us might have sussed that particular bombshell thanks to the not-so-subtle signposting, but still – the sight of them in bed together must surely have had you yelling “wrong, wrong, wrong!” at the TV and reaching for a soothing eyewash.
There were a few quibbles: the absence of veterans was noticeable (Gail and Audrey in Milan, Liz in Spain with Andy, Rita nowhere to be seen), while any scenes devoted to the charisma vacuum that is Andy felt like time misspent.
And please, for the love of Betty’s hotpot, can we stop having storylines about gift mix-ups. Having already endured Nicola’s neckless mystery on Emmerdale, the last thing we needed was the debacle over Michelle’s TV, despite Steve’s barely suppressed seething going some way to salvage this particular subplot.
However, the high points of tonight’s hour-long episode were glorious – Tracy’s reassurance to Amy about Nick’s behaviour (“it’s not him, it’s his brain) was a real zinger and the Barlow/Tilsley smackdown was both nicely performed and choreographed. What I really want to know now is how many takes it took to get Mr Tufty the garden gnome to land in the dead centre of Ben Price’s back?
But what’s most reassuring is the way Corrie is setting up so much drama for upcoming episodes. Soaps are all about deferring our gratification – done well and any explosives the writers choose to detonate have aftershocks that last for months, sometimes even years.
And we got some doozies this evening: how will Leanne react to Toyah and Peter being together? What inevitably malign influence will newcomer Nathan have over a currently comatose Bethany? And now that Mary has been gifted a son at Christmas (what a neat bit of symbolism that was), will she end up getting along with her offspring Jude?
So, as the year comes to an end, it does appear that Coronation Street is definitely in safer hands than it was at its outset. Hopes are high for 2017 thanks to returnees like Peter, Adam and Brian, who are all working well. Newcomers such as Daniel and Shona also have a vital air of mystery about them. And not every plotline has the Platts front and centre. The Corrie love is finally being shared around the neighbourhood.
My only regret is that we never got to witness Aidan being savaged by Eva’s cat – ah, well, hopefully footage exists and we get to see it on YouTube. Now that really would make my Christmas.
You can watch a 60-second rundown of New Year on Coronation Street below.