Television may be obsessed with the young and beautiful, but down on Coronation Street, the pensioners have always had the best lines.
Think Ena Sharples chastising Elsie Tanner and her loose morals (“there must be more latch keys for that ‘ouse than there are for Buckingham Palace”) or Blanche Hunt casting aspersions on Gail (“she’s never ‘appy unless she’s got someone else’s hands round her throat”).
So we should be feeling very thankful that current Corrie producer Stuart Blackburn plans to introduce another older resident to the show: “We’re losing Sylvia and Gloria and they’ll be much missed,” he tells Inside Soap this week, “so we’ll be looking to get that kind of older character in.”
All of which is very good news. In recent years, you can’t help but feel that the young have been driving the stories on Corrie, while more senior citizens do small turns on the sidelines. Characters such as Rita and Emily, who are felt by fans to embody the Street, have been left doing far too little while bland newcomers like randy Ryan fuel the plotlines.
It wasn’t always this way. Back when Corrie began, critics lumped creator Tony Warren in with ‘angry young men’ writers such as John Braine and Alan Sillitoe, whose kitchen-sink dramas were making waves on the big screen in the early 1960s. But there was a major difference: while Sillitoe’s Arthur Seaton was quick to shoulder a nosy battleaxe out of the way in the opening minutes of Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, Warren chose to put Ena Sharples front and centre of his hit TV drama.
Ever since that key decision was made, Weatherfield has rarely been without an acid-tongued moral guardian. Only now it seems they’re suddenly in short supply. Gloria had definite potential but her brittleness has been somewhat smoothed in recent months. And now we’ve had to endure the departure of actress Stephanie Cole – an exit that left scriptwriters struggling to explain Sylvia’s awkward sudden absence.
Funnily enough, the one character that seems best placed to fill the void is Deirdre, a woman usually distinguished by bad decision-making when it comes to fellas. But with Ken away from the screen, we’ve seen glimpses of a newly liberated Deirdre who’s just at home dispensing backroom wisdom as she is dishing out barbed one-liners: “He was the love of my life,” she recently said, referencing one-time husband Samir. “Actually Tracy’s still got one of his kidneys.”
So, bravo to Mr Blackburn for recognising the value of the voice of experience. But perhaps he also needs to make the most of what he’s already got. Surely Emily can do more than just nurse sweet sherries? Doesn’t Rita deserve to have a life beyond acting as Tina McIntyre’s confidante-in-chief?
Let’s hope that the welcome introduction of a new character aged over 60 leads to a renaissance for Corrie’s older generation.