Watched by an audience of a whopping 12.4m at its peak, Coronation Street last night saw Becky leave with a bang – jetting off for the Barbados sunset with the ridiculously hot Danny while a broken, gutter-bound Steve McDonald was left shackled to a mendacious new wife.
The whimper, meanwhile, was all toxic Tracy’s as her li(f)e fell down around her ears despite being the latest Mrs McDonald. Aptly, given the love that she inspired in viewers, Becky was blessed with that rarest of soap exit strategies – the happy ever after.
“In the same breath that I said to Phil [Collinson, Corrie producer] that I wanted to leave,” Kelly told RT, “I asked that Becky not be killed off – because if she died, I’d feel so responsible.”
So Becky’s triumphant departure – not to mention the hefty ratings it attracted and the outpouring of approval and adoration on Twitter – will have delighted Kelly. But according to Louise Sutton, Coronation Street’s assistant producer, Becky having a happy-ever-after was never in any doubt.
“We love Becky exactly as viewers do so when we knew she was leaving, we knew we had to give her the most spectacular and satisfying exit we could. It was only ever the case that she would leave in a blaze of glory having defeated her arch-enemy Tracy. Anything else would have been frustrating and unjust.”
Sutton says that every aspect of Becky’s leaving was rooted in her character. “Taunting Steve and Tracy in the church, the reveal in the Rovers, her heartfelt indecision over whether or not she should reveal Tracy’s lie about her miscarriage, her goodbye to Roy and Hayley were so true to who she was.”
And so, Sutton says, was her happy ending. “Because of everything she’d been through, there was no way we wanted Becky to slink back to where she came from. So she found someone who loved her for who she was and, in Danny’s son, she found a child to care for – the two things she wanted most in the world.”
This unusually upbeat departure certainly paid dividends for Coronation Street. Its ratings, which averaged 11.2m, beat not only its own Christmas Day episode but also Christmas Day EastEnders and the festive Downton Abbey.
While not attracting the audience of 20m that saw Raquel Watts depart the Street in 1996 – when audiences were generally larger – Becky’s departure gave Coronation Street its third-highest ratings of the last eight years, beaten only by the tram crash live episode that marked the show’s 50th anniversary which averaged 12.9m and Peter and Leanne’s Valentine’s Day wedding in 2011 which averaged 11.3m.
Sometimes emotional fireworks pack more of a punch than all the special effects soap can muster. Or as Louise Sutton says succinctly “The fantastic ratings are one measure of how the audience had taken Becky to their hearts.”