A philandering Coronation Street fella torn between two women, one his trusting fiancée the other a loose canon pregnant with his child, stringing them along while ensuring both stay oblivious about the other so he can have his cake and eat it. Sound familiar?
Yes, it’s a nutshell version of Robert Preston’s (Tristan Gemmill) current double life storyline in which he juggles being engaged to Michelle Connor (Kym Marsh) while hiding his secret ex and baby mama Vicky Jefferies (Kerri Quinn), praying his two worlds never collide. However, the soap is drawing heavily on its own history as it’s all highly reminiscent of Peter Barlow’s 2003 bigamy saga.
Fans may remember 16 years ago the Lothario cheated on lovable barmaid Shelley Unwin with flirtatious florist Lucy Richards, who he married and got up the duff while betrothed to the Rovers’ pint puller, with whom he eventually tied the knot despite already being wed, all while hoping he wouldn’t get found out.
This classic plot came into its own when the two Mrs Barlows eventually discovered they had a mutual spouse who had led them both on, leading them to team up against him, a satisfying twist the Robert story desperately needs before it makes its female protagonists appear even more frustratingly gullible.
It’s hard to have sympathy with drippy Robert, who ditches ‘Chelle once again on Monday 29thJuly when Vicky has another pregnancy scare and promises she and the baby are his number one priority.
Unlike tortured Peter and his established addictive personality that pushed him into believably betraying two women, Robert’s duel deceit seems driven by a selfish desire to be a parent at all costs, and constant scenes of being pulled in two directions play like a navel-gazing version of a Run For Your Wife-style farce.
But it’s arguably harder for the audience to accept the mighty Michelle, who we’ve seen triumph over numerous adversities, is as blinkered as she’s being portrayed – mindlessly swallowing excuse after lame excuse her fiancé feeds her to explain his vexing vanishing acts.
Vivacious Vicky is packed with potential having been a semi-regular cast member for a while, but her simpering and needy needling for Robert to choose her is at odds with the tenacious tiger mum we’ve witnessed stick by her juvenile delinquent son no matter who he corrupts.
There may well be a future chapter of this story already planned in which Michelle and Vicky do join forces to teach Robert a lesson, reclaiming the narrative power back over their man, but I can’t help feeling this is a symptom of a wider current Corrie trend already highlighted by RadioTimes.com: so many cobbles heroines have been reduced to victim status by duplicitous men in a host of recent plots – see also the mysterious Jan pulling the wool over lovestruck Eileen’s eyes, Yasmeen being bullied by coercive Geoff and matriarch Audrey conned by her own grandsons.
Soaps are driven by stories of strong women done wrong by blokes and the complexity of emotions that entails, but with so many similarly-themed stories running at once the show is in danger of making too many female characters appear too easily fooled.
Here’s hoping both ladies realise they’re better off without him – I’m praying sensible Michelle doesn’t forgive too easily and they end up sailing off into the sunset together after he talks his way out of it, seeing as they’re both leaving soon. That would really would be a cheat in the audience’s eyes.
And here’s also hoping Corrie takes true inspiration from Shelley and Lucy who formed an alliance to expose love rat Peter, and Robert strolls into the bistro kitchen one day to find both Michelle and Vicky demanding answers. ‘Chelle might have to stop volatile Vicky threatening him with a bread knife though…