Coronation Street has broken new ground (yes, really) as it's finally found a new storyline for the staff at Underworld. As we've seen, the employees are struggling to work as a cooperative, now that they’ve been given a stake in the business. All of which is a far cry from the days when the machinists would all be grumbling about being under the control of conniving cockney Mike Baldwin.
Because, let’s face it, factory dramas, like excess fabric, do have a habit of being reused and restitched. Here, in case you’ve forgotten, is a rundown of every permutation of past Underworld plotlines:
In the 1970s/80s, it was Ivy Tilsley in charge of a picket line, these days, it’d be Beth Tinker. But the principle remains the same: once the staff takes umbrage over something (faulty machines, a punitive clocking-in system, a broken mop-head for the cleaner) they’re downing tools and storming out. “And there’s nowt you can do to stop us. So stick your job!”
It’s 9.09am and the boss isn’t there to open up, so all the staff are out on the steps grousing into their winter parkas. “I’m not ‘ere for me ‘ealth ye know. Oh, I’m going to Roy’s!” As it turns out, though, Carla is either drunk, under arrest or having a psychotic breakdown, hence her non-appearance at the start of the working day.
Not enough time!
It’s a race against time as an unreasonable deadline is set for a highly lucrative order. Everyone complains because lunch breaks are missed, weekends are sacrificed and machines start to buckle under the strain. Thankfully, it all comes good and Carla buys everyone a round in the Rovers afterwards.
Not enough orders!
The factory is suddenly one-month away from bankruptcy and the workforce is being threatened with their P45s. In the days of Baldwin’s Casuals, Mike would put in a call to a once-trusted client, only to be rebuffed: “Marcus, got a nice little design you might be interested in…what? You’re going with who? They’re doing it for how much?...Well, don’t do me any favours!” (Slams down phone)
It’s Britain’s Got Talent semi-final week. Corrie needs a big storyline to strip across Monday to Friday at 9.00pm. Enter an escaped maniac who can hold a few key staff members at gunpoint while their loved ones are left outside hammering on the Underworld doors. If ITV has ploughed some money into the episodes, the drama ends with a fire and characters fighting to survive. If belts are being tightened, we merely get a shot ringing out at the climax to Thursday’s episode before finding out on Friday who’s taken the bullet.
Petty cash theft!
Fiz volunteers to do the cake run at Roy’s Rolls but discovers that money has gone missing from the petty cash. Whoever has recently experienced financial hardship comes under immediate suspicion. As does a character who has just joined the team (“what about her? She’s only been ‘ere five minutes!”). And then it’s eventually revealed that Kirk has miscalculated the change while on a prior cake run and everyone has a joke and pretends that they weren’t all being vile to each other 20 minutes ago.
A long-standing employee is sick (Sally, Hayley, Sinead) and Carla, after initially getting annoyed about the amount of time they’re taking off, realises that it’s a potentially life-threatening diagnosis. Cue her taking said staff member into her office, pulling down the blinds, taking the bottle of whisky out from her desk drawer and having a heart to heart. “Don’t breathe a word of this to anyone,” she’ll say, "it’ll ruin me reputation.”
Carla has been delayed so someone completely unprepared has to represent Underworld at a business meeting in the Bistro with an old-school, lecherous male contact. Alya, Beth (or whoever gets picked for the task) has to put up with having their thigh touched in order to seal the deal with the grizzled would-be client. But the emphasis is weirdly never on the inappropriateness of the interactions. Instead, it’s all about whether the dotted line will be signed upon.
When a crime is committed on the premises (murder, robbery, fraud – take your pick) you’d think the perpetrator would be immediately be caught on the CCTV. But either the cameras won’t be working at the pivotal time or the evildoer will sneak into the building and secretly erase the incriminatory footage. For added jeopardy, someone might almost catch them doing the deleting while the status bar is still active on the computer monitor.
The strict hierarchy is thrown into disarray when a machinist gets promotion and becomes an object of ridicule for daring to appropriate the wardrobe and attitude of Karren Brady. The trouble is, even those at the top secretly thinks that the person they’ve promoted is a pain in the backside. The moral of this story: know your place and don’t get ideas above your station.