CHRISTOPHER STEVENS: The bash Corrie deserves? Glasto at Blackpool with whelks, not drugs

Queens Of The Street 

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Meet The Richardsons At Christmas

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Coronation Street does enjoy a good birthday. Landmark dates are treated with all the pomp and circumstance of a state occasion — there’s more fuss than a royal jubilee.

Its 60th anniversary has been celebrated with a book, spectacular storylines and a life-size portrait commissioned in tribute to William Roache, who has played Ken Barlow since the soap’s very first episode.

Bill Roache declared that Corrie was a serious intellectual business from the start

Bill Roache declared that Corrie was a serious intellectual business from the start

Bill Roache declared that Corrie was a serious intellectual business from the start

On Monday, Joanna Lumley narrated a 90-minute highlights reel, and now here was Salford boy John Thomson (who played children’s entertainer Jesse on the show) paying tribute to the grandes dames of the cobbles, in Queens Of The Street (ITV).

What this great occasion really deserves is a mass gathering of stars, past and present, on Blackpool beach with a few million fans, in a Corrie Free Festival — a bit like Glastonbury, but with whelks instead of spliffs.

That’s not possible, because Blackpool is in Tier 3. We can’t even visit its Madame Tussauds, to see the waxworks of Bet Lynch, Hilda Ogden, Deirdre Barlow and the rest in a replica Rovers Return.

The Street’s battle-axes and matriarchs have already been saluted this year in a collection of retrospectives, hastily compiled during the first lockdown when it was impossible to film new episodes. 

But there seems no limit to how often viewers will happily watch black-and-white clips of Ena Sharples in her hairnet, gossiping with her cronies Minnie Caldwell and Martha Longhurst.

And there’s endless pleasure to be had in glimpsing Doctor Foster’s Suranne Jones as Karen McDonald or Happy Valley’s Sarah Lancashire when she was known only for being daffy barmaid Raquel.

For the actors, said Helen Worth, three unbreakable rules apply: work hard, don’t moan and don’t get ill. She might have added that her character, six-times-wed Gail, has an extra duty — remembering who she’s married to this week.

Bill Roache, with a touch of pomposity worthy of his alter ego, declared that Corrie was a serious intellectual business from the start: ‘It was the new realism sweeping the theatre; we were the kitchen sink drama.’ Righty-ho, Ken, if you say so . . . you’ve been to university, after all.

Souvenirs of the night:

Christmas In New York — Inside The Plaza (C4) revealed the ultra-kitsch hotel’s 1,650 chandeliers are constantly repaired — because guests steal the dangly crystals. Badabing, badaboom, waddya gonna do?

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Derek Jacobi, who once had a walk-on role in the Rovers, injected a note of luvviedom: ‘What underlies it all is Life. Live it, get on with it, whatever it throws at you.’ Vera Duckworth would roll her eyes at that. It was left to Julie Hesmondhalgh, who played Hayley Cropper, to supply more down-to-earth insights.

‘Working on Corrie is the best training you can get for an actor,’ she said, ‘mainly because of the sheer amount of [script] pages you get in a day. It’s all filmed out of order, so you might be burying your husband on Monday morning and then marrying him on Tuesday afternoon. It’s completely crackers.’

Johnny Vegas was equally unpretentious as he guested on Meet The Richardsons At Christmas (Dave). ‘What does Christmas mean to me?’ he mused. ‘From a work point of view . . . panel shows.’ Next week Jason Donovan makes an appearance. Christmas is being good to him ‘from a work point of view’ — in the past few days we’ve seen him on Lorraine, The Wheel and Gary Barlow’s concert, Night At The Museum.

Jon Richardson seems to treat this as a time for re-gifting, or recycling, his old jokes. One about a ‘sad-vent calendar’, with depressing messages behind the 24 doors, was reused from an old episode of C4’s Eight Out Of Ten Cats Does Countdown.

He didn’t even try to pretend it was new. That’s hardly entering into the spirit of things.

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