Tuesday, 7 March 2017

The Measure Of A Man

Ken Barlow has been on our screens for over fifty-six years, a tenure that has rightly earned Bill Roache a place in the Guinness Book of Records.  Over the decades we've seen Ken grow from an idealistic young graduate to a crotchety grandfather, with about a thousand girlfriends in between.

However, there's another long-standing character whose screen life is, in some ways, even more impressive: Mr David Daniel Platt.

The thing about Ken is; he came to us fully-formed.  The Ken Barlow in the very first episode of Corrie was a grown up.  He could vote, drink beer; he'd already been through his awkward teenage phase and his rebellious student years.  He was a grown up character.

David Platt has lived his entire life on screen.  Every significant moment of it has been catalogued for twenty-six years.  We don't just know his birthday; we know the entire history of his mum and dad's relationship.  We know that Gail considered aborting him.  We know where Gail was when she went into labour (Audrey's house) and we know that Sally Webster was in the bed next to hers in the maternity hospital.  Given a bit of time and calculation, you can probably work out exactly when David was conceived, though why you'd want to is another matter.

Since then, David's life has unfolded right before our eyes.  He's grown from a quiet child to a horrific teen to a (sort of) mature adult.  We've seen him get a pet rabbit, love it, then cry when it died.  We've seen him react to his parents splitting up, to his mum's many, many remarriages.  We know when he lost his virginity (11th January 2008) and to whom (Tina McIntyre).  We've watched him fall in love, get married, father a child, and become a widower.

Is there any other character, in any medium, anywhere, who's been as well documented?  Even on the Street, other characters have drifted in and out.  Tracy Barlow, for example, wandered away to London for a few wilderness years, and then a few more in prison.  Nick has had periods in Canada and Nottingham.  Sarah-Louise went to Milan for seven years.  David's been there, all the time; even when he went to a Young Offender's Institution in April 2008, the cameras followed him there.  Beyond the confines of Weatherfield, what other TV shows have had the duration Corrie has, the ability to actually tell the story of a man's lifetime, every week, for more than a quarter of a century?  Films can't manage it; even novels tend to skip over big periods.  You don't get the minutiae, the school runs, the Christmas dinners, the daft nights out.  David might just show up in one episode, make a couple of wisecracks in the salon, then disappear, but it's another pin; another moment in his life for the records.  The only other character I can think of whose life was documented in such detail was Adrian Mole, and we didn't even meet him until he was 13¾.  We've known David since birth.

David's face might have changed slightly - Thomas Ormson played him until 2000, when the always-excellent Jack P Shepherd took over - but he's always been with us.  He doesn't show any sign of leaving, either, raising the fascinating idea that we could watch David Platt enter middle age, become a grandfather, settle into quiet retirement.  Given all that's happened to him in his life, he should probably be in extremely deep therapy, but still; that's a heck of an achievement, and one we should celebrate.

By Scott Willison (@merseytart)

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Tvor said...

That's pretty amazing, really, when you think about it. Steve McDonald is the only one even close and he came to us as a 15 year old. Not quite an adult.

Maricha said...

It's impressive. I do like David, warts and all.

The only similar cases of seeing characters grow up are in long running American soap operas but since they often rapidly age characters into their teenage years, they inevitably skip a lot of childhood events.

Vicky R said...

Okay not that I watch it or anything but Sally Fletcher in Home and Away - her tv life was documented pretty well.

abbyk said...

I think that's one of the reasons I like watching David so much. He has as many years of story details to pull from as any long running adult character but he is still under 30. All he has to do is flick a peanut at Gail and we're drawn back in. He's like watching a favorite cousin who you know so much, too much about.

Llifon said...

Sophie Webster is a close contender (albeit 3 months in Miami) having appeared for 22 years since birth, but to me David is a classic Corrie character and would be missed if Shepherd would leave. Of course David had a more eventful childhood compared to Sophie with Crazy Carmel, Don/Ivy/Gail/Nicky shenanigans etc.

abbyk said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
abbyk said...

The issue with Sophie is that she's the same stroppy teen that she's been since she watched poor student Rosie get with private school while all she got for her straight A's was ignored. She had a happy home with no particular trauma until the Mollie business. Despite a few major setbacks that could have been life changing (paralysis, stealing the cash from her dad, Maddie's death) she has remained static, a sour loser who should have been a success. She could have apprenticed to be a mechanic or maybe even gone back to school but ran a register and stagnated instead; David apprenticed and grew. She's sadly dull and that is very disappointing to those of us who remember the bright bubbly young teen Sophie once was. She is a bit more fun with Rosie but I think she's beyond saving. And dipping into a bland history is no fun for the audience.

popcorn said...

What an excellent article! It made me realize that yes, I had watched David since birth when I had never really thought about it before. Jack P. Shepherd is an amazing actor, and it has been a treat watching the life of David unfold on the screen. Like abbyk, I am disappointed with the "non-development" of Sophie, and also Chesney, two characters who showed such potential as youngsters but were left to wither and die as characters.

Newfy Pearl said...

David is an amazing character.....and he is good person overall....despite the things he has been through. I would want him on my side. :-)

TLC said...

Popcorn, I will add Craig to further your comment. Hope the writers take care of this great character; he has potential to be lasting and he needs another storyline. I wish his girlfriend stayed in the show as well. They had good onscreen chemistry.

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