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Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Parky vs Phelan and Coronation Street complaints


The legend that is Michael Parkinson has weighed in with this thoughts on the Pat Phelan storyline in Coronation Street.

It is a storyline that not only attracted 390 complaints to Ofcom but also really distressed me as editor of the Coronation Street Blog.

This was for two reasons.

The first is that I agree - in part - with Michael Parkinson and all those people who complained to Ofcom. There was no light to balance this very dark storyline, no humour to balance things out in the way that Corrie can do so wonderfully when needed. It was fantastic drama and I can't fault the acting or the storyline. It was brilliant stuff. But it was not Corrie as we know and love it.

And the second reason is that I was swamped by emails, direct messages on Twitter and private messages on Facebook from angry fans who were as upset as I was about what had happened in those double episodes. But in their anger they failed to remember that we are a fan site. The messages that came to me - yes, me, sitting here in my slippers and curlers with my small glass of milk stout - were meant for ITV.  Fans hadn't stopped to consider who they were sending their complaints to. They found a website, they found an email address and they let rip in no uncertain terms. Vitriol was unleashed. Sadly, it all came to me.

Every single complaint I received I replied to, telling each person that we were just a fan site, that the storyline wasn't our fault, that I personally was not to blame. But you just try telling that, again and again - over the course of a whole weekend - when you feel fans' fury yourself and can empathise with it. It was a very difficult weekend indeed. I started viewing my email from behind a cushion behind the sofa, almost a quivering wreck (and I'm not joking here). I advised all those who wrote to me to email ITV and I do hope that at least some of them did. I had to put out an appeal on our Facebook page, twice, to ask fans to write to ITV, not to us as a fan site via private message on facebook.  If anyone has a complaint about a television programme, whatever it is, please contact the programme and its makers directly. As a fan site, there is nothing we can do apart from forward on your complaint, and only then if it comes in via email.

In the ten years of the Coronation Street Blog (we turn 10 next month!) I've never experienced anything like the amount of anger directed at the show. that weekend.  And sadly, as I've said,  it was sent to the wrong people. We are fans writing a fan site which clearly has the words 'fan site' on it both here and at www.corrie.net.  And now that I've finally got that out in public, let's move on.

In an interview with Radio Times this week, veteran broadcaster Parky says that violent Coronation Street makes him recoil.

“I am affronted by what I see as a gem like Coronation Street in danger of becoming just another formulaic soap"

“I never imagined I would recoil from watching Coronation Street, but the storyline of the kidnapping and torture of Andy and Vinny and their brutal murder by Pat Phelan had little to do with that gentle, funny reminder of life in the North Country I discovered and so admired in the early 1960s when I joined Granada Television.

“In those days, Ena, Minnie and Martha dominated the snug, Elsie Tanner was everyone’s idea of the good-time girl with a heart of gold and, later, Hilda Ogden made three pot ducks flying up a wall a fashion statement.”

Parkinson, who in 1979 was one of the founders of the British League for Hilda Ogden in tribute to Jean Alexander’s iconic character, said the Pat Phelan storyline was “more suited to a horror channel than a family show”.

“The storyline is made even more shocking by Connor McIntyre’s performance as Phelan,” added Parkinson who founded the society alongside Sir Laurence Olivier, Russell Harty and Sir John Betjeman.

“His basilisk stare, the unnerving certainty of his murderous intent, is enough evidence of his ability to play a psychopath and worthy of a series about this murderous nutter – hopefully, far away from Coronation Street.

“I am affronted by what I see as a gem like Coronation Street in danger of becoming just another formulaic soap.”

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6 comments:

Derelict Cucumberpatch said...

I couldn't agree with him more! Well said Parky!

Maricha said...

FN, I'm terribly sorry you had to deal with those emails from irate fans. I hope this has calmed down and they'll know enough to complain to the right people the next time instead if pestering the volunteer/fans who run this blog.

As I've commented before, my issue isn't with the actors or their acting which were top notch. It's that the extremely dark turn this took and how long it's dragged on make it unsuitable for the format. This would have made a good movie but it isn't Corrie.

Anonymous said...

I do agree. I've loved Corrie for years but feel it's changed to a point now where I watch if I'm in with nothing better to do but no longer bother to record it if I'm out. I'm getting on myself now so maybe what I want for entertainment has changed, maybe I'm out of step with TV. Maybe not. I like a laugh, want to see what's going on for my 'second family' whether it's good or bad, I want to care, to sympathise. I want to be entertained. The Phelan story, I thought, was manipulated to shock. I suspect ITV are quite happy that everyone's talking about it - good or bad. Maybe that's what it's all about now. I don't mind the odd dramatic story - I was hooked by Hillman and Bradley. But this was different, more horrific. Designed, I suspect, to top all that had gone before. So, is the production team sitting down to come up with ideas to entertain or to shock and get the press headlines? Maybe that's the problem.

Humpty Dumpty said...

You have my sympathies, FN. This blogsite is probably well up on the search engine results because it's so good and so popular. I hope the people you took the time to reply to then directed their complaints to the right people

I agree with 99% of what Parkinson said, especially about the actor's brilliant portrayal of a psychopath, but I wouldn't want to return to the early days of Corrie. As a society we've moved on and soaps have to reflect that. There's a middle way somewhere between old, whimsical Corrie (people choosing to forget the violence even then) and the blood and gore of today. Phelan's storyline has been full of plot holes eg: nobody bothering to check on the progress of their local new-build flat and Andy conveniently not calling up to Eileen for help. However, nobody at Corrie seemed to care about that; all they wanted was dramatic terror to rival late night TV thrillers.

I am despondent at the way ITV handled the criticism. No apologies for the upsetting scenes; no apology for showing it after the watershed; no apology for not displaying a warning on the screen before transmission. During Bethany's grooming storyline, there were warnings to allow viewers not to watch. ITV have said that Phelan's violence was suggested rather than graphically shown. We didn't see beyond the bedroom door and Bethany's plight was suggested rather than graphically shown. In Phelan's case, it was a cynical move on ITV's part not to warn viewers in case it gave the game away. The double episodes were meant to shock and I realise ITV can't apologise for doing what they intended. Still makes me sad.

abbyk said...

I am sorry you had to deal with that. Perhaps if there’s another controversial evening, you can throw up a post which says in big letters where to direct programming complaints at ITV.

I didn’t have an issue with the darkness that night, in fact, I really enjoyed it. It was a total surprise that kept me glued. I wouldn’t want a steady diet of nights like that; it would ruin the effect and change the nature of Corrie. But think of all the nights of Mary’s totally unhinged costume feasts. Those were just as unreal and painful to watch. They weren't funny, they were an exploitation of mania.

As far as the happy nature of the show in the early years vs today, the times they are a changing. I suspect people, who had lived through the war and the deprivation afterwards, must have felt the relative prosperity and comfort of the 60s to be like living in paradise. Today, when a degree doesn’t guarantee a decent career, one income often won’t support a household, and the explosion of consumer goods makes us feel we need to always buy something better, I’ll bet, at the root of it, we simply aren’t as happy as they were back then. Makes sense that the show reflects that. I do wish they’d focus more on the relationships within the families and friendships. That’s the lasting stuff and where the real warmth and humor lays.

maggie muggins said...

Flaming Nora, you have the patience of a saint for emailing fans who wrote you in great numbers to complain. I think abbyk's suggestion sounds right, for you to put up a large warning for complainers to direct them to ITV, not you. Shame that it has to happen in the first place. Kudos for writing about it with such grace and honesty.

I think Corrie can build on its gentle beginnings and still be relevant to current times. I fear that because it's only relatively recently that we lost, through death and job changes, many of the people who were influential in Corrie's birth and early days, that we've also lost a bit of the guiding force for what gives Corrie its identifying character.

The show has survived the death of many charismatic actors, but I think the current show runners would do better to remember that they walk on the shoulders of giants in terms of those who made the show and its background decisions. To disregard them so easily for the sake of a gong or bigger salary will fail in the end. Primarily listening to anonymous fans, heavy social media users, reveals that they are easily influenced.

I didn't enjoy the dark episodes, and I like TV detective and murder mysteries a lot. It takes a special skill to weave a good mystery show. To throw the Phelan murders into Corrie just felt clunky. If the actors involved and Oates want to make those kinds of shows, then they should try to do it. I wasn't on the edge of my seat because it felt too slotted in and painfully tailored to adjust itself to a family show. In other words, it was too self-conscious for its own good, thus losing much potential creative punch. It was like one of Steve's great big gurns.

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