Monday, 18 August 2014

Speak Easy August 2014...

Mrs Sharples: "Speak Easy? If you're stopping round 'ere, you'll mind your p's and q's! This is a respectable neighbourhood, this is!"

Just one e-mail to catch up on. Sorry to Ed that's it been a while appearing!

Here tis...

Do you think the Street had different styles in different decades? More plot-driven in the 1960's compared to the 1970's for example? I'm interested in how the past decades helped make the show what it was during those times, in dialogue, plots, style and performance.

Well, all telly shows have to evolve to keep up with public tastes, Ed. But you can't split what was happening in soaps conveniently into decades, although many decade obsessives on-line attempt this. The reign of a particular producer may easily straddle different decades, for example (take Bill Podmore from the mid-1970s to early 1980s) and so on.

What is a "decade obsessive"? Well, it's somebody who obsesses about a particular decade, often one they don't really know much about (or were incredibly young in), pop it on a  pedestal and go on and on glorifying it. A fantasy alternative to living a proper life. 

One of my favourite on-line decade obsessive's ramblings features a guy saying how absolutely marvellous the show was in the 1970s. He then outlines a story-line from 1981 to prove it!

If I look at the Street from memory and what I've viewed recently I would say...

1960-1967 - the show was excellent - although it became increasingly idiosyncratic and removed from real life in some ways as time went on. The black and white filming of the show and gritty texture of Northern life was a wow.

1968-1975 - not a favourite era of mine. The Street moved further from reality, violence and OTT story-lines were on the increase (including the gun siege at Minnie's, the murder at No 9, Annie being threatened by intruders at the Rovers, the fire at the factory) and loads of dreary moaning. Some good stuff, but definitely not great. The viewing figures for that era declined. I'm not surprised. And would Elsie really have married posh Alan?

1976-1984 - Hooray! The muriel! Renee at the shop! Fred at the Rovers! The car in the lake! The Duckworths move in! Still quite a lot of violence (Ernie shot in 1978, etc,) but less than before, and now beautifully balanced by comedy and everyday life story-lines.

1985-1988 - rebuilding. So many old established characters had left or were leaving. One or two had died. The Street was having to draft in many new characters. Some worked. Some didn't. A patchy era, but the establishment of Bet and Alec and Alf and Audrey as couples was inspired - and ranting Percy was a joy. The long-term build-up of Alan Bradley as a twisted geezer with a hole where his conscience should have been was realistic and inspired.

1989 - in 1989, the Street had recovered its composure. The use of lighter cameras meant more location filming and we were out and about - visiting yuppie wine bars and docklands developments, a cardboard city, Weatherfield Town Hall and so on. The Street changed forever as the new houses, shops and industrial units went up, the show went three days a week, and Vera's stone cladding and the MacDonalds arrived. It was pacier than it had been, but still had plenty of time for everyday prattle and humour. And then there was Mr Bradley and the tram...

Those are my thoughts, Ed, very briefly laid out for you. But as you see, there's no convenient decade span within them. Because life simply doesn't happen in conveniently labelled ten year chunks.

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