Coronation Street Scene of the Week (Oct. 31/10)

There was a lot of good stuff this week.  Carla hauling the vodka bottle out of her desk drawer and telling Sally “orange juice in the fridge” after Sally has told her why she needs time off work.  Also excellent is the ongoing storyline with the dueling grandfathers in the Barlow family: there’s a lot of show – and English – history with Ken and George battling it out over education options for Simon.  Have a look at the first episode where Albert Tatlock gives Ken a little lesson in class consciousness when the young university student is feeling caught between two class worlds.  Also in that episode, a bicycle is being repaired in the Barlow living room, just like last week.  But that time Ken wasn’t doing the fixing, rather he was mortified about it.  But for the scene of the week, I stand by the decision I made early in the week.  (Sun, Oct. 31st)

I’m writing this Tuesday.  I’m sure I’ve just watched “the scene”.  Bill comes by Kev and Sally’s to see how Sally’s visit to the oncologist went.  Just Kevin is there, Sally is upstairs having a long soak.  Bill kind of shuffles from foot to foot and tries to look cheery.  His body language is that of visiting “the sick room” – that not knowing Kevin explains lymph node surgery to Billwhere to look or what to say.  Kevin tells him what the process will be, his lips uncomfortably forming the words “lumpectomy” “lymph nodes”.  His speaking manner is a bit stilted, like he’s reciting or practicing a phrase in a foreign language.  And he is:  he’s repeating the words of the doctor, words he may have heard before but never had them apply to his own life.

As Kevin talks, Bill’s face transforms.  He’s listening, hearing and understanding the words but he’s going back in his mind.  Looking at Bill, I could see his wife and Bill, hearing the same words in their doctor’s office years before.  He never mentioned his wife, he said hardly anything at all other than the usual words one offers.  He asked if the girls knew yet.  No, Kevin said.  After giving best wishes, chin up etc., Bill leaves.  End of scene.  I had a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes.

Bill listens to Kev tell about Sally's surgeryCancer has not affected me directly in my own family, so I wasn’t remembering something familiar and sad to me.  Maybe I’m wrong on the powerfulness of this scene; maybe if I had more firsthand knowledge I wouldn’t have found it so evocative.  But I don’t think so.  I think it was beautifully and knowledgeable written and acted.

Also it speaks to the history of the show with a deft touch.  I’m beginning to feel I know Mrs. Webster the Elder.  I don’t even know her first name, I don’t remember Bill as a younger man.  But I’m starting to know that man and his wife.  I always loved the episodes written by Daran Little, long time programme archivist and later writer.  If I hadn’t caught the opening credits, I knew as soon as I heard a reference to the past that it was a Daran episode.  “Oh goody,” I would think, “they decided we’ll get a history lesson”.  I loved how Daran wove the long-ago history of present and past characters into present episodes.  His writing always added depth to the episode, giving more dimensions to what was happening on screen.  No other writer did it, perhaps because it was Daran’s specialty.  Unfortunately, Daran has moved on from Coronation Street, and I miss his “history lessons”.  I’m delighted that other writers and directors (Damon Rochefort and Durno Johnston in this case) are strengthening today’s stories with understated reference to the past.