“You’re talking about a show that’s named after a coronation, and this is the first coronation ever in its history. What you’re describing sounds as exciting as a bucket of warm spit.” That is what my husband said after I told him about the Coronation Street episodes that marked the May 6th Coronation of King Charles III. The two episodes aired in the UK on May 8th, a special holiday to celebrate the coronation two days earlier.
These episodes aired in Canada this past Friday. I watched those two episodes and the previous one, my first Corrie viewing in two years. I was underwhelmed. I’d been googling since early spring, when the Coronation date was announced, wanting to know what Coronation Street had planned. I found very little. Now having seen them, I can see why. Not much to tell.
There was bunting in the Rovers and the Bistro. The big celebration was a buffet in the Rovers. Bunting, Union Jack plates and napkins, pennants with King Charles’ face on them. Landlady Jenny bickered with Evelyn Plummer about which of them had greater respect for the royal family. They also bickered about the food on offer, with more animation I think. At one table, an impromptu quiz to name the Commonwealth countries.
Someone asked Mary Taylor if she’d gone to see the procession. No, she doesn’t camp out if she has nowhere to heat up her hair rollers. She told a story about Mother once getting a wink from Lady Di. But even Mary, usually a fountain of opinion on the royals, didn’t seem to have her heart in it.
The others scarfing up the free food? Seemed like the B team. I knew some and others might be regular characters I don’t know. But I think most were extras.
“This financial crisis”
I thought maybe I’d find my scene when the factory girls and Sean came in after work (overtime rates presumably). They feared that their jobs might be outsourced. Ok, working people stressing out about their jobs going down the pan while surrounded by markers of opulence in London. That’s a good contrast.
Underworld’s major client came in, so Beth asked him if their jobs were safe. Yes, but no such thing as a safe job in this financial crisis, he said. Later she asked factory owner Stephen directly. Of course! Too much work so we’re training up staff in a new unit. Not the end of this story, I suspect. But for right now, nothing.
Overall, I was disappointed. Even if it wasn’t a big extravaganza, I figured I’d have a hard time picking out one scene amid so many. Indeed, it was hard: there wasn’t anything outstanding. Some good lines. Evelyn saying “I’ve been known to curtsey to a postage stamp” was good. Straight off the bus, maybe kept in a writer’s head just waiting for this opportunity.
But that was it. The odd reference to royalty while people were doing whatever else. The coronation seemed like a bit of an afterthought. I couldn’t help but remember Corrie’s 60th Jubilee episode. A huge street party and everyone done up in costume.
In the real UK on May 8th, there were huge street parties and people done up. So why not on Coronation Street? But then I thought, there’s probably other towns and parts of town and country where people are going about their business as normal. Maybe saying ‘God Save the King, huzzah’ or not.
Are the writers giving a sociological reflection of the real Britain? Maybe the big pageant wasn’t centre stage for most Britons. Maybe people just got on with their lives and maybe caught a bit of the Coronation or concert before going to bed at the end of a long weekend. So Coronation Street may have been speaking for those for whom the monarchy and its trappings is an “outdated institution” as Ryan called it.
But Coronation Street owes something to its own history. Its backstory is that it was named for the coronation of Edward VII in 1902, around when the terraced houses were built. And, at the show’s beginning, the alternate name discussed was Jubilee Street (for Victoria’s 60th in 1897). They certainly did Queen Elizabeth’s Jubilees in style. But the only Coronation in Coronation Street’s long history gets a pub full of extras and some bunting?
Not having a big splash must have been a conscious decision. The production team had as much lead time as Charles had. And he organized a very big show that was performed live. So Coronation Street certainly could have done it.
There’s only two explanations. Either it was deliberately downplayed to show the lack of relevance of the monarchy to the daily life of most Britons. Or lack of writing imagination. I prefer to think the former, but I’m not sure. And even if it is, it seems to belittle the show’s history and even its own name. Celebrating a coronation would also be a celebration of itself.
One thing I do know, I was happy to leave after my three episode visit back. It was nice to see familiar faces and to try to figure out who the new-to-me ones were. But, like reunions can be, it was a little sad and a little bit creepy.
The Manchester Evening News watched the same episodes as I did but, unlike me, called them “Coronation Street at its witty best.”