Tag Archives: television

Covid Corrie

Overnight, Covid-19 will hit Weatherfield. People who had been freely walking around Coronation Street without a corona care in the world will be masked and distancing themselves. Tonight in Britain, and soon in Canada, the residents of Coronation Street will be living like we have been.

Covid Corrie taping photo ITV standard.co.ukExecutive producer Iain MacLeod was on CBC Radio’s q this morning to talk about how the show is dealing with a pandemic that has outlasted their stock of episodes in the can. The virus, and all the precautions, will hit immediately. There’s nothing else they can do, he said. To have a build up to it would require extensive reshooting. So they are asking for a suspension of disbelief from viewers. As he said, the viewers know the reality, so should recognize that the show has little choice.

Taping in a pandemic

Corrie and all the soaps began making changes months ago as the pandemic became increasingly serious. Coronation Street cut back from six episodes to three a week. That bought time with already taped episodes spread over twice as long.

Older and at-risk actors were furloughed. Writers scrambled to explain their disappearance. Social distancing was instituted for actors. Camera people and editors scrambled to make it look as if people weren’t staying clear of others while they actually were.

Steamy romantic scenes stopped. Large crowd scenes stopped. But the show has to look like the show, and street life had to look normal. The constraints imposed by health precautions called for inventive production techniques. Camera angles, for example, could give an illusion of closeness between actors when they were actually far apart.

Production ceased for a couple of months. I think that is probably a first ever in its 60 year history. When work resumed, they decided to bring the pandemic into the life of the street. The distancing they had already been practicing would become part of the story.

Covid-19 production problems remain, however. Within the bubble of our family, we don’t need to stay distant and wear masks. But the actors playing members of a family don’t live together in real life. So camera and editing tricks still are needed to get around that. Stand-ins were used if possible. The real life mother of a child stood in for the screen mother in one scene, Cole said. A mannequin stood in for an actor in another.

The show will go on. But bringing reality in is a good thing, I think. Watching television, I find myself distracted when people are too close together. Get back, I think, don’t you know better! A soap is part of our daily lives, so it’s especially jarring to see its world so obviously at odds with our own. And maybe we’ll make a new game for watching: spot the Covid camera trick.

Why watch Corrie?

It’s been just over a year since I stopped watching Coronation Street. I still record it, and read the on-screen synopses as I delete episodes.

why watch corrie delete episodes screen photo dstewartHave I been tempted to watch? Yes. Some days when I just feel like flopping on the couch and not checking on the Donald Trump Comedy/Horror Hour. Or when the two line synopsis makes me curious. What’s happening with Carla, I wonder. But I have not watched even one episode.

I do think about the show and why it’s now okay with me to let it go. After all, Coronation Street has been an important part of my life. Having no profound thoughts of my own, I thought google it. See if there’s any new critical or analytic insights into the show and/or viewership.

Ask Google: “Why watch Coronation Street”

Below is the best of what came up on the first page.

nan was so excited print carakansala.comThis delightful print is by Cara Kansala of Grumpy Goat Gallery in Newfoundland. Tap for a larger view of it or go to carakansala.com to see more of her work.

Why watch in Canada, British guy asks

why watch in Canada Reddit questionThe poster on Reddit is surprised that Coronation Street is on prime-time in Canada. Tap to enlarge the image and you’ll be able to read the whole exchange. In short, the answer says that Canada is part of the British diaspora and therefore reminders of “home” are popular. I have no stats on it, but I’d be surprised if it was the reason most Canadian fans watch, even long-time ones.

twitter watch from beginningWell, you could watch from the beginning if you wanted to. Box sets are available. I don’t think they include every episode. But you could get a good sense of the show. Even in condensed form, though, it would be a very big project. And it probably has been done.

yahoo answer what kind of audience and why watchThese Yahoo answers made me laugh out loud. Especially “the kind of people who have lost the remote.”

“A half hour of my life…”

facebook comment hard to give it up“Hard to give it up after 45-50 years!” Maybe that’s still the best insight of all. You know the people. So no matter how silly they’re being, or boring, you stick with them.

At the top of the search results  page was Milo the dog on YouTube. For good reason. He could quickly and easily answer that thorny question of why we watch. So he can sing along with the theme music.

Leaving The Street

This week I only watched Monday’s double episode. I decided at the end of it that I’m leaving the Street. Not forever – I hope. But for now, until something changes that makes it enjoyable for me to watch again.

pvr-screen with watched corrie episodes checkedSince the late 1980s, I’ve watched consistently. I have loved it, and I’ve despaired of it. I’ve suffered through executive producers who were hell-bent on remaking it into something else. I have celebrated when it got back on track. Over those decades, I’ve watched it get more like an American soap. Younger and more beautiful actors taking centre stage. More explosive storylines, more action, less nuance of daily life of regular people. And I’ve stuck with it.

rosie-gemma-and-modelBut the past few months, I’ve more often found myself looking at the clock, wondering if it will be over soon. Looking at the remote, particularly the fast-forward button. Realizing I’m a couple episodes behind, oh dear, when will I be able to catch up. Thinking ‘get off my screen’ about too many characters.

Six episodes

Adding an episode, to six per week, did it for me. Just that extra half hour made watching, keeping caught up, feel like work.pat-points-gun-at-gary

Make time for small moments as well as big stories. That’s what executive producer Kate Oates said they would do with that extra episode. But that’s not what I’ve seen. Scads of new characters, high drama and PSA teaching storylines instead. I’m tired of it. Not any of those things individually, just all of them all the time.

Soap + Crime thriller + Sitcom

wedding-guests-in-bistroMonday’s second episode bounced between three different genres. Crime thriller with Phelan free and threatening again. Soap opera with Robert leaving Michelle and their wedding in the lurch. “Just talk to her, ya plank!” I said, without enthusiasm. So many soap clichés lately, you can’t even care. A sitcom scenario with Rosie, Gemma and somebody new planning the entrapment of somebody else new. (See today’s Scene of the Week for these three scenes.)

Public Service Announcements

shona-and-david-discuss-his-rapeDavid and male rape – a well done and valuable education story, yes. But we haven’t even dealt fully with the suicide and mental health PSA of Aiden. The spectre of grooming and sexual abuse still hovers over Bethany.

robert leaving for londonRobert still has ongoing storylines of a) testicular cancer and b) steroid use. (There’s also Michelle’s Lost and Found sons – straight out of How to Write a Soap Opera.) And remember Billy and his pain-induced heroin use? Has he had a miracle cure for both injury and addiction?

Way too many issues to explore in depth and realistically in terms of the characters’ lives. Plus it’s tiring to watch. Particularly now, when watching the news is a full out emotional rollercoaster ride, Coronation Street would be a nice place to go for a bit of respite.

Leaving for a bit of rest

I don’t think it can feel that much different in the UK than in Canada. Here we have Trump and his bully rants about trade tariffs. In the UK, you have that, as well as Brexit. Exhausting just keeping up. So to also need a score card to keep up with Corrie? No. I can’t do anything about real world politics. But I can control entertainment viewing. If Coronation Street has become as frustrating to watch as the news, it’s time to switch it off.leaving corrie with delete recordings tv screen

I am not advocating that Corrie opt out of the real world and become a bastion of old-fashioned cozy Britain. Just slow down a bit and return to your roots – in both story and storytelling methods. Coronation Street is not a crime drama, sitcom or American soap. It’s not a pulpit or a classroom. It’s a neighbourhood. When it goes back to that, I will be back with bells on!

Earls of Grantham

Earls of Grantham coat of armsBelow is the lineage of the Earls of Grantham. The family name is Crawley, and their home is Downton Abbey in Yorkshire.

It is a fictional family in a television series I have never watched. I found family trees online, read summaries of the show and characters, and mapped out connections. Could I use only the internet to figure out a family history, I wondered. I think I did, and it made me want to get to know them better.

I will meet the Crawleys on DVD. Those watching on television will end their acquaintance with them in 2016. The sixth, and final, season on PBS begins January 3rd. The series is set between April 1912 and December 1925.

The Crawley family was given the Earldom of Grantham around 1772 for deeds unspecified. A subsidiary title is Viscount Downton. The earl’s heir may use this as a courtesy title. The title and estate are entailed, meaning inheritance can be passed only through the legitimate male line.

Grantham Family Tree

Earls of Grantham family tree Downton Abbey
Click or tap to enlarge family tree of Earldom of Grantham

The house and lands of Downton Abbey came into possession of the Crawley family through the unnamed daughter-in-law of the 3rd Earl, great-grandmother of the ‘present’ earl, Robert Crawley. Presumably, she inherited her family home or received it through the will of a previous husband.

Jessica Fellowes, author of companion books to the series, refers to grave of sybil daughter of 5th earl dailymail.co.uk 1 Mar 2013Robert Crawley as the 7th Earl of Grantham. Other sources call him the 6th. Observant viewers noted a publicity shot of the gravestone of Sybil, Robert’s daughter. Carved on it is “daughter of the 5th Earl of Grantham”. The series does not fully explain the line of inheritance.

Robert had no son and no brother so after he inherited the title, his heir presumptive became his first cousin James, the son of his father’s unnamed brother. James had a son Patrick, who would inherit in turn. However, both men died on the Titanic in 1912. The male next closest in the family line was Matthew Crawley, Robert’s 3rd cousin once removed. The presumably deceased Reginald was Matthew’s father.

Amazon link for World of Downton Abbey
Click for book on Amazon

While daughters could not inherit, strategic marriage could keep it in the immediate family. Robert and his mother Violet had sought marriage between Robert’s daughter Mary and Patrick, son of then heir presumptive 1st cousin James Crawley. After their deaths, Mary wed the new heir Matthew and they had a son, George. Matthew soon after died, making George heir presumptive.

Through the marriage of his daughter to the heir, Robert’s grandson will be earl after him. Mary, daughter of one earl and mother of the next, will never be countess. She would have held that title only through her husband had he lived to become the next earl.

Apples to Apples

TV writer David Shore was on CBC Radio’s q (formerly Q) today. He was introduced as battle creek cbs by David Shorecreator of House and Battle Creek, writer on Due South and originally from London Ont.

He described Battle Creek as premised on male friendship. Then they discussed male friends or frenemies in House. House? Wilson’s friendship with House was a big part of the show, but not vital to it. Not like the relationship between the lead characters in Battle Creek.

Battle Creek is a ‘fish out of water’ buddy cop show about a quirky partnership between a morally upright FBI agent and a cynical Battle Creek, Michigan cop. Due South was a ‘fish out of water’ buddy cop show about a quirky partnership between a morally upright Mountie and a cynical Chicago cop. I waited for that comparison. Didn’t happen.

Due South revisited

Amazon link for Due South
Click for Amazon link

Watching the first episode of Battle Creek, I thought, wow, this is Due South twenty years later with two Americans. I like the show, just as I liked Due South.

A CTV series, Due South was a cult hit in the US for CBS. Stereotypes of the Canadian worldview versus American was the appeal but also a drawback to going beyond “cult” to “mainstream”. Battle Creek, with colliding American worldviews, will not have that problem.

Eric Peterson and Street Legal

Listening today, hoping the discussion would move to the shows about which male friendship would be really applicable, I thought of a Street-LegalQ interview with Canadian actor Eric Peterson. The host introduced him as a star of CTV’s Corner Gas, the musical Billy Bishop Goes to War and CBC’s 1980s Street Legal. He talked eloquently about the importance of exploring Canadian culture in Canadian entertainment. Corner Gas and the story of Canadian WWI pilot Billy Bishop were the examples. Why not Street Legal?

LA Law dvd Amazon link
Click for Amazon link

Canadian-made, -set and -aired, Street Legal started just months after NBC’s LA Law. Both centred on law firms – big deals, backstabbing, sex and intrigue. LA Law‘s was big and
glitzy, Street Legal‘s was Toronto storefront office scale. Canadian, eh? I waited to hear what Mr. Peterson would say about Canadian and American takes on the same dramatic premise. Didn’t happen.

Both q and Q’s interviews led straight to Street Legal and Due South: apples to apples comparisons. If q/Q have no staff familiar with old Canadian television shows, please contact me. I’ll be your “old codger” if you can’t find one in the CBC building.

She Loves You

Some things you will never ever forget. One, for me, is Ed Sullivan introducing “these CBS Beatles ad on tvyoungsters from Liverpool.”  Hands clenched on head, pulling at hair, “eek, aah, oohh”.  In the living room with parents, sitting on the floor in front of the television, screaming. Watching John-Paul-George-and-Ringo, February 9, 1964. I still can hear “well, she was just seventeen, and you know what I mean, the way she looks, is way beyond compare.”

Even now – old enough to realize that my parents must have been looking askance at each other, each blaming the other’s gene pool for having produced such a half-wit of a child – the memory sends shivers through me. After that and before, I watched bands I loved on girl-in-audience-screenshotEd Sullivan’s “shew”.  But the Beatles were “way beyond compare.”

I think we in North America were lucky in our introduction to them. They were already an established sensation by the time they came on tour. We already knew it was ok to like them; indeed being Beatle-crazy was de rigueur. Probably in England, there had been girls who said about the beginning Beatles ‘they’re ok but it’s Frankie and the Fruitcakes who are really going to make it big.’  In light of knighthoods, billions in sales and historical perspective of the musical and social change started by the Beatles, those girls probably still feel a bit silly.

Mersey influence

But Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein made a way bigger misjudgment. According to Terry O’Reilly on CBC’s Under the Influence, Epstein let someone else market Beatles products – at a 90/10 split, the 10% going to the Beatles. Who didn’t buy a Beatle wig? And I had Beatles cards tv screenshotBeatles bubblegum trading cards, uncut sheets. My father got them from a friend at O-Pee-Chee Gum. I cut them into individual cards, not keeping even one whole. I could have retired on the proceeds of those.

The fact that none of the plentitude of Mersey Beat bands ever matched the Beatles’ success does not deny the success that many did achieve due to the spin-off effect. The Beatles were not created in a vacuum; they were influenced by their contemporaries and they opened doors for others.

In September 1964, the Beatles came to Toronto. My mother would not let me go, despite wheedling DC5 London Ont UWO Archives lfpress.com James Reaney 3Nov2011and tantrums. Two months later, my friends and I stood along Oxford Street in London (Ont.), waiting for the Dave Clark Five to drive past. They were playing at Treasure Island Gardens and, again, my mother said I couldn’t go. But being in that crowd of girls on the street, screaming our heads off, made up for a lot. The Dave Clark Five weren’t the Beatles, but they were close enough. Tellingly, I have no memory of the Rolling Stones coming to London the next year. That suggests their music was beyond my pre-adolescent ken.

Beau-Brummels-Teen-Aug-66-beaubrummels.tripod.com_laugh_60sjpgTerry O’Reilly mentioned a 1960s band called the Beau Brummels. They were from California but their music and foppish suits seemed British. And, maybe more importantly, their name put their records alphabetically right after the Beatles in record bins, thereby increasing their sales.

I will be watching the Beatles special February 9th  on CBS. I’ll probably sit on the floor as close as possible to the tv, maybe scream a little. For sure I’ll cry a little for four lads, and a girl from long ago.

Ford Branding

Rob Ford at Ford Nation t-shirt boothTobacco companies are probably heaving a huge sigh of relief.  As far as we know, no cigarettes were smoked by Mayor Rob Ford.  So they do not need to distance themselves and their brands from him. One of few industries spared.

Due to the mayor’s littering, Newfoundland’s Iceberg Vodka distillery released a statement decrying drinking and driving.  Ford Motor Company said its logo can’t be used on t-shirts made by his supporters.  CFL officials must have had kittens seeing him wearing The-Bullpen-94.5-facebook meme of shocked cat, Rob Ford eats what?a Toronto Argonauts jersey while making his infamous statements Thursday about whom he was going to sue and why.

And speaking of kittens, I wonder when a cat food company will distance themselves from him after all of his revelations on Thursday.

Ford grist for the comedy mill

We made a point of watching The Daily Show and the Colbert Report Thursday night.  This was way too good for Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert to pass up.  They and every other comedian could not believe he had actually said what he said.  In a nation grown accustomed to dirty little scandals like Anthony Weiner’s crotch ‘selfies’, Elliot Spitzer’s call-girls and a President’s hair-splitting denials of what exactly he dailyshow-14-Nov-13was doing with an intern, you would think nothing could shock American late night tv hosts.  So when the mayor of a Canadian city grosses them out, that’s an accomplishment of some sort.

I’m not a fan of Saturday Night Live, but I saw they plan to do something about him in their show this week.  You know we’ll be watching, along with the rest of Canada – except for maybe a few truly mortified Torontonians.

iceberg vodka-bottle-TO-police-picCongratulations, Mayor Ford, you have well and truly made Toronto a memorable city.  And provided hours of entertainment, both with your own words and the commentaries on them.  Thank you.  I haven’t enjoyed watching the news so much since President Clinton was Bad Billy.  Please don’t stop now!

Spoilers

I hate spoilers. It’s like walking into a movie as someone walks out of the previous screening and says “I would have never guessed it was the good guy that did it.” Spoilers Spoilers Alert kittensare like seeing your Christmas presents by accident. When I was a kid I did not want even a clue about what I might be getting. I still don’t. And I don’t want to know what’s coming up on Coronation Street. So I avoid UK Coronation Street sites. I only read Canadian timeline sites said to be “spoiler-free”. So imagine my disappointment when I learn something I didn’t want to know, whether it’s in a post, a comment or a tweet. They may not be intentional spoilers, but they spoil anyway.

Right now, I know two characters are leaving, due to posts on Canadian sites saying something like “Since so-and-so is leaving the show, we wonder if this is how they are going to write him/her out”. Well, no, I didn’t know so-and-so was leaving and didn’t want to. To add insult to injury, I know the circumstances for the departure of one of those characters. That’s thanks to a tweet posted on a Canadian site and a well-intentioned ad on another one. For sure, the tweet and ad could have waited a week or so until we all in Canada see on our screens the particular event.

Some real life spoilers are unavoidable

Sometimes, real life events make real-life news and therefore spoilers are unavoidable. The death of actress Betty Driver made us all know that, sadly, we would also the face the news item about death of Betty Driver in Daily-Mail-15-Oct-2011death of her character Betty Williams. Real-life reporting of legal problems meant we would somehow see the characters of Kevin and Ken being written out of the show. Those things I can accept because they are newsworthy realities.  Even the big anniversaries with special stories and lots of promotion – impossible to avoid.

But an actor deciding to leave or a contract not being renewed? If I were in the UK, I probably would know about it because of mainstream press coverage. But I do not live there. I learned the hard way, on British media sites, to employ tunnel vision when reading articles. I do not look at ads or promo lines for “in other news”. If I must go on a UK Corrie site, I have developed the ability to scan without actually reading to avoid digesting bits of information I don’t want to know.

I do everything in my power to avoid spoilers so it makes me feel let down when they pop up on Canadian sites that profess to be spoiler-man with many hands over facefree. They are enjoyable sites to read, to see what other Canadian Corrie fans are thinking. But too often, even there, I have learned things that ruin my pleasure in just watching the story.

At least now, being only two weeks behind the UK, the events in these spoilers come to pass quickly. But for that length of time, my viewing pleasure is lessened. And why?  If something is a spoiler, even by a day, is it that difficult to remove or clearly mark it with “SPOILER ALERT”?

A good article in the Calgary Herald about spoilers.

Baby Prince George

FB-Monarchy-post about Prince GeorgeIn the past three days, the royal baby has been born, brought home, had pictures posted on Facebook, and been named. A boy named HRH Prince George Alexander Louis of Cambridge.

For two days my television was tuned to the Royal Baby Channel – whichever one had “live coverage”. It’s been worth it, waiting to see that little bundle in the arms of both his parents.

Also worth it have been the hours and hours of filler patter by hosts and guests on the broadcast specials. I find you always learn something new about British and Royal history and protocol when guests have to fill airtime.

Four monarchs, present and future

There is a photograph, I learned, from the last time there were four generations alive in the direct royal line. It is of Queen Victoria, her son who would be Edward VII, her grandson London,-Royalty,-Four-Generations Queen Victoriathe future George V and her infant great-grandson the future, and fleeting, Edward VIII. Let’s hope it works out better for this newborn when it is his time to be king.

Something struck me as very interesting in the analyst chat on CNN yesterday. It was the question of when this future king’s time will come. Repeatedly, people said with amazement that it might well be 70 years before it was his time. Amazing indeed considering that, in 70 years, his father William will be 101 years old. Even with the good genes of the Windsors, still being a reigning monarch at that age would be remarkable.

I think having three generations already in line for succession actually means is that there may not be a reign as long as that of Elizabeth II, or Victoria, in this century. That is, of course, assuming that these future kings live out their assigned ‘three score and ten’ or more years.

my-tv-screen CTV Prince George leaves hospitalLooking at the number of direct heirs doesn’t determine how long it will take for them to reach the throne anymore than only counting heads in a grocery store check-out line tells you how long you have to wait to reach the cashier. You also have to look at how full their shopping carts are. With succession, you have to look at the age of the heirs as well as the number of them. The best estimate you can make is how long their reigns might be.

Queen Victoria’s heirs

Queen Victoria also had three heirs lined up. She came to the throne at the age of eighteen and lived a very long life. Her son’s reign was only 9 years. His son came to the throne already a grandfather. He reigned for 26 years. His son, the present Queen’s father, died when only 56 so Elizabeth came to the throne at the age of Mom's Royal Scrapbook photo D Stewart25, much younger than she or anyone else expected.

What is significant about these four generations is that, all things being equal, it is likely that people alive today will never again see a young monarch or such a long reign. The last generation to see the fairy-tale story of a young princess, or prince, crowned will have been the age cohort of Queen Elizabeth. That being said, Long Live the Queen – and the future King and King and King.

Olympic Eventing

Trying to watch the Olympics Equestrian Eventing of the past three days, I’ve performed dog coming down stairsin my own Eventing competition. It includes the Stair Dash, Pet Hurdles and Speed Remote Handling.

It’s due to television reception, or lack of. We now have satellite tv and I’m sure when the bugs get worked out, it will be fine. But that hasn’t happened in time for Olympics watching. A new box is on a truck on its way here from somewhere. I don’t watch sports much: World Cup, Triple Crown races, show jumping, equestrian games and the Olympics. But those events alone are reason to have a big screen high definition tv.

“It’s the box”

We have a big television in the living room, with its fancy HD box. Upstairs is a smaller tv with a “standard” box. The Olympics on tv in upstairs denupstairs one has worked fine, but the living room one? Sometimes it’s fine but it often cuts out or there’s no signal at all when you turn it on. We were told weather affects satellite reception so at first thought there must be a storm somewhere. No problem, see how it goes, there’s other things to do anyway. But when it didn’t work more often than it did, I called the company. “It’s the box,” the lady said after taking me through diagnostic unplugging and resetting, “we’ll send out another one – 3 to 5 days.”

But last Friday was the opening ceremony for the Olympics. No life in the big screen box at all. So I watched upstairs. It was impressive but I knew how much more so it would be if I could only watch it downstairs on high def big tv. Dogs’ dinner was late because the commercial breaks weren’t long enough to run downstairs and feed them. Midway through Paul McCartney’s Hey Jude, a cat fight downstairs couldn’t be ignored, so I missed the end of the show.

Eventing to watch Eventing

It was during the equestrian Eventing that I perfected my own eventing. Running up and down the stairs, leaping over animals, simultaneous coordination of remote and tv buttons. I kept Olympic medal presentation on big screenfiddling with the big screen box, unplugging cords I hadn’t unplugged before. Yesterday, it worked. I watched swimming and it was glorious. I left the tv on and went out, came back and there was still a picture. Settled in to watch the show jumping part of Eventing. Even without high definition on OLN, it was fabulous. You could see every detail of the horse and the jumps. I could easily do other things during commercials. Maybe this box is fine, it must have been that last cable I reconnected.

tv with no signal messageZara Phillips and High Kingdom started their ride in the individual competition – and the signal went out. Even surpassing the gold medal standard in simultaneous performance of my personal eventing elements, I didn’t get the upstairs tv on in time to see the end of their ride.

Dressage starts tomorrow. The new box had better be here.