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If ever there was a prime example of a television show running well beyond its natural lifespan, its surely 'Coronation Street'. This, the granddaddy of British soaps, appears to have been on our screens since The Pleistocene Era, and shows no signs whatever of ending. I envy its writers for being able to churn out any old rubbish on a weekly basis and still get that B.A.F.T.A. every year for 'Best Soap'.
In 1990, the show celebrated its thirtieth anniversary, providing yet another excuse for back-slapping and masturbatory retrospectives. What made this one worse than most was that it took the form of an entertainment show, a sort of 'This Is Your Life' with cobblestones, hosted by the doyen of bad entertainment shows Cilla Black.
It opened with about a dozen or so camp-looking young men in tight trousers and flimsy shirts prancing about a replica Street to the sound of Alyn Ainsworth-style big band music. I thought for one moment I'd accidentally tuned into a previously unseen Stanley Baxter sketch, but no such luck. It set the tone for what followed.
Cilla then appeared and welcomed the studio audience, which strangely was made up entirely of the show's cast, past and present. Could they not find any members of the public willing to watch this slop? A few, such as Peter Baldwin and Sherrie Hewson, were sacked soon afterwards by incoming producer Brian Park, so despite the jollity there was a funereal air to the extravaganza, like watching an anthill before a farmer puts his foot on it.
Celebrities of the calibre of Joanna Lumley and Gorden Kaye were wheeled out to tell us how they got on in life by doing cough-and-spit roles in the show, and grainy clips shown to gasps of amazement from the audience. Stars from other soaps including Todd Carty and Letitia Dean gushed about what a wonderful show 'The Street' was, and dear old Ronnie Corbett cracked jokes with a soap theme. Whenever he reached a punchline, the cameraman focused on a laughing Johnny Briggs.
The reverential attitude Cilla displayed towards 'Coronation Street' put one in mind of Burt Lancaster in 'Elmer Gantry', the programme had the air of a gathering of fervent religious types. You expected the audience to get to its feet en masse and begin swaying and clapping while chanting: "Happy Birthday! Happy Birthday! Happy Birthday To The Street!. Had The Pope been brought in to say what a great fan he was, I would not have been remotely surprised.
The ultimate horror, though, was when kids were shown imitating 'Street' cast members. One girl did such a good impression of gravel-voiced pensioner Phyllis Pearce ( Jill Summers ) that her clip was shown three times before the end titles rolled. I lost the will to live at this point and slipped on 'The Best Of Little & Large' video.
Though I.T.V. have never done anything quite as bad as this since, they have come remarkably close. A recent 'Emmerdale' tribute was equally sick making, with old-timers such as Frazer Hines telling us how rubbish the show was when he was in it and how brilliant it is now.
As for 'Coronation Street', I would welcome a storyline in which aliens from the planet Zorb blasted the place to smithereens with lasers - if only to save us from fatuous twaddle such as this.
( In case you think I have been too hard here, let me point out that 'Daily Mirror' critic and soap lover Hilary Kingsley also hated this 'tribute' with a vengeance. She titled her review 'Black Night For The Street' ).
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