DAVE HOLMES TELLS YOU WHY YOU NEED TO BE WATCHING 'CORONATION STREET'
Coronation Street is the world’s longest-running soap opera, it’s available on Hulu, and you need to be watching it.
Okay, I see you rolling your eyes. You’re not wrong; the soap opera is a maligned art form, for mostly good reason. American soaps are the worst, littered with big-haired beauties named Blayze or Flayme, endlessly slapping one another as they tussle for control over the cosmetics company and the love of a hunk of cheese named Rydge or Clyff or Plateau or whatever. But Corrie is doing it right, taking us through the daily lives of the working class residents of Weatherfield, somewhere near Manchester. We meet barmaids, taxi dispatchers, assembly line workers. There’s a bistro, a coffee shop, a bodega, an underwear factory, and the Rover’s Return, the pub where everyone ends their day. And that’s about it. It’s your world. It’s the world.
Here are a few reasons why you should get into it:
- You can actually believe what’s happening.
When an American soap character dies, you know the actor booked a role in a movie and is optimistic about his career. You also know he’ll be back in a couple of years, and we’ll all find out the character faked his death because he was really a spy the whole time. On All My Children, Jesse Hubbard died on camera, had his heart implanted into another character, came back as a ghost a dozen times, yet still returned to Pine Valley. It’s garbage, and it violates the trust you put in the show. On Coronation Street, nobody has an evil twin, nobody will ever become reanimated by the spirit of a demon. When people die- as poor, dowdy Anorak-wearing stalwart Hayley is about to do- they are dead. This is real life, and it can break your heart.
- Believable doesn’t have to mean boring.
In Weatherfield, tiny things have repercussions. Just last year, Rob put a cappuccino machine in the bookies’ office, and its effect on coffee-shop owner Roy’s bottom line forced him to cut back on Anna’s hours, giving her more time to meddle in the life of her troubled adopted daughter Faye, sending Faye running toward her long-lost father Tim… you get the idea. People’s lives are intertwined. Little actions ripple out into the community, and it’s fascinating.
Hey, you got excited when (spoiler alert!) Alfred’s tarts turned out okay on Downton Abbey. Same basic idea.
- The people look like people.
When was the last time television made you feel good about your face and body? American soaps hire for looks first, acting ability second (or third, or not at all). Corrie’s actors look like you: unruly hair, tragic sweaters, a few extra pounds here, some jacked-up teeth there. But they have charisma! Plus, when someone legitimately attractive moves to Weatherfield (like comely Tina, or handsome Dr. Carter), you understand why characters would break up their marriages to get some of that.
- You’ll learn all kinds of new words and expressions.
Sure, you’re speaking English, but are you speaking all of it? The British simply use the language better than we do, and the spats between long-suffering matriarch Anna and uppity neighbor Sally are an advanced class in reading. Within a week, you’ll be referring to your sluttiest friend as a slapper, ending every sentence with n’all, and struggling with the desire to call everyone a cow. It will be deeply irritating to everyone who doesn’t watch the show, but it’ll help you find other Corrie fans in the wild, and then you’ve got a friend for life.
- Once you’re in, you’re IN.
Even though Coronation Street does its exposition well, there are five decades worth of backstory you’ll want to brush up on. A quick search on Eileen and Gail’s long-running feud will send you down an internet rabbit hole of Corrie info; there are blogs, fan sites, YouTubes of classic episodes, a veritable Corrie-copia for you to lose yourself in.
And then there are the British tabloids who follow the actors the way we do our movie stars. I recently wondered why beefy mechanic Tommy had vanished off the Street without so much as a cheers, only to learn via Daily Mail that the actor had been sacked after having been identified as violent, masked YouTube rapper The Phantom. The drama has dimensions, people.
- It has the best villains in the business.
Days Of Our Lives has Stefano DiMera, a man who dies every two years, rises like the phoenix he keeps reminding us he is, and is bent on destroying the Brady family for reasons that he has never made clear. On Corrie, we have Todd Grimshaw, a vain, insecure sociopath and the most believable LGBT character on television. We have Tracy Barlow, who never worked a day in her life (and might have murdered her ex). We have Karl Munro, whose consuming love for Stella caused him to burn down the Rovers just so he could save her (killing Sunita and Toni in the process). There’s no evil on the cobbles, just believable characters who sometimes do terrible things.
- The soap opera is a valid art form that America has beaten into the ground.
Human beings have a need for long-form storytelling, from Dickens’ serials straight through Bravo’s enduring Real Housewives series. We simply have to follow characters through the ups and downs of their lives as we endure our own; it’s human nature. We need to watch poor Faye try to fit in at school, because it reminds us of when we did the same. We need to watch gawky Chesney struggle with forgiving beautiful Katy’s infidelity, because it drudges up the memory of the time we dated above our station. American soaps forgot the basics and are headed toward well-deserved extinction, but Corrie has endured for over fifty years by telling simple, honest, relatable stories.
Pour yourself a pint and settle in. You’ll thank me, ya cow.
Dave Holmes is a comic, actor, writer, and television personality based in Los Angeles, CA. He can be seen as co-host of The Morning After. Follow him on Twitter and Tumblr.