I arrive at this blog five years after graduating from my ‘Theatre Film and Television’ course and with a couple of years’ worth of music blogging behind me. The reason this appeals to me is largely because of a long stirring desire to move away from the very formulaic and increasingly predictable monotony of reviewing pop and rock music albums and in order to begin to document the whole world around me, in all its unfashionable, disillusioning, stubborn, breathtaking, enraging, corrupt, beautiful, heart-stopping, occasionally wondrous tragedy.
Therefore it is fitting for me mark my appearance here by only travelling so far as a certain cobbled street situated supposedly just over 100 miles away (not as the crow flies). A fictitious street upon which half a century of British iconography and popular culture has been built; a record-breakingly enduring soap opera which has demanded loyalty and devotion through years of ropey storylines, poor casting decisions, inconsistent quality, annoyingly one-dimensional characters, suspensions of disbelief, unrealistic, rose-tinted and dated depictions of working-class life. Corrie has ran harmoniously parallel to my own life in terms of narrative milestones since I first became a 6-year old non-partisan viewer circa 1989 (Alan Bradley, Wendy Crozier era).
I am as likely to remember what Steve McDonald was doing in 2001 as that of own activities (being set on by genuinely terrifying Mancunian drug dealer Jez Quigley - not me, Steve), and for every six-month period spent questioning my loyalties, there’s a reveal or narrative conclusion that repays this dedication in entertainment dividends. Such as: Hillman driving the Platts into Manchester Ship Canal, Tony Gordon torching the factory after holding Carla and Maria hostage after executing Hugo from The Vicar of Dibley and every scene involving John Stape in the run up to his departure. Corrie excels when its balance of humdrum reality and black humour is perfectly aligned, and although it has threatened to slip into Eastenders-esque charisma-free misery recently, this is nothing new. It has always been inconsistent, and when it dips in quality and gripping tension, it’s never long before I’m completely drawn in again. I have always seen the work of Jimmy McGovern and Paul Abbott as post-watershed versions of Coronation Street; incorporating characters that talk like me, narratives I can relate to, finding engrossing drama in the humdrum and visually depicting a gritty Britain that we wouldn‘t necessarily expect to be able to sell worldwide, yet somehow - and regularly - do.
Whilst it’s true to say that the large majority of my televisual pleasures seem to derive from UK material, it is similar characteristics than inform my viewing across the board. The American comedies I enjoy such as Curb Your Enthusiasm and dramas such as Breaking Bad are not brash, overly wacky, flashy or juvenile, they are instead subtle, clever, knowing and understated pieces that find their appeal in eschewing the obvious, feature multiple-layered characters that are equally capable of both offending gratuitously and charming incessantly. Sometimes when these worlds clash, like in the recent comedies The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret and Episodes the cultural clattering is devastatingly potent, and it is no small fact to note the amount of British comedies and dramas being remade for stateside viewing: Shameless, The Office and Cracker being a few successes amongst a plethora of commissions.
To conclude, my TV shows of the year so gar (though I’m sure I may well have missed some gems) would be The Shadow Line (which made Red Riding look like In The Night Garden, yet a thrilling 7-part BBC2 drama with Stephen Rea as the world’s most mild-mannered and polite professional assassin), Ideal (series 7 and the imagination of Graham Duff just gets more and more hilariously outlandish), Exile (more Northern grim from me I’m afraid, the words ‘John Simm’ are a cast-iron guarantee I’ll be tuning in), Psychoville (basically Corrie via the lens of a bad LSD trip, not that I’d know, but the popularity of THAT Tina Turner scene demonstrated that it’s not just me with the worrying, pitch-black taste in humour) and Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle (refreshingly honest as ever, but probably not the ‘comedian’s comedian’, not if you’re Russell Howard or Michael McIntyre, anyway!). I must confess to a soft spot for Friday Night Dinner too, Will from The Inbetweeners being Will from The Inbetweeners, not to mention the recent episode of Newsnight featuring Steve Coogan. There’s no news story I like more than a media-related one, always fascinating to see media outlets relish the misfortunes of their rivals, or even their own. They all (largely) deserve each other anyway.
DISCLAIMER: That last comment was clearly a throwaway one as, for all its faults, the BBC is certainly about 10,000 times more cherishable an organisation than ITV/Sky et al, despite it's huge self-righteous indignation when it's rivals mess up. The supposedly 'leftist' organisation is never shy to document its own mistakes and shortcomings and even invites right-leaning tabloid figureheads like Andrew Neil, Richard Littlejohn and Kelvin McKenzie on board (plus Nick Robinson, the BBC's political editor, was once the chairman of the Young Conservatives) to offer up their robust, and often uncompasssionate viewpoints (personalities who, whilst seeming to be rigidly against the entirely unevidenced 'leftist agenda' BBC apparently stands for, are quite happy to pick up a BBC pay cheque and use the platform as a soapbox). This all adds to the BBC's integrity and keenness to offer a UK-mirroring plethora of social viewpoints, whilst constantly being at the mercy of commercial organisations keen to pour scorn upon its character, and question its merit, particularly in relation to the licence fee. The reoccuring argument that 'the BBC should fund itself' could not be more flawed. Should this ever come into place, it would bludgeon completely everything that sets it apart from other broadcasters. It is an organisation envied and respected globally, and it is its impartiality, diversity, integrity and quality which explains this.