17 April 2012
When Terry Duckworth was a youthful rapscallion on the Weatherfield cobbles in the 1980s, drinking nightly with Kevin Webster and Curly Watts and chasing the girls, he was quite a relatable character, very well played. And yet since he left as a permanent resident, each time storylines prompt his recall to Coronation Street, he seems to get steadily worse.
Nigel Pivaro was back on the Street last night, supposedly investing in the property adjoining the bistro and meeting his son Tommy by accident after his battered camper van blocked the entrance to his new project. The scrap that followed was fine, but each time Pivaro spoke it was embarrassing.
In short, the standard of acting that a youthful Pivaro had in the 1980s when he was inexperienced and learning has yet to develop. Put simply, the man cannot act any more. It was excruciating to watch.
I'm always in favour of bringing back old Coronation Street characters, and Terry was as important as any other secondary figure of the 1980s. Back then, there was far less emphasis on youth on Coronation Street - no characters under the age of 18 were taken seriously as members of the cast - so the three twentysomething lads on the Street were almost a token gesture, yet came into their own. Still the likes of Hilda Ogden, Ivy Tilsley and Elsie Tanner dominated what was going on, but Terry, Kevin and Curly were solid and relatable.
The problem is that Terry, courtesy of his misanthropy, violence, promiscuity and general badness, has been put on a pedestal. His character moved on but for realism's sake, had to keep coming back whenever something occurred, in order to keep the Duckworths as a viable name. Back he came for his wedding to Lisa, for Tommy's sale, for Vera's kidney transplant, for the purchase of the Rovers, and for the death of Vera (though not the death of Jack). Each time, the acting got worse.
Now there is an overplayed menace to him, something which simply doesn't come off. Pivaro's face contorts, he raises his neck and looks down with one side of his face twitching. If this is due to nature, then that's regrettable. If it's his way of doing menace, it's embarrassing. The character may be unedifying and unscrupulous but he isn't slow, and that was the impression Pivaro gave, especially during the brief moment when he was chatting to some unnamed councillor outside the disused premises.
Four weeks we have ahead of Terry Duckworth. I hope it improves, and I hope the storyline is worth it. Furthermore, having already seen Paul Clayton come and go, and now Tommy Duckworth, at some point before long Coronation Street will introduce a teenaged Brad Armstrong, Terry's second illegitimate son and his third altogether by a third woman, giving Terry another ill-conceived opportunity to come back.
One more thing continues to trouble me: why is Tommy never troubled by the fact that he is now living on the street, and indeed almost opposite the very spot, where his mother was run over and killed? Yet when his dad turns up he gets all sentimental and maudlin. Something doesn't ring true there.
Still, away from the grotesque return of one old character, we also had the more touching return of another, as finally Betty's death was confirmed via the return of Bill Kenwright as her son Gordon. His real-life status for many years as owner of Everton FC got some wags on Twitter on overdrive ("no wonder he looks sad after that performance on Saturday") but for a guy apparently out of practice, he did really well. This was Coronation Street at its best, as it always has been; the establishment characters of gravitas and sympathy sitting Gordon down and sharing their fond memories of Betty. Ken, Rita, Emily, Norris and, to an extent Steve all played their part in a wonderful dramatic group eulogy. Notably and shrewdly, despite the character's ubiquity alongside Norris and Rita, there was no sign of Mary, and indeed no place for her.
Again, however, there was an issue. For all the memories of Betty's husband Cyril, father of Gordon, had everybody deliberately forgotten that she remarried as a pensioner? She met up with old flame Billy Williams and married him only a decade ago and was besotted, but he died not long afterwards. One assumes that his character's memory would at least have been considered by the thoughtful people around that table. Instead, he was airbrushed out entirely.
There'll be another dubious plotline at the funeral later in the week, and if you've seen your previews in the TV supplements at the weekend, you'll know what it is. But nevertheless, to devote such a large chunk of an episode to the memory of a cobbles legend in the form of a simple but divinely written script of tributes was impeccably done.
Talking of the funeral, I wonder if Coronation Street had yet another go at persuading Jean Alexander out of retirement one last time? Unlike Pivaro, I imagine she could return as her character any time she chose and still be as brilliant and as beautifully observed as she ever was at Hilda's peak.
Anyway, once Betty is laid to rest - which will also undoubtedly prompt a truce between Audrey and David too - we wait for the next big thing to break. Terry Duckworth will undoubtedly be at the heart of it - so let's see if Pivaro is able to put his heart fully into it. Early indications aren't good.