Saturday, September 24, 2005

Coronation Street – Too Much Sex and Not Enough Laughter


Jean Alexander as Corrie’s Hilda Ogden

Coronation Street legend Jean Alexander has launched an astonishing attack on the show - for having too much sex and not enough laughter.

The veteran actress, who played the much-loved Hilda Ogden, says she will never return to Weatherfield.

She believes TV today, including the Granada soap, is now "all about who's sleeping with whom".

She says it encourages girls as young as 13 to think they have to have a boyfriend if they want to be seen as normal.

She also claims there's not enough fun in the show and criticises the modern storylines, saying some are allowed to "drag on forever".

The 78-year-old actress, who this week earned the title of best-loved soap character of all time, said: "Times have changed and there are things going on in Weatherfield now that Hilda definitely wouldn't have approved of!"

Her attack comes as the Street faces increasing flak from critics who have accused it of laboured storylines, bizarre plots, and vulgar dialogue - a view echoed by Jean.

She told the Manchester Evening News: "People keep asking if I will ever go back to the Street but I definitely won't because I don't think it ever really works when people go back again.

"I know the programme tries to reflect life and in Hilda's time it was more simple and cosy. Today, life and attitudes have changed and permissiveness has crept up on us. So now it is all about who's sleeping with whom.

"The programme may reflect life, but equally young people are being influenced by what they see in it. Even girls of 13 think they absolutely must have boyfriends, otherwise people will think they aren't normal.

"Youngsters get rushed into things too quickly before they have had a chance to live. "I don't like so much emphasis on sex. I also wish there was more fun in Coronation Street.

"There used to be much more comedy. And whereas a storyline would usually be played out within three weeks, today certain storylines seem to drag on forever.

"I'm glad I was there in those earlier, more gentle years. I enjoyed my time as Hilda and it is lovely that viewers still remember her with such affection."

Despite her misgivings, Jean still tunes in to Britain's longest-running TV soap. She said: "I still have some good friends in the cast, so yes, I do still watch it to see what they are up to. There are now quite a lot of younger actors there and in a way I think they have it tougher than we did.

"We had the opportunity of learning our craft in rep (repertory theatre), doing a new play every week and tackling many different kinds of parts.

"During the 10 years I spent in rep I did more than 400 plays. Where can you get that kind of experience today? Now most of the reps have gone.

"Today, you can become famous on television without having done anything particularly remarkable.

"Reality programmes turn people into instant celebrities. I can't see the point of watching people sitting around chatting in a house."

It will be 18 years in December since Jean left the Street. She went on to play Aunty Wainwright in Last Of The Summer Wine and has just completed her 16th year in the part.

She said: "We are hoping to do another series next year. And, no, I've no plans to retire."

Jean, who lives in Southport, is amazed by the nation's enduring affection for Hilda. She said: "I've no idea why. I'm totally flummoxed."

"If they remember Hilda with such affection, then I'm happy and very flattered," says Jean. She adds: "It means that I did a good job and that's what I set out to do. I had 23 wonderful years playing Hilda.

"I worked with some of the Street's legends - Pat Phoenix (Elsie Tanner), Violet Carson (Ena Sharples), one of TV's greatest characters, Jack Howarth (Albert Tatlock), Arthur Leslie and Doris Speed (Jack and Annie Walker), all now sadly gone."

News source: Manchester Evening News

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