Hanging out on the Street …

So, recently, I started watching “Coronation Street”, a British soap opera that my grandmother had been watching for many years. I think I need to explain how that happened …

Well, see, it started because I don’t have cable, but do have a nice, shiny HD antenna hooked up to my TV. When they switched in Canada to HD, I was able to get a small number of channels, including the CBC. When I’m working, I used to, at least, get up at about 5 am. Let me tell you, there’s nothing on TV at 5 am, so I’d usually flip on the CBC — as almost everything else except TVO was running infomercials — to catch the news at 6 am before heading out to work. And then I’d leave it there.

Now, on CBC, Coronation Street runs at about 6:30 pm. Which happened to be right about the time I was flipping on the TV to watch DVDs or play a game or both. And so I’d end up catching a few seconds of it before changing to the DVD player. Maybe more, if I tossed it on and then went to finish a few other things before settling in to watch other shows.

And while it was on, I noticed a few things. First, I noticed Leanne Barlow (played by Jane Danson). Then, later, I noticed Carla Connor (played by Alison King). Both caught my attention, at least for a short period of time. And I also noticed Craig Charles, who I knew from such other fine shows as “Red Dwarf” and “Robot Wars”. Familiarity helped to weaken any token resistance I might have had, especially since he did an okay job with it. Add in the fact that sometimes I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do for the rest of my evening, and it was easy to simply sit down and watch/read for a bit until I decided or until it was a more convenient time to watch a DVD.

And the thing about any type of soap opera is that they’re easy to get into. Despite being dropped into the middle of a very long-running show, and even with sporadic watching, I could figure out who was who and what was what without too much trouble. And there’s always at least one or two stories going on that might catch your interest (and generally more) so something is always happening.

But I wouldn’t have gotten into it except that CBC is trying to catch up to where they are in England, and while I think they always ran it on Sunday mornings now they run it from something like 7 am – noon. For a long time, I wasn’t home on Sunday mornings, but when I started to be home I discovered, yet again, that there was nothing on TV on Sunday mornings and I wanted something that I could kinda ignore on Sunday mornings (so no DVDs that I really wanted to watch). And so I left it on. And that’s how I got into the situation where I now actually try to watch it.

The odd thing about it is that unlike other shows, if I watch it on weekday evenings I don’t really want to watch those episodes on Sunday mornings again, unlike most of the other shows I like.

At any rate, it’s an odd little show. It seems to be like a slice-of-life soap opera, which I haven’t seen much of in North America. Most North American soap operas are about well-to-do people: businesspersons (of major corporations), doctors, lawyers, police officers, and so on. There are people in more mundane occupations, but they aren’t common. This is flipped; generally you have small business owners and the like but in general they’re all just what I guess you’d call “working class”. It’s different to me but it is somewhat interesting.

The problem, though, is that it is about ordinary people but often includes extraordinary circumstances. At this point, I’ve seen a massive fraud/murder situation and a marriage scheme, and another fraud case. Sure, some of these things happen to ordinary people as well, but it strikes me that they’re using the same sort of dramatics that soap operas generally use on characters that don’t seem to apply to such massive amounts of scheming and drama. And I wonder if this is because of escapism. While you want to be able to relate to characters in the show, you also don’t want their lives to be exactly like yours because, well, you don’t watch TV to view your own life, but to view something different from it. And, obviously, something more interesting than your life. Thus, it needs drama, and drama that is not your average, every-day drama. Thus, an increased focus on dramatic situations.

It’s an interesting balance to strike. The increased familiarity allows for less drama, but also means that the more drama you try to add the odder it will seem that this is happening in this sort of environment. We can all see why the characters on, say, “Days of Our Lives” keep getting caught up in schemes and dramatic situations, given the world they inhabit, but have to wonder how stupid the characters on Coronation Street have to be to get into their predicaments. Too much stupidity and it becomes hard to relate to them, which means you lose the thing that appeals to the audience in the slice-of-life type of show.

I’m not sure if, for me, I’m at the point where I consider them too stupid to relate to, but more on that later.

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