Sunday, 5 July 2009

I need to get out more

Ask me if I'm a soap fan and the likelihood is I'll say 'Of course not! What? Watch that rubbish? I've got better things to do with my time!' However, take me to the pub, buy me a couple of pints of Harvey's Best Bitter (brewed nearby in Lewes) and then ask the same question, and you may get a very different answer. Because soaps are not only very popular and successful, but also (in my opinion) extremely well written. My own favourite, were I to have one, would be Coronation Street.

The Street, or Corrie, if you prefer, has been on our screens since the 9th December 1960. Some of the earlier episodes were broadcast live; something that many present day actors would probably baulk at. I remember Corrie in the sixties as a grim, gritty, black and white piece, populated by women in snoods and hairnets, and men wearing cloth caps and waistcoats; a bit like Keith Waterhouse's Billy Liar, but without the humour. Back in the sixties the dark satanic mills were still milling away like crazy; this was long before most northern industries closed down, unable to compete with imported goods, and the factories were sold off as stylish apartment blocks.

Of course, there have been a good many changes to The Street over the years; most of the old 'well I'll go to the foot of our stairs' characters have gone, replaced by brash underwear manufacturers, corner shop magnates and serial adulterers/adulteresses. But the scripts remain strong and, moreover, take themselves far less seriously than in the early years. But I can't help feeling that, despite the humour, The Street is more akin to a Greek tragedy than anything else. Sophocles couldn't have written anything better. Back in the old days, Corrie had a proper chorus - Ena Sharples, Minnie Caldwell and Martha Longhurst, three old ladies, holed up with their milk stout in the snug of the Rovers, commenting upon the things taking place in their narrow world. Then there's the way the characters are constantly punished by the gods...sorry, I mean scriptwriters. Eileen finds herself a boyfriend (again); won't be long before she discovers he's an escaped lunatic, a fraudster, or he gets murdered. Jack Duckworth wins a fortune on the horses; his betting slip is bound to go missing, get eaten by a pigeon, or used as loo paper by an elf. And don't even get me started on the misery, mayhem and bloodshed that inevitably accompanies every soap wedding...

I understand that scriptwiters prefer their soaps to be called 'serial dramas' now. I suppose it makes them sound more like serious pieces of work. And some of them are serious. Take Casualty, for example. You can't get any more serious than that. But Casualty is unintentionally funny, because it is filled with (in my opinion) stereotypical medical drama characters, bizarre coincidences that wouldn't be out of place in a Dickens novel, and patients/others who effect such swift about turns in their attitudes and relationships with others it's a wonder their heads don't spin. Set in a hospital in Holby (because the writers couldn't spell 'Bristol') it deals with the lives of the doctors, nurses and patients who are unfortunate enough to either work there, or wind up on a trolley (at which point they invariably go into 'VF', whatever that is, even if they only popped in to ask about an ingrowing toenail). All the stereotypes are there; overbearing consultants, senior administrators banging on about finances and waiting times, loopy doctors, cheery, empty-headed porters, stroppy patients, demanding relatives...

I'd quite like to write a Casualty script. There needs to be a sub-plot running, which later impacts on the main action. There have to be a couple of new characters, introduced early on, who either get killed or maimed and have to visit aforesaid hospital as a result. And someone's life/views/attitude has to be changed beyond all belief by the end of the show. Here goes...

1. A group of hooded teenagers are hanging around Holby town centre, drinking cheap cider and swearing at passers-by. One elderly man (war hero, with medals) remonstrates with them and is floored by a cider bottle slung by one of these ne'er-do-wells. A young and openly gay man challenges the youths and then runs to render first aid to the elderly man, who says, 'Get off me. I won't be touched by your sort!'

2. An ambulance is called to deal with the above and loads up the casualty. As it drives off, it is pelted with bottles and windscreen is broken, putting it out of action. The paramedic's hands are badly cut by flying glass. Another ambulance attends and the crew of the first waits for a breakdown truck.

3. Meanwhile, across town, a plate glass salesman is saying goodbye to his wife: 'Won't be long, dear, I've just got to walk this huge sheet of glass across town. The pond's frozen, so I think I'll use it as a shortcut. It should be fine.'

4. Back at the hospital, loopy doctor has been invited to deliver a lecture on pulmonary embolisms to a group of visiting GPs. She agonises about said lecture to at least six colleagues, all of whom say, 'you'll be fine'. Loopy doctor eventually takes a copy of something she has found on the internet.

5. On the other side of town, a tanker driver is receiving his day's orders. He has been told to take a tankerfull of nitric acid to Holby Docks. He punches the details into a brand new satnav, and is given a route which is set to take him past the Holby Glycerine Works.

6. Back in the town centre, the police spot the youths who assaulted the old man. The youths run off and one of them is knocked down by a car, right in front of the disabled ambulance. The paramedics, being heavily bandaged, are unable to save his life and he dies at the scene.

7. Back to our plate glass salesman. Whilst crossing the frozen pond, he accidentally drops the glass and it breaks the ice, tipping him into the freezing water. He apparently drowns.

8. At the Hospital, loopy doctor is delivering her lecture. Unfortunately, in the audience is the writer of the article she has stolen from the internet. He challenges her and she becomes distraught and hysterical, running out of the hospital, intending to kill herself.

9. Whilst driving past the Glycerine works, the tanker driver has a heart attack. His vehicle crashes through the gate and into the factory. The resulting fireball and huge loss of life sets the scene for next week's episode.

10. Loopy doctor decides to drown herself and runs down to Holby pond. But she sees the plate glass man under water, forgets about her own miserable life, and saves his.

11. Gay man tries to visit the elderly gent in hospital, but the latter tells him to go away, citing his lifelong hatred of homosexuals.

12. Nurse overhears elderly man and engages him in conversation for a few minutes, seeking to explain the error of his ways.

13. Elderly man's eyes are opened for the first time in ninety years. He embraces the gay man as if he were a long lost grandson and invites him to tea.

14. The dead youth is brought into casualty. As he is taken through to the mortuary the heavily bandaged paramedic realises that it is, in fact, her brother's son. She tries to phone her brother on his mobile.

15. We cut to a mobile phone, ringing in the cab of a blazing lorry outside the glycerine factory...

Well? What do you think? Is there a career for me in the heady world of serial drama? Or should I just stick to blogging...?

14 comments:

Madame DeFarge said...

Well, I'm hooked. I think that you have a glittering future ahead of you. Really I do. Corrie is my favourite, although, like you, I never watch it. But what is Kevin doing with Molly? It'll all end in Tyrone's tears.

chris hale said...

Yay! My favourite Civil Servant. Well! Kevin and Molly! Tonight's The Night, apparently. Get back to the telly or you'll miss it! Not that you watch it, of course...

SandyCalico said...

I have never watched an episode of Casualty, well not a whole one anyway, but the bits I did see appear to have been recorded faithfully on your blog. That is just what it's like. Thanks for making me laugh :-)

Comedy Goddess said...

I feel like I am missing out on so much! I haven't heard of any of those shows.

Of course you would make a wonderful script writer!

PS
I happen to think blogs are the real soaps, don't you?

chris hale said...

Sandy - Thank you. Let me know what you do watch and I'll have a bash at a script (as long as it's not Eastenders!)

CG - Strange...we Brits have heard of (and seen) nearly all of yours. Perhaps British soaps, like wine, don't travel well. And yes, blogs are the new soaps!

Val said...

oh yes - a career move! was Coronation Street the first soapie ever?

mo.stoneskin said...

Soaps I hate, and refuse to watch, Harveys I love and would buy you a pint if we agreed not to talk about soaps...

chris hale said...

Val - The first TV soap was (of course) American. It was called The First Hundred Years and was produced by soap company Procter and Gamble in 1950. Despite its title, it only lasted two years!

Mo - It's a deal!

Helen Smith said...

Yay!

You need to write an original drama based loosely on that secret society we discussed, where the members meet in darkness under assumed names, and the minutes are written on rose petals.

You must insist on starring in it.

chris hale said...

Helen - Yay! It shall be called Twitterati sub Rosa, and I, Dirk Pygmalion, shall be the star! Mind, I shall insist that the programme has a twenty year old black and white photograph of me...nothing too recent!

Derrick said...

Sorry it's taken me a while to comment, Chris, but I've been totally gripped by all the action. I was living it!

I used to watch Corrie - YES, I did - but the storyline gets loopier by the day. Kevin & Molly? And the Scottish murderer and the ex(?)-hairdresser, whose names I can't even recall? Puhleeese!

But I think you've got a future!

Comedy Goddess said...

Hey Chris,
You must have gone out. It's been quite a while since I've seen anything around here.
Enjoy your trip!
Elise

chris hale said...

Derrick - Question...if you used to watch Corrie, why is it you're so familiar with the most recent Kevin and Molly story line...?

CG - No, Elise, not gone away; just willing the builders to give me back my home! When building ends, more regular blogging can begin! x

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