Sunday, August 02, 2009

The Platts' Doorbell

Many people are snobby about soaps. "Oh, I never watch soaps," they say in the tones of "Oh I never do that terribly inferior thing, you low-class person".

Actors in soaps aren't always given a lot of status either. If you play Hamlet or Macbeth, and do it well, everyone admires you and you might get a BAFTA and, after some time, a knighthood.

On the other hand, if you're in a soap, until fairly recently (with the advent of the British Soap Awards) you were given no plaudits whatever.

It's true that some actors in soaps - particularly in the Seventies - were cast to type - in other words, to play someone very similar to how they are in real life. But even that's not easy to do when there are lines to remember and you have to remember what props to use when and where to walk to, and you're filming many scenes a day.

Many soap actors - especially those in major roles - are cast, these days, as actors who can play a role very different from themselves. We Corrie (that's Coronation Street) fans all loved John Savident as Fred Elliott in Coronation Street and it was hard, for those who hadn't seen him previously, to imagine him without the strong Lancashire accent and the tendency to repeat everything, I say it was hard to imagine him without the strong Lancashire accent and the tendency to repeat everything. But he's an experienced actor with a cut-glass Standard English accent and an incredibly long cv in both screen and theatre - and that, of course, was why he was so good!

Some soap scripts are terrific. They have a pool of writers, of course, and when you get a good one, such as Jonathan Harvey , sometimes the scripts are so well-written and witty that I look to see who the writer is.

Sometimes, however, there's a pedestrian, limp script from a writer who's having an off-day and then it's up to soap actors to save it and bring it to life - and I really admire them when they do.

So I've never thought it fair that an actor with the Royal Shakespeare Company, playing a character written by Shakespeare - who really did know how to write!! - with five weeks' rehearsal and a top director, gets all the awards, when a soap actor, filming many scenes in a day and then going home to learn the scripts for the next day, doesn't.

Yes, the "regulars" in soaps are well-paid - - and yes, it's not eight hours at the coal face and in general they enjoy their work - but even so, it is hard work and I find it hard to understand people who think that it's not - they have never tried it, of course!

In Britain there are three big soaps - Coronation Street, EastEnders and Emmerdale.

Coronation Street, set Up North in the fictional Weatherfield near Manchester, is the best, (yes, I know, that's just my opinion but it's my blog!) because it has a lot of great comedy and can also do the dramatic scenes, and it has some superb actors (and one or two duff ones, as with all soaps!). Actors know this and they all want to get into Coronation Street - even one of Britain's greats, Sir Ian McKellen (Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings films) was in Coronation Street for a while a year or too back - simply because he wanted to be.

I used to love EastEnders - set in the East End of London - when it first started in 1985, but I stopped watching when it increased the number of episodes and became progressively more gloomy at the same time. I haven't watched it for years but I know many people love it.

Emmerdale is a strange half-way house - set in the Yorkshire Dales, it used to be called Emmerdale Farm and to be all about farming and the countryside. Now it's hardly about farming at all - just occasionally they bring in a sheep to try to be true to its roots. Sometimes it tries to do comedy, too, but never, in my opinion, succeeds as well as Coronation Street.

All soaps happen at too fast a rate for me to watch them, so I record them all and then catch up in a big Soap Session. This weekend I've been catching up on Coronation Street. You get drawn into Soap World and you forget what else is going on.

Now then. In Coronation Street the Platt family have the same doorbell that we do. And in the episodes that I've been watching, there have been a lot of visitors.

So there I am, watching away, happily lost in Soap World - - and then the doorbell goes, and suddenly I'm back to reality, out in the hall, trying to answer the front door - - and then I realise that the ding-dong was coming from the television.

So I settle back down - - and ten minutes later, it happens again - - and I fall for it again, I'm out in the hall, bewildered.

The Platts have had that doorbell for at least ten years, probably longer. We have had ours for about forty years, so responding to that sound is really ingrained in me.

If there's ever a plotline when the Platts' doorbell breaks, I shall be very grateful indeed.


Anonymous Milo said...

I've gone through phases of watching both Corrie and Eastenders though watch neither now. Agree that Corrie is the better of the 2. At university we all watched Eastenders (less so Corrie). My mother, grandmother and aunt all watched Corrie when we were growing up.

Eastenders had its heyday in the Dirty Den days, of course.

Remember Eldorado? I watched that for the brief time it was on. Not very good.

8:09 pm  
Blogger Bernard said...

I couldn't decide whether to comment on this or not....You see I have never....wot never?...No never! (G&S) watched these thingies you refer to as soap. (Why soap?).
So, as I am not in a position fore or against...I shall abstain.
I'm actually too busy doing other things.

8:45 pm  
Blogger Daphne said...

Milo - I never saw Eldorado but it did look rather gloriously dreadful. My family never watched Corrie - they never watched ITV as they disapproved of the adverts, so I only discovered it in my twenties.
Bernard - - not even hardly ever? (Yes, I was in HMS Pinafore once!)I do lots of other things too of course - - but Corrie is a welcome break from some of them!

11:08 pm  
Blogger Silverback said...

In the early day, in America, these shows were mainly sponsored by soap companies and the name has stuck for this genre.

Gosh I came over all Wikipedia there !

I actually watched a bit of the Eastenders omnibus yesterday and I thought I was watching a foreign show.....well apart from the accents. It's certainly...ah....cosmopolitan. I also saw a kid who sounded like the old Ian Beale and then Ian Beale arrived and he was a lardy tub. Glad the show is still true to life. Hehe.
And I'll have to watch Corrie more closely when it comes to the Platts doorbell as I've no recollection of it ever being used....except maybe by the police who call regularly. Street people just seem to walk in.

1:28 pm  
Blogger Diz said...

Don't you ever do the opposite?
Assume it's on tv, and miss a caller?

3:54 pm  

Post a Comment

<< Home