TV film review: The Road to Coronation Street (2010), directed by Charles Sturridge
tl;dr: Watchable even for non-Corrie watchers. Top notch music.
It’s early 1960s. Tony Warren (David Dawson), an aspiring actor from Manchester, tries to get hired at Granada Television but isn’t having much luck. “Shame you’re not a writer,” says Margaret Morris (Jane Horrocks), “they’re crying out for those.” Tony responds that actually, he IS a writer – a screenwriter to boot! – and to make a long story short, he’s hired as a screenwriter.
He soon becomes bored of writing Biggles adaptations and asks his boss, Canadian Harry Elton (Englishman Christian McKay) about writing something of his own. He hands in a script for a show he calls Florizel Street, about ordinary working class Mancunians leading ordinary lives. Elton loves it. The Granada bosses (Steven Berkoff and Henry Goodman) and the board do not. Who’d want to watch ordinary people on the television?
An almighty battle to bring to screen what has since become the longest running drama TV show in British history commences. Sure, they can make a pilot, but getting it commissioned? Please.
I have to admit having never willingly sat through an entire episode of Coronation Street. I hurl myself at the remote as soon as the EastEnders starts playing so I can change the channel. I’m just not keen on soaps. I wouldn’t have decided to choose to watch a TV film about how one came to be either, but the trailer came on, I went “OMG CHRISTIAN MCKAY!” and, well, *gestures vaguely at blog.*
There are many things to like about this production. The insight into how TV was commissioned back in 1960, for starters, but a soundtrack heavily featuring The Shadows? I’m in! (My dad was a big fan, and I’ve ended up really liking their stuff too.)
Then there’s the star-studded cast, such as John Thompson as script editor Harry Kershaw, Shaun Dooley as director Derek Bennett, Phoebe Nicholls as Tony’s mum, Sophia Di Martino as Josie Scott, Michelle Holmes as Brenda, and all the actors playing the actors playing the original characters: Celia Imrie as Doris Speed, Lynda Baron as the intimidating Violet Carson, Tara Moran as Edna Walker, James Roache as his real-life father William Roache, and Jessie Wallace off of EastEnders (!) as Pat Phoenix.
As I haven’t been watching Corrie, especially not two decades before I was born, who the original cast were means nothing to me, because I have no idea who any of them are/were, so I might have mixed them up in the previous paragraph. The biggest impression was probably Jessie Wallace’s fiery Pat Phoenix, followed by the grumpy-no-nonsense-old-lady Violet Carson.
Dawson’s bleached hair kept distracting, but I was rooting for Tony to succeed. Which was, of course, very much helped by Harry Elton and his moustache. Alright fine, perhaps the moustache had less to do with his willingness to fight for what he believed in, but he came across with both passion and charm and there needs to be more things where Christian McKay plays a large part, okay? Because that charm can be put to such good use, and he’s such an underrated actor.
Has this generally enjoyable production given me a craving to start catching up on sixty years worth of Corrie? Hahahaha no, even though the Sky box decided to series link it for me. I’d much rather scour the streaming services to which we subscribe for films featuring Christian McKay.
4 out of 5 living room sets.