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article imageFavourites about to return on Coronation Street, Doctor Who?

By Andrew John     Mar 19, 2010 in Entertainment
Bet Lynch, the UK’s favourite fictional landlady, could be about to make a return to the cobbled streets of one of the country’s favourite soap operas, Coronation Street.
Coronation Street is a long-running British prime-time soap opera, set in the Northern fictional town of Weatherfield, near Manchester, and is affectionately known as Corrie, Corrors or the Street.
Although Street bosses are keeping tight-lipped, speculation is rife that Phil Collinson, the show’s soon-to-be new producer, is keen to bring back the character, who first appeared in 1966. As producer, Collinson has been brought in to oversee the show’s 50th-anniversary celebrations later this year.
Collinson’s appointment follows his successful tenure as the first series producer of the revived BBC drama, Doctor Who, a position he held from 2004. He worked alongside the ninth and tenth Doctors, Christopher Eccleston and David Tennant, before leaving the show in 2008, to become head of drama at BBC Manchester.
During his time on Doctor Who, Collinson successfully brought back one of the show’s all-time favourite characters, Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen). Sladen – who once starred as Anita Reynolds in Coronation Street, before landing the role as companion to the third and fourth Doctors, Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker in the 1970s – has since gone on to star in the Who spin-off series, The Sarah Jane Adventures, which has recently been commissioned for fourth and fifth series.
Could Collinson be about to repeat that success in Coronation Street, by reinstating one of the soap’s most popular characters – the former Rovers Return barmaid-turned-landlady?
According to ITV, “Just a glimpse of Bet back on the cobbles will be enough to get fans tuning back in.”
Julie Goodyear played the character of Bet Lynch for a quarter of a century. She became famous for her provocative clothing, big earrings, bleached-blonde beehive hairdo and outrageous leopardskins, before leaving the show in 1995, just after receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award at the National Television Awards.
Goodyear has already returned to the part on several occasions: briefly in 1999, 2002 and 2003. In 2002, the plan was for her character to return permanently, but Goodyear was forced to withdraw after only a few episodes, due to ill health. Since 2008, she has appeared in an advertising campaign on ITV for the soap powder Daz Liquitabs. The soap-powder ad, Cleaner Close, in which she appears in a Bet Lynch-trademark leopard-print dress, carries the strapline, “The soap you can believe in.”
When his appointment as Corrors producer was first announced, Collinson, who is a long-standing fan of Coronation Street and, particularly, the character of Bet Lynch, said: “I am absolutely thrilled to be joining Corrie, the nation’s favourite street, and a show I’ve been a huge fan of all my life. It goes without saying that it’s a tremendous honour to be entrusted with building on Coronation Street’s success and creating the must-see storylines for 2010 and beyond . . . I can’t wait to get stuck in.”
In recent years, the producers of the soap have tended to concentrate on storylines concerning the show’s younger characters, of which it’s been reported that older viewers have become increasingly unhappy. The Sunday tabloid News of the World has claimed, from a show insider, that: “Phil feels viewers have been turning off because the show has become a teen soap, like Hollyoaks. So he’s set a brief to make changes and revive the golden days. Julie is on the top of the list.
“Phil thinks she stands for everything about the show – the humour and the campness of Corrie. Phil’s aim is to make the show more about the older, more established characters. The Street celebrates a landmark later this year so it seems natural that they would want the big names back in the show for then.”
Phil Collinson and Elisabeth Sladen aren’t the only links between the two shows. Having both started in the 1960s, Doctor Who and Coronation Street have entered into British culture as television institutions. Over the years, a number of Doctor Who regulars – including William Russell, Frazer Hines, Elisabeth Sladen and the second Doctor, Patrick Troughton – have also played parts in Coronation Street, while Coronation Street regulars Sarah Lancashire, Sharon Duce and Edward de Souza have appeared in Doctor Who.
Later this year, June Whitfield, 84, is to join the cast of Coronation Street, following her appearance recently in executive producer Russell T Davies’s final Doctor Who episodes.
In 2005, Antony Cotton told the gay publication Pink Paper that Davies (who once worked as a storyliner on the flagship soap) wanted him to play a “gaylien” during his first series of Doctor Who. However, Cotton was unavailable due to his commitment to the Street, in which he has played the out-gay character Sean Tully since 2003.
Meanwhile, in January this year, one of Cotton’s Coronation Street colleagues, Craig Gazey (who plays Graeme Proctor), admitted to Digital Spy that he dreamed of one day playing the Doctor, though the 27-year-old actor conceded that securing the coveted Doctor Who role would be a big challenge.
In the late 1980s, during seventh Doctor Sylvester McCoy’s tenure, the BBC aired Doctor Who directly opposite ITV’s Coronation Street. At the time, the soap (the only UK dramatic series to surpass Doctor Who in longevity) consistently scored higher ratings, and was widely considered to be a contributing factor in the sci-fi series being taken off the air in 1989. However, since its triumphant return in 2005, viewing figures for Doctor Who have often equalled or surpassed those of Coronation Street.
Away from TV screens, writers have ensured that the two shows remain linked. A Doctor Who short story, “Christmas Special” by Marc Platt (published by Big Finish in Short Trips: A Christmas Treasury), included a reference to the 1980s’ battle for viewers between the two shows. In it, the sixth Doctor (Colin Baker) dreams that his life becomes the basis for a TV programme, which is cancelled in favour of Coronation Street. In one eighth Doctor (Paul McGann) story, The Sleep of Reason, an Irish wolfhound, Betsy, had a penchant for barking during the Corrie theme tune, while in another, The Gallifrey Chronicles, casualties of a Vore invasion of Earth included members of the soap-opera’s cast!
Back to the present, the official Coronation Street line is that no decisions have yet been made. A spokesperson told Sky recently, “There are lots of exciting things being planned for the 50th anniversary, but nothing has been finalised.”
Meanwhile, Doctor Who – three years younger than its sixties’ sibling – reaches its milestone 50th anniversary in 2013. To date, the Doctor has been played by eleven actors, including the first, William Hartnell, fifth, Peter Davison, and eleventh, Matt Smith, who made his debut on New Year’s Day.
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