Monday, 8 November 2010

Goodbye to a Televisual legend - A Toast to Jack Duckworth

It's a sad day. Jack Duckworth is dead.

In Coronation Street's 50th year, he was one of its most iconic characters and now he's gone. He and wife Vera were one of the best comedic and well-loved double acts on TV for decades. Possibly the only couple that came near to out-shining them on the cobbles were Hilda and Stan Ogden.

A British Institution - Coronation St
I've watched the soaps since I was a child. It's a family thing. I used to watch pretty much all of them. But over the years they've slipped by the wayside. Emmerdale? Not any more. Neighbours and Home and Away? Far gone distant memories. The only two I still try and keep up-to-speed with are Coronation Street and Eastenders.

But I only have one all-time favourite - it has to be the genius that is Coronation St.

It began as a short-run 13 episode commissioned serial on December 9th 1960. It was originally to be called Florizel Street but sense was seen and it was given it's immortal title just before it was launched. It has now run for 7464 episodes and is now the longest running serial in the world after the demise, this year on September 17th, of the US soap opera 'As the World Turns' after 54 years on TV.

I find it incredible that such a long running series that has passed the test of time, could come to an as 'As the World Turns' has done. Coronation St, heading towards its 50th anniversary shows no sign of abating and long may that be the case.

A British Institution - The Coronation St Characters
What makes Coronoation St so popular in this humble fan's opinion, are the characters. For as along as 'Corrie' retains the wonderful human depth that it has showcased over the decades, it will survive well into the 21st century.

There are already some excellent, loved characters on the Cobbles who are relatively 'new' to the Street. Hayley and Roy Cropper, Norris Cole and Eileen Grimshaw are only a few that stand out. Then there's the 'old guard'. There's Rita, Gail, Deirdrie, Kevin and Sally, Emily and of course, from that very first episode 50 years ago, Ken. There's no need for me to state their surnames - we know who they are just by their Christian names such is the indelible mark that 'Corrie' has left on the British psyche.

These older characters are important because they remind those who remember, of an earlier Coronation St. These characters have over the years brushed shoulders with 'Corrie' legends, such as Ena Sharples, Annie Walker, Bette Gilroy, Elsie Tanner, Stan Ogden, Mike Baldwin, Minnie Caldwell, Derek and Mavis Wilton, Alma Baldwin, Alf Roberts, Martha Longhurst and Percy Sugden to mention but a few.

A British Institution - Jack Duckworth
Sadly, to that list of gone but not forgotten well-loved characters, we must add Jack Duckworth.

I'm too young to remember many of the oldest and greatest of 'Corrie' characters. I probably started watching in around 1990. So although Jack has 'only' been on set for 31 years since 1979, he has always been one of the most prominent characters throughout my 20 years of watching. Of course, he had his foil, wife Vera by his side throughout this period and their moments together provided some of the best comedy that I can remember.

It's the comedy, as well as the characters that sets Coronation St apart from Eastenders and the other soaps for me. Whether it was Stan and Hilda or Mavis and Derek or nowadays Rita and Norris, there's always been a rich vein of comedy running through the scripts.

Jack and Vera excelled here. Not just because of the writing, but because of Liz Dawn and Bill Tarmey's wonderful, human characterisation of these two stalwards. Jack was a loveable rogue. Well meaning and generous and caring to everyone who knew him. He was so on paper, but even more so through the acting of Bill Tarmey.

Good bye Jack
Tonight, he passed away peacefully after his 74th birthday. His 'reunion' with Vera had been talked about for some months. It was a bold move but fitting and in the event, very well done. It was lovely and rather moving to see these two old Corrie war-horses, brought back together one last time as Jack moved towards death. Yes, maybe it was a bit OTT, maybe it was pandering towards the hankerchiefs but actually, so what? When Vera died on screen in 2008, Jack and a nation mourned. Now, the scriptwriters decided to give Jack the send-off that all real Corrie fans will have wanted.
It was a final hurrah for the Duckworths. A sad day in the glorious history of Coronation St but one that must come to all of our best loved characters one day.

If they have to go, then let them go in style. Jack Duckworth went in style after swigging one final pint in the Rovers and after one final dance with Vera.

Ta-ra chuck.

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