Fiona Duff: Thanks for TV’s crowning glory

Jack and Vera Duckworth (Bill Tarmey and Liz Dawn), two of the best-loved characters in the show created by Tony Warren.  Picture: Granada TV
Jack and Vera Duckworth (Bill Tarmey and Liz Dawn), two of the best-loved characters in the show created by Tony Warren. Picture: Granada TV
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TONY Warren died last week. To many that name may mean nothing, but he came up with the idea of Coronation Street – the first television soap opera.

I love that programme and am so often the brunt of many jokes for that reason. But it is complete snobbery to mock the Corrie afflicted as it is one of the best written dramas in Britain.

I admit that sometimes it has gone a bit awry; a new producer arrives and decides that they need “young characters” whereas the real joy of this programme is in the older actors and the chemistry between them. Can anything be much more fun than listening to Rita and Norris bickering whilst sorting out the boiled sweets at the Kabin, or Sally getting all Hyacinth Bucket with grandiose ideas above herself. There was even a time when the luvviest of all luvvies, Ian McKellen, begged to appear as he was such an avid viewer.

At times it produces the best and funniest performances on television, at other times it can reduce me to tears. As a young actor or writer it must be television’s answer to rep theatre – I cannot imagine it is for the faint-hearted as five half-hours of prime-time each week doesn’t come from lying around on a chaise longue in a silk dressing gown drinking champagne.

The hottest show on television right now must be Happy Valley where Sarah Lancashire is getting the sort of reviews of which most thespians can only dream. Yet it doesn’t seem that long ago that she was pulling pints behind the bar of the Rovers Return and getting married to Curly the dustbin man. And Sally Wainwright, who wrote the compelling series spent several years churning out scripts for Coronation Street.

Looking through the list of writers is like a BAFTA roll call – Paul Abbott (Life On Mars), Jack Rosenthal (London’s Burning) and Jimmy McGovern (Cracker) to name but a few. I am such a devoted follower that I even have my favourite Coronation Street writer. When Jonathan Harvey is in charge of the words they are so beautiful, witty and bitchy that I can be left gasping. I don’t even have to watch the credits to know that his name will appear.

So farewell then, Mr Warren; truly a man who changed the face of television. It might not always have been for the best – a quick glance at some of the rubbish soaps on daytime American shows might have had him wondering what sort of monster he had created. But with Coronation Street he has created some of the most memorable characters on television who rarely appear fantastical but are still fantastic.

Anyway, must go – two episodes tonight so I need to get the kettle on for a nice cup of tea.

A slap-up treat for the birthday girl

MY youngest has her 15th birthday today – what do you buy someone of that age on a budget?

These days children seem to have almost everything they need (or their parents can afford) and I don’t feel it is right to give her money as she’ll only go and spend it in Costa or Gourmet Burger Kitchen, which are apparently THE places for teenagers to hang out. You have been warned!

However, I realised that she and her friends are experimenting with make-up; the results tend to make them look like clowns or ladies of the night.

So I have booked her a sessions at Frasers where there is a Benefit counter (her brand of choice when nicking my slap – it’s never the Maybelline that goes missing).

I, of course, shall be in attendance – unfortunately my mother didn’t have the foresight so I still don’t quite know how to apply eyeliner. You can call me Coco if you see me on a night out.

The Smiths are coming to town

In May two of my favourite Scottish actresses will be on stage together in Edinburgh. Annie The Musical may star the wonderful Elaine C Smith (pictured), but in the cast is Anne Smith.

The latter may not be as well known that of her namesake, but when it comes to allegiance she takes priority – years ago Anne was my flatmate in London.

In those days she was singing in the West End, heck I saw her performing as Evita at one of the big theatres that I can no longer remember. This tour has been going for a year, so it should be on tip-top condition when it arrives at The Playhouse.

I can’t wait to see both of them in it, and best of all there is a labradoodle and as a crazy old old dog lady I am already hooked.

The scones are a work of art

ARE you looking for a bit of culture in your life? I suggest you pop along to Holyrood Palace to see the new exhibition of Dutch Masters.

These chappies certainly knew what to do with a paintbrush and the results are hanging in this most beautiful of galleries. You don’t all have to rush at once because there is plenty of time as they will be there until end of July.

There’s something very soothing about quietly contemplating great works of art whilst walking around a building built for kings and queens. To be quite honest, I am happy just looking at the exterior of this impressive building.

And then when you have finished drinking in the skill and brilliance of these artists, pop into the cafe – they have lovely scones