50 years with the The Street
What a week it's turning out to be for Coronation Street fans. The 50th-anniversary episodes are finally on New Zealand television screens.
I've been glued to them. My early memories of the show are less enthusiastic. That dreary signature tune playing mournfully through my grandmother's house used to signal the start of a half-hour when she would be engrossed in The Street.
As a child, I used to find it all terribly boring. Now, some 35 years later, here I am halfway round the world watching Coronation Street with devotion.
In Canada, my sister and my mum also tune in. Few shows stand the test of time and travel like this. First broadcast in December 1960, Coronation Street has been around for more than 50 years and is watched in nearly 40 countries.
That's not bad for a show which, after its first episode, was dismissed by one major newspaper critic in Britain as "a dreary piece of nonsense". Recently, things have been anything but dreary in the street.
In last Friday's episode, we finally got to see the much-publicised ''event'' - the gas explosion and resulting tram crash. The moment of impact came in the last minute of the show, but the buildup was superb - that tram hurled into a street already simmering with personal tensions.
Molly had just told husband Tyrone she was leaving him and taking the enormous-headed baby Jack with her. A few doors down, dough-faced John Stape had planted a hammer in the back of mad Charlotte's head.
Is he now going to conveniently dispose of the body in the wreckage? At the Rovers Return, Leanne Battersby, torn between two lovers, sat gloomily through her hen night. Meanwhile, at Peter's stag night at The Joinery, all the men agreed they couldn't live without their women.
I don't know much about stag nights, but that seems an unlikely conversation. Luckily, the writers balanced it with a fight.
Sunday night's episode was the aftermath. There were a couple of unlikely moments. Jason Grimshaw surviving a house entirely engulfed in flames and saving Simon Barlow from an upstairs cupboard seemed implausible, while Gary Windass' post-traumatic stress flashbacks were hammered home a bit too much.
But by and large, it was high drama well done.With ambulances and fire crew delayed, it was lucky Dr Carter was on hand, having ventured into the Rovers for an after-work drink for the first time in his life.
"He's beyond help right now," he said bluntly to Gayle when she told him her son was trapped in the Joinery.
"It's unlikely the baby will survive," he told John Stape when asked what would happen if Fiz's baby arrived prematurely. So much for a bedside manner.
This man is like Dr Doom. To see who makes it through and who's culled in the Street's latest catastrophe, tune into the ''live'' episode on Thursday at 7.30pm on TV One.