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TV review: Coronation Street (ITV1)

Andrew Sachs makes a high profile return to TV on the cobbles of Weatherfield. Gerry Corner's verdict?

Published on May 18th 2009.

TV review: Coronation Street (ITV1)

FOR once, the word ironic does not seem misplaced. Although Andrew Sachs insists he and Coronation Street bosses had talked before, it was the scandal over Russell Brand's hard-core phone call to the veteran actor that put him back in the minds of the producers. I bet.

The Kabin bobs
along despite the recession and despite appearing to open
only when Rita or Norris can drag themselves away
from the pub

As sex did for Brand, so the Sachs brand suddenly became hot property. And while we were all feeling sorry for him, Friday's double header of the Street marked Sachs' most high profile TV appearance since Fawlty Towers when, as Manuel, he played a slow-witted Spanish waiter to the delight of one nation and the irritation of another.

His fateful meeting with Norris was trailed as a Wild West showdown. The Good, The Bad and The Fuddy Duddy.. As Ramsay Clegg, Clint Eastwood in a beige mac, Sachs plays a man who needs to lay an ancient and mysterious family feud to rest before death takes a hand.

Norris ain't backin' down and, as they eye each other across the floor of the local saloon, the womenfolk fear there will be trouble, but not as much as they fear missing out on the gory details. “I don't want to talk about it,” Norris insists. “Yes, but we do,” says Rita, eyeing Emily earnestly, but not as earnestly as Ernest, her erstwhile husband once did.

I don't suppose many prim, morally upright, God-fearing, about-to-be-octogenarian women regularly prop up the bar of their local pub but Emily Bishop is no ordinary woman. She is no stranger to gun-slinging for one thing – Ernest met his end when shot in a botched robbery.

Norris had no trouble recognising his half brother (“half too much”, he later broods) even though he had neither seen nor heard from him in 50 years. Twice Ramsay tried the door of the newsagent's Norris runs with Rita, and twice he found it firmly locked. Yet The Kabin bobs along despite the recession and despite appearing to open only when Rita or Norris can drag themselves away from the pub.

Much of Friday's hour was taken up with a steadfast Norris refusing to divulge whatever alleged evil his brother had perpetrated, despite the best efforts of Emily, his landlady and inquisitor, while Ramsay wandered the streets and cafes of Weatherfield, displaying every emotion from slightly crestfallen to slightly more crestfallen, though to be fair, Sachs looked like a good actor lacking good direction.

Luckily, the other major storyline was so devoid of dramatic tension that it made Norris's stand-off with Ramsay look like the Cuban missile crisis. Eileen seemed determined her wrong-doing dad was going into a care home, despite his suffering a stroke. She just never seemed determined enough. As the cast acted surprised when she changed her mind, eight million viewers tutted and sighed.

Jack Duckworth still supplies much of the light amongst the shade. Jack misses Vera like Little Ern missed Eric but actor Bill Tarmey manages to be funny without trying and that swivel-eyed double take has lost none of its comic potency.

The scriptwriters have stoutly refused to bend to modern fads for healthy eating, so Jack happily tucked into shepherds pie with a can of lager and half a loaf of white bread and butter piled slagheap-high on the plate.

By the time Norris sent Ramsay packing on Emily's doorstep with a chilling accusation – “it's been 50 years but you've still got blood on your hands” – the tension had almost reached simmering point. But not quite.

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lou grantMay 17th 2009.

Eileen Derbyshire is the mother of Oliver Holt, a former Daily Post writer who was apparently rather foxy himself, before going on to work in that London.

Stanley StreetMay 17th 2009.

I once saw Eileen Derbyshire (the actress who plays Emily Bishop) in Affleck's Palace and she was rather 'foxy', not at all like her dowdy character in Coronation Street.

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