IN THE world of soap, striking the balance of believable storylines and entertaining drama can be quite tricky.
Every now and again, we don’t mind suspending our sense of reality. When the plane fell out of the sky in Emmerdale for example – thus beginning its shift from plodding rural soap to glamour-and-murder-in-wellies-daily-diet which continues today – or, more recently, when the tram fell into Coronation Street, the high drama is rare enough to be exciting.
But too much high drama, and it becomes a little boring. That’s where EastEnders lives for me. Too many gangsters, too many random beatings, and too much sharp-tongued feuding.
At the other end of the scale at the moment is Coronation Street (ITV1). When the plot involving Tyrone Dobbs and his violent partner Kirsty first got going, there was little to suggest it would become such an accurate social commentary.
Over the past year, in a drip-drip-but-never-dragging sort of way, writers have cleverly created a storyline which has seen the happy-go-lucky, never-offended (apart from when his best friend and business partner was sleeping with his wife) Tyrone slowly find himself detached from the community around him by scheming partner Kirsty.
At some point last year, Kirsty, as 8 million viewers a week know, turned violent towards Tyrone – something he was too ashamed to admit. His decision not to tell anyone came back to haunt him when his secret affair with bubbly, but once-imprisoned-for-murder-until-cleared Fiz became known … at the church altar.
So far, so soap. But it's the way the script writers have dealt with Kirsty's allegations of being the abused victim which have stood out against the normal back drop to shouty soapland. Over the past few weeks, Coronation Street couldn't have been more true to life.
So-called friends judging Tyrone guilty even before he appears in court. Neighbours putting two and two together – Eileen's “I once heard shouting and shattered glass” being a great example – to turn Tyrone into a condemned man. And the brilliantly executed personal conversations between families – like the Websters – torn over whether to believe a convincing Kirsty over their knowledge of Tyrone.
It's not the only plot which is captivating me in Corrie at the moment. The spectacular fallout between Audrey and daughter Gail over the latter's fling with the former's love Lewis Archer has been brilliant to watch. Lewis, for those not a fan of the cobbles, is a serial conman who set his sights on turning over Gail after she tried to protect mum Audrey from him.
Unlike most other soaps, Corrie is playing with morality exceptionally well at the moment, providing scenes which force viewers to ask each other ‘What would I do?’ or ‘Who do I think is right here?’ Certainly, the decision by Audrey to keep the £9,000 Lewis robbed from Gail to repay her has added a new dimension to that.
For too long, soapland has relied on blood, guts and catastrophe to win viewers. They may come and watch, but they soon leave again having tasted that recipe. Somehow, Corrie feels back to its understated best.
What I’ll be watching next week: Not the most romantic of programmes, but Sky Atlantic’s launch of Vegas (Feb 14, 10pm) looks to be the standout new American drama arrival.