07/14/2011 03:00 EDT | Updated 10/18/2011 11:03 EDT

Real Men Watch Coronation Street

Coronation Street characters are just ordinary people like you and I, who eat, drink, and smoke, and have their fair share of ordinary problems. (We can all identify with murder, identity theft, kidnapping and prostitution, can't we?)


A reader of my previous blog (on Culture Club/'80s music) asked me if my taste in film/literature was as poor as my taste in music.

Besides the fact that he missed the point of my post entirely, I'd have to say that my taste in movies and books is fairly mainstream -- last book read, Life by Keith Richards (fantastic, by the way), last movie seen...c'mon now, we're parents of a three-year-old, who has time to actually go to the cinema?!

As a result, many of our evenings involve catching up on our favourite shows. Actually, make that favourite show. Ever since Lost and Prison Break went off the air, I've been rather unenthusiastic when it comes to the current offerings on prime-time TV.

Thank goodness, then, for Coronation Street, a shining beacon in a sea of otherwise forgettable sitcoms and cop dramas (the odd episodes of Modern Family and Law & Order notwithstanding).

You'll notice I didn't say exactly what sort of beacon Corrie is. After all, if someone had to sum up Coronation Street, it'd sound rather nondescript and quite far-fetched:

"It's about these people that live on a street in the fictional UK town of Weatherfield, and they all work on the street and then meet in the local pub (called the Rovers Return and also on the street) at various times throughout the day, pretty much every day. Oh yeah, and loadsa people die (118 and counting) and various other bits of drama ensue."

Or, as one wag at put it: "A shitty, overrated piece of television in which everything unrealistically occurs on one street."

Regardless of your opinion of Corrie, it must be doing something right, it's been on the air since 1960 and more than 775,000 Canadians tune in every night.

Funnily enough, I used to detest Coronation Street growing up. In fact, the theme song still reminds me of my childhood and being stuck inside on a rainy Sunday, bored witless. The melancholy bleating of that bloody trumpet was the soundtrack to my despair.

Fast forward to a decade ago, when Heather and I were up at my family cottage and stuck indoors during a rainy Sunday morning. Ironically, the only thing on television was Coronation Street -- so out of sheer desperation, we watched the weekly omnibus edition, which was five straight episodes. After that, we were hooked.

As I'd mentioned previously, there have been something like 118 deaths on Coronation Street. You're probably thinking to yourself, "well, that's not out of the ordinary for 50 odd years", but bear in mind that Coronation Street comprises a handful of houses/flats, a smattering of businesses and a pub. If people were dying willy nilly (and in quite nefarious ways) on your street, there would at least be some sort of inquest! But on Coronation Street, the Grim Reaper is never too far away (actually, he's probably having a pint of bitter at the Rovers Return and blending in with some of the more, shall we say, wizened regulars).

Speaking of which, pretty much every character on the show spends at least part of their day drinking in the local pub. Who knew that many functioning alcoholics could live on one street? If I drank that much ale, a kidney stone would be the least of my concerns.

And in true Brit fashion, they often pop into the local chippy, café or kebab shop for a post-pub nosh! Still, I suppose that's part of Corrie's charm. They're just ordinary people who eat, drink, and smoke, and have their fair share of ordinary problems (we can all identify with murder, identity theft, kidnapping and prostitution, can't we?).

I always get a kick out of the British colloquialisms that never seem to make it across the pond. Like minging, which can mean everything from ugly, as in, "She's well minging," to smelly ("Mate, throw that kebab out, it's minging") and all things gross and disgusting in between.

Or nowt, which means nothing, as in, "Now't going on round here, mate", muppet, a foolish or stupid person, as in, "What'd you do that for, you muppet!" or sarnie, which is another word for a sandwich, as in, "Oi, pop over to Roy's Rolls and get us a bacon sarnie, will ya?" Despite my best efforts, I've been unable to introduce Corrie slang into the common vernacular of my fellow Canadians. Out for breakfast one morning, I even tried ordering a "bacon sarnie with nowt on it." Although, I suppose adding, "And make sure it's not minging, you muppet!" was a bit uncalled for and probably explains the blank stare I got from the lady behind the counter.

The biggest challenge to watching Coronation Street is being a full year behind what's currently happening in the UK. My booba (Yiddish for grandmother), who lives in Essex, will often ring up and offer up a tidbit or two: "Oh, it's all kicking off on Corrie this week..." and despite my protestation, usually ends spilling the beans on the latest plot twist, which often involves a tragic death or two, some histrionics at the funeral(s) and then everyone back to the pub for a bit of a chinwag and a bevvie.

I suppose I'm being a bit too flippant about Corrie's subject matter. Over the years, it's tackled some pretty poignant topics, from alcoholism and cancer, to homosexuality and Alzheimer's, and there's rarely a dry eye in the house during the show's more serious moments.

So if you have nowt better to do on a rainy Sunday morning, why not make yourself a bacon sarnie, brew a nice cuppa and give Corrie a try? But don't say I didn't warn ya -- those damned Corrie cobbles are addictive!