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Thursday, 25 March 2010

All Change!

Coronation Street, ITV1
Vintage Neighbours, BBC1
Vintage Home and Away, ITV1

As we all know, Coronation Street celebrates its 50th aniversary this year. Rumour is rife about the possible return of some familiar and well-loved faces from the soap's past. Julie Goodyear (Bet Lynch), Sherrie Hewson (Maureen Naylor) and even Jean Alexander (Hilda Ogden) have all been mentioned but none have so far been confirmed.

Rita, before "Lake Me"

Perhaps to sate our appetite in the meantime, we have been treated to another (slightly less spectacular) return in the form of Rita, who has rejoined the cast after a brief hiatus. As you may recall, Rita unexpectedly sold up the Kabin a few months ago and headed off  into the sunset after decalring it was time "to swim in Lake Me." It seems that while she was on her travels, she may have taken a dip in the fountain of eternal youth (or at the very least, the fountain of eternal Botox). Yes, not only has Barbara Knox's wig had a trim and tint but her mini-break seems to have given her whole face a...lift, shall we say?

Whatever rejeuvenating procedure she may have undergone, it has done nothing to cool her temper; her charity shop ding-dongs with Emily are testament to that. But Rita's return got me thinking...she might be looking a little fresher these days but her transformation is nothing compared to some of the baffling metamorphoses the soaps have treated us to over the years. Let's take some time to have a look at a few favourites from years gone by...

Lucy Robinson - Neighbours

The original and still the best. Lucy, as we all know, came in three formats: the sprightly gamine, prone to falling down drains in rain storms; the dungaree wearing pubescent lesbian with a penchant for Alice bands and finally, the fallen Madonna with the big boobies. None of the individual actresses looked like they hailed from the same continental land mass, never mind the same gene pool; a fact which never seemed to bother Helen, Jim and the rest of the Ramsey Street crew who never so much as batted an eyelid at the evolutionary leaps going on before their very eyes.

Tracey Barlow - Coronation Street

Most of us - me included until I googled her - had forgotten that Tracey has been played by not two but three actors, the first young upstart's efforts having been totally eclipsed by the frankly spellbinding performance of the tracksuit-loving teenager most famous for traipsing upstairs muttering "I'm just goin' tuh pleehr me teehpes". When Tracey burst back onto our screens in 2002 she had been - literally - revamped. It became immediately clear that the writers had something more exciting in mind than a storyline revolving around a chip-pan fire or a back yard clinch with that lad off Jossy's Giants. Most excitingly, Kate Ford (who doesn't appear to have been inundated with offers for work in the intrim) is soon set to rejoin the 
cast and is apparently set to make Gail's life a living Hell (good luck to her).


Cody Willis - Neighbours

Ah, the Willis family, headed up by Jason Donovan's real life dad and that woman who never seemed to run a comb through her hair. The original Cody looked like a reject from an Addams Family audition but when she returned from an extended student exchange in the U.S. she had matured (read mutated) into a poor man's Cheryl Crow. More disturbing than the physical transofmation was the voice! Judging by the husky tones of her second incarnation, she had been smoking more than Pine Lights whilst Stateside. Of course, Cody II was not to last, being  killed by a ricocheting bullet during the infamous Ramsey Street shoot-out. Naturally, she would later reappear - in true Aussie soap style - as a ghost; luckily still played by the same actress.

Pippa Fletcher - Home and Away

Lovely Pippa, with a mantlepiece so laden with photos of her erstwhile charges it must have been stronger than the Clifton Suspension Bridge. Initially played by a sprightly, curly-haired elf of a woman, Pippa was replaced, literally overnight, by what a very good friend of mine described as "a six-foot Geordie". He wasn't far off the mark; not only had Pippa grown about a foot taller, she had broadened across the shoulders and wouldn't have looked out of place lugging girders around a Newcastle shipyard. Remarkably, the producers of Home and Away decided not to let the change pass unremarked: "oh, Pippa", quipped Simon, "you've had your hair done; it looks nice!"

Six Foot Geordie and Elf (inset)

Cheryl Stark  - Neighbours

Oh, Neighbours, you've done it again...but with a twist! What differentiates this "transformation" from the others is that it was actually done quite well, with the previously unheard of intention of ensuring continuity. This can probably be put down to the fact that the first actor to play Cheryl dropped out of the series due to illness, with every intention of returning when she got better, which she duly did. So it was that Cheryl's dreadful fashion faux pas and huge hair (style-wise, she was a prototype Trish Valentine) along with her vocal tics were transferred from one actress to the next...and back again.

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