Yes Stuart Blackburn. Your honeymoon period is over. Two months is more than enough time for you to get settled into the swing of things. And since we're now over that mark by a couple of weeks, it's time for this Corrie fan to pass judgement on the things that have happened under his tenure so far.
Lets start by looking at the cast changes that are going to happen in the next year or so.
According to the movers list, there appears to be more exits than arrivals with valuable characters like Tina McIntyre and Hayley Cropper among the leavers. But I've read that both Michelle Keegan and Julie Hesmondhalgh want to move on, and since this isn't a Blackburn-tailored decision, all I can do is hope those characters get a good exit story, and wish MK & JH all the best for the future.
The characters of Brian, Paul, and Karl make up the rest of the list. Karl's exit was inevitable ever since he set fire to the pub, and inadvertently killed Sunita. I'm not a fortune-teller but even I can tell death or prison will be in Karl's future. I don't want him killed off personally; there's still a lot of potential for a redemption story, and I love John Michie, but I'm not too bothered about that storyline.
Something else I'm not too bothered about: Paul. I don't hate him as much as most of the other Corrie fans but he's had a hand in softening Eileen and that's something I don't like. She raised two teenage boys, and lives with Sean without going mad! That's enough to toughen anybody up! So I don't buy this paranoia, especially three months after Toni's death.
Finally Brian. I was a fan of the burger-eating, softie headmaster but I feel there was a missed opportunity there. Many fans have described Brian & Julie as the Derek & Mavis of the 21st Century, and while I've never actually seen D&M in action, from what I've read, I'm inclined to agree. I would have thought now would be a perfect time to get rid of him though: he's not much of a character without Julie so it would have made more sense to have them both exit the Street, and then have Julie return with the news that Brian left her or something. Hey! He left his first wife! It's plausible!
One thing this tells me about Blackburn is that he's not afraid to get rid of some of the dead weight (although I'd wish he'd continue his mission and axe some more characters coughcoughRobDonovancough) and he's also not afraid to bring back characters. Liz McDonald is returning, and she is a character I love. Not being around during the Bet Lynch/Annie Walker glory days, for me, Liz IS the landlady of the Rover's Return. Here's hoping she kicks Stella's ass when she returns!
Unfortunately Todd Grimshaw is also returning, and I'll be honest: I don't like him. (It feels kinda blasphemous to not like Corrie's first gay character but hey - gotta feel what ya feel!). He seemed a little wet to me, not manning up even after the coming out story ended. Although it was because of him, we got the great Gail-Eileen catfight of 2004 so it's not all bad!
That's casting sorted. Let's move on to the plot.
The best plot in the last two months showed promise for Corrie as a whole as it happened to be the first new plot under the Blackburn tenure. Roy's journey to find his father only to discover that Sinjin had died was a raw emotional journey with great writing and even better acting! Roy's confusion as he tried to work out what do next, Hayley trying to help him along only to be blamed, and Sylvia's insistence that her son was nothing like his father brought some amazing performances from David Neilson, Julie Hesmondhalgh, and Stephanie Cole. And there's been some great character development for both Roy and Sylvia. This doesn't seem to be over though - Roy's obsessing about trivial things, obviously ignoring the big changes in his life - and I can only wonder what's next for him (well actually I know, I'm more wondering how we're going to go from this to the next big storyline concerning this trio).
However there have been some things Blackburn hasn't impressed me with. For a start, some of the plot movement in the early days were just boring such as... you know what? I can't even remember the boring stuff right now which proves how yawnworthy it was. And until the plot mentioned above got going, I was starting to get a little worried about the future. But all this could be a thing of the past, especially now that the surrogacy storyline's hotting up. I'm really enjoying the climax, and I don't think we're supposed to root for anyone in particular here which I love!
*ahem* Um let's go back to the critiqueing...
Another thing I'm not liking is the fact that we're not seeing characters for weeks. It took a month for Audrey to resurface again, and I don't think we've even seen Mandy since the Rovers fire.
So to conclude: I'm hopeful. This show seems to be slowly improving again. It's not as sensationalised as it once was, and most of the plots are being character-driven again. Plus we're getting the little touches like Deirdre & Eileen getting drunk and putting the world to rights, or Steve talking rubbish at people like Owen. Whatever else he may bring to the job, it's obvious Stuart Blackburn has passion and I think we're finally seeing what this passion is doing. If this is it then I wish him the best of luck at it!