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Paul Casserly: Death of a pigeon fancier

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Jack Duckworth has bowed out of Coronation Street. Photo / Supplied
Jack Duckworth has bowed out of Coronation Street. Photo / Supplied

The grim reaper has been busy on Coronation Street and Mad Men. He's currently sharpening his scythe for TVNZ 7.

Jack Duckworth's departure on Coronation Street last week was epically understated. Jack was the original slacker. Not interested in work, he liked pigeons, pints and popping down to the betting shop.

Indeed, his last betting slip was even produced, post mortem, as if it were a religious relic. His lack of ambition was legendary, as was his hen-pecked marriage to Vera.

Or, as he described it: "Forty flippin' years of bad luck."

Their roles have been more like an administration than merely characters. The pair took over the position previously held by Stan and Hilda Ogden and Tyrone is the heir apparent, but it seems less likely that Molly will be his Vera.

A death is always a big occasion on a series that moves at such a glacial pace. A cough - which on a movie means death within minutes - can take months to develop into the purchase of some lozenges, let alone a doctor's visit.

It was a sweet departure. Shortly after leaving his own birthday party at The Rovers, Jack heads home, sits down, hallucinates a visit from Vera and then slips away.

But the ripples will take their time with the surrounding plot bombs. Was he killed by the news that his beloved Tyrone isn't the father of his baby (which is in fact Kevin's little b*****d)? That fuse has been well and truly lit.

If Jack's death marks an end of an era there are other signs that the times are changing. In a lovely scene in the Rovers, as The Smiths' song How Soon Is Now plays on the jukebox, Emily Bishop, one of the remaining old guard, is trying to come to terms with two young lesbians who are looking for advice.

Famed for her niceness and empathy, Emily can't bring herself to offer even a slither of a kindly word and storms out. With Blanche gone, Betty on borrowed time and now Jack, the last thing Emily needed to deal with was a sexual/religious crisis.

Not that Emily was the only one struggling with the girl's relationship; it even kept our own Broadcasting Standards Authority busy.

Spoiler alert: If you're not up to date with the Soho screening of season 5 of Madmen or if you haven't finished The Wire or seen season two of Boardwalk Empire, you might want to look away.

But it's not just girl-on-girl action that's causing trouble. The changing world has also made it harder to be surprised about plot developments on TV shows.

Lane's suicide on Mad Men was a bombshell that I had sadly stumbled upon by accident via Twitter before it screened here on Soho. And that's with a lag of only a few weeks as opposed to Coro's 18 months.

Other friends - downloaders, thieves, criminals, etc - were also dropping hints: "Oh my God have you seen Mad Men this week? Oh you're not up to date are you?"

No I'm not, 'up to effing date,' even though I'm paying a small mortgage to Sky each month. It sure is getting harder to have those water cooler chats about TV these days, save for the rugby.

Anyway, season five of Mad Men has been gripping, exceptional viewing. The end credits always met with a gasp of, 'Is that all?'

Lane's financial problems and his British reserve were the perfect ingredients for a believable and incredibly sad departure. Talk about tragic. The failed attempt to gas himself in the E Type Jaguar was a particularly deft deployment of dark comedy. The utter failure of Lane's character was the lasting feeling.

And what about Don's decision to fire him, in that chilling scene, without consulting his partners? Payback, no doubt, for their decision that led to Joan prostituting herself to get the Jaguar deal in the first place.

It's a wickedly impressive weave that's been woven here. Which reminds me, in the previous episode, not only did Joan sleep with the sweaty Jag-pig - who's name by the way was Herb Rennet - but Peggy quit her job!

Talk about bombshells. (Mind you I'm still getting over the news that Elizabeth Moss is a Scientologist). There's a great video re-cap of it all here. Probably the best episode ever. Even better than the one with the ride-on lawnmower.

Jared Harris, who played Lane, "shed a tear in the car on the way home" after being told of his character's fate. It can't be easy losing your job on one of the best shows of all time. He talks about his exit from the show here.

Jack and Lane were both great British losers, both underdogs who are now dead, not unlike Maude Flanders or Ned Stark. Mind you, as this tasty cut-up illustrates, Sean Bean pretty much dies in every movie he's in.

Omar's death on The Wire was possibly the most shocking of recent times, and I really didn't see Jimmy Darmody's end coming on Boardwalk Empire.

And, as much as I enjoyed the series, I was kind of hoping that Nicholas Brody had wired up his suicide belt with a bit more care at the end of Homeland.

Speaking of death, TVNZ 7, as you may well know, is into the last week of its existence. But they haven't completely thrown in the towel yet. In fact they've saved the best for last.

Author and former One News US correspondent Tim Wilson, is hosting The Big Idea, which is a rare thing, a panel show with brains and a sense of humour.

It's a classy production and Wilson is a natural in this arena. What's more, it's a good use of Party Central, aka The Cloud, save a little intrusion from the rain and the occasional tugboat.

Last night's Predator Free NZ was a great watch, today is all about Solar Power and on Friday, fittingly, the theme is Selling New Zealand (both nights at 7.30pm, repeating at 11.30pm).

As for TVNZ 7, they'll switch off the life support at midnight on Saturday.

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