TV stars falling from grace

By Don Farmer -

What on earth is happening?

The reputation of our iconic television personalities is crumbling away day by day.

News this week that veteran Coronation Street actor Bill Roache - who has played the role of Ken Barlow for more than 50 years - has been arrested for allegedly raping a young girl in 1967 was the latest shock in what is becoming rather a long line of jolts.

In recent weeks we have seen the reputation of comedian Jimmy Savile ripped to shreds with multiple allegations of sexual abuse.

Then we were rocked by the arrest of the hugely talented Australian-born entertainer Rolf Harris.

Harris, 83, was arrested at his Berkshire home - he has lived in Britain for many years - to face sex charges also.

His fame as a singer, wobble board player and especially as a painter is legendary and there would be few New Zealanders who didn't reel at the news "jake the peg" Harris was in danger of having his credibility completely shattered.

But perhaps the biggest shock of all is the apprehension of two Coronation Street stars, Michael Le Vell (who plays mechanic Kevin Webster) and especially Roache.

Le Vell is being called on to answer 19 charges of sexual offences against children and Roache the two rapes.

Roache, 81, like the others, is (to use policespeak) to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, but the mere fact he is on charge is a bombshell to all Coro fans.

As Ken Barlow he has had a chequered life with his less-than-innocent wife Deidre but surely no one could have suspected the soap's longest-running cast member could be facing personal demons on this level.

Apparently the arrest of Roache is causing quite a few headaches for the show's producers who have had to hastily rewrite some of the storylines and have stood Roache down while the whole mess is sorted out.

It could be that his acting career will never restart.

New Zealand viewers of Coro receive episodes many months behind those screened in Britain so it will be an interesting time plotting the progress of the soap.

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