Tears, laughter, familiar faces still the essence of Coro, writes Calum Henderson.

I still remember the name of the schoolboy who got Sarah-Louise Platt pregnant, and the incredulous tone of her best mate, Candice, when she found out: "Neil Fearns?!"

That was 19 years ago, the last time I regularly watched Coronation Street. The turn of the millennium was a golden era for the soap here - it still had the plum 7.30pm time slot, all the old legends like Jack and Vera were still kicking about the cobbles, the storylines were outrageous but not too outrageous. Not long after Sarah-Lou had baby Bethany, her deranged stepdad, "Evil Richard", drove the entire family into a canal - seems almost quaint by today's standards.

The show's great leap forward this week, skipping ahead 18 months to finally catch us up to the UK, might be the first good thing to happen to Kiwi Coro fans in decades. The novelty of last Sunday's epic catch-up special was more than enough to lure me back to the street. Alarmingly, baby Bethany was now a teenager in an emotionally abusive relationship with a man who got sent to prison for pimping her out.

Her grandma, the birdlike Gail, was at court for the verdict. She hadn't aged a day. In a mega-episode that ruthlessly ticked off a list of all the worst things that could possibly happen to a person - rape, murder, suicide, kidnapping, wrongful imprisonment, a condescending lecture from Ken Barlow - maybe the most shocking thing was how many of the old characters are still there, grimly hanging on.


The Platts are right in the thick of it. On Monday night, the first of the caught-up episodes, former teen tearaway David went to the police to report a sexual assault he was the victim of a few months back. It was harrowing stuff, the tears, the shame, the courage - meanwhile, comedy ensued as the best man went missing in the aftermath of a raucous stag do. Classic Coro. Light and shade.

Sarah-Lou (who just goes by Sarah these days) is mixed up with the spectacularly named Gary Windass. Through a set of circumstances we may never fully be able to comprehend, Monday's episode also saw him kidnap notorious serial killer Pat Phelan, tie him up in an old warehouse, then go to the hospital to meet the newborn son he fathered to a different woman.

What a week for us all to emerge back on the street, blinking like disorientated time travellers in the bleak Weatherfield light. We've got a wedding between intense, former steroid addict Robert, and Michelle, who's not long out of a serious long-term relationship with the profoundly depressing Steve McDonald. Then there's the psycho Pat Phelan, who everyone thought was dead, but had in fact been laying low in a caravan, and who is now back in town and hell-bent on revenge. You don't need to have watched a second of Coronation Street over the past two decades to know that none of this is going to end well.