The world’s longest-running soap opera Coronation Street still knows how to shock viewers even after 10,000 episodes.
Tonight’s special hour-long outing saw the longest-serving character on the soap, Ken Barlow, announce he is leaving the Street.
Ken has been part of the furniture of the cobbles since the very first episode in December 1960.
But now it seems he has decided the time is right, at 80 years old, to move onto pastures new.
The hints were dropped from the early scenes of tonight’s show (Friday February 7) as Ken’s girlfriend Claudia Colby was trying to persuade him to look at retirement homes.
She insisted they weren’t for old people, there were lots of activities and even spas on site.
But their talk was interrupted by Rita Tanner knocking at the door, distraught because she’d received estranged husband Dennis Tanner’s ashes in the post with a note to scatter them in Blackpool.
She asked Ken to accompany her, but Jenny Connor had organised a girls’ trip and got most of the street residents involved, even hiring a party bus.
Rita was clearly struggling with the loss of Dennis, telling Jenny: “I suddenly feel very old.”
But during their ill-fated journey to Blackpool, it was Ken who started to feel sorry for himself.
“All I ever wanted to do was travel,” he told Rita and Audrey Roberts.
“And from No.3 Coronation Street, I got as far as next door. It must be some kind of cosmic joke.”
Audrey insisted: “I can’t see how living in a retirement home is going to be much of an improvement.”
But Ken argued back: “At least it’s something new, at least I’d have got away.”
With the gang not even making it to Blackpool and the urn carrying Dennis’s ashes being smashed in the middle of the road, scattering him all over the A583, the trip was a bit of a disaster.
Once back in Weatherfield, Rita decided it was time to move on and gave her wedding rings to Amy Barlow, with the added nice touch of mentioning show icon Elsie Tanner.
As Rita walked around the pub late at night hearing old voices including former landladies Annie Walker and Bet Lynch, as well as Mavis Riley and Hilda Ogden, it seemed certain she would be the one moving on.
But after tearfully telling Jenny she couldn’t have wished for a better daughter, Rita said: “I still have life left in me and enough friends to prop me up when the going gets tough.
“Some people might be ready for the knackers yard, but I’m not. Not yet.”
The scene then cut to Ken walking Eccles on the empty street outside.
As he surveyed at his surroundings he said: “80 years too late, but finally it’s time to go.
“Goodbye old friend.”
So is that it? Is Ken REALLY leaving Weatherfield?
He’s been on the soap since day one, which means 59 years on our screens, is he really going to go before the big 60th anniversary in December?
Don’t worry, Coronation Street has confirmed William Roache, who plays Ken, is not leaving the show.
Although Ken will move out of No.1 Coronation Street, future episodes will follow his new life with Claudia at Still Waters luxury retirement complex.
Back on the Street, Tracy and Peter Barlow will fight it out over who gets Ken’s old house.
Ken will move to Still Waters next month and is delighted to discover old friends Norris and Freda are already settled in there.
Will Ken take to his new life?
William Roache said: “This is a big decision for Ken but in some ways he thinks it is now or never. He has lived on the same street his whole life and in the same house for most of it.
“He feels that he had a chance to move away with Martha on the barge but he let her go. Part of him regretted that. He doesn’t want to make the same mistake again and Claudia is very persuasive.
“Filming that final scene of the episode was very poignant, just Ken and Eccles and the cobbles.
“He breaks the news to the family next week and they are surprised but very soon Peter and Tracy start squabbling over who will be given first refusal on the house.
“We have already started filming at the retirement complex and I am really enjoying it, it always feels different when we film away from the street.
“It seems fitting that Ken makes this decision in the 10,000th episode but it will be strange not filming in number 1 after all this time.”
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