"My name is Martyn Hett, and I am a Coronation Street superfan."
They say the first step on the road to recovery is admitting you have a problem, but unlike my peers, I have never seen my fandom as problem. Although unusual for a twenty-something male, my house is filled with more merchandise than the Coronation Street tour and most aspects of my life manage to find their way back to Weatherfield - my kitten, Emily Bishop, will happily testify.
Despite my life-long devotion to all things cobbled, a recent occurrence has made me question my loyalty. As my TV recorder slowly fills itself with unwatched episodes of my beloved soap, I have found myself feeling demotivated. Corrie marathons used to be my idea of heaven, but nowadays they find themselves up there with 'tackle the ironing' on my list of chores. Why?
Coronation Street has well and truly lost the plot.
Glenda Young, founder of the Coronation Street Blog, once compared being a Corrie fan to supporting your favourite football team - sometimes they're top of the Premier League and sometimes they're bottom of the division. Right now, they're basically Nuneaton.
My wane in interest comes at a time when the general public seems to have cottoned on to the Corrie crisis. Viewing figures are down 800,000 on 2014, Corrie was thrashed at the soap awards last week and there are numerous petitions calling for producer Stuart Blackburn to step down. Despite this, he dismisses reports of a crisis, insisting the show is "doing fine" - I would thoroughly beg to differ.
Nothing says 'Corrie in crisis' like stunt casting, and we've had it in abundance during Blackburn's reign. If Les Dennis wasn't enough to make you spit your tea out, we will shortly be treated to the arrivals of Paddy McGuinness, Sarah Harding and Shayne Ward - the latter of whom was allegedly cast before a role had even been determined. It's a far cry from the days of Doris Speed and Pat Phoenix and feels almost like a lineup for Celebrity Big Brother - particularly disturbing when you consider how many talented actors must be waiting for their big break.
It could be argued that Coronation Street is simply moving with the times - after all, gimmicks and headline-grabbing antics seem the most effective way to appeal to Generation Z (see: Kim Kardashian, Rihanna et al.) - but this wouldn't account for the vast number of deadwood characters that have also been introduced, such as the Nazirs, who inexplicably remain in the show despite still not gelling with the public after a year. Even the characters that had potential to be interesting have seemingly failed. Bethany Platt's predictable re-introduction as another 'wild child' has resulted in a character without any real substance, serving only to irritate the viewers.
Coronation Street lost one of its biggest assets earlier this year when Anne Kirkbride tragically passed away at the age of 60. Deirdre was an institution, and, as such, one would hope that her send-off is as iconic as her famous glasses. A collective sigh of relief was had by all when fan favourite and gargantuan talent Damon Rochefort was revealed as the episode's writer, but recent headlines have left me reeling. "Corrie shocker: Tracy's ex-husband turns up at Deirdre's funeral". Just like that, my dreams of Ken crying into Deirdre's glasses for the majority of the episode were shattered. This isn't the time nor the place for reigniting old flames, the episode should be 100% Deirdre.
The issue seems to lie with the constant need to 'wow' the viewer. If it's not a sensationalist plot, it's an unrealistic character. While this may guarantee the cover of Inside Soap, it is alienating Coronation Street's loyal fan base. The character-led nature of Corrie used to be what set it apart from EastEnders, but now it seems there's an air of homogeneity between the two. Gone are the days of slow-developing friendships and relationships, and in its place are interactions that merely serve as a mechanism for forthcoming plots (see: Jenny Bradley's recent romance with Kevin, which will soon result in Coronation Street's sixth baby kidnap plot).
I'm not suggesting that Coronation Street should revert back to 1960 - far from it. It's 2015 and we've become accustomed to fast-paced, relatively passive viewing. What I am suggesting, though, is that the gimmicks end and the talented writers get a chance to show what they are capable of. Stuart Blackburn may insist that Corrie is "doing fine" but, quite frankly, Coronation Street deserves better than "fine".
As I said, the first step on the road to recovery is admitting you have a problem, and until Blackburn accepts the show is in crisis, there'll be TV recorders around the country filling up with unwatched episodes of the 'nation's favourite soap'