The ITV Granada soap marks its historic episode with an illuminating trip to Blackpool.
Rita and Dennis Tanner are heading to Blackpool, but not in the usual circumstances.
“It’s nice, it’s just a little view into the world that was, that still is, and that is to come. And drama. There’s nobody shot, nobody is pushed out of the bus.” – Sue Nicholls, who plays Audrey, speaking on ITV
It has taken Corrie a rather long time to get to 10,000 episodes, however this is down to the rate produced originally. When the Weatherfield saga burst onto screens in black and white from Granada Television in Manchester it only aired twice a week. As the years rolled on more and more episodes have been added to give Coronation Street fans their fix of comedy and drama.
Back in 1985 the number of episodes for the main serials of the day saw Emmerdale on their 1,000th (since 1972), Crossroads screening their 4,100th (since 1964) and Corrie at their 2,500th (since 1960).
To mark reaching ten thousand editions of the world’s longest running television soap opera the residents of the famous cobbled street take a trip down memory lane as they head for Blackpool on a very special mission.
Jenny and Rita with Dennis in the Rovers before the journey begins.
Rita is surprised when a parcel arrives containing Dennis’s ashes and a note requesting she scatter them in Blackpool. Taking in the sad news of Dennis’s death she confides in Ken who agrees to go with her.
Deciding a day trip is something everyone would enjoy Jenny books a coach and invites lots of the residents to join them. Amy, Audrey, Carla, Eileen, Emma, Evelyn, Gail, Jenny, Ken, Mary, Nina, Sean, Tracy, Sally, Yasmeen and Rita, clutching Dennis’s urn, set off for Blackpool.
The trip is not without incident and as it starts to look as though they won’t make it to Blackpool before nightfall tensions rise. By the end of the trip lives will have changed and one resident realises the time has come to leave the cobbles for pastures new.
Rita, holding husband Dennis Tanner, prepare for the journey to Blackpool.
Is Dennis really dead, maybe he’s actually now a Blackpool agent; could he woo Gail to become a star turn at Viva Cabaret involving tassels and a g-string? Is he pretending to be dead to con the life insurance, that will give Rita a reason to chuck the urn at him?
Will Rita find Bet Lynch behind a bar and decide to become a nightclub singer once more? Could Audrey decide to invest in a nearby motel living a quieter life away from hairdresser scissors? Who is going to go? ITV Studios bosses have kept what happens a secret, however cast member Sue Nicholls who plays Audrey Roberts noted the episode is overall a ‘happy’ one without any bloodshed or major disaster.
Dennis Tanner and Rita Littlewood first met in 1964 when she was appearing as a belly dancer at the nearby Viaduct Sporting Club. With nowhere to stay Stan Ogden persuaded Dennis to allow Rita to sleepover at number 11. However with mother Elsie away he was concerned what she, and the neighbours would think, however offers her the use of Elsie’s bed anyway. A calamity of issues follow leaving Dennis and Elsie unimpressed. Rita was so unimpressed she didn’t return to Coronation Street until 1972.
First encounter, back in the Rovers Return in 1964.
By the time Rita had made her way back to Weatherfield a now married Dennis had long since departed for Bristol, back in 1968, where he had gained a job as a salesman. Rita, a cabaret singer on the books of dubious Alec Gilroy, was seeking comfort in the arms of builder and local councillor Len Fairclough. They married in 1977.
Giving up cabaret and nightclub work Rita was given the role of manager at a newsagents Len owned, opening it up as The Kabin, despite it relocating in the early 1990s its where she’s been seen ever since. There were several romances after Len died in the early 1980s, his demise left her financially very well off.
Seen as a money source she was courted by Corrie’s biggest baddie Alan Bradley, who met his fate via a Blackpool tram. Having being mentally abused by Alan – a memory lapse saw her thinking it was the early 70s and she was a cabaret singer in the seaside town – the horror events saw her stay away from the seaside resort until 1994 when, with Sally and Kevin Webster, she decided to go back for a holiday to overcome the fears. There was little happiness in the early 1990s for poor ‘Reet’.
Dennis, Rita and Emily in Number 11. Emily is shocked to find a ‘strange woman’ in a nightie in Elsie’s house.
She married businessman Ted Sullivan in 1992, shortly before his death, knowing he was terminally ill with an inoperable brain tumour. His passing left her devastated. There was more heartache when his family then accused her of being a gold digger and took her to court for some of Ted’s estate.
It wasn’t until 2011 that Dennis Tanner, now homeless and penniless, walked back into her life. Sophie Webster and Sian Powers took him to the café on Rosamund Street for a meal. He decided to take a nostalgic look down Coronation Street, finding “Dennis Tanner 1951” that he carved into the windowsill of No. 11 still there. Bumping into Rita it was the start of a friendship that lead to their wedding on The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee day in the summer of 2012.
Sadly, however, it wasn’t to last. Always wayward he wandered off again in 2014, taking off with another woman; and when he returned briefly a few months later begging to be taken back, Rita made it clear the marriage was definitely over.
Episode 10,000 of Coronation Street airs tonight on ITV, STV and UTV at 7.30pm.
“10,000 episodes – who would have believed that? Nobody when it started. If they’d offered me a sixty-year contract back then I probably would have run a mile at the time.” – William Roache, who plays Ken, speaking to the Daily Mail
Dennis Tanner returned to Coronation Street after over forty years away in 2011.
Rita moves The Kabin to Coronation Street in 1990. It previously resided opposite Jim’s Café on Rosamund Street.
Dennis was the son of legendary Corrie character Elsie Tanner, played by the divine Patricia Phoneix.