The 1990 ITV Telethon was ITV’s second mammoth fundraising event following the success of the previous one two years earlier. In that edition, the producers had featured as a highlight the return of Doris Speed to the Granada studios, five years after her retirement from Coronation Street. The 1990 edition was, like its predecessor a twenty-seven hour continuous broadcast, carried by all of the ITV channels to raise money for “the needy, the disadvantaged and the disabled”. It began at 7.00pm on Sunday 27th May and finished on the following evening, a Bank Holiday, at 10.00pm. As before it was hosted from the studios of London Weekend Television and presented throughout by Michael Aspel. All of the ITV regions took part with many local op-outs from the London coverage to highlight events in their own area. The Granada coverage came from the Quay Street studios in Manchester and featured many spots in which the stars of Coronation Street took part, including meeting fundraisers and taking part in entertainment slots. One the Sunday, viewers in the North West were promised in the 10.20pm slot “ Ivy Tilsley, the Weatherfield nightingale and Percy Sugden the Relentless Raconteur.”
However nationally on the following evening of 28th May, during the programme’s usual 7.30pm slot, a specially-scripted and shot mini-episode of Coronation Street was shown in which Hilda Ogden made a brief return to Weatherfield for the first time since her departure to Derbyshire three years earlier. Well-publicised with a TV Times cover, Alexander was interviewed in the same magazine in which she said:
- “When Granada asked me to return, I had to stop and think. I didn’t really want to be Hilda again. I was worried I’d start up the old associations. But, as it was a one-off for such worthwhile charities, I couldn’t really say no.”
She went on to say:
- “But Hilda has changed. Having sold her house, she’s got a few pennies tucked away, along with her wages from the doctor, plus her own flat in his house. Now that she’s better off, she’s less envious. But, knowing Hilda, she might show off a bit.”
The entire evening segment gained 10.7 million viewers, putting it at 11th place in the charts.
Hilda Ogden returns to her old home of Coronation Street in a taxi, disappointed that no one is around to see her arrive in style. She insists the driver beeps his horn to attract attention but this only annoys Alec in the Rovers. Jack peeps out of the door and tells the regulars that they’ll never guess who’s getting out of the cab. He holds the door open for Hilda who walks in to cries of delight from Bet and Betty. Bet insists Alec gets her a Port and Lemon on the house but Hilda wants the Port by itself as that’s the people drink it where she lives now. Alec tells her she can have his special: a Grimsby - “a small British port”. Bet snappily countermands the order and states it’s to be a large one. Within moments Hilda is swapping barbed insults with Vera when she is asked if she is still scrubbing for Dr Lowther. Hilda insists she’s never been anyone’s scrubber but Bet deduces from her manner that she has news she wants to impart. Hilda tells her old neighbours that the doctor has proposed and a stunned Alec asks if the man has gone senile. Bet hastily offers her congratulations but Alec insists that Hilda get the offer in writing before he has a remission and his mind clears again. Bet tells him to give over...
Later, Hilda is at the cemetery, tidying up Stan’s grave. She talks to her dead husband and tells him that she’ll be turning down the proposal. It wouldn’t be right and she wants to be Mrs Stanley Ogden for good as he always came first.
Hilda gets in a taxi in Rosamund Street. The driver tells her Coronation Street is only round the corner. Hilda knows – she was born round 'ere. Bet tells Hilda to make sure that she and Alec are invited to the wedding. Vera warns Hilda that Dr Lowther might only be proposing to get out of paying her a wage. Emily comes in having seen her get in the taxi and asks why she drove such a short distance there. Hilda says she went on the spur of the moment. Hilda tells Kevin to look after Sally and the baby and goes into the Rovers to tell Bet there'll be no need to by a new hat. Kevin doesn't go in with her.
The master tape of this mini-episode runs several minutes longer than the transmitted version. The extra footage includes a new opening scene where Hilda gets in her taxi and asks for Coronation Street. The driver helpfully informs her that Coronation Street is within walking distance but Hilda is fully aware of this and asks him to take her there regardless. The Rovers scene runs several seconds longer, with Vera suggesting that Dr Lowther's true motivation for proposing to Hilda was to save himself a wage. Emily Bishop then enters, having seen Hilda boarding her cab in Rosamund Street, and asks her why she used a taxi for such a short trip. Thinking quickly, Hilda claims that she dropped by on the way to another destination. The final scene sees Kevin Webster escort Hilda from 13 Coronation Street to the Rovers and Hilda tell her former lodger to look after Sally and the baby. It closes as Hilda goes back into the Rovers to inform Bet that there will be no wedding.
- Hilda Ogden - Jean Alexander
- Alec Gilroy - Roy Barraclough
- Jack Duckworth - William Tarmey
- Bet Gilroy - Julie Goodyear
- Betty Turpin - Betty Driver
- Vera Duckworth - Elizabeth Dawn
- Taxi Driver - Unknown
John Stevenson wrote the mini-episode although the director is unknown.After a few bars of the closing theme music, Jean Alexander was shown returning to the Rovers set where cast members Sally Ann Matthews, Peter Baldwin, Thelma Barlow, Beverley Callard, Amanda Barrie, Bill Waddington and Dawn Acton were present when she was presented with a cheque for £50,000 by a representative of Heineken for the telethon. This added to the total raised on the evening of £24 million. Even so, the efforts were not appreciated by some as there protests in both 1990 and for a similar event two years later (see 1992 ITV Telethon) by disability rights groups campaigning for jobs, education and accessible transport instead of charity. As regards the return of Hilda, the critics were similarly unimpressed with Margaret Forwood in the Daily Express of 31st May stating “It lasted 4 minutes, of which 30 seconds was believable. What a con!” and rival Hilary Kingsley in the Daily Mirror of 1st June opining “Hilda Ogden and her soppy soliloquy at Stan’s grave was a travesty.”
Until 2016, the master tape of the mini-episode was not in the ITV archives and the only known extant copies were VHS recordings taken on the day of transmission, however the television preservation organisation Kaleidoscope located and returned the tape in that year. This does not included the sequence of Jean Alexander collecting the charity cheque, only the scripted material.