Janet Felicity Barlow (née Reid) was Ken Barlow's second wife. Ken hoped that she be a mother to his twin children from his first marriage but after a happy elopement in Scotland in 1973, Janet fought Ken's plans to have the twins live with them, causing a difference of opinion which led to their separation in 1974. Janet flitted in and out of Ken's life until 1977, when she killed herself by taking an overdose when Ken turned down a reconciliation.
Janet Reid was born in Keswick, Cumbria on 28th November 1942. As a girl, Janet went to Alderley Edge several times a year with her uncle George and cousin Marilyn, who was about the same age as her. She grew into a woman who hated settling for second best; she wanted a loving husband, her own career and a detached house.
By 1969, Janet was working in Weatherfield as a Town Clerk, and in July of that year was dating Councillor Len Fairclough. Len loved Janet and planned to propose but his feelings weren't reciprocated, so Janet dumped him before he had a chance to ask her to marry him. As a local to the area, Janet knew some of the residents, and in 1971 she worked for a short while in the Corner Shop while Irma Barlow was sick and took up residence in the shop flat. While there, she developed an interest in Alan Howard, an acquaintance of Len's. Alan was open to an affair and they shared a kiss, but when Janet followed him on a business trip to Leeds, nothing happened between them but Alan's wife Elsie soon found out what they had been up to and confronted Janet, telling her exactly what she thought of her. She then forced her to leave the area.
In mid-1973, Janet resigned from her job at the Town Hall as she felt taken for granted there. She was taken on at at the Department of Education, and in September she began seeing Ken Barlow, a teacher at Bessie Street School; her first man in a year. They got on surprisingly well, leading Ken to invite her to Scotland to spend time with his eight-year-old twins Peter and Susan, who had been living there since Ken's first wife Val died. Ken was looking to marry so that his children would have two parents, and Janet had fallen for Ken, so they made a quick decision to marry while in a stopover in Keswick visiting Janet's parents. Janet felt that Ken's career prospects boded well for their future together, and upon their return they set about looking for a house. Janet had her eye on a £12,000 detached house and Ken agreed to it, despite not being keen himself. Janet was very angry when Ken was late to an appointment at the estate agents and lost them the house; when he gave her the news apologetically, a blazing row followed, the first of many for the couple.
Early in 1974, Ken persuaded Janet that they should rent 11 Coronation Street, which came fully furnished. As Ken made plans for the twins to move to Weatherfield, Janet started getting cold feet about being a mother to his children and made discrete enquiries at the Lindens Boarding School with the intention of packing them off. When Ken found out about her plans, he was furious, feeling that she had betrayed him as she knew Ken's children living with him was the primary reason for marrying. Janet and Ken eventually made up and Janet agreed to have the twins live with them but to Ken's disappointment, they felt settled in Scotland and didn't want to return.
The marriage was never strong. Janet soon lost faith in Ken's ability to further his career, feeling that he would always take the easy option in life. When he was offered an executive position at the Mark Brittain Warehouse, Ken was poised to accept. Getting ahead of herself, Janet bragged to the neighbours about Ken's prospects and "the right wives" going on executive trips with their husbands. Her snobbish attitude rubbed Rita Littlewood up the wrong way, causing Rita to cattily bring up Ken's previous infatuation with Elaine Perkins. Janet didn't know that Ken had been in a serious relationship just before they re-connected, and worried that he'd married her on the rebound. When Ken turned the job down, it confirmed to Janet that she and Ken were incompatible and she walked out on him.
Janet moved on with her life, and in January 1975 saw Ken about arranging a divorce. Later that year, Janet was seeing Vince Denton and was surprised when Ken drove the taxi which picked her up for a fare. Janet didn't have long-term plans with Vince and the relationship was over by 1977 but in February of that year Janet was feeling alone and desperate and tried a reconciliation with Vince. When he refused, she turned up on Ken's doorstep and begged him to take her back. He refused, but allowed her to stay the night in his bed while he slept on the sofa. Rejected by the one person she thought would never forsake her, a distraught Janet took an overdose of sleeping pills. Ken discovered her dead in bed the following morning, and the situation was complicated when Ken was initially suspected by the police of murdering her in order to avoid a divorce. The cause of death was ruled as a suicide caused by barbiturate poisoning.
- The character of Janet Reid was originally a guest role, appearing in two episodes in 1969. She was brought back in 1971 when Irma Barlow actress Sandra Gough fell ill, precluding her from appearing in upcoming episodes in which she was to feature heavily. Rather than shelve a storyline which would see Irma have an affair with Alan Howard, the writers re-introduced Janet and gave her Irma's role in the story. Judith Barker struggled with her scenes as Janet's lines were originally Irma's, with no change having been made to account for the differences in the characters' personalities.
- Judith Barker joined the programme full-time in October 1973 when Janet married Ken Barlow. The marriage occurred off-screen and was a surprise to viewers, as Ken, fresh from a number of failed relationships, barely knew Janet and viewers still remembered her for trying to break up the Howard marriage two years previously. The marriage was never popular and Barker bemoaned the fact that her character was often used as a plot device, often portrayed as an upwardly mobile home-wrecker. Janet and Ken separated in June 1974, and Janet only made occasional appearances after that.
- In 1977, Judith Barker was brought back for a final stint as Janet. In the interim, she had struggled to find work in television as she was seen as committed to Coronation Street, so she was happy for Janet to be killed off. Janet's death was the first time a regular character in the programme committed suicide, although technically Barker was no longer a regular cast member at the time.
First and last lines
"Hello." (First line, to Elsie Tanner)
"Goodnight." (Final line, to Ken Barlow)