30 November 2000 | Dodger-9
Corrie on regardless
TV is a fickle business and never more so than in one of its dramatic mainstays - the humble soap.
Getting the balance between comedy and drama can be a tricky affair, not to mention having (and keeping) a cast of likeable characters who make you want to tune in for more week after week.
While Eldorado and Albion Market failed to capture the imagination of the nation, there are others that manage to shrug off the birth pangs, cope with a difficult adolesence and settle down while seizing the heart of the nation.
In case you didn't know it, Corrie is 40 this year and as one of the world's longest running soaps it has earned its place in the record books.
It began not with a bang but with a whimper.
The opening scenes are still etched in the mind of creator Tony Warren, who developed the show while still a mere slip of a lad. Mrs Lappin slipped a coin into a bubblegum machine outside her corner shop, and Ena Sharples, scowling like a bulldog beneath THAT hairnet, demanded: "Are those fancies today's? I'll take half a dozen - and no eclairs. NO eclairs."
Lest we forget, the show gave rise to some of the best actors and writers in the business, including Joanna Lumley, Ben Kingsley and The Royle Family's much loved mate, Twiggy (Geoffrey Hughes).
Scriptwriters like Jack Rosenthal (Yentl, London's Burning) and Frank Cottrell Boyce (Jude, Hillary and Jackie) gave us dialogue and scenes that went above and beyond the realms of most shows while it enlivened many a dull night's TV by its very presence alone.
Over the years, we have relished the clashes between Ena (Violet Carson) and Elsie (Pat Phoenix), thrown soft furnishings at the TV while dithery Derek (Peter Baldwin) and Mavis (Thelma Barlow) tested the patience of saints and wept buckets as Judy Mallett (Gaynor Faye), Des Barnes (Phil Middlemiss) and most of Ken Barlow's (William Roache) wives became another statistic in the suspiciously high list of Weatherfield residents who met their maker far too early.
This year has been as unmissable as any in its four decade history with the Tony Horrocks murder and the 'Martn' (Sean Wilson) and Rebecca (Jill Halfpenny) affair coming to a head, not to mention Jez (the excellent Lee Boardman) and Alison (Naomi Radcliffe) reaching a sticky end as polar opposite characters both cut short by some brutal scripting.
The Street has become so ingrained in people's hearts that, over the years, many have lost sight of that thin line between fact and fiction.
When Elsie Tanner was lying unidentified in a London hospital after being knocked down by a taxi, viewers wrote to her husband to tell him where she was.
Dozens of women took up their knitting needles to make dustman Eddie Yates a new woolly hat when his own was shredded in the washing machine, and when Ena lost her post as secretary of the Glad Tidings mission, the job offers flooded in.
People have even tried to book Christmas parties at the Rovers Return and rent the houses which become vacant in Britain's most celebrated terraced street. Former producer Bill Podmore once said: 'All over the country, old terraces like Coronation Street are disappearing, but a change in the Street could destroy the roots of the programme, because the architecture is as much a part of its character as the people.'
But it was regular script writer Harry Kershaw who summed up it's enduring popularity and extraordinary success both at home and abroad. 'Coronation Street is about life,' he said, 'and life has its universal situations, its problems and laughter; therefore it has an international appeal.'
We have laughed, cried and run screaming by the sight of hamster-faced Gail (Helen Worth) and the haircut from Hell, poodle-haired Liz (Beverley Callard) dressing like a woman half her age and Mike Baldwin (Johnny Briggs) working his way through the Street's female residents. How long can all this go on?
Well, as long as Granada keep hiring some of the best cast and crew in the business while putting a fresh spin on age old stories of love, lust, infidelity and, in Fred Elliott's case, fine meat products, let's hope it never ends.