British soap opera Coronation Street celebrates 50 years on air

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Part of the Coronation Street set, including the Rovers Return Inn, on 18 December 2005.
Image: Allan Lee.

Thursday marked the 50th anniversary of British soap opera Coronation Street's broadcast. The programme, which was created by Tony Warren and developed by Granada Television — now branded on-air as ITV Studios — in Manchester, England, was first broadcast on December 9, 1960 on ITV. The original commission was just 13 episodes. Nearly 7,500 episodes later, Coronation Street still broadcasts on ITV1.

At least one episode of the programme was broadcast every night between December 6 and December 10; on Thursday, the 50th anniversary was celebrated with a live episode. The major storyline of the week, entitled "Four Funerals and a Wedding", started with a tram crash on Monday, shortly after a gas explosion in a new nearby bar called The Joinery damaged railway tracks.

I'm so proud and gobsmacked at how brilliant it looked. It was like seeing it for the first time. I'm stunned and amazed.

Phil Collinson

At its peak, Thursday's one-hour live episode received ratings of approximately 14.9 million viewers — the highest total for the show for over six years. Within the sixty scenes, the storylines included character Fiz Stape prematurely giving birth to a baby girl, who was given the name Hope. Peter Barlow lay on his hospital bed as he attempted to say his wedding vows to Leanne Battersby; he subsequently flatlined. Molly Dobbs admitted her affair with Kevin Webster to Sally Webster — Kevin's wife — before dying as a result of her injuries. There were virtually no mistakes made in the episode. Phil Collinson, the producer, expressed his approval for the episode. "I'm so proud and gobsmacked at how brilliant it looked," he commented. "It was like seeing it for the first time. I'm stunned and amazed."

Part of the exterior set of Coronation Street, including the Corner Shop, in October 2007.
Image: Jordan 1972.

Ken Barlow is the only remaining character from the first episode, always portrayed by William Roache. Coronation Street now has its own version of encyclopedia website Wikipedia called Corriepedia, which was launched on May 21, 2008.

Because of this anniversary, numerous special programmes were also broadcast. The first ever episode of Coronation Street was repeated on Monday. On Wednesday-Thursday night Coronation Street: 50 Years, 50 Moments revealed the results of a poll to determine the fifty best Coronation Street moments. A humourous scene featuring character Blanche Hunt at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting topped the poll. Hunt, portrayed by the late Maggie Jones, was also revealed as the most popular character, according to a study by UK magazine Inside Soap. Second-place moment was a storyline involving serial killer Richard Hillman. Brian Capron, who portrayed Hillman, commented "Funnily enough because it's all come back it seems to have done me a lot of good. It's kind of an iconic storyline that I was involved in. There were some wonderful blackly humourous lines and the gloves, that slight pantomime element. You could love to hate him. They gave me so many great lines."

Friday also saw the ITV1 broadcast of one-off game show, Coronation Street: The Big 50, a part-entertainment programme. Hosted by Paul O'Grady, it featured various members of the Coronation Street cast as contestants, split into three teams: "Weatherfield Lads", "Pint Pullers", and "Rovers Regulars" plus a fourth team of celebrity fans, or "Superfans". The "Rovers Regulars" were to become the victors.


Some information contained in this article was obtained from television, radio, or live webcast sources. Reporter's notes and the broadcast source details are available at the collaboration page.
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