TV Cream

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Coronation Street

FROM AN IDEA BY Tony Warren. And what an idea: backstreet Shakespeare with brown ale; a cobblestoned Greek tragedy in curlers. Despite the fact that they’re hymned to the heavens by Parkinson and Hattersley, those early shaky, grimy episodes remain the benchmark for earthy popular drama, crushing the likes of COMPACT and THE NEWCOMERS under the heel of Elsie Tanner’s stiletto. They had everything and the kitchen sink: not least a gallery of recognisable yet larger-than-life characters: regal pub matriarch Annie Walker, hairnetted harridan Ena Sharples, the jaded sexpot Elsie Tanner, the slightly menacing roguishness of Len Fairclough and the tedious, bookish, middlebrow Guardianista Ken Barlow, who’s been there ever since. Into the seventies, the emphasis on wayward youth was taken up a notch, with more emphasis on the likes of loveable Scouse petty crim and hare-brained scheme merchant Eddie Yeats and saucy peroxided “good time girl” Suzie Birchall to offset the pensionable perfidiousness of Fred Gee. Further up the family tree there was Hilda Ogden (complete with ludicrous prole-taste “muriel”, obtained from dubious sources by one E. Yeats), gaudy pub siren Bet Lynch and slippery cigar-toting rag trade wideboy Mike Baldwin stepping into a frequently genuinely dramatic world – the lorry smashing into the Rovers Return, and Deirdre’s search for her baby in the rubble; the gunpoint murder of Ernie Bishop and the car-smash death of Alf Roberts’ wife Renee. As the eighties wore on, Eddie copped off via a CB radio to humorous effect, many of the Street’s mainstays took their final bows, and the Newton and Ridley brew was watered down, with more episodes and more tedious longeurs (the courtship of Derek and Mavis for instance) breaking up the drama, such as the Ken-Deirdre-Mike love triangle: “Ken’s a good man, he deserves better”, proffered no less an authority than John Betjeman.

5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Andy B

    December 29, 2009 at 12:23 pm

    The Street went into colour in 1969 – not the ’70s.Eddie Yeats became a binman and a CB radio enthusuast in the ’80s, not the ’70s. Comedy was always an important part of the Street’s appeal – even in the 1960s. And the courtship of Mavis and Derek began in the mid-1970s, not the 1980s. Apart from that, a fascinating write-up!

  2. Paul

    December 29, 2009 at 2:43 pm

    (ahem) TV’s first reaction to the new fashion in theatre for ‘kitchen sink drama’ by the likes of John Osborne and Arnold Wesker, and films like ‘Saturday Night, Sunday Morning’ and ‘A Taste of Honey’ It was a lot better when it was in B&W in my opinion.

  3. TV Cream

    December 29, 2009 at 6:54 pm

    Now edited to clear up that colour confusion (and indeed the misspelling of Eddie’s surname), and to correct shameful omission of Suzie Birchall.

  4. Matthew Rudd

    February 14, 2010 at 11:56 pm

    Ernest Bishop’s death is my first memory of grown-up television. And I’ve managed to stick with Corrie pretty much ever since.

  5. Glenn A

    February 15, 2017 at 3:50 pm

    Television critics referred to this show as rubbish when it started, viewers wondered who the actors were( the cast was mostly unknown), Granada only gave Coronation St six weeks. Yet a bit of perserverance from Granada and looked what happened, but it could have all been so different after six weeks. Music by Eric Spear.

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