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Killer serial: Coronation Street

Britain's first true soap opera was produced by Granada Television at its Manchester studios and first broadcast on the ITV network on 9 December 1960, for 30 minutes at 19:30 on Mondays and Wednesdays. [The Monday episode, incidentally, immediately preceded the prestigious investigative journalism series World in Action, also produced by Granada for the ITV network.]


The original cast assembled on the roof of Granada's Manchester studios
Photo: Granada Television

Despite early network misgivings about a series set in the working-class milieu of a grimy Northern town, it was an immediate hit, drawing audiences of more than 20m an episode. In these more competitive times, it can still achieve an audience of 17.6m viewers (24 February 2003, peaking at 19.4m) and has run neck-and-neck with its BBC rival EastEnders since 1985. More than any other British television drama programme, it has accreted an extensive sub-culture of publications, merchandise and legend. It has also attracted academic interest for more than 20 years, beginning with the British Film Institute's book Coronation Street, edited by Richard Dyer (1981).
        Its northern working-class setting coincided with—and perhaps helped to stimulate—the start of a spate of successful feature films, including Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960), A Taste of Honey (1961)  and A Kind of Loving (1962). It also vindicated Granada's mission to produce programmes 'for the region, about the region' (the region being known as Granadaland) that would break down the metropolitan-centric nature of broadcasting—a process that has gone into reverse in recent years, even though Granada now dominates a unified barely-regional ITV network and Coronation Street ('Corrie') is still at the top of the ratings.

John Betjeman's view of Coronation Street

 

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1960

Page updated 26 July 2008