if'i‘he List 7 — 20 December 1990
ome eight o'clock every Monday. Wednesday and Friday. I turn offthe set. sigh. and say "bloody good wasn‘t it?" ‘
Roy H attersley in th e Coronation Street 30th Anniversary Lecture.
This week in Britain‘s tnost famous street. Mike Baldwin's having it away with the boss. Percy Sugden‘s foiling burglaries. Don Brennan's getting a social conscience. Betty Turpin is still churningout the hotpot. Ken Barlow is ruminating on his bad luck with wives (one hairdryer fatality. one suicide and one imminent divorce) and Alec (iilroy is still Alec (iilroy. All things considered. ‘bloody good‘ seems to be one of l lattersley‘s more accurate and evocative assessments. .
Back at its rightful place on top of the viewing charts (after a brief hiccup when liastlinders cheated with its omnibus edition). Coronation Street (affectionately known as ('orrie. ( ‘orro. but usually just The Street) celebrates its 30th year. not as a tired old national institution struggling on interminany (cf the late (’rossrorals) but as a vital social comedy of 90s Britain. still populated with a wealth ofcomplex and involving characters. still regularly picking up acting awards. and still blessed with some of the best writers working in television.
And that's been more or less the case since the very beginning. When the first episode went out (‘That sign above the door will have to be changed' were the first words. spoken by one Elsie Lappin) it was a completely new TV genre. with. whisper it in awe. regional accents. Some were disturbed. with The Daily Mirror claiming ‘The programme is doomed from the outset. with its dreary signature tune and grim scene of terraced houses and smoking chimneys.‘ It was left to The Guardian to redress the balance: ‘Mr Warren has pinpointed phrase and accent. humour and oddity. and if he can keep the mixture sharp and not introduce too much treacle. promises to give a view of northern life which will probably prove extremely popular.‘ 'l‘reacle was never to find a place in Street scripts. and the viewing public fell in love at first sight.
Tony Warren. the programme‘s creator set the tone for 30 years ofsuccess with his initial episodes. a ‘delight to read‘ according to script editor l larry Kershaw. ‘You could close your eyes and you could see the pot flight of ducks.‘ he says. ‘and the antimacassars and the chenille table cloths and the newspapers stuffed under the cushion of the easy chair. You sniffed and you could smell the burning sausages and the cheap
hairspray and the tang of bitter beer.’
Warren originally wanted to call the series Florizel Street. but that seemed more evocative of a floor cleaner so the three Harrys (Kershaw. producer Latham. and Granada Head of Drama. Elton) locked themselves up with a couple of bottles of Bushmills to dream up a new title. eventually agreeing on Jubilee Street. Unfortunately all three were too pissed to recall their decision in the morning and so Coronation Street was chosen as the title ofthe series that would never be out of the top ten in Britain. and would be shown in 86 countries to over 250 million viewers. Florizel Street just doesn’t seem to have the same ring does it?
The novelty of the Street in its early days was the
fact that it depicted the everyday life of northerners. revolving around the corner shop and the pub. a distinct change from the clipped RA DA tones of most TV drama. Warren‘s Salford upbringing gave him an ear for dialogue and a fondness for strongly-drawn characters. By playing dominoes with old men in pubs he would pick up the rhythms ofspeech. and classic idioms like ‘I‘ll have that meat pie now before t‘steam hits t‘ceiling.‘ His early scripts were a hard act to follow. but subsequent writers. including such luminaries as Jack Rosenthal. Harry Driver. Vince Powell. Adele Rose and Tim Aspinall. have kept the Street’s twin foundations of multi-faceted characterisation and feel for everyday language intact.
Unlike the recent upstarts EastEnders or Brookside. the Street is a character-driven soap
The legendary Ena Sharples plotting the annexation of Kuwait. Right. Bet Lynch: a braveiront.
As The Street storms into its fourth decade, Tom Lappin sups his stout. adjusts his teeth and considers the success of Weatherfield’s major soap export. Fans of Brookside Close, Glendarroch or Albert Square need read no further.