It was created by Tony Warren, pitched as a kitchen sink drama serial about the domestic lives of the working class in the north of England, specifically the residents of the Coronation Street in the fictional town of Weatherfield in Greater Manchester. Since 1960 it has been produced by Granada Television and for most of that time it has been one of the UK's highest rated shows.
Coronation Street is often noted for its mixture of drama and comedy, usually shying away from the sensationalist and far-fetched plots associated with the genre, and for its long running characters, many of whom have been with the series for decades.
Coronation Street came about from a desire by Granada Television to produce more television that represented life in the northwest of England, where Granada produced and broadcast its programmes. Scriptwriter Tony Warren was asked to come up with a suitable idea for a 13-part series with the option of extending the show's run if it was successful. Warren drew on own memories of growing up in Swinton, Greater Manchester, and created Florizel Street, a similar community inhabited by "ordinary" people leading unremarkable lives. The proposal as given the greenlight - with the title now Coronation Street - and went into production for broadcast on ITV. Warren wrote all thirteen episodes, and was responsible for the creation of all the original characters and even suggested some actors to play them, such as Violet Carson for Ena Sharples and William Roache for Ken Barlow.
Despite a lack of support inside Granada - Coronation Street was not a critical success at first and some doubted it would make it to its thirteenth episode - it was a hit with viewers, who were fascinated by the normality of the series and the characters, whose use of Northern English language and dialect allowed viewers to hear local words and accents rarely heard on television before.
The original plan to have the street bulldozed if the series didn't take off was shelved as its popularity grew and grew. In 1961 more ITV regions started picking up Coronation Street; by May it was fully networked throughout the UK and in September it reached the top of the television ratings where it stayed for the rest of the year.
Despite the passage of 48 years, together with changing characters, competition from other soaps and evolution of similar real-world communities, which the series sometimes struggled to reflect, Coronation Street has remained popular and still frequently tops the ratings.
Coronation Street and its town, Weatherfield, are both fictional, although they supposedly lie in Greater Manchester. Since it was built in 1902 it has consisted of a row of seven terraced houses, with the Rovers Return at one end and a Corner Shop at the other end.
Across the cobbles, the other side of the street has housed a number of different buildings over the years, including a raincoat factory, Mission hall, warehouse, Community Centre, a block of maisonettes, and more recently three more houses and several small business properties.
The area depicted in the series has been expanding since it began. Nowadays, neighbouring streets such as Rosamund Street and Victoria Street are seen almost as frequently as Coronation Street itself.
During the last 50 years it has been home to such iconic figures as Elsie Tanner, Bet Gilroy, Hilda Ogden, and Ena Sharples. Several characters that have been part of the drama for decades, notably Emily Bishop, Betty Williams, Gail Platt, and of course Ken Barlow. Ken is a part of television history, as the character has been played by the same actor, William Roache, for 48 years and counting.
The storylines have been known to raise questions in parliament. Sometimes frivolously when the then Prime Minister Tony Blair petitioned on behalf of Deirdre Barlow, then falsely imprisoned as a result of her falling for conman Jon Lindsay. At other times more seriously when as a result of Ena Sharples referring to Prince Philip in an episode a law was broken (it was illegal to refer to a living member of the Royal Family in a film or play). A debate in the house of Commons followed, and a rebuke from the Postmaster General.
The series' first episode was broadcast live, a common practice among British television shows at the time. Until the series was fully networked, the series was broadcast twice weekly, with the Friday episode shown live and the following Wednesday episode pre-recorded immediately afterwards. In 1961, the Friday episode was moved to Monday and all episodes started being pre-recorded.
Until 1969, the series was recorded in black and white, and has been in colour ever since (with a few notable exceptions). Since then, the show's output has increased from two episodes a week to five, with new weekly episodes introduced in 1989, 1996 and 2002.
In its home country, Coronation Street has occupied the 19.30 slot on ITV since it started, and has been the flagship show of the channel almost since it started. It is currently broadcast at 19.30 and 20.30 on Mondays, 19.30 on Thursdays and 19.30 and 20.30 on Fridays, with an omnibus on ITV1 and ITV2 on weekend afternoons.
The two-part editions on Mondays came about when a fifth weekly episode was added to the Corrie lineup. In the two-part episodes, only the first has opening titles and only the second has full cast credits. From 1996 to 2008, an episode was broadcast at 19.30 on Sunday, whereas now the Sunday episode has been replaced by a second Friday episode to follow a similar pattern to the Monday episodes.
In 2009 ITV announced a 'Soap-Thursday' and the Wednesday episode of Coronation Street was moved to Thursday at 8:30pm, where it joined a second episode of Emmerdale. Coronation Street is followed every Thursday by The Bill.
Granada Plus showed repeats starting from 5th April 1976 - January 1994 from 1996 - 2004.
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Coronation Street was a long-running British television drama airing in the final decades of the 20th century and well into the 21st, as well.
Both Doctor Who and Coronation Street started in the 1960s, have had notably long runs, and have entered into British culture as television institutions. William Russell, Frazer Hines, Patrick Troughton and Elisabeth Sladen have all appeared in the series, as well as many guest stars. Coronation Street regulars Sharon Duce, Edward de Souza and Sarah Lancashire have, in turn, had guest roles on Doctor Who.
In the late 1980s, Doctor Who aired opposite Coronation Street, which is often considered a factor in the show's decline and cancellation in 1989. The short story ST: Christmas Special includes a reference to this situation.
Although, unlike EastEnders, no crossover between Doctor Who and rival-network Coronation Street has ever occurred, that didn't stop another BBC science fiction series, Red Dwarf, from doing so in 2009 as part of the Back to Earth miniseries. In 2010, Coronation Street celebrates its 50th consecutive year on the air, and it currently holds the record as longest-running dramatic TV series in British TV history. With the cancellation of the American soap opera Guiding Light in 2009 after 56 years on the air, Coronation Street is currently the longest-lived regularly scheduled dramatic TV series on English-language television.