Saturday, 26 May 2012

Coronation Street - the 1970s

The 1970s saw Coronation Street's production team dealing with problems routinely besetting long-running soaps - how to write and structure the show when a favourite character leaves or dies, and how to manage audience reaction. When, in 1970, Arthur Leslie (who played the genial Rovers landlord, Jack Walker) died suddenly, his character was laid to rest too. Anne Reid determined to leave the show in 1971, and was written out, electrocuting herself with a faulty hairdryer. Granada's strategy to cope with these losses was to introduce new residents and allow established but smaller characters to step into the limelight. The characters of Bet Lynch, Deirdre Hunt and Mavis Riley were developed between 1972 and '73, while Gail Potter, Jack and Vera Duckworth and Rovers pot man Fred Gee all made their debuts during the decade.

In June 1970 the show celebrated its 1000th episode, and was being sold to ten countries including Sierra Leone, Hong Kong, Holland and Greece (with sometimes dubious subtitling). Colour came to the Street in mid-1972, and sets were expanded to allow viewers to see the houses' roofs and back gardens. In 1976 Bill Podmore, the Street's longest serving producer, joined the team, replacing Susi Hush. He immediately sought out the areas "crying out for a facelift or even a face change". Podmoreinherited such experienced writers as Adele Rose, Leslie Duxbury andHarry Kershaw, and his production background in television comedies ensured that humour became a stronger ingredient of the show.

Legendary couples Stan and Hilda Ogden and Jack and Vera Duckworth's marital spats frequently bordered on music hall turns, while other comic characters - including brassy and brittle Ivy Tilsley, with her background in cabaret, and Eddie Yeats, the ex-con turned bin man with a heart of gold - were brought to the fore.
The staple diet of births, ill-fated marriages and violent deaths continued. Storylines included the birth, in 1977, of Tracy Langton, the marriage of Brian Tilsley and Gail Potter in 1979, and the murder of Ernie Bishop during a robbery at the factory in 1978.
Despite the growing popularity of the daytime soap Crossroads (ITV, 1964-88; 2001-03), the Street had little competition, retaining its primetime slot and increasing its ratings. Novelist John Braine, writing inTV Times in 1970, accounted for the show's longevity: "the most important character in the Street is the Street itself. No matter who comes and goes, the Street remains".

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